Emotional Wellbeing during the COVID-19 crisis

It's natural to worry and feel anxious in light of the uncertainty surrounding the current COVID-19 outbreak. Its important to remember the impact on your emotional wellbeing. There are many things you can do to manage your emotions.

The best way to look after yourself is:

·       Consider the information you receive.

Some of the reporting around the Coronavirus is factually inaccurate, feeding feelings of mass hysteria and paranoia. Lack of information and poor quality information, both contribute to increased irrational thinking. Reflect on how you are receiving your information. Seek accurate and factual information from a reliable and legitimate source e.g. NHS and the WHO website in order to help you distinguish facts from rumours and misinformation.

·       Limit how often you look for updates.

This can be quite difficult for some, especially those who want to know what’s going on, as they feel that not knowing makes it worse. Whilst it is important to stay well informed so that you can take practical steps to prepare and plan to protect yourself and loved ones, constant monitoring of news updates and social media feeds about COVID-19 can increase feelings of worry and distress. Minimise or set limits to how much news you watch, read or listen to on the subject by setting specific times during the day – once or twice a day. Consider turning off automatic notifications in order to take a break from the news. This will allow you to focus on your life and may even help reduce thoughts and worries about the ‘what if?’.

·       Stay connected.

The government has told us to stay at home and limit going out. It means many of us will be spending a lot of time at home and our regular social activities will no longer be available to us. This is a chance to be in touch with others in different ways than usual. You can stay connected via telephone, e-mail, social media or video conference. Stay in touch with other people regularly as these are still good ways of being close to the people who matter to you. Talking through your concerns and feelings may ease the stress caused by COVID-19 and help you find ways of dealing with challenges. If you are feeling lonely, there is lots of support out there, so search in your local area and contact someone who knows what is available.

·       Supporting others and yourself.

Helping and supporting others in their time of need can benefit both the person receiving support and the helper. You could, for example, check on vulnerable neighbours or people in your community who may need some extra assistance, by phoning them. Working together as one community in addressing COVID-19 crises, can help to create solidarity.

·       Allow yourself those feelings

During times of stress, pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Make sure you are doing what you can to prioritise and look after your wellbeing. Where possible, maintain your daily routine and normal activities or create new routines to adapt to your person situation. Our brains and body connection means that managing your emotional well-being during this time is as important as managing your physical health. When we feel anxious, stress hormones are released which can exacerbate physical symptoms. These feelings and symptoms are by no means a reflection that you are weak. Engage in healthy activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. This will have a positive impact on your thoughts and feelings. To help express anxiety in a way that you can control, do something creative, for example, drawing, painting, playing or listening to your favourite and upbeat music or try writing your feelings down in a journal. Once you’ve written down, let it go. Put the journal away. You could catch up on reading or watching movies and programmes you’ve wanted to watch but never got around to. Perhaps you wanted to try out a new hobby or a new exercise regime or relaxation techniques, or finding new knowledge online and learning new skills like an instrument or a craft. Keep regular sleep routines and eat healthy meals.

·       Perceive things differently

In a funny kind of way it’s a great opportunity to slow down your lifestyle, maybe engage in some mindfulness practices, which are kind of anti-anxiety practices. Perceiving the slow down as an opportunity that might have benefits like finally catching up on sleep or a chance to prioritise looking after yourself.   

·       Focus on the positive

Try and focus on things that are positive in your life and find opportunities to amplify positivity. Laughter is often the best medicine for anxiety. It might be a great time to take advantage of those comedies on Netflix. Seek positive stories and reflect on what you can be grateful for in your life.

·       Keep things in perspective.

Although the idea of self-isolation may seem daunting, keep in mind that this is only temporary. Be really aware of what you’re thinking. If you notice that you are catastrophising, bring your thoughts to the present rather than thinking of worries about the future. Reassure yourself.

If all of this does not help, consider reaching out for support by a professional counsellor. Your internet search engine may be helpful. The stigma associated with mental health problems may cause reluctance to seek support. Don’t ignore your feelings. A counsellor can help you explore why you are feeling the way you are, whether it is struggling due to social distancing and isolation or the anxiety surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak.

I am offering counselling therapy sessions, either by video or telephone, and also a couple of free sessions to help those who need it. Please call, text or email to book a suitable slot.

Things you can do during self-isolation

1.       Keep a ‘quarantine’ diary / blog / journal – you could even write a short story or a novel

2.      Write a ‘bucket list’ of 50 things you want to do when you are out of self-isolation

3.      Join an online book club or download an audio book or listen to Podcasts

4.     Use private outdoor space to have access to fresh air

5.     Use online videos to enjoy home workouts / keep fit / yoga or other exercise classes

6.      Get your cookbooks out and try out new receipes.

7.      Register for an online training course or learn a new craft or skill such as calligraphy, a new language, a new dance - Use YouTube to learn a new skill or technique

8.     Watch some films or TV box sets, or get recommendations from friends on what they are watching on Netflix / catch up TV

9.      Spring clean your cupboards and list items you don’t want anymore on online marketplaces such as Ebay or Facebook. Upcycle something.

10.   Contact someone you have been meaning to but have not had the chance previously.

11.     Arrange group video chat sessions with your friends.

12.    Download some online games, and encourage your friends to download them too, and take part in online challenges together

13.    Review your finances, budgets and savings plans - Use Comparethemarket or other similar websites to review bills and household goings

14.   Go through your food cupboards and check expiry dates and reorganise using the oldest food first

15.    Games - Play on a games console (e.g. Nintendo, Playstation or Xbox) or simply do a crossword or Sudoku to challenge the mind. Search online for digital games or play board games or Complete a puzzle

16.    Learn to play a musical instrument, or a new piece of music

17.    Have a Spa afternoon - have a bath, use a face mask, give yourself a manicure

18.   Take time to reflect and plan – what have you achieved over the last year, what are your future goals. Create a ‘Mind Map’ (to capture the thinking going on in your head)

19.    Spend some time on DIY jobs or completing household maintenance, all those jobs we put off as we don’t have time!

20.  Organise your albums – this can be your music album or all of your photos on your digital devices

21.    Tidy up paperwork and admin – File away and organise your admin and clean up your emails

22.   Make and install a bird feeder and tidy your garden/ private outside space

23.   Trace your ancestry, spend time talking to family and go through photo albums

24.  Visit virtual museums and sites online

25.  Spend time on your hobbies or do something creative – draw, paint, listen to your favourite and upbeat or relaxing music.

Copyright © 2020 Kalpna Hirani

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