Infectious disease outbreaks such as coronavirus (COVID-19) can be scary and can affect our mental health. While it’s important to stay informed, it’s also vital we look after our mental wellbeing.
After living in a pandemic for so long, you may be feeling exhausted, fed up, depressed or anxious. You may have experienced bereavement, furlough or unemployment as well as loneliness, disruption to normal life and relationship stress. While some of us have been able to enjoy new family routines or more time outdoors, for many of us life feels difficult and uncertain.
Here are some tips we hope will help you, your friends and your family to look after your mental health.
Looking after your mental health while staying at home
If there are restrictions on meeting people in person, or you don’t feel safe or comfortable doing so, there are other ways to stay in touch. Social media, e-mail, phone calls or video calls are good ways of being close to the people who matter to you.
Create a daily routine that prioritises looking after yourself. You could try reading more, watching films, exercising, trying new relaxation techniques such as mindfulness or learning new things online – for example, the Open University offers free courses through OpenLearn. Try and view this as a new (if unusual) experience that might have its benefits.
Make sure you’re taking care of your physical health too. For example:
- make sure you have enough prescription medicine
- go to any routine check-ups or scans you’re invited to
- eat well – a healthy diet can lift your mood
- stay physically active. If you can’t leave your home, you can stay active by cleaning, gardening, dancing or doing online exercise videos such as the free ones on the NHS website
- manage your stress levels
- try to get a good night’s sleep.
It might help to see this time as a different period in your life: one that gives you the chance to find a different way of life, and a chance to be in touch with others in different ways than usual.
Use reputable news and information sources
Rumour and speculation can fuel anxiety. Having access to good quality information about coronavirus can help you feel more in control.
Follow Government advice about how to look after yourself and others. This advice will depend on where you live.
Try to find a balance between staying informed and feeling overwhelmed by the news. This may mean only watching the news once a day, for example, or only checking news websites for a limited amount of time.
Similarly, social media can be a great way to stay in touch with people but may also leave you feeling anxious or confused if people are sharing stories or their feelings about COVID-19. Ask yourself if you need to reassess your social media activity: are there particular accounts or people that are increasing your worry or anxiety? Consider muting or unfollowing accounts or hashtags that cause you to feel anxious.
And if you’re sharing content online, avoid sensationalising things: use trusted sources and remember that your friends might be worried too.
Make a personal financial plan
If the pandemic has stretched your expenses, reduced your income or left you unsure about your job prospects, this uncertainty can take a toll on your mental health.
Using a budget tool to redo your household budget could be useful. Remember that you may be saving money if you’re spending less on transport and socialising. Staying financially stable is incredibly protective to our wellbeing but can be tough.
Try to stay connected
Talk to your children
Involving our family and children in our plans for good health is essential. We need to ask our children what they have heard about coronavirus and support them without causing them unnecessary alarm. They may have heard different things about coronavirus, lockdown and vaccinations. They might feel positive and confident, or worried and confused.
It’s important to reassure children and help them get the facts from reputable sources. Discuss the news with them but try and avoid over-exposure to coverage of the virus.
Be as truthful as possible. You could share our guide on coping with coronavirus as a young person with them.
Don’t avoid the ‘scary topic’ but engage in a way that is appropriate for them. We have more advice on talking with your children about coronavirus.
Try to anticipate distress
It is OK to feel vulnerable and overwhelmed as we read news about the outbreak, especially if you have experienced trauma or a mental health problem in the past, or if you are shielding, have a long-term physical health condition or fall into one of the other groups that makes you more vulnerable to the effects of coronavirus.
It’s important to acknowledge these feelings and remind each other to look after our physical and mental health. Try to avoid coping mechanisms that may not be helpful in the long-term, like smoking, drinking and overeating.
Try and reassure people you know who may be worried and check in with people who you know are living alone.
Try not to make assumptions
Don’t judge people and avoid jumping to conclusions about who is responsible for the spread of the disease. Coronavirus can affect anyone regardless of gender, ethnicity or background.
Don’t make assumptions about people not wearing masks in public. It’s easy to assume people are irresponsible or selfish, but there can be many reasons why people find wearing a mask distressing or difficult. People may have an invisible disability such as anxiety, autism, PTSD or a mobility problem that prevents them from wearing one.
You can find out more about when you should wear a face covering and what exemptions exist by visiting:
How to look after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak
We have created a COVID-19 resources hub to give helpful tips and advice across all our nations that we hope will help you, your friends, and your family to look after your mental health.
Mental health A-Z
Explore our A to Z topics on mental health, where you can find more information on specific mental health problems and some of the things that can have an impact –good and bad – on our mental health.