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Protecting your mental health in uncertain times

A brain from our Mental Health Awareness Training

By now, the vast majority of the global population are aware of the unprecedented pandemic that is the coronavirus. Many of these people will also be aware of the damage it is causing businesses and the economy, the frustration it’s causing to the wider public, and the potential devastation it is causing to the loved ones of those who have it.

As much as there are many people worrying about the physical toll that the virus could have on them (who could blame them?), many might not be considering the toll the virus could have on their mental health or the mental health of others.

If you’re wondering how you could cope better with these anxious feelings that may have recently emerged, or even if you were suffering from anxiety beforehand and you’re finding the news surrounding the virus is hard to cope with, we’re going to offer you some tips that may work in helping you cope.

Take advice on preventative measures from reputable sources

FAKE NEWS! It really can be dangerous. Really dangerous if it is false health information in a time like this. Hence why you should take every article with a pinch of salt, unless you’ve read it from an official source (i.e NHS, WHO, and the government). 

This way, you can relax and accept the fact that what you’re reading is the best advice you can receive. Never again will the chance emerge that you read two conflicting statements from different sources that you have to make a guess on who to side with.

The reputable sources are deemed “reputable” because they have some of the smartest people in the world working for them and thoroughly researching the topic in question before they feed it to you.

Just think, if you’re doing everything you can to prevent yourself from getting the virus, then you’re playing your part well. You’ve just got to remember that it’s not necessary or helpful to be on high alert all the time.

Have breaks from social media

Generally, this is a good rule of thumb anyway, regardless of recent news and events. However, it can be particularly refreshing to get away from social media when all news is seemingly negative.

There are many things you can substitute for time spent on social media. For example, you could practice yoga, do breathing exercises, go for a walk, read a book etc... These are just a handful of great ways to relieve stress and anxiety, but you should try them all and see what works best for you.

An alternative way to control the negative messages you are reading in social media platforms is by:

  • Muting keywords which might be triggering on Twitter
  • Unfollow or mute accounts
  • Mute WhatsApp groups
  • Hide Facebook posts and feeds if you find them too overwhelming

Stay connected with people

Particularly if you have to self-isolate.

There will almost certainly be an increase in the number of people who are self-isolating, so now is the time to ensure that you have the right phone numbers and email addresses of the people you care about.

If you're self-isolating, you should try to strike a balance between having a routine and making sure each day has some variety.

You may end up feeling like you’ve had quite a productive two weeks. It’s an opportunity to work through your to-do list or read a book you'd been meaning to get to.

In fact, it is reported that Shakespeare wrote Macbeth whilst self-isolating. Turn something negative into a positive. #BeLikeShakespeare.

Avoid burnout

This is something we touch upon in our Stress Awareness Training and Mental Health Awareness Training courses, and it’s a topic that needs to be acknowledged.

Burnout is a state of exhaustion, whether it be emotional, physical, and mental, and it is caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It can occur when you’re feeling overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.

It is crucial that you give yourself some downtime during a, what can only be described as, crazy time right now.

AnxietyUK suggests practicing the "Apple" technique to deal with anxiety and worries.

Acknowledge: Notice and acknowledge the uncertainty as it comes to mind.

Pause: Don't react as you normally do. Don't react at all. Pause and breathe.

Pull back: Tell yourself this is just the worry talking, and this apparent need for certainty is not helpful and not necessary. It is only a thought or feeling. Don't believe everything you think. Thoughts are not statements or facts.

Let go: Let go of the thought or feeling. It will pass. You don't have to respond to them. You might imagine them floating away in a bubble or cloud.

Explore: Explore the present moment, because right now, in this moment, all is well. Notice your breathing and the sensations of your breathing. Notice the ground beneath you. Look around and notice what you see, what you hear, what you can touch, what you can smell. Right now. Then shift your focus of attention to something else - on what you need to do, on what you were doing before you noticed the worry, or do something else - mindfully with your full attention.

To conclude, there are several ways that you can protect your mental health in a time like this, but the main takeaway should be that you shouldn’t let protecting your mental health fall off the radar in this crazy, uncertain time. You need to take care of your mental health as you would with your physical health.

If that seems silly, it shouldn’t - we explain why here.

We have created a 9-minute Coronavirus Awareness Training video that is made up of the information offered by the reputable sources we listed above.

The video is completely free to watch on YouTube, Vimeo, and our website. We hope it can offer you some clarity on how to best prevent the virus, and we hope this can help to relieve you of some anxious feelings.