We know that when humans live in situations where they are under a threat (like Coronavirus / Covid-19) it can have negative consequences on their psychological health. Those under threat might have disrupted thought processes and heightened risk perception, increased emotional reactions, increased perception of their own vulnerability, increased suspicion and distrust of others, reduced perceived control of situations and reduced social interactions. We also know that after ‘outbreaks’ of other diseases that depression rates go up and anxiety and panic can be triggered.
In response to these difficulties, we’ve collated a list of ways in which we can all look after our mental wellbeing, and that of those around us, from respected health authorities and sources.
How to Cope
Coping with coronavirus for the General Population
- If you feel worried about coronavirus or Covid-19, then try not to watch, read or listen to news articles about it. If you must find out information, focus on what you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones and limit it to once a day for a short amount of time.
- Look after yourself but also support others if they need help.
- Share and talk about the stories of people who have recovered or who have supported someone with the virus. Offer appreciation for and celebrate those who are caring and supporting people affected.
- The virus is affecting everyone from all ethnicities and walks of life. Be empathetic to anyone affected by it.
- Don’t refer to people with the coronavirus as ‘victims’ or ‘cases’; they’re humans with their own identities who are a lot more than the virus that they have been unlucky enough to catch.
- If you are healthy and have time, volunteer to support those who are self-isolating or those who are supporting people who are infected with Covid-19.
Coping with coronavirus for care-workers and health workers
- It is normal to feel more stressed at times like these; it doesn’t mean you aren’t coping or you’re weak.
- Take time to look after yourself physically and mentally.
- Rest, eat, hydrate, stay active with exercise and maintain contact with people you love and trust, avoiding alcohol, tobacco or drugs.
- Some people may want to avoid you because they think being in your presence might increase their risk of catching the virus. If this happens, try to stay in touch using digital methods and share your experiences with colleagues; they’re probably going through the same.
Coping with coronavirus for Managers
- Communicate clearly and accurately in ways which everyone can understand.
- Be a role model for self-care.
- Rotate workers regularly, pair colleagues up so they have support, particularly when in the community.
- Check that people are having enough breaks
- Be compassionate to those whose families are affected; they might need more time out than others.
- Signpost colleagues to places they can get physical and mental health support.
- Ensure that colleagues are trained in basic psychological first aid.
Coping with coronavirus for those looking after children
- Help children express their emotions through talking, play and art in a safe place; this will bring them relief.
- Explain how to prevent infection in terms they understand, and explain why it is important. Use visual reminders and help them practice handwashing if needed.
- Try to keep children with their parents or guardians if possible. If separated, then ensure they maintain contact through digital means or age-appropriate social media.
- Try to be honest, in ways they can understand about what is happening and update them when there are changes to the situation as appropriate.
- Try to keep their routine; ensure they have activities to keep them occupied.
- Be a role model for how to cope in times of stress; they will often copy you, and if you are calm then they will reflect this.
Coping with coronavirus for those looking after older adults
- At times of stress, older adults with physical or mental health conditions may become more anxious, agitated or withdrawn. Provide emotional support and consult local health services if needed.
- Share information about what is going on and how to reduce risk of infection in ways which they can easily understand. Explain why it is important. Repeat if necessary, with patience.
- Use visual reminders and help them practice handwashing if needed.
Coping with Self-isolation
Quarantine has been shown to prompt symptoms of post-traumatic stress, anger and confusion. After coming out of quarantine people have experienced stigma, financial difficulties and boredom. Even if you’re not in quarantine but are self-isolating, humans are not designed to live in social isolation.
Social isolation is linked with higher rates of depression, anxiety and mental and physical health conditions. If you are self-isolating, then you have probably changed your daily routine too; maybe you’re working from home, not going to college or school and not going to the same activities you used to. Reducing activity levels in this way is also linked with low mood and depression.
Below we’ve listed FIVE key principles of wellbeing which might help you cope with your self-isolation period.
Connect with others
Even though you’re not going to see people face to face, stay connected. Speak on the ‘phone, text, message, email, Skype or FaceTime. Maybe you can reach out to someone you haven’t spoken to for a long time. You can support each other emotionally, distract yourself from negative thoughts and emotions and still make plans for when the health risks have reduced.
You might not be at the gym or ParkRun but it will help to stay active. Can you dance in your room to your favourite track? Can you do a yoga session you find on YouTube? Can you do a few sit-ups? Can you walk up and down stairs? If you Keep your body moving it will help your body stay in good condition and will lift your mood too. It’s also essential for a good night’s sleep.
Learn New Skills
You might feel bored at home without your normal routine. To avoid boredom and lift your mood, try learning a new skill. There are plenty of videos on YouTube for different hobbies and apps which can help you learn a language. Maybe you have some books which you always intended to read? Now might be the time to finally get round to practicing playing that instrument you started years ago! Learning a new skill gives us a sense of achievement and mastery which increases wellbeing.
Give to Others
This can be difficult when you’re not leaving your home but there are still ways to give back. You might want to volunteer for a charity helpline. You might want to offer your skills to a charity you support. Maybe there is some fundraising you can take part in. It might be as simple as helping someone you know solve a problem they have or simply listening to them on the ‘phone. Giving to others has been shown to make us happier than when others give to us.
Pay attention to the present moment
This is also known as mindfulness. It means practicing noticing what is happening right now rather than worrying about the past or the future. One way of doing this is to go through your sense one by one asking “What can I see? What can I hear? What can I feel (emotionally and physically, both inside your body and outside)? What can I smell? What can I taste?”. Take time to really find a range of different sensations, and notice when they change.
Here are some further tips which studies have shown will help you maintain mental wellbeing:
Eat regularly, and drink water: even if you don’t have an appetite, your brain needs fuel.
Keep a routine: by getting out of bed at the same time and going to bed at the same time you reduce the risk of sleep problems. Have a shower or bath just like you would normally. Get dressed for the day, even if people aren’t going to see you; the closer to normal your routine is, the easier it is for your mind and body to adjust.
Take time away from screens: Current advice is that we should turn off your screens and give your body and mind time to become less alert at least an hour before bed.
Advice Leaflets for printing
I’ve created some easy-to-read documents which you can print out and provide to any of your contacts you you think might need some tips on how to stay well, psychologically during the coronavirus outbreak.
For the general public: Coping with Covid19 Public
For staff: Covid19 Staff Advice for Coping