Coronavirus anxiety and looking after your mental health
NEWS - 18TH MARCH 2020
Professionals from The Priory Group offer their advice on looking after your mental health in the face of the covid-19 crisis
In this time of uncertainty, the mental toll on people can be considerable. The disruption to daily life can engender anxiety, stress and depression. The Priory Group’s Dr Niall Campbell, a consultant psychiatrist, says: “I have begun to see existing and new patients who are extremely anxious about coronavirus and its potential effect on them and their family.”
He says it is important to remember that everyone is affected by this, and it can be useful to reflect on the need to work together, for a common purpose, even if people are forced to stay apart.
Dr Campbell suggests:
— Mindfulness, relaxation techniques and cognitive behavioural therapy are all genuinely useful for people who are very anxious. There are many apps which people can use. For those who can’t leave home, much of it—including accessing therapy—can be done online.
— Helping others, for example, reaching out to your elderly neighbours in the current situation, or contributing to a food bank, or remembering to donate blood at your local hospital—all of these things can make you focus on things outside of yourself, improve your mood and thereby reduce your anxiety
— Remember, most people who get covid-19 are likely to make a full recovery, and that’s important. Try to stop the train of thought that will always lead you into a dark tunnel, imagining the worst case scenario. Challenge your negative thoughts. Separate what you can control and what you can’t. Stay in the present.
— Give yourself a short period each day to think through your worries, but then stop and don’t allow intrusive thoughts to impact your entire day. Think of negative thoughts as a train that you are getting off. Then give yourself a boost by talking to others, or listening to music, or cooking, or doing something that takes up your time in a joyful way.
— It’s a very worrying time for many but this period will pass. The world is working together and scientists and doctors achieve extraordinary outcomes. Stick to trusted news sources including health news sources and try and maintain normalcy in your life. Routines and rhythm are helpful whether it be mealtimes or sleep times, and don’t be afraid to seek help if it becomes overwhelming. Help is available on a phone or online as well as in person.
— Stay connected with friends and family, and value them—and it’s okay to reach out to a mental health professional. As the World Health Organisation says, protect yourself and be protective to others, and know that every measure is being taken to save lives and protect the most vulnerable. Focus on positive news—it is there, from the small gesture to the amazing work being done across the world to combat the virus.”
Check in with friends
If you are self-isolating, Pamela Roberts, a psychotherapist based at The Priory Group’s Woking Hospital, says: “Ensure you are in a well-ventilated room and following basic self-care, so healthy eating, sleep, lots of hydration, and try to keep to a routine. Set up a ‘buddy group’ with family or friends and regularly check in online or with Facetime.”
She continues: “If you feel low, journaling can be a helpful way to unload emotions. Take things a day at a time—planning may have once been essential but projection can evoke fear and anxiety. Go with the flow. Take care of yourself, focus on recovery. Tell yourself ‘what I am doing is enough’. Be good to yourself. If you have slept badly, accept you'll be in a low, more anxious mood. Your energy will be low.
She suggests that you try to relax and focus on positive things, knowing that every effort is being made globally to bring this situation to a close. “Being able to relax will help you through. When you’re tense you tend to dwell on things and make them worse. If you are well enough, exercise is really good. Look for online classes or courses to help you take light exercise in your home. Find music that helps boost your mood. If you are able, get into your garden and get daily doses of sunshine. If you feel well enough, maybe look at some free online courses offered by the Open University. The mental health charity Mind has some very useful advice on self-isolating and your mental health. For support with grief, anxiety, or mental wellbeing, you can call or text an organisation like the Samaritans, or you can access therapy online with a trained therapist.”