Looking after your mental health during a pandemic

Living and managing through a pandemic is just not something that I’ve ever thought about. It has literally never crossed my mind.

Unfortunately for many, especially those who are immunocompromised or suffering with OCD or health anxiety, we’re in what is essentially a living nightmare. Something that you’ve thought about, considered, perhaps even planned for but that you hoped you’d never have to action – but those with chronic illnesses or serious health conditions have to think about the risk of infection often – daily for some – and a pandemic like Covid-19 can be very anxiety inducing for many, many people.

The reality is that sadly, this virus will effect us all and our lifestyles – and for some, pretty drastically. As we move into a period of a whole change of day-to-day life for many, I’ve shared my tips for giving your mental health a bit of extra care throughout what is a pretty scary time.

Tips for working from home

‪I worked from home for a year all through 2018 and learned a lot during that time – including that sometimes, it can be quite difficult. I loved it on the whole but there are certainly some days on which the working from home life requires a little extra self care.

  • If you can, try to have clear boundaries between work space and home space
  • Allow yourself time for breaks, just as you would on a typical day at work
  • Proper breakfast and lunch meals
  • Try to get outside for a short walk if you can and are safe to do so
  • As tempting as it is, get out of your pyjamas and don’t work on or in your bed
  • Keep your morning routine and don’t ditch showering
  • Make sure you keep your usual working hours so you don’t end up doing things just because they’re there, or switching on your laptop to do ‘one quick thing’ at 10pm
  • Keep up communications with your colleagues via phone, video calls or messaging systems
  • Maintain a routine wherever possible.

Understand what you can control and what you can’t

Ultimately we can’t control the actions or hygiene of other people but we can control our own. Knowing that you’re maintaining high levels of hygiene, overall health, diet, self care and social interaction can be helpful in knowing that you’re doing whatever you can to protect yourself and the people you love.

Managing news and media intake

Social media platforms are pretty dire places at the moment – on the whole, anyway.

There are opinions, comments and articles everywhere we look and it’s important to manage our intake to protect mental wellbeing, reduce catastrophising and manage anxiety levels.

Get your information from reputable sources like WHO, Department of Health & Social Care, NHS and be careful with your news outlets – it’s a personal thing and different people like different papers, apps or websites but just try to make sure that the information you’re taking in is accurate and not designed to scare-monger!

Don’t get yourself lost in threads of trending Twitter topics about the virus and remember that it is absolutely OK to take a break from the media if you need it.

Try to avoid catastrophising

This is really hard. I’m terrible for it. I get a slight tickle in my throat and I think ‘fuck it’s coming.’ I cough and I think I’ve got the virus, and unfortunately lots of anxiety symptoms are physical and actually mimic a virus like Covid-19.

I’ve spoken briefly before about a strange inability to control my body temperature when I’m experiencing anxiety, and a weird stress response I have in which my throat feels like there’s something blocking it or that I can’t catch a breath.

I understand entirely that my anxiety can make it feel like I’m on my way to coronavirus city but I HAVE to rationalise it to break the cycle. Talk to yourself. Reassure yourself. Comfort yourself. It is totally OK to do all of these things – and whatever it is that works for you.

Feel how you feel

This is something that I feel like it took me ages to understand and I still can’t always do it.

I didn’t really understand the idea of NOT trying to change how I was feeling until I started meditating and learned that actually understanding how I feel and letting it be the case is OK and can be really helpful. I’m not suggesting that we sit in our anger or mull over our worries but just being like OK, I feel anxious right now. That is the response that my body is having. The best thing you can do for yourself is to be compassionate. Don’t get pisses off with yourself for feeling how you feel.

Implement coping mechanisms

Those of us who experience anxiety regularly or as part of our day-to-day lives will probs be doing this anyway but it’s important that everyone has some idea about how they intend to manage their mental health during this time (and always!)

My plan of action will be:

  • Meditate every night again
  • Partake in at least one activity that I particularly enjoy every evening when I’m working from home or in the event of isolation – this might be writing a blog post, colouring, having a bath, painting my nails, reading, listening to podcasts or audiobooks or more ‘basic’ self care like drinking enough water throughout the day, tidying my space, making a healthy meal or reducing social media intake
  • Maintain communications with my loved ones and my colleagues with phone calls, messages and video calls
  • Be gentle and allow myself to understand that this is a difficult time and it’s ok to feel however I feel about that
  • Take steps to ensure that I keep my home life ‘homely’ whilst working from home (e.g having a designated area for work)
  • Ask for help or support if I need it
  • Encourage myself to really appreciate the things I love and be grateful for them – from people to biscuits and cups of tea

How will you be managing your health during the Covid-19 pandemic? Please share your tips!

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4 Comments

  1. foreverseptember1
    March 18, 2020 / 6:37 pm

    It is such a scary time for the world, but I think trying to limit your media intake is a great option – especially when struggling with anxiety!

    Lucy | Forever September

  2. March 21, 2020 / 3:26 pm

    Reducing my time spent on social media has massively helped improve my mental health. I don’t have the luxury of working from home as nurse, so that always hinders my mental health, however I’m trying to get around that by reassuring myself that I am needed out in the world right now, and I am helping, rather than spreading this virus!

    Jodie | jodieloue.com

  3. March 25, 2020 / 3:40 pm

    Hi Hannah. Love the post.
    Living with mental illness through this pandemic cannot be easy for anyone. In addition, approaches to fighting the virus spreading such as self isolation, social distancing and lockdown can further aggravate your mental health being.

    Saf

  4. April 2, 2020 / 8:19 pm

    indeed, there are days i check the current stats of covid, others I do everything else to avoid it, as I know that i have no control over how people are or aren’t following hygiene rules on any given day, nor right now, or if they go out unnecessarily and put everyone at risk.. I do what I can, which is minimizing my own outings, always doing my max for that said hygene to avoid risks as much as possible, and I occupy myself and alternating activities :

    spring cleaning, watching shows/movies, cooking, laundry, reading books, blogs, commenting like now, playing video games (love nikki on android or the emulator, on Fb or ps3 or my other pc that is offline), chat, skype and phone with friends and family, and get to it again but in different order, and more rarely, I go out a bit for a walk, or supermarket or pharmacy, and try to maximize what I do when i do have to go out.

    Oh, and like you, I shall resume my meditation, it was helpful but I never managed to get fully back into it and be regular. That’s my to do!

    thank you for reminding also about the importance of accepting our feelings and not letting things overwhelm us. Keep safe, and don’t hesitate to chitchat whenever you wish & can,
    hugs & love, Lulu

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