COVID-19: Managing our mental health
25 March 2020
As well as working for the CHSA, Cathy Connan is a psychotherapist and has nearly 30 years in PR and communication, working in sectors such as cleaning & hygiene, professional services, engineering, transport, education and gardening. Here, Cathy provides guidance in relation to mental health and COVID-19.
Our world has changed. With huge questions hanging in the air about our physical health and our economic future, it’s unsurprising anxiety is on the increase.
The Government’s mantra is Stay at Home. Simple and clear. But they go on to say, if you can’t work from home, go to work and follow social distancing guidelines. Almost by definition, this introduces uncertainty, leaving individuals and businesses facing, what feel like impossible choices.
On top of all this, humans are social animals. We are heathier, more resilient when we are in contact with others, particularly those we love and are close to. But social distancing and self-isolation are the buzzwords.
So, what can you do?
There are some simple steps we can all take to maintain our mental wellbeing:
Stay connected… to family, friends and colleagues
- Communicate with colleagues. Video conference regularly, even if it’s just to check in. We need more - not less - communication right now
- Use the technology available to talk - landlines, smart phones, tablets and computers
- Get creative with your social life: Arrange an ‘online coffee’ with colleagues. Have dinner online with family. Stream a film to ‘go to the cinema’ with friends. Play virtual Monopoly, or your choice of game
- Consider volunteering to connect with like-minded people
Control what you can and accept what you can’t
- Whether you’re the employer or the employee there will be elements you can control and some you can’t. Focus your energy on what is within your influence, on what you can do.
Create a new routine… and stick to it
- If you’re at home your daily routine will have changed. With so many changes, it’ll also be different if you’re still going into work. Establish a new structure to your day, making sure to plug in time for relaxing and enjoyable activities.
Working from home… what’s expected
- Take some time to establish what’s possible and what’s expected of people working from home. With young children and other demands on our time, working from home is not as easy as it sounds. For the wellbeing of both, employers and employees need clarity.
- Our bodies are integral to our mental wellbeing so find some time to keep moving. Take advantage of the Government advice and go out for a walk or a run once a day.
- It’s easy in an environment like this for our focus to shrink to the fears and terrors of our own world. We can feel trapped. If this happens to you, try to look up and look out. Go outside into your garden or open a window. Look at the birds and squirrels, the breeze in the trees or bushes.
When the anxiety rises… reduce the stress
- Notice and regulate your breathing. Breath in for a count of five and breathe out for five and repeat for a few minutes
- Take a moment to notice and explore your physical experience of the anxiety
- Focus on the here and now. Here and now, in this moment, you are safe.
- Talk to a trusted colleague, peer or friend. You’re not alone.