Covid-19 is causing ongoing stress across the world’s economies. It has put life on hold for many and devastatingly ended life for many more. All of this has caused a rise in mental health issues and added greater strain on existing ones.
According to a study conducted by Sheffield University, the day after the lockdown was announced 38 per cent of the study’s participants reported significant depression whilst 36 per cent reported significant anxiety. Another survey, which was conducted around the end of March by Ipsos Mori found that 1 in 5 people are concerned about isolation, including not being able to go out in general, being in isolation for a long time, and the impact this will have on long-term mental health.
As a result, mental health experts are calling for action to deal with the preempted increase in mental health issues, during and after the pandemic.
Fortunately, we live in a time when concern for mental health is greater than it ever has been, and people from all over the world are attempting to provide support to those who are suffering.
The WHO has been working with partners to put procedures in place to support people’s mental wellbeing across the world. Public Health England has been releasing regularly updated advice on how to cope during the lockdown. Not to mention the overwhelming support the public have been showing our NHS staff for their ongoing commitment to the cause. There is plenty of advice out there and it’s important to remember: You Are Not Abandoned.
Now more than ever we must pay close attention to our mental wellbeing and the tips below aim to help you do just that.
Give yourself space
It’s okay to allow your inner sulky child to make an appearance at a time like this. Don’t repress yourself, have a sulk if you need it.
For me, and many others I suspect, this is a confusing time. There is both a feeling of wanting to be productive while lacking motivation. There is a feeling of loneliness but also an overwhelming need for alone time. And that’s okay. Maybe our hormones are sensing the change and adjusting accordingly. Maybe they are feeling extra mischievous and up to causing trouble. A helpful way to deal with this is not to deal with it at all. Just go with whatever you’re feeling. Eventually it will pass, just like this unexpected pause on life. Be patient and be kind to yourself.
Routine is our way of life
We are creatures of habit. We all have some sort of routine, whether it’s a school or work routine. When that is taken away, understandably, we don’t know what to do with ourselves. In my experience, we end up gaining about five different new hobbies, none of which we pursue for more than a couple of days before we get bored and start five more.
To prevent the frustration and expense of all these new hobbies, there are a few things you can do to maintain a good routine.
For those who are working from home, stick to the timeline of your usual work or school routine. Set an alarm, have a shower, have your morning cup of tea or coffee, have some breakfast. Make a daily to-do list for your work or school studies, and set time aside for biscuit breaks and relaxation.
If you’re not currently working but feel motivated, make a list of things you’ve been meaning to do but have never had the time for. And if you’re not feeling motivated (which is fine, too) remember to give yourself space to feel that way until you figure out what your next steps are. Breathing space provides thinking space.
Stay in touch with people if you want to but don’t feel obligated
Staying in touch is as important as ever, maybe more. Apps such as Zoom, FaceTime and Skype are all great for group chats with friends and family. More and more people are using them to host quiz nights and virtual birthday parties for those who’ve missed out on normal birthday celebrations. Even a lockdown can’t stop the party from happening.
However, a lockdown does not mean you have to speak to everyone every single day. As someone who both loves people’s company but is also very aware of the need for personal space, video chatting every day can be exhausting. Unless you want this, a lockdown doesn’t have to make us into chatty extroverts. If you were happy with your own company before, you can still be happy with your own company now.
Don’t isolate yourself completely, but don’t feel pressured to go to the extreme. A lockdown shouldn’t change who you are inside.
Be empathetic towards everyone’s individual experience
I’ve seen different people deal with this lockdown in very different ways. I have gone through several phases myself. Some days I’m smartphone flipping from one app to the next. Other days I’m like an old computer game with just enough energy to switch on and not much else.
On my good days, I have experienced feeling guilty for sharing while others struggle. On my bad days, I felt reluctant to share given that others may be in an even worse place. But both types of guilt are perfectly normal. Staying empathetic allows us to appreciate that we’re all going through similar issues. This is a shared experience, but one which each of us will go through slightly differently at different stages.
Being aware, not only of our own feelings but others’ too is the best we can do for each other.
Empathy is our best friend during a crisis.
Allow yourself days off
You don’t have to be switched on every second of the day just because you have more free time. If you want to binge on Netflix and stay in bed all day, do it. If you want to switch your phone off for 24h, do it. Treat yourself kindly and don’t force yourself to be productive if you’re not ready.
Listen to yourself and trust your instincts. This way you will be more present for yourself and those who need you most.
Last but not least, remember these sacrifices we are now making are for the greater good of everyone. Stay home so that we can return to ‘normal’ sooner rather than later.