Firstly, you are all doing a fantastic job in what is the most extraordinary of circumstances. On behalf of everyone at Christchurch Group and all of our patients and families – THANK YOU!!
YOU ARE SUPERSTARS, EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU!!!
Secondly, it’s worth keeping in mind that most people whom develop coronavirus will experience mild symptoms which can include:
- A high temperature
- A new continuous cough
- Shortness of breath
Some Common Psychological Reactions
Not all reactions are necessarily negative. There are several reactions that are helpful to us in order to protect or help ourselves and others during this time. Sometimes things that are helpful can also become a problem if taken to the extreme though. Helpful reactions include:
Keeping in touch with the latest news
This is helpful for making sure that you are aware of the latest advice and guidance, but it is important to make sure you get this information from a reputable source. However, spending too much time looking at the news can have a negative impact by creating additional anxiety and panic.
Having sufficient resources
Knowing that you have enough food and other resources to manage in the case where you need to isolate, alone or as a family, is a sensible precaution to take. However, panic buying and over-stocking your cupboards may cause a knock-on effect for others who also need these items so try not to buy more than you need. Supermarkets will remain open and are continually being restocked so there will be ongoing opportunities to go shopping anyway.
Discussing the pandemic
It is very much on the minds of everybody at the present time and there is definitely good cause to talk to others about the pandemic. It can be helpful knowing we are all in the same boat and to share stories and strategies for how to get through this difficult time. However, if you find it is all you are talking about this may have a negative impact on your mental wellbeing so don’t forget to discuss other topics as well.
In the case of Isolation
This is an important strategy to curb or prevent the spread of the disease and is a helpful thing to do if you are currently experiencing symptoms or are in one of the high-risk groups. However, complete isolation or withdrawing from communicating with others entirely may have a negative impact on your mental wellbeing so it is essential to maintain contact with others even if via non face-to-face means like phone calls, texting, email, Skype etc.
Finding it interesting
There is some benefit to finding the pandemic interesting, that isn’t to say you believe it is in anyway good but simply being intrigued and curious about it can help alleviate some of the anxiety around it. However, it’s important not to let it become a disconnect from the reality of the situation or a reason to sit back and do nothing but watch.
Possible Effects of the Coronavirus on Mental Health
A situation of this kind can also impact on our mental health. Some other common reactions, that may not be particularly helpful, include the following:
It can be difficult in situations like this not to want someone to blame, however, a pandemic like this isn’t the fault of anyone in particular or any nation in particular despite where the outbreak originates from. It also isn’t your colleague, friend, family members fault if they have inadvertently passed the virus onto you.
Although some healthy scepticism can be helpful, like not believing everything you read or hear about the virus, becoming pre-occupied about where the virus came from, what caused it, why it is spreading as it is, or why the government are responding as they are, can lead to unhelpful thinking patterns and may obstruct your daily life and impact your wellbeing negatively.
Additional pressures are highly likely and whether it’s concern for yourself, people you care about, your work, or wider society so it’s not surprising to be feeling anxious at the current time. However, being overly anxious is unhelpful and finding ways to manage additional anxiety should be a priority.
Exposure to the news of ongoing suffering around the world can be difficult to cope with, as can feelings of helplessness and hopelessness due to the nature of a pandemic. Following the advice like isolation and social distancing increase the risk of experiencing depression and it is important to do what you can to minimise this.
Fear of Infection
When faced with a pandemic caused by a viral disease there is a high risk that you, or someone you care about or know, are going to catch it. This is a very healthy fear and even more so when you are working on the front line of health care.
However, if you find your worries are becoming all-consuming or overwhelming, then it can be detrimental. So:
- Follow the precautions and guidance as recommended by the medical experts who work for the government and within our service.
- If you have additional medical or health concerns or just want to ask more questions, you can contact Sue Houston, Head of Nursing, at firstname.lastname@example.org
- If you want to talk about how the Coronavirus is making you feel or if it is affecting your mental health, you can contact Dr Julianne Kinch, Consultant Clinical Neuropsychologist, at email@example.com
WHAT CAN I DO TO PROTECT MY Mental Health?
Do What Usually Helps
It may be stating the obvious but if you have tried and tested ways of managing your mental health now is the time to put them to good use. Whether that’s using distraction, relaxation, mindfulness, grounding or stress management skills these will all be of benefit. You are going to have the best idea about what works well for you.
If you are struggling to do what usually helps, maybe because of the social distancing restrictions, then it’s important to think about other ways to manage your mental health.
One of the most important ways of managing mental health issues is to have good connections and to make use of them. There may be times when you cannot meet with people face to face but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep connected with them. Speaking on the phone, video call, text message, email, instant message, skype etc. are all good ways to keep connected.
Could you be that person? – we know you are working hard and you can’t even go the pub, but you could still be the one who makes sure that friends, family, neighbours, colleagues and vulnerable people have someone to talk to or help out if needed. #britaingettalking
What is Free that May Help?
Many companies have made their products free to help people cope with the restrictions that are being placed on their lives at this time. For example,
- Many Broadway shows and musicals are being streamed for free, visit: http://filmedonstage.com/news/76-free-musicals-and-plays-you-can-now-stream-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak-updating-daily
- Or try: https://www.whatsonlive.co.uk/news/the-west-end-production-of-the-wind-in-the-willows-is-available-to-stream-online-for-free/47479
- Try a 30 day free trial with www.audible.co.uk or with http://www.openculture.com/freeaudiobooks (other book streaming services are available)
- Join an online choir https://decca.com/greatbritishhomechorus/
Brace Yourself for Change
Being prepared with the knowledge that things are going to change in your daily life is going to help when it does happen. Already there are many changes that have taken place within society to try and prevent the spread and impact of the disease. There may be more change to come in the future as well.
Reactions are individual
Although we have covered some of the common reactions it is still the case that each person will have their own reaction to the pandemic and you may experience thoughts and feelings that are not listed here.
Exercises to DO TO Boost your mental health
The internet is full of useful resources for boosting our mental health. Suggestions as to how to manage stress and anxiety at this time include:
- Physical activity – keep as active as possible whilst observing social distancing and new government directives
- Practice mindfulness exercises, including mindful breathing, and mindful observation. For more information about mindfulness visit mind.org.uk or www.mindful.org.
- Download an app like Calm which provides audio advice to improve sleep, reduce stress, reduce anxiety, and increase happiness
- Go to YouTube and type in ‘Leave on a Stream’ to access videos which help you disentangle yourself from unhelpful thoughts
- Practice Gratitude – studies have shown again and again that writing down three things you are, or have been, grateful for in your life on a daily basis significantly benefits mental health.
- Eat healthily, drink lots of water, and get enough sleep
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember you are doing the best you can just like everyone else. Tell that inner critic that and don’t let them tell you otherwise!
- Focus on what you can control and what you can’t. We can’t control what is going to happen in the future, but we can control our own behaviour.
- Acknowledge how you are feeling, even if those feelings are negative
Treat yourself and each other with compassion