[Article by Evelyn James]

Dealing with a Changing World: Looking After Your Mental Health

When the Coronavirus crisis kicked off earlier this year, most people were panicking about the overall danger to physical health. But as 2020 wears on, more and more experts are becoming concerned about the long-term mental health repercussions. The World Health Organization has
been carefully monitoring the effects of prolonged stress, anxiety, grief and even the stigma that comes with contracting the virus. As we all grapple with ways to move on in a post-COVID world, however, there are always practical ways we can support our own mental health, day by day.

Set healthy limits and boundaries

We all know the importance of creating a physical barrier between us and the virus, and have been diligently washing our hands, keeping distance, and wearing face masks. But it’s also worth moderating your psychological risk by controlling your exposure to virus-related media and putting a limit on news and information that is distressing or even inaccurate. Seek out neutral, evidence- based data and draw a line in the sand if you feel that the constant media overwhelm is taking its toll on your mental wellbeing.

Reassess your risks and priorities

Though lockdown measures are being drastically relaxed, the elderly and those who are shielding are still in quarantine. “Normal” life is still a long way off for those with chronic illness or in elder care, and their stress may even increase as others come out of lockdown. Thankfully, there are plenty of resources to help with the emotional difficulty, and it’s worth reaching out for help if you feel overwhelmed by the ongoing situation. You may need to regularly appraise your daily routine, and update your risk assessment as you go.

There are so many more challenges for the elderly and vulnerable, and those that care for them, whether it’s at home or in a care facility. Helping Hands Home Care is one of the UK caring industry’s leaders, and they understand how important it is to balance mental health needs with the need to shield from risk. They suggest meeting up occasionally with members from your “social bubble” to do gentle outdoor exercise, have a coffee morning or host a book club – all while observing social distancing rules, that is.

Express your feelings and share your concerns

In what may in time be called a pandemic of poor mental health, many people today are experiencing feelings of grief, hopelessness, anger, isolation and deep anxiety. Some of us have additional challenges, and the virus has undoubtedly been hard on hose with pre-existing mental
health conditions, those who contracted the virus or lost family members to it, the elderly and the chronically ill.

But acknowledging and trying to accept your feelings can bring some relief, as can sharing your experience openly and honestly with someone you trust, such as a family member, friend or even counsellor. Meditating, writing feelings in a journal or expressing yourself through creativity are all ways to process this difficult time.

Focus on what you can control

When so much is up in the air, it’s difficult to feel empowered and hopeful about the future. Particularly if you’re still shielding at home, you may be feeling frustrated, isolated or anxious. It can be difficult to feel motivated to do daily tasks when so much uncertainty hovers around daily life.
However, we are always able to proactively work to take care of our mental wellbeing, day by day. That may mean taking time to exercise to boost your mood and stay fit and strong, or that may mean taking enough time to rest. Try to fill your day with healthy meals, good quality sleep, positive self-talk, engagement with other people and plenty of the activities that you enjoy. The pandemic is a big part of everyone’s life at the moment, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be set aside for a while to indulge in some self-care and rest.

To say that the world is changing rapidly around us is an understatement. As people of all kinds all across the world try to manage the fallout, it’s worth remembering to have some self-compassion and acknowledge the enormity of the era we find ourselves in. Whether you’re a student, health worker, elderly grandparent or schoolchild, it can be comforting to know that we are, as the old cliché goes, in it together. With healthy limits and a commitment to prioritising our mental and physical health, we can all help ourselves (and one another!) through this difficult time.