COVID-19 has now had a far reaching impact on people right across the world and it’s important during this time to take care of your mind as well as your body.
It’s natural to feel worried in unpredictable times. Try to keep things in perspective - public health agencies and experts in all countries are working on the outbreak to ensure the best possible care for those affected.
COVID-19 has also impacted on many of the normal coping strategies we use to deal with stress, and on the everyday activity that underpins our emotional wellbeing. During this time, we may need to be more creative and thoughtful about how we look after ourselves.
If you’re frequently having intrusive and negative thoughts, take a moment to assess how realistic these truly are. Reframing negative or unhelpful thoughts into more realistic statements can help you maintain a healthy dose of optimism.
You might find the following resources helpful:
Try mindfulness and meditation
Mindfulness and meditation can be really helpful tools for managing stress, anxiety and other mental health issues. If you’ve never tried them before, it’s easier than ever to get started. There are lots of resources available online:
If you find it more peaceful to be away from technology, try sitting comfortably in a quiet space for 5 to 10 minutes with your eyes closed, focusing on your breath and breathing slowly.
Keep your mind active
Keeping your mind active and learning new things is good for your wellbeing. And a perfect distraction during these challenging times.
It can be a good idea to:
- get creative - draw, colour, make a playlist, bake, write a song
- get a new hobby - play guitar, learn to cook, try a new exercise
- home school - there are thousands of online courses waiting for you
- pay attention - take time to look at what’s going on around you
Beat Corona anxiety
It’s natural to feel anxious about what’s happening right now, but if it begins to feel too much, try to:
- limit your news coverage - avoid constantly checking the news, it only makes your anxiety grow stronger - limit yourself to 30 minutes a day or particular broadcasts
- concentrate on the facts - use official, reputable sources for news, advice and opinion and be cautious of social media coverage
- focus on what you can control - we can’t control the COVID-19 crisis but we can control our own responses and behaviours to it - think ahead, make plans for what you’ll do in the coming days and weeks
- distract yourself - our minds struggle to hold 2 thoughts at one time - distract yourself with exercise, games, books, films or other activities
- connect with others - reach out and connect with friends and family, in safe ways - you can share your fears or talk about nothing in particular
- be nice to yourself - add extra time for stress relief in your day - treat yourself whenever you need and do things you enjoy, within the limits of existing restrictions
- hold on to hope - keep the big picture in mind - the crisis will end, and we will get through this
Manage your 'stress bucket'
Stress is a part of everyday life. It can help us take action and work productively. But if our stress bucket becomes full, it can overwhelm us and impact negatively on our mental health.
Everyday stressors (like work, money and family) flow into that stress bucket like rain. But we also have ways of coping that allow this stress to flow out, like holes in the bucket.
But right now:
- our stress bucket might be getting fuller - it’s raining more due to COVID-19
- some of our normal ways of coping, the holes in our stress bucket, might be unavailable due to the current situation
- we might need to re-think how we cope with stress and this section of the website will give you some ideas of how you can look after your wellbeing during COVID-19
Draw your own stress bucket. What are some of the 'rain clouds'? And what are some of the 'holes'?
Set a routine
Having a routine is very effective at warding off anxiety and worry. You could:
- write a timetable for your week
- pick regular times to exercise, eat, watch TV, read, do a crossword and so on
- maintain normal sleep patterns
- set regular hours, if you work from home
- build in regular time to keep in contact with people
- set yourself goals and build in new activity to your weekly plan
Connect with people
Connections with other people are the bedrock of our mental wellbeing.
Though contact with others is challenged by current restrictions, it's more important to maintain than ever. You may not be able to pop round for a cuppa or meet with friends in the pub but you can still connect through:
- social media
- a conversation over the garden fence
- writing a letter
Share your worries
It’s normal to feel worried or helpless about the current situation and how its impacting on you. Share your concerns with people you trust. It may also help them to talk about it.
Or, if you're feeling isolated from other people, there are helplines and online forums where you can find a listening ear.
Social distancing is about physical distance, not emotional distance.
Helping others is a great way of boosting your wellbeing. And now is a time when giving to others can make a real difference.
There are a large number of volunteering opportunities to support the COVID-19 response, like being an NHS responder. But also the opportunity to help practically, like shopping for a neighbour and so on.
One of the most important things you have to offer right now is your time. Make contact with others, reach out, check-in to show you care.
Support those at increased risk of poor mental health
Older adults, especially those in isolation and those with cognitive decline/dementia, may become more anxious, angry, stressed, agitated or withdrawn during the outbreak or while in quarantine.
You can help by:
- providing practical and emotional support with help from family, friends and health professionals
- sharing simple facts from trusted sources about what’s going on - give clear information about how to reduce risk of infection in words that are easy to understand, especially for those with a cognitive impairment
- repeating essential information whenever necessary - instructions need to be communicated in a clear, concise, respectful and patient way, it may also be helpful for information to be displayed in writing or pictures
Get help if you’re struggling
While it's normal to feel afraid and lonely at a time like this, worsening mental health could indicate the need for outside help. It’s okay to ask for more support to see you through this difficult time.
If you find yourself with very poor mental health while isolated and aren't able to pull yourself out of feelings of anxiety, depression, or fear, it’s important to reach out for help:
- Sussex Mental Healthline – freephone 0300 5000 101 – provides 24/7 support from registered clinicians and as well as crisis support, it provides psychological support to anyone with general concerns about their mental health, and if needed they can refer you for local assessment and treatment
- Samaritans – call 116 123 – 24hrs a day, 365 days a year - you can talk to them about whatever’s getting to you, in your own way, and they can also help you explore the range of help available
- Community Roots – online or freephone 0808 196 1768 – a network of local services committed to supporting good mental health and wellbeing in Brighton & Hove
- contact your GP or phone NHS 111 - be open about how you are feeling, talk to a friend and plan what you want to say, and if possible get someone you live with to accompany you
- SHOUT - text Shout to 85258 - crisis text service for support with any mental health concern 24/7
- CALM Campaign Against Living Miserably - phone 0800 58 58 58 - helpline for men of all ages, open from 5pm to midnight
- Silverline - phone 0800 470 80 90 for information, friendship and advice for older people 24/7
Plan how you will continue accessing treatment and support for any existing physical or mental health problems, if possible.
Thoughts of suicide
Thoughts of suicide are not uncommon – a lot of people will have them - around 1 in 5 of us during our lifetime. Having these thoughts doesn’t make it inevitable that you are going to take your own life. Thoughts of suicide do pass and there are things that you and other people can do to make your situation better.
If you are having thoughts of suicide, focus on what you need to do to keep yourself safe for now. Visit Preventing Suicide in Sussex to learn more about what practical steps you can take to keep yourself safe.
This can include:
- finding ways to distract yourself that allow the feelings to pass
- phoning a helpline or someone you can trust
- avoiding using alcohol and drugs
- removing things from your house that you could use to harm yourself
- going somewhere you feel safe, if you can
- knowing who you can contact if you need professional support – this might be your key worker, your GP, NHS 111 or others
- making a Hopebox – a list, or photos, or objects that remind you of why you want to live
If you feel you can’t keep yourself safe any longer, or if you have done something to harm yourself – call 999 now. The number is free.
Return to the main coronavirus information web pages.