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Six ways to look after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak

During these unprecedented times, a lot of us are worried about the safety of our loved ones, adjusting to a new way of life and the uncertainty of what is to come. This is not a situation that any of us have ever been in before, so any feelings of distress, anxiety and concern you may be experiencing are completely normal; but this doesn’t mean you have to go through this alone.

As well as looking after the physical health of ourselves and others during this time through social distancing and self-isolation, we also need to be taking care of our minds. Here are 6 ways you can look after your mental wellbeing during the coronavirus outbreak, as well as looking out for the mental health of your loved ones:

1. Be kind to yourself

It’s really important to take the time you need to process everything that’s happening. From coming to terms with the university year (and possibly your university experience) being cut short, the uncertainty surrounding the awarding of degree grades and having to make major adjustments to your way of life…it’s a lot. And there’s no right or wrong way to handle this.

Especially in these first few weeks, be kind to yourself. It’s ok to be frightened or scared. It’s ok to feel anxious about the uncertainty of what’s to come. It’s ok to not know how or what to feel; this is unchartered territory for us all. But beating yourself up for not keeping up with your usual workout regime, having a few too many biscuits or not taking up a load of new hobbies to fill your spare time isn’t going to help. If you feel like getting on top of these things in a few weeks- then great! But for now, just do the best you can. The rest will happen as and when you’re ready.

2. Ask for help if you need it

Whatever you’re feeling right now, you don’t have to go through this alone. We are all in the same boat with this and there’s no shame in admitting if you’re overwhelmed or just need a bit of extra help and support.

Whether you open up to someone in your household who you’re self-isolating with, a friend or family member over the phone or a uni friend who you didn’t get the chance to say a proper goodbye to. Opening up about how you’re feeling or even just having a catch up to take your mind off things will do you (and probably them!) the world of good.

If you would prefer to talk to someone who you don’t know that can offer impartial advice, there are plenty of organisations including Mind, Samaritans and Young Minds who you can get in touch with that also offer online guidance to help you cope during these uncertain times

Whoever you feel most comfortable talking to, just reach out.

3. Stay in touch with friends and family

Whether you made the decision to go home and stay with your parents or stay put and self-isolate with your housemates, there will be lots of people who you won’t have the opportunity to see face to face for a little while. But we are incredibly lucky to have such a wide range of technology that makes connecting with loved ones possible, no matter how far away they are.

So, Facetime, Facebook video, Skype, Houseparty, call and message as much as you can! Catch up with your uni mates to see how they’re all doing, check in on your parents and reassure them that you’re looking after yourself and take the time to call vulnerable grandparents and others who may be particularly prone to loneliness. Keeping in touch is beneficial for both yours and their mental health and will also offer piece of mind that they are safe and well.

My friends and I have also found it useful to find things we can talk about during these calls other than what’s happening in the world right now. Whether this be a podcast we all have to listen to and discuss in our next call, a TV show we all want to binge or even a mini-book club. Get creative!

4. Don’t focus on what you can’t control

It can be incredibly frustrating to see people not adhering to the latest government guidelines and putting both their own and the lives of others at risk. It can also be concerning to not know when all of this will come to an end and when we can return to some kind of normality.

During this very strange time, focus on the things you can control. It’s your responsibility to follow the latest government advice on social distancing, social isolation, only making essential journeys and taking other health and safety precautions such as thorough handwashing and not touching your face. These are the things that you have power over in your day to day life that will help in the fight against coronavirus; focusing on the irresponsible actions of others will only be detrimental to your mental state.

You might also want to consider taking some kind of action to help those in particular need at this time. This could mean volunteering to support the NHS, volunteering with a local charity, or reaching out to a vulnerable neighbour and offering to collect their medication or do their food shop.

5. Spend time doing the things you enjoy

As mentioned, there’s no pressure to suddenly become an all singing, all dancing trapeze artist who can also cook Michelin star meals and bake like Mar Berry during this isolation period. Once you feel like your ready, consider focusing your energies into the things you enjoy doing or that you might not have had the time to do before.

This could be starting a new book that has been on your ‘to read’ list for months, binging a series on Netflix or getting into a new at-home exercise regime. You could even use this as an opportunity to learn a new skill. Ever wanted to learn a new language? Considered earning a new online qualification? What about finally using those art supplies you bought months ago but haven’t got around to using yet? The possibilities are endless!

Just remember, you should be doing things because you enjoy them and want to, not because you’re feeling pressured and like you should.

6. Find a new routine

If you’re like me, I really enjoy having a structure to my day; it helps me feel as though I’m staying on top of things and ticking off little daily achievements. So going from my typical routine of going to work (or on your case to lectures and seminars), going to the gym and catching up with friends to where we are now all feels a little strange.

Whilst we may not be able to maintain our ‘typical’ routine during isolation, there’s nothing stopping us from creating a new routine to help us feel more at ease in adjusting to this new temporary normal.

This could be waking up at a similar time every-day, putting in a workout slot, pencilling in a regular call with friends and family, catching up with uni work if this has been allocated to you or going for your daily walk with members of your household. Whilst life is certainly far from normal right now, having some structure to your day may help you retain a sense of normality and calm amongst the chaos.

Ellie can be contacted via twitter @EllieJerman, and via Linkedin

Ellie also has a personal blog:

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