How Covid Has Affected My Mental Health - Blog by Fraser, SiMS Volunteer The last few months, during which I have become a volunteer for Support in Mind Scotland, have been a huge turning point in my life. I have been through a really dark place over the last couple of years and finally emerged as someone who can stand up and say, with no shame or fear, that I have suffered with depression, anxiety, low self esteem and, at points, suicidal thoughts. After many years of battling in silence. The general movement of people like me speaking up and talking about their own experiences has helped me massively and I hope that speaking out now can help others too. The world has moved forward with this and it's amazing that we can now live in a society where there is truly no shame about the turmoils that many, many endure in their own heads. The most important part of owning my mental health has been to feel that I have some control over it. That I can, in many ways, manage my thoughts and feelings through the things I have learned that help me. Being honest and taking the help of those around me has allowed me to do that. Hiding your feelings is tiring! If nothing else, opening up has allowed me to channel my energy into other things which have, in turn, helped me to feel better in so many ways. The main things for me are work, sport and spending much needed time with friends and family. I have recently found my love for the gym and running has come back which clears my head, fills me with those good old endorphins and lets me set goals which I find really helpful. I have always loved spending time with my friends and family and generally like to keep myself busy each day. Waking up with a purpose and feeling like I have achieved something each day is somewhat of a crutch that I have become dependant on. Then in the blink of eye the world is swept with Coronavirus, the nation is in lockdown and our lives are turned upside down. Mass fear spreads around the nation and as someone who struggles not to follow hysteria, I have found adapting and rationalising myself challenging. Especially so, when I can't distract myself with my usual coping strategies of being really busy. I have had to look at the way I deal with life and realise that perhaps filing every waking moment with activities, work, sport, meetings, running, friends, family (you name it, i'll find it) isn't an ideal tactic! As at any time the ability to do these things can be taken away. Which is the place we are all finding ourselves in just now. I have had to really dig deep to be able to sit with myself and my feelings during this time and just let go of what I can't control and make the most of what I can. I have had to invest my time and energy into doing the things that I know will make me feel better, like running! I know that I can stick my headphones in and get some government approved daily headspace in the much needed fresh air to reset my mind and distract me from the chaos... at a safe distance of course 🙂. Finding tasks around the house and garden which were always at the bottom of my 'to do' list has helped too. My power washer has never had a such a workout and I can already feel a repetitive strain injury brewing from days of fence painting. Fraser and his family I also happen to be self isolating at home with a 2 year old who doesn't leave much time for thinking about yourself! Day to day life continues for my wife Nicole and I, we haven't had the luxury of feeling bored during lockdown just yet! We joked the other day about how wonderful it could have been pre-parenthood. Binge watching all those box sets that we have never had time to get through, chilling in our PJs, long lies ...if only. Entertaining him is a full time job and this is something I have, for the first time, been able to fully throw myself into with no other hectic life distractions to be splitting my time and attention with. So for the first week or two I was actually really enjoying life and feeling appreciative for this family time together. We are so fortunate to live in a semi rural location with forests, streams and lochs just a stone's throw from our house, so my wife makes sure I get much needed quiet time away from the news feeds and media bombardment. I would naturally have a tendency to sit and watch the death tolls mounting and listen to media announcement after announcement, which would of course have caused my anxiety to sky rocket. As someone who is considered high risk due to being on immunosuppressive medication for my previous liver transplant, I do feel myself getting swept away in fear of catching this virus and need to remind myself daily that I am doing everything I can to stay safe and healthy. So one thing that is keeping me sane and helping to control my thoughts, is taking time out. Time away from thinking about the Coronavirus pandemic that is facing us all. So I urge everyone to turn off your phones and look away from the news as often as you can during this time. Knowing the latest death tolls, how many people are in the 'red zone' in your area and reading terrifying message after message in your group chats isn't gong to help you to feel good or help the nation get over this. Of course you need to stay informed but don't get bogged down. I keep having to remind myself of this as, like I said, my natural disposition would be to do just that. And I would be left stressed out my brains with my head in my phone for hours on end feeling scared and helpless. I know that this period is different for all of us. I am lucky enough to be isolating at home with loved ones in a safe and happy home, which isn't the case for everyone. Some people will be struggling with loneliness and feeling isolated from the world. Others will be struggling to cope with the intense, full on time spent with family and will feel like they have no time to themselves or place to escape to. But whatever your situation is, I hope that you can find some positives from this situation. There will most likely never be another time in our lives where we have the chance to slow down like this. Whether that means spending quality, distraction free time with loved ones, or spending quality time with yourself. To read, to relax, to rest, to learn something new, to get fit, to do whatever it is that will get you through this time. And if that is binge watching Tiger King, that is okay too! Don't think too much about the future or what is going to happen as none of us know, all we can do is live minute to minute and try to enjoy the opportunity to just 'be'. There is going to be plenty time for madness once normal life resumes. Take charge of what you can control and let go of what you can't, get outside daily and take care of yourself, in whatever way that may be for you. And as always, if you are finding it tough to cope or feeling stressed and anxious, reach out for help! For the first time in our lifetimes, there is a whole nation of people feeling just like you, so if there was ever a time to ask for help, it is now. Wishing you all the best during this crazy time and I hope you come through it feeling more grateful for the little things in life and better equipped to cope with the big things. If you're struggling with your mental health, we're here for you. Our information line is open M-F, 9-4pm on 0300 323 1545 or you can email [email protected]. You can also message us on Facebook. We are also part of the recently launched Clic online community forum, which is open 24/7. Full of information, it is a place where you can open up about your mental health with others in similar situations. Visit www.clic-uk.org/ to sign up for free.