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COVID-19: Steps to Protect Mental Wellness

April 2020

There are major changes happening on a near daily basis during the COVID-19 pandemic. So, it’s little wonder many of us are feeling worried, anxious, scared, stressed, or on edge. But while we all make changes to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, it’s just as important to look after our mental and emotional wellbeing, too.

Here are some tips and ideas to help you reduce stress and cope with the changes and uncertainty you may be experiencing.

Go on a News detox

It’s important to stay informed and act on official guidelines and information. But there’s a lot of misinformation circulating, especially on social media. If you are feeling anxious, watching & listening to constant news updates can become overwhelming, particularly if they include hearsay, fake news or sensationalism.  Instead of keeping you informed, they can serve to feed your anxiety and increase stress levels. Try, therefore, to limit your daily exposure to Coronavirus news updates to a couple of times a day and take your information from direct, reliable sources. Maybe check the news first thing in the morning and once again in the evening.  Three trusted and relevant sources are listed below where you’ll find up-to-date information and practical actions you can take.

 

Be kind to yourself and to others

Did you know it’s been proven that by offering kindness to others we can often boost our own mental wellness, leaving us feeling satisfied and happy? Offer to help somebody during this time – collect groceries for a neighbour, call someone who might be lonely or throw a hand in and do some household chores. These small actions can be powerful, especially right now. Likewise, being kind to yourself by practicing self-care is important. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries and take some ‘me time’ to do something you enjoy doing, especially if you’re feeling tense or anxious.  Even if it’s something as simple as taking a walk within a 2km radius of your home. Getting out in the fresh air can lift our mood.

Keeping perspective

Make an effort to keep things in perspective. If you’re finding social distancing, social isolation or quarantine tough, remind yourself why you’re doing it: you are helping to keep yourself and your loved ones, your community and healthcare workers safe by preventing the virus from spreading.

Cooling Conflict (Family homes and house-sharing)

Having everyone at home more than usual, in a confined space, along with increasing stress levels, can fuel conflict and arguments. Here are some ways you can be proactive and reduce potential tension.

  • Housework can be a flash point.  Make a plan to divide housework up fairly. Have a chat about who’s doing what or create a roster or checklist. It’s important that your home is kept clean. Good personal and home hygiene can help in stopping spread of the virus.  Encourage everyone to do their bit.
  • Working from home can be stressful due to distractions and lack of access / routine. If someone in your household is working from home, be mindful and give them the space they need to focus.
  • Likewise, if someone in your household is self-isolating, follow official guidelines in caring for them.  Set up clear ground rules around their care and around continuing to include them by whatever means in the daily life of the family. Ensure they feel supported and continue to feel loved while ensuring they maintain their self-isolation. 
  • Book-in time to exercise. It can help lift your mood, reduce stress and keep you healthy.
  • Give yourself space — if you feel tension rising, take some time out to calm down. A 15 to 20 minute break can be enough to reduce pressure and help you think more clearly.
  • Make an effort to communicate assertively. This means being clear about what you need, feel or think, but expressing it in a way that is respectful of the other person.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Again, keep things in perspective. 
  • Try to maintain a balanced diet. You have the time now to try out new things and even store cupboard ingredients can produce very tasty results. Keeping healthy through a nutritious diet and exercise will give you the best chance in fighting off the virus or any other illnesses during this time.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of a good decluttering.  You’ve got the time at the moment. There’s no excuse.

 

Combating loneliness

The words ‘isolation’, ‘lockdown’ and ‘social distancing’ can create anxiety for those who are living on their own or currently in quarantine, especially if you are someone who really enjoys social company. Thankfully, new and accessible technologies can help us stay connected with friends, colleagues and family all over the world.  Try to stay connected and check-in on others regularly. Ring or message friends and neighbours, especially those who live alone, or who might be particularly impacted. Video chats, phone calls, group message chats, emails and good old-fashioned letters or cards can help you feel more in touch and supported. You can also turn real-life get-togethers into virtual ones, giving you the opportunity to network, have a laugh, share ideas or catch up.  And, don’t forget to use your free An Post postcard to let someone know you are thinking of them.

Try to keep a schedule

Create a daily routine and keep regular work hours if you’re working from home. Factor in time for meals, physical activity and things you enjoy. In doing so, it can help you keep a sense of ‘normal’ and give your days a sense of purpose.

Reach out for support

If you’re feeling low, reach out to a friend.  In general, people are open to helping others.  Each out to someone in your life who you feel will be able to show you some support through this difficult time.

If you are in suicidal crisis or require information on mental health supports and services during this time, please visit the dedicated HSE website page here.  For information, tips and guides, about Minding your Mental Health during this outbreak of COVID-19, see the HSE’s dedicated web page here

For anyone in crisis, if you need help now, Samaritans (Freephone 116 123) and Pieta House (Freephone 1800 247 247) are maintaining services. Please click here for additional crisis helplines.

If you have self-harmed or injured yourself and require urgent medical attention now, please call 999 or 112 or visit your Accident & Emergency Department. 

Bereavement & Loss

If you have lost a loved one during this time, firstly, our sincere condolences to you.  Bereavement during these unprecedented times throws up a whole new set of challenges over and above the usual grieving process.  You may not have been allowed to be with your loved one during their last moments or to say goodbye.  You may have had to adhere to restrictions around the funeral and burial / cremation. Until the pandemic has passed you are denied the opportunity to hold a wake or a big funeral to celebrate their life with friends and family.  You are denied the very rituals which so often are a comfort to the bereaved in the immediate aftermath.  And you may have to children to help through the grieving process too.  The Irish Hospice Foundation have pulled together some very useful information and advice on navigating these unchartered waters

For further information on this and on a short video on supporting someone bereaved through Covid-19 see here.