We have heard many times how Covid-19 is most affecting people with underlying physical health conditions. Whilst focussing on our physical health must be a priority, it is also essential that we look after our mental health. You may be feeling a range of emotions at the moment from being worried about a loved one and your health to boredom and loneliness from staying at home. All emotions are OK and everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. Hold on to the fact that this situation is short-term and most of the time, these uncomfortable feelings should pass. Have you thought about the effect it could be having on your overall wellbeing? Here are a few handy tips on caring for yourself during this time.
Routine, Routine, Routine…
We have all been advised to stay at home when we can during this time. Some of us may be going to work still, however for a lot of us that means working from home. This disturbance and change in lifestyle can cause anxiety and stress. Familiarity and clear structure often helps manage anxiety and will help you adapt more quickly to this dramatic change. Try to create a clear distinction between your work and non-work time throughout the day. Consider creating a separate workspace in a specific area in your home. That way, you only spend time there whilst you are working and are able to completely leave work behind when you finish. This will help you switch off at the end of the day and create a proper work-life balance. There may be the danger that you work longer hours, mainly to try and get work completed, but secondly, as there is no one there to keep an eye on you to remind you it’s home time! This may lead to work burnout and negatively impact on your wellbeing. Set times to how long you are going to spend on a task and set an alarm clock to ensure you finish on time. Do not blur your work-life balance! Ensure you are taking regular breaks throughout the day and step away from that laptop! Stretch your legs, clear your head and do something you enjoy (not work-related) this will ultimately lead to better work ethics but more importantly, help you to de-stress!
Just because you aren’t going out on the town and seeing friends, it doesn’t mean you can’t get dressed up! Whilst staying at home it is even more important to look after yourself, as we all know a happy body leads to a happy mind. Get dressed! Sounds simple however staying at home may tempt you to stay in your pyjamas all day. A change of clothes, even if it is in to something comfortable like sweat pants, will help you feel refreshed, more productive and hopefully more motivated. Do your hair, apply make-up, paint your nails or have a shave – this may help you feel to more normal and relaxed in these uncertain times. Moreover, everyone deserves a bit of pampering! Find ways to be kind to yourself – we can all be tough on ourselves, especially in uncontrollable circumstances like these. Recognise that you are doing the best you can and it is ok to feel overwhelmed, worried or low.
If you are feeling overwhelmed it is important you reach out and contact others. No matter how introverted or extroverted you are, some sense of connection is important for both our mental and physical health. We may not be able to go out and socialise with our friends and family at present, but we can still reach out. Texts are great, but pick up the phone and speak to someone. Use this opportunity to catch up with that friend you haven’t spoken to in months. Chances are, they will be free and will really appreciate hearing from you! There are lots of great virtual forums available now to connect you with your friends and loved ones. The other night I set up an online quiz with a group of friends over facetime. It was a great way of feeling connected, seeing my friends and taking my mind off being at home. If you do not feel you can open up to friends or loved ones, we have included plenty of resources below you can contact for support. We may have to be in social isolation but we do not need to feel alone. We are all in this together.
Unplug and Get Creative
I know I just said stay connected – however, there are times when it is healthy to disconnect! Everyone across the world is talking about Covid 19 – switch off the news, log out of social media and turn off your devices to help you get some well-deserved time away. Use this chance to get creative and try some new activities. Starting new things and getting inventive is a brilliant way of distracting your mind, keeping spirits up and relaxing. Start that DIY project you have been putting off, get those arts and crafts out, keep a diary, or even make a time capsule! Put together a collection of memories, items, and photos to bury in the garden (or stash away if you prefer) to open in ten years – when all of this is over and a distant nightmare! Try making new and healthy recipes. Not only will this be a welcoming treat for your body, but it will help give your day variety. If you are not feeling creative, you can always give your house a spring clean. Therapeutic, productive and you will automatically feel better in a fresh and sparkling home.
Now that we are spending a significant amount of time at home, it is so important that we try and avoid cabin fever. The Government has advised that we can still go out once a day for one form of exercise and it is crucial that we do so. Take a walk, jog or even cycle to clear the mind and break up your day. If you are feeling particularly adventurous or don’t want to venture away from the house, why not try a marathon in your garden…. I would definitely sponsor you! Fresh air and exercise are fundamental for staying well both mentally and physically and will help you not feel so stuck in your home.
Manage uncertainty and anxiety by staying in the present. Paying attention to our thoughts and feelings has been proven to help reduce the effects of stress. Remember to take each day at a time and try and focus on things you can control. Practicing mindfulness can be a great tool in helping you de-stress and again, there are a lot of resources available to support you with these techniques. Helpful Resources
Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am – 6pm). www.mind.org.uk
A voluntary charity offering support for sufferers of panic attacks and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Phone: 0844 967 4848 (daily, 10am to 10pm). Website: www.nopanic.org.uk
MEN’S HEALTH FORUM
24/7 stress support for men by text, chat and email Website: www.menshealthforum.org.uk
CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15 to 35 Phone: 0800 585858 (daily, 5pm to midnight) Website: www.thecalmzone.net
Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair. Phone: 116 123 (free 24 hour helpline) Website: www.samaritans.org.uk
Unmind is a mental health platform that empowers staff to proactively improve their mental wellbeing. They are offering free access to NHS staff until the end of December 2020. How NHS staff can get access
Go to nhs.unmind.com/signup
Sign up with your NHS email address
Download the Unmind app from your appstore – your organisation name is NHS.
Headspace is a science-backed app in mindfulness and meditation, providing unique tools and resources to help reduce stress, build resilience, and aid better sleep. They are offering free access to all NHS staff with an NHS email address until 31 December, active now. How NHS staff can get access
Go to https://www.headspace.com/nhs and select clinical or non-clinical staff to start enrolling
You will need to use your NHS email address to sign up
SLEEPIO AND DAYLIGHT (developed by Big Health):
Sleepio is a clinically-evidenced sleep improvement programme that is fully automated and highly personalised, using cognitive behavioural techniques to help improve poor sleep. Free access to Sleepio for all NHS staff is active now until 31 December. Daylight is a smartphone-based app that provides help to people experiencing symptoms of worry and anxiety, using evidence-based cognitive behavioural techniques, voice and animation. Free access to Daylight is active now until 31 December. How NHS staff can get access How to access Sleepio
Visit sleepio.com/redeem on your laptop or desktop computer
Enter redeem code NHS2020 and sign up for an account using your name and email address
Complete the sleep test
How to access Daylight
Click on the following link: daylight.com/NHSaccess
Answer a few short questions to tailor the programme to you
Sign up for an account using your name and email address
Download the Daylight smartphone app (search ‘Daylight – Worry Less’)
Every Mind Matters – Mindful breathing exercise video on youtube.