Looking After your Wellbeing During the COVID-19 Outbreak
Looking after your well-being is important at all times, however during these extra testing times, we may be finding even if we usually keep well, that we are suffering from increased anxiety and stress.
Those who are already living with mental health issues such as panic, anxiety, OCD or depression, may find themselves feeling like they are sinking with the added pressures of disrupted daily routines, and may already be isolated from family, friends and colleagues.
As we are thrown into times of the seemingly unknown, it is easy to let your thoughts get carried away with panic. With the bombardment of media online and in the news and false information which is spreading like wildfire across our social media channels- it is very easy to feel overwhelmed.
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More Information for Healthcare Workers
The current coronavirus pandemic is creating additional physical and mental wellbeing challenges to all frontline health and social care staff. Primary care clinicians, ambulance staff and emergency department staff are at the very front of that frontline and are coming into contact with many patients. Workload and demands are rising and staff concern has understandably increased as well.
The frontline organisations (including the Royal College of GPs, Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, the College of Paramedics and Royal College of Emergency Medicine) have been working together for several weeks nationally to develop joined up ways of working to support the urgent and emergency care systems and patients, and are also committed to supporting health and social care staff across the UK.
They have all endorsed the attached support leaflet developed by Living Life to the Full. This was initially intended to provide wellbeing advice for frontline staff under pressure, but is now being offered for free to all health and social care staff.
The leaflet also links to the Living Life to the Full Plus course. A special version of the course is being made available nationally to all NHS and Social Care staff across the UK.
NHS and social care staff can work through the course resources in any way they want. There are modules, numerous online books to read as well as worksheets that can be completed online via your smartphone or computer. It’s also free for use by the family and friends of NHS and social care workers too.
Make A Plan! - Use our Planner Sheet
Apart from truly essential workers, we are now all (largely) staying at home- essential to save lives. However these changes are very disruptive to our wellbeing. We have lost the routine and structure to our day. It’s important to rediscover that. You may also notice that things we would usually do that are good for us have been cut down, or stopped. Hobbies, work, interests, meeting people, getting out and about- all the things that give colour in our life.
Here’s a tool to help plan some changes back. There’s lots you can’t do, but what can you still do? Split the day up into morning/afternoon and evening. Plan at least one thing in each part that:
- Is fun/pleasurable: e.g. music, hobby, a walk (2 meters apart, once a day), cooking a nice meal, playing a game
- Connects you to others: talking to people in your flat/house, giving someone a phone/skype/zoom, chatting on social media
- Recognises achievements/things you’ve got done: Tidied a room? Done some work for school/university/college/work, helped someone, cut the lawn etc.
- Helps you keep fit: cooked a healthy meal, went for a walk, exercised at home (e.g. walking up and down stairs), did a yoga or keep fit class online etc.
Make a plan to do each – and write the plan in your diary.
Register at www.llttf4suffolk.com for more courses, hints and tips (free).
Things You Can Do to Help Yourself
Think about the things you can control, when the world feels scary. How much media you are taking in may be greatly adding to your anxiety levels- it’s OK to tun off your phone, and turn off the news, or instead switch over to an episode of your favourite box set.
You have probably heard it a lot, but get into the habit of washing your hands, when appropriate -when you’ve been out and about, and before you eat or drink anything outside the home. Warm, soapy water kills viruses and washes them away.
Re-train your hands – so you cut down or stop touching your mouth, face and eyes. Play a game with those around you making a notices any time someone touches their face. There could be a forfeit- sweets, money, having to do an extra chore at home.
Recently we have been hearing about the #BeKind movement. But what does it actually mean? Using a hashtag and sharing a quote is a nice sentiment, but it isn’t actively helping someone- or yourself. Helping other people can greatly help your own mental health. Instead of panicking about what you don’t have- toilet roll, milk and essentials, why not help out your neighbour; give them a call, check they have the supplies they need. Maybe even a friendly phone call will help. Drop your number through their door and let them know you are there.
Be kind to yourself. Take this time to rest, enjoy nice baths and your favourite programmes. Phone relatives, write letters, enjoy your own homes and gardens if you are lucky enough to have one. Try and see the good in the situation, rather than focussing on what you can’t do.
Stay in touch with relatives
We might be feeling cut off from our friends and family. Make time every day to pick up the phone, or even better teach Granny and Grandpa how to use FaceTime or Skype, it will help them feel less shut off, and give you peace of mind that you can be in touch. You can take time to write an old fashioned letter, or if it’s difficult to post, drop an email.
With daily routines disrupted, there are many psychological and social benefits of eating meals with your family, as well as maintaining a healthy balanced diet. Sharing mealtimes is good for your mental health- by winding down and bonding with family members and having someone to talk to, mealtimes provide a great opportunity for us to set aside a specific time of the day or week to give us time to socialise, relax and improve our mental health.
If you are on your own, regular mealtimes provide a sense of rhythm and regularity in lives. They offer a sense of containment and familiarity, and can evoke deep feelings of contentment and security. Keeping these structured routines, will help during times of chaos. If you are feeling lonely, why not arrange to set up a FaceTime or Skype call with friends or family over dinner, and enjoy chatting at the table with your loved ones from afar.
Get fresh air
With social distancing measures in place to reduce interaction between people in order to reduce the transmission of coronavirus, it can seem harder to enjoy the fresh air. However, getting fresh air is very good for your mental health. Whether you are in the city or in the countryside, or in isolation, you can enjoy some form of fresh air. A walk will greatly benefit your mental health, or sitting in your garden or on a balcony, or by simply opening your windows and enjoying the outside world. Walk with others and chat – just keep a 2 meter space between you.
Keep activity- it builds up your cardiovascular (heart and lungs) reserve- so you’re in better shape if you get Corona Virus or other bugs. Protect your lungs- cut or stop smoking. All that exercise also will most likely help you sleep- again getting you in a better place to fight off bugs of all kinds.
Pick up a hobby you haven’t had time to do
You may usually find yourself so busy with the ‘should stuff’ -work, family routines, that often we do less and less of the ‘good stuff’ -hobbies and pastimes, perhaps you used to enjoy doing a bit of art, or playing music, or spending time gardening. Whatever your hobbies are, if you are finding you have more time at home and are needing a distraction, then it is a good time to revisit these things.
Coping with boredom
We are all normally very busy- too busy! So busy we can barely stop to catch our breath. Between working long hours, dating, socialising, exercising, family and everything else, we live life at a crazy pace and don’t often have time to rest, let alone get bored. Sometimes, we simply need to breathe, and focus on the simple things around us. Using mindfulness techniques we can connect more to the present moment and let go of worries about the past or future. The present impacts of Coronavirus are really disruptive- but maybe there are opportunities for you to learn, reconnect or slow down.
Hope for the future
Finally we need to remind ourselves that this time will pass. So if we can enjoy taking life at a slower pace while we can and use it to reset our routines and enjoy some time with family members, or simply to reflect on our own, combatting loneliness by leaning into our best and deepest relationships, whether this be in person, or by using technology. We know that things will settle. Eventually there will be a vaccine. We can put up with the hassles and added pressures if we know they won’t last forever.