Coronavirus and mental wellbeing
Looking after our mental health whilst socially distancing and self-isolating
To reduce the risk of infection from Coronavirus, the government introduced measures that mean that we must engage in social distancing and, for those with symptoms of Coronavirus, to self-isolate. Although the government are starting to ease restrictions, many activities are still limited. We know that there are wider impacts of the social-distancing measures, including economic impacts, social impacts through loss of contact and loss of routine or enjoyable social activity and specifically, impacts on mental health.
Although this is a time of uncertainty, following reliable sources of information from central and local government and the NHS, and avoiding sources of information which are prone to sensationalise, can help to reduce anxiety and provide clarity.
The good news is, by following the Five ways to wellbeing, there are lots of ways that family, friends, carers and organisations can look after our mental health and help to support others to create a positive strategy to maintain their mental wellbeing.
Keeping physically active is important for our physical and mental health and wellbeing, as well as for boosting our immunity.
The easing of restrictions, as part of the goverment's roadmap out of lockdown, allows more physical activity to take place with outdoor gatherings of up to thirty people and indoor gatherings of up to six people, or two households, see the full guidance on the UK Government's website.
If you are unable to participate in your regular activities, there are plenty of other forms of activity which can be enjoyed. A 10-minute walk or cycle around the neighbourhood or a few strength exercises such as squats, push ups or sit ups can improve our mood. If you have a dog, taking them out for daily exercise will allow you both to enjoy a short time away from home.
Avoid long periods of not moving at all, particularly when online or working from home. Take regular breaks from the screen – do ten sit-to-stand moves from your chair or some arm raises above your head. All movement counts!
There are a number of resources detailed in the TV schedule as well as online. The Active Sussex website has some great ways to get you and your family moving at home. Some local services, including our Wellbeing service, provide online video classes to enable you to carry on with, or join a new activity. Check your usual provider for details.
Outside of your household, all activities should adhere to the 2 metres (6ft) social distancing rule.
There are a number of options, for every level of fitness (see below). If you have a garden, doing these exercises outdoors will have further benefit.
- Ways to keep moving
- NHS low impact exercises at home
- Sport England - How to stay active while you are at home
- NHS Better Health website - get active page
- 'We are undefeatable' website - support for getting more active when you are managing a long-term health condition.
Being at home can provide opportunities for learning new skills, or developing those you enjoy. Here are some ideas to get you trying something new:
- Try learning to cook something new or learn to bake. Find out about healthy eating and cooking tips on the NHS website.
- Work on a DIY project, or learn a new practical skill such as fixing a broken bike, garden gate or something bigger. There are lots of free video tutorials online.
- Consider signing up for an online course. You could try learning a new language, learn sign language, learn to draw or a practical skill.
- Try new hobbies that challenge you, such as writing a blog, trying knitting or sewing, make a scrap book or try trace your family tree.
- Challenge your brain with online puzzles, or puzzle books.
It has never been easier to stay connected to the outside world and with our support networks from our homes. Using technology can be a great way of maintaining connections with people during social-distancing measures.
- If you are well and not self-isolating, take time each day to be with those you live with, for example, try arranging a fixed time to share a meal and talk.
- Arrange a time to talk with people you are used to seeing so you can structure your day.
- Try switching off the TV to talk or play a game with those you live with.
- Stay in touch with your colleagues or organise a group chat with friends.
- If you feel you would like to help the COVID-19 response, you can look for volunteer opportunities happening in your area through your local council, Wellbeing hub or Facebook groups.
- Check in with a telephone call to a friend or family member who needs support or company.
- Search and download online community apps in the NHS apps library.
Research suggests that acts of giving and kindness can help improve your mental wellbeing:
- creating positive feelings and a sense of reward
- giving you a feeling of purpose and self-worth
- helping you connect with other people
It could be small acts of kindness towards other people, or larger ones like volunteering in your local community where it is safe to do so. Some examples of the things you could try include:
- saying thank you to someone for something they have done for you
- asking friends, family or colleagues how they are and really listening to their answer
- using technology to connect with friends or relatives who need support or company
- offering to help someone you know with learning something new or sharing a skill – using technology to connect such as video calling
- volunteering in your community, where it is safe to do so.
Paying more attention to the present moment can improve your mental wellbeing. This includes your thoughts and feelings, your body and the world around you. Some people call this awareness "mindfulness". Mindfulness can help you enjoy life more and understand yourself better. It can positively change the way you feel about life and how you approach challenges.
Read more about mindfulness on the NHS website, including steps you can take to be more mindful in your everyday life.
In addition to the resources above, further information and support as well as positive ideas to keep mentally well are available on these websites:
Although this is a challenging time, there are still lots of positive things that we can do to maintain mental health and wellbeing whilst socially distancing and self-isolating.