Mental Health Guide
Minding your mental health during a pandemic
The coronavirus outbreak is a scary and uncertain time for all of us and can have a significant impact on our mental health. With the help of our doctors, we’ve put together some simple things you can do to take care of your wellbeing during these times.
How to cope with self isolation
Self-isolation can be challenging on your mental health, so it’s important to do some simple things to look after yourself during this time. We’ve put together some tips to help you cope with staying at home, from relaxation to self-care. See our guide for tips on how to look after your mental health.
Self-isolation means not leaving the house for any reason other than exercise once a day. It can be hard to do, but here are a few tips to help you see it through:
1. Take care of yourself
Look after yourself as you would with any other illness. You can take paracetamol, if you need it, to ease your symptoms. It's best not to use ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatory medications to treat the symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). Rest as much as you need to. And stay well hydrated by drinking water and other fluids, even if you can only manage frequent small sips. See our guide for tips on how to look after your mental health.
2. Try to relax
It’s understandable if you’re feeling stressed or worried. Perhaps you’re concerned about your own health or your loved ones. But do try to relax, because high stress levels can affect your immune system (your body’s defence against disease).1 Yoga, mindfulness or simply deep breathing – using your abdominal muscles not your chest and shoulders – can help.2 Place your hand on your belly and feel it rising as you breathe in. Even just a few deep breaths can help to ease stress and anxiety.
3. Battle the boredom
If you’re feeling really unwell, you won’t feel like doing much more than sleeping. But when you start to feel better, boredom can set in. If you’re well enough and working from home is an option for you, do so.
And if you’re well but not working from home, now is the perfect time to pick up an old hobby, learn a new language or work on something creative – what about drawing, embroidery, writing or baking? Or turn your mind to all those tasks you’ve been putting off – sorting cupboards, organising photographs, filing or DIY.
4. Keep in touch
We all need human company, even if it’s not face to face. So don’t lose touch with friends and family. Chat on the phone, join online forums – and why not host a virtual dinner party, movie screening or book group?
5. Look for the positives
If you find that feeling unwell and having to isolate yourself is making you feel low, try to keep in mind that you’re not alone with this. And for most people, it will pass. In the meantime, there are things you can do to help your mood. There’s evidence that we can feel more positive if we start noticing small things that make us feel good.3 This might be anything from a pair of soft socks to the smell of your favourite shower gel. When you’re happier, you’ll feel more motivated to take care of yourself.3
Our mood tracker can help you monitor how you’re feeling so you’ll be able to spot any longer-lasting mood changes or patterns. But if you find your low mood lasts more than two weeks, and you can’t get any enjoyment out of life, it might be time to talk to a doctor.
6. Get practical help
You won’t be able to head out shopping, but that doesn’t mean you need to go without. Use online delivery services – just ask delivery people to leave your items at the door. When you order food, keep in mind that eating a healthy balanced diet will help keep your immune system strong, so include lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.4 And ask friends and family to lend a hand with medications and supplies – just remember to stay at least 2 m away and have items delivered outside the door if possible.
1. Segerstrom SC, Miller GE. Psychol Bull. 2004;130(4):601–630. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.130.4.601
2. Ma X, Yue ZQ, Gong ZQ, et al. Front Psychol. 2017;8:874. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00874
3. Charlson ME, Boutin-Foster C, Mancuso CA, et al. Contemporary Clinical Trials. 2007 Nov;28(6):748-762. doi: 10.1016/j.cct.2007.03.002
4. Marzieh Kafeshani. Immunopathol Persa. 2015;1(1):e04