Peer from our English Charity Partner, Rethink, shares his thoughts on looking after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak.

Over the last few weeks the media has been full of updates about the Coronavirus - from daily bulletins on the TV to minute by minute stories in your social media feeds - it is hard to avoid. But what if you are living with a mental illness that could be exacerbated by this non-stop rolling news? Peer from our Digital team looks at the simple steps you can take to look after your wellbeing.

Like many people in the UK - I have been watching the news almost hourly, not only on my TV but on my phone, my laptop and even updates on my watch. While I believe it is important to stay informed about the Coronavirus, having a non-stop stream of notifications and speculation isn't helping my mental health. In fact I'd go so far as to say it is starting to make me feel unwell. It is an easy cycle to get into without really trying. For the next few days I am going to set myself some simple rules and to try and look after myself. If like me, you are feeling overwhelmed then here are a few tips:

Turn off news notifications on your phone. 

These days we all have mobile phones next to us 24/7 and the temptation to grab the phone at every notification can be overwhelming. Instead, check your settings and turn off notifications for your news apps. Better still, check to see what apps are sending updates and uninstall them. If you want to stay informed, set some time aside each morning and evening to log onto the internet.

Mute people sharing updates or misinformation. 

Both Facebook and Twitter have the ability to mute users. If someone you follow is sharing updates that make you feel uneasy or sharing misinformation then mute them.  Muting someone doesn’t mean you have to unfollow them but it does mean you don’t see their posts for a while - and they won’t be notified that you have done this. 

Equip yourself with information from trusted sources. 

If you want to equip yourself with the latest information about the Coronavirus then make sure you turn to a source of information that you can trust. While the temptation is to turn to social media for the latest breaking news, getting information from a reliable source is important. Both the World Health Organisation (WHO), The UK Government and the NHS have pages set up to report the latest stats and guidance. 


Discuss your fears with someone you trust. 

If you are feeling anxious or worried about the coronavirus then it can be good to get someone else’s point of view. Think about who you speak to - speaking to someone else who is struggling might not be best. Find somewhere quiet where you can sit down and chat openly and honestly about your feelings and your concerns. It is easy to get overwhelmed in our own pattern of negative thoughts, so talking these though can help break those cycles.

If you prefer,  you can contact an emotional support service such as the Samaritans  or if you are worried about your physical health you can call NHS 111 

Distract yourself with the things you enjoy.

Making time in your day to do the things you enjoy is a good way to distract yourself from the news cycle. Take an hour out of your day to go for a walk or maybe find somewhere quiet to sit with a book. Turn off the TV and enjoy crossing off a few books from your reading list. 

You might even want to take a look to see if there are any free courses on the Open University Open Learn website that you could take part in. Learning something new is a great way to stimulate the brain and tune out those anxious thoughts. 

 

Eat well, Sleep well.

It is very easy to forget to have a well-balanced meal when we are stressed or anxious - but cooking can help detract from negative thoughts and ensure that you eat well. If you are not into cooking then maybe ask a loved one or friend if they will help you. Sharing the task and talking about what you are cooking can help take your mind off your worries.

There are a lot of good websites that have simple recipes that you can follow. If you are looking for inspiration then maybe visit the website of Jack Monroe, who offers simple low cost recipes that are easy to follow. 
 

And after a good meal, don’t forget to wind down ready for bed. Spend at least an hour winding down from your day with the television or the internet turned off and unwind with a warm bath or maybe a book. If you are tempted to check the internet - be bold… turn off your router so you won’t be able to, or leave your phone in another room.  

Talk to your GP or mental health team

The NHS might have to make changes to appointments to help them tackle the spread of the virus. For example, they may cancel face to face appointments unless its an emergency. If this happens your GP or mental health team should let you know. And you can speak to them and find out if there are any other ways they can help. Or ways that you can help yourself. 

Finally, if you find yourself trying to cope with extended periods of anxiety or stress then speak to your doctor. Many GPs now offer telephone consultations - check with your GP surgery to see if this is available where you live.