But what do we do about our mental health? Just the word ‘pandemic’ can trigger feelings of anxiety and even a brief glimpse at the news is worthy of despair with photos of overcrowded hospitals, tales of people dying and thousands being quarantined, news of flights being cancelled and entire countries being put on lockdown. We’re fearful for our own health, and for loved ones who might be more vulnerable. We’re worried about our livelihoods, with the virus causing huge economic instability and profits to plummet.
We all know the physical things to do to protect ourselves against the Coronavirus pandemic. We know to wash our hands (for 20 seconds with soap and warm water), to stay at least one metre away from other people, and to avoid crowded places. We know to cover our mouths and noses with a tissue when we cough or sneeze, and to isolate if we become unwell.
We are stocking up on provisions, we’re scrubbing our hands until they’re raw and many of us are working from home to try to avoid becoming infected with the novel virus. But what should we be doing to care for our mental health at such a volatile, unprecedented and uncertain time? GLAMOUR takes a look at the simple steps we can all take to make sure we are caring for our own mental health, as well as helping others in need.
HOW TO AVOID PANIC CULTURE
Panic is almost inevitable in a global crisis, but it is also almost always unhelpful. Plus, if you subject yourself to the panic, it’s human nature to get swept up in it and you could find yourself acting irrationally (we’re looking at you, stockpilers). This in turn, creates more panic – and the whole thing becomes a vicious circle.
Try and be mindful of your sources of information – silence the WhatsApp group that’s spreading fake news and don’t read the sensationalist headlines. To stay up to date with any important developments, head to The World Health Organisation, GOV UK or the NHS website. These three sources will cover anything you need to know in terms of safety and any recent regulations. The rest is just noise, which can be silenced.
Another thing is to make sure your mind has relief from constant stress. Watch a lighthearted comedy series on Netflix, download a feel good movie or go old school and start a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle – anything to focus your mind on something stable and positive.
HOW TO TACKLE LONELINESS
Many of us are working form home, either because offices are shutting as a precaution or some may be self isolating. Although it may initially sound appealing, both scenarios can be extremely lonely.
If you are working from home, make sure you talk to colleagues and friends on the phone regularly. Although social media has a bad rep when it comes to mental health, this is the time to prove that it can be used for good. Use it for what it was originally intended for – human connection. Once a day, go outside for a walk in the fresh air and if possible, go to a park or open field. While you may still be by yourself, simply seeing others interact and smiling at strangers can boost our mood and make us feel like part of the community.
If you are self-isolating, it’s very important that you don’t mix with other people for at least seven days if you have a cough or fever, and at least 14 days if you have been exposed to the virus. The lack of any physical contact can be crushing but there are certain things that can help. A weighted blanket is designed to mimic the sensation of a hug, and has been proven to relieve anxiety and aid sleep. Similarly, giving yourself a facial massage or hand massage (being sure to wash your hands thoroughly beforehand) can help to reconnect mind and body, bringing you into the physical space.