Looking after your mental health during the COVID-19 crisis

We are living in very strange times thanks to COVID-19, that much is undeniable, so News Associates NCTJ trainee and South West Londoner journalist Jack Graham has done some research on the best ways to manage your mental health during this time.

Young Minds released a report in March that stated 83% of young people in Britain feel the COVID-19 crisis has had negative impact on their mental health.

It is completely normal to struggle with these new changes, but here are a few ways to help your mental health during the crisis.

A white mug, a book and some lavender.

1.  Set yourself a routine

A regular routine is a very helpful way of getting to grips with the changing circumstances.

We talked with Dr. Nihara Krause, founder and CEO of stem4, about the importance of keeping to a routine.

Stem 4 is a charity based in Wimbledon that is dedicated to promoting positive mental health in teenagers.

She is a firm believer in the importance of a routine to stick to during this crisis, as she has noticed an increase in anxiety-related enquiries to her charity.

Dr Krause said: “Establishing a routine enables someone to cope with change and to also be able to predict what to expect.

“So, rather than focussing on what can’t be controlled and getting more and more agitated, routines help a person to focus on controlling what can be controlled.”

While we may not be able to change what is happening outside, we can definitely control what happens immediately in our own lives

Even something as simple as having a shower and changing from your pyjamas every morning brings a sense of normality to your daily life.

2. Talk to friends and family if possible

Many of us may be suffering from loneliness, as pubs and offices have closed around the country.

Many organisations such as the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) have been strong advocates of remaining connected throughout the UK lockdown.

A spokesperson for the organisation said: “Connecting and checking in with each other is more important than ever and can help ease the stress caused by all the news.”

Online ‘pub’ quizzes are providing an excellent weekend activity to bring a large group of friends together, even in isolation! (See how our trainees are getting involved here.)

With a lot more time on our hands, this could be an excellent opportunity to reach out to friends you haven’t spoken to in a while.

Partnered with the Comedy channel Dave, they remind us that it only takes a few minutes to chat to any mates that may be struggling with the lockdown.

If you don’t have anyone to talk to, then there are many organisations such as the Samaritans who are always available to chat.

3. Make sure you get enough sleep

While you may save time not commuting at rush-hour, it’s still important to make sure that you get enough sleep.

Mental health and sleep truly do go hand in hand. So much so, the Mental Health Foundation is making ‘sleep’ its theme for Mental Health Awareness week, from May 18-24.

NHS England reminds us of the importance of sleep as it makes a big difference to how we feel mentally and physically.

So try to avoid burning the midnight oil just as you would on any given Monday night.

4. Exercise when possible

You may have to postpone your regular Sunday league, and trips to the gym are now a thing of the past, but there are ways around this.

Celebrity chef and trainer Joe Wicks has already embraced the challenge of self-isolation. Now he is helping the nation to get fit from the comfort of their own homes!

Raising your heart-rate even for half an hour each day is a great way to boost your mental health.

And this can be anything from going up stairs to yoga, there are plenty of ways to do so from home. (See how our trainees are getting involved here.)

5. Find a creative outlet

Now that we all have more time on our hands, why not pick up a new hobby? Learning a language is easier than ever online.

Whether you’re watching Spanish telenovelas on Netflix, or chatting to an Italian pen pal about your favourite meals to cook at home.

Or if you want to nurture your creative side, then painting, or sketching is a fantastic place to start.

If you really want to mellow out, then you can even paint along with Bob Ross on YouTube for free!

6. Eat healthily

Making sure you are fuelling your body and mind with healthy food is important to see through the day, as keeping your blood sugar stable helps your mood and energy levels.

While the shelves may not be as full as they were this time last year, it’s still very important to eat healthily whenever you can.

This includes staying hydrated by drinking lots of water.

While we all definitely deserve a treat at the weekend, too much alcohol can lead to even further anxiety.

South West Londoner talked to Alcoholics Anonymous representatives about how they are dealing with the crisis, taking one day at a time.

7. Switch off the news

And lastly, make sure that you turn off the news every once in a while.

While it is very important to keep up to date with government updates, it’s also important not to overdose on COVID-19 stories.

Dr Krause of Stem 4 reminded us that it is very easy to become overwhelmed by the ongoing conditions.

She said: “The most common reaction when you are overwhelmed is to ‘retreat’ and do nothing since it all seems too big to deal with.

“If this happens, acknowledge that it is the situation that’s overwhelming rather than a fault in you.”

You can then take a step back from the situation and return to some of the goals that you are passionate about and celebrate the progress that you make.

Spending too much time on social media could lead to heightened anxiety, so do yourself a favour and dedicate some time every day to switching off.

If you would like to support the work of Dr Krause and Stem4, then you can donate to the charity here.

This article was originally published on South West Londoner.

Image credit Carolyn V on Unsplash.