In these utterly unique times of Coronavirus lockdown, it is more important than ever to look after our mental health and physical wellbeing. The NHS are promoting the importance of keeping in touch with friends, family and colleagues/peers to support one another wherever possible, especially for those who might be vulnerable or at risk, and as such, it is interesting to reflect on how best to go about this. But remember, we all have fundamental preferences in life, from food to films and habits to hobbies, so we all have a right to be treated individually and respected for our personal choices, for example, two ambassadors from the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) highlight their individual differences:
Cecilia is a poet and writer, but her motivation and creativity are stalling due to lockdown:
“I’m feeling pretty uninspired at the moment, so I’m just not beating myself up about that. I’m reading. I’m resting. These are things I don’t usually get to do.”
Meanwhile, Ben manages a running club and although the government restrictions inhibit him from running with others, he has found an alternative way to keep going:
“I’m encouraging everyone to keep running and share their selfies online to keep connected. Keep your mind and body as healthy as you can”.
So here are seven top tips for looking after ourselves and others:
Stay connected: keep talking and expressing any worries or concerns you might have with family and friends. The current situation can make us feel isolated and worried, so reach out and support one another, whether it’s by text, phone call, or be creative and use.
Stay informed: set a daily limit on how much news you watch/read/listen to in order to stay informed with the latest government guidance, whilst ensuring you maintain a healthy level of interest in media updates. However, make sure the media updates are from reliable sources such as: NHS.
Challenge yourself: take advantage of this unique time to learn a new skill, hobby or activity. Focusing on a new challenge can give some relief from feelings of anxiety or boredom and help boost your energy levels and emotions. Share your new challenge with your friends and family, see if others want to join in. Set yourself targets, or create a video diary, join related forums and find ways of communicating with like-minded peers.
Check in: regularly contact everyone you care about to see if there is anything you can do for them. Be creative! Maybe organise a video call trivia quiz for a group to join or share, play a shared video game such as Animal Crossing, or have an interactive dinner date. At a more pragmatic level, check in with anyone you know who might be at risk during this period of isolation and let them know you are there for them.
Stay healthy: make the most of the one outing per day to walk to get some fresh air with your preferred method of exercise. And whilst socially distancing shopping is difficult and online supermarket shopping slots are like gold dust, make the most of local shops such as greengrocers (some deliver too!). Eat health, well balanced meals, drink plenty of water and try and stick to mealtime routines. Fitness Studio
Access help: whether you are employed or a student, help is on hand if you reach out and grab it, or if someone offers to help you access support. Whilst employers are the first point of contact for employees, universities and student’s unions should be the first points of contact for students. They will have information regarding changes to courses, exams, accommodation and attendance. NHS recommended helplines
Maintain a routine: daily structure and routine gives you purpose, so consider writing a daily plan or timetable, especially if working from home, home schooling and/or ensuring academic work is completing on time. Remember the saying about ‘all work and no play…’ and factor in plenty of rest and relaxation and mindfulness, whether it’s yoga, watching a film or latest episode of a Netflix season, reading a book or doing something creative to let your mind unwind and process events. But most of all, try and maintain good-quality sleep patterns, as sleep affects how we feel, both mentally and physically: sleep matters.
Universities and colleges continue to support their students remotely/virtually, according to the Office for Students. Help and support can be accessed via the Student Union, Disability Services and The Learning Support Centre, who are:
- Continuing to provide mental health support and ASD support for students with known conditions, eg. mentoring support, study skills and academic support, cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) or counselling. Instead of face-to-face support, this will usually be carried out over the telephone or online using video links.
- Only trained staff will offer emotional remote support, whilst fully trained and qualified staff will provide remote mental health support.
- All virtual and remote systems will adhere to full confidentiality, in accordance with policies.
- Respecting individual differences will be of paramount importance. This includes adapting methods of communication when phone or video calls are not preferred.
- Ensuring that all communication takes place in a confidential and safe place so that full participation can be accessed. This includes supporting students living in abusive or violent situations, carers, and LGBT students who wish to maintain privacy.
On a wider scale, here are some links to mental health and wellbeing support services and resources:
Student Minds: https://www.studentminds.org.uk/coronavirus.html
The Mental Health Foundation: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/looking-after-your-mental-health-during-coronavirus-outbreak
The Samaritans: https://www.samaritans.org/
World Health Organization (WHO): https://www.who.int/publications-detail/mental-health-and-psychosocial-considerations-during-the-covid-19-outbreak
Take care and stay safe 😊