Infectious disease outbreaks, like the current Coronavirus (COVID-19), can be scary and can affect our mental health. While it is important to stay informed, there are also many things we can do to support and manage our wellbeing during such times.
Stay home and look after your mental healthThe government is now advising us to avoid all but essential social contact.
Staying indoors might mean you stay at home. But this might not be ideal, for example, because of poor housing conditions or other people who live with you.There are a few things you could try:
Think about other options, like if there’s a friend or family member who would be happy for you to stay with them.
If you’ve been asked to self-isolate, it might not be possible to stay away from your own home. You can check if this is ok by reading the current government health advice in English or the current government health advice in Welsh.
Get help with housing problems. See Mind's page of useful contacts for housing to find details of organisations who may be able to help.
If you’re supporting someone who is self-isolating, see the government's advice on how to do this safely.
Self-isolation also means that more of us will be spending a lot of time at home and many of our regular social activities will no longer be available to us. It will help to try and see it as a different period of time in your life, and not necessarily a bad one, even if you didn’t choose it.
Create a new daily routine that prioritises looking after yourself. You could try reading more or watching movies, having an exercise routine, trying new relaxation techniques, or finding new knowledge on the internet. Try and rest and view this as a new if unusual experience, that might have its benefits.
Make sure your wider health needs are being looked after such as having enough prescription medicines available to you.
Limit your exposure to anxiety-inducing news
Rumour and speculation can fuel anxiety. Having access to good quality information about the virus can help you feel more in control.
There is extensive news coverage about the outbreak. If you find that the news is causing you huge stress, it’s important to find a balance.It’s best that you don’t avoid all news and that you keep informing and educating yourself, but limit your news intake if it is bothering you.
Stay connected with current events, but be careful where you get news and health information from.
- For up-to-date advice in English, see the NHS coronavirus webpage and gov.uk coronavirus webpages.
- For up-to-date advice in Welsh, see the NHS Wales coronavirus webpage and llyw.cymru coronavirus webpage.
Social media could help you stay in touch with people, but might also make you feel anxious including if people are sharing news stories or posting about their worries. Consider taking a break or limiting how you use social media. You might decide to view particular groups or pages but not scroll through timelines or newsfeeds.
At times of stress, we work better in company and with support. Try and keep in touch with your friends and family, by telephone, email or social media, or contact a helpline for emotional support.
See Mind The Mental Health Charity's pages about online mental health for more information.
Keep in touch with people digitally:
- Make plans to video chat with people or groups you’d normally see in person.
- You can also arrange phone calls or send instant messages or texts.
- Think of other ways to keep in contact with people if meeting in person is not possible. For example, you could check your phone numbers are up to date, or that you have current email addresses for friends you've not seen for a while.
Connect with others in similar situations
- If you’re part of a group of people who are also self-isolating, you may be part of group communications to receive updates on your situation. This group could also act as an informal support network.
- You could join a peer support community. Mind runs an online peer support community called Elefriends, where you can share your experiences and hear from others.
- If you're going online more than usual or seeking peer support on the internet, it's important to look after your online wellbeing. See our pages about online mental health for more information.
It is OK to feel vulnerable and overwhelmed as we read news about the outbreak, especially if you have experienced trauma or a mental health problem in the past, or if you have a long-term physical health condition that makes you more vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus.
It’s important to acknowledge these feelings and remind each other to look after our physical and mental health. We should also be aware of and avoid increasing habits that may not be helpful in the long term, like smoking and drinking.
- If you have panic attacks or flashbacks, it might help to plan a 'safe space' in your home that you'll go to.
- You can also find ways to comfort yourself if you're feeling anxious. For example, there are games and puzzles you can use to distract yourself, and breathing exercises which may help.
Eat well and stay hydrated
- Think about your diet. Your appetite might change if your routine changes, or if you’re less active than you usually are. Eating regularly and keeping your blood sugar stable can help your mood and energy levels. See our tips on food and mood for more information.
- Drink water regularly. Drinking enough water is important for your mental and physical health. Changing your routine might affect when you drink or what fluids you drink. It could help to set an alarm or use an app to remind you. See the NHS website for more information about water, drinks and your health.
Keep taking your medication
- You might be able to order repeat prescriptions by phone. Or you may be able to do this online using an app or website, if your doctor’s surgery offers this. You could download the free NHS App and search for your surgery, although some surgeries aren’t on the app yet.
- Ask your pharmacy about getting your medication delivered, or ask someone else to collect it for you. This will usually be possible, although if it’s a controlled drug the pharmacy might ask for proof of identity. Make sure anyone collecting medication knows if they have to pay for it. The NHS website has more information about getting prescriptions for someone else and checking if you have to pay for prescriptions.
- Be careful about buying medication online. You should only buy from registered pharmacies. You can check if a pharmacy is registered on the General Pharmaceutical Council website. See our page on buying medication online for more information.
- You can contact NHS 111 in England or NHS Direct Wales if you’re worried about accessing medication.
Stay active & get fresh air and sunlight
Build physical activity into your daily routine, if possible. Most of us don’t have exercise equipment like treadmills where we live, but there are still activities you can do. Exercising at home can be simple and there are options for most ages and abilities, such as:
- cleaning your home
- dancing to music
- going up and downstairs
- seated exercises
- online exercise workouts that you can follow
- sitting less – if you notice you’ve been sitting down for an hour, just getting up or changing position can help.
Spend time with the windows open to let in fresh air.
Listen to natural sounds, like recordings or apps that play birdsong, ocean waves or rainfall. Get as much natural light as you can. Spend time in your garden if you have one, or open your front or back door and sit on the doorstep.
Hope Tribe is a mental health apparel brand. We are not mental health professionals and are unable to advise people directly on their personal circumstances.
Below are details on services and organisations that offer help and support directly to people with mental health problems:
The Samaritans offer emotional support 24 hours a day - in full confidence.
Call 116 123 - it's FREE email email@example.com
Shout Crisis Helpline
For support in a crisis, Text Shout to 85258.
If you’re experiencing a personal crisis, are unable to cope and need support.
Shout can help with urgent issues such as:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Abuse or assault
- Relationship challenges
Rethink Mental Illness
You can call the Rethink advice and information line Monday to Friday, 10am-2pm for practical advice on:
- different types of therapy and medication
- benefits, debt, money issues
- police, courts, prison
- your rights under the Mental Health Act.
Call Rethink on 0300 5000 927 (calls are charged at your local rate).
Mind The Mental Health Charity
Mind offer an information line to answer questions about:
- types of mental health problem
- where to get help
- drug and alternative treatments
Call the Mind infoline on 0300 123 3393 (UK landline calls are charged at local rates, and charges from mobile phones will vary considerably). Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.