- Matt Atherton
Mental health during a pandemic: Some tips to help you look after yourself
Working or as a carer, or caring for a loved one, whether it’s your chosen vocation or your home situation, can be incredibly rewarding and uplifting, knowing that you are giving so much of yourself to help others. But this can also be very taxing. You take joy and positivity from helping others, but do you also take the time to truly look after yourself?
In these times of Coronavirus, especially now that it has been going on for so long, it can be very easy to lose yourself in your routines and caring roles and to forget to step back a bit sometimes and ensure your own mental and physical wellbeing is getting enough attention. Anyone who has been on a plane will know the golden rule of securing your own mask first in case of an emergency, and this lesson is no less pertinent in everyday life and especially when you’re acting in the role of carer for others.
But how can you relax when there’s so much to do? What steps can you take to make sure you stay afloat when things get stormy? In short, plenty, but you have to make the time for it. Often in such a position, your mental drive will be focussed firmly on your patients or loved ones in need of assistance, and this can leave you little room to consider yourself. It’s a difficult time for everyone, but that doesn’t mean that you have to just take it on the chin and keep pushing yourself forwards. It’s ok for you to feel exhausted, stressed and anxious too and it doesn’t mean that you are letting others down or being selfish in any way, shape or form. And if that is how you are feeling, then it can help to consider that you will be much more effective and helpful to those in need if you are at your mental and physical best which, just like going to the gym or eating healthily, can take a bit of effort. But it’s worth it.
The ever changing nature of the Coronavirus means that it can be difficult or even impossible to maintain the social or personal routines you may have been used to. Adapting to this can seem a steep climb, especially with the sense of isolation many feel at the moment so it’s important to take the little steps in the right direction wherever possible.
Here are some things you can do to help alleviate some of the less welcome sensations and to help you to keep yourself at the top of your game and, more importantly, healthy and in good frame of mind;
Keep up with your good habits and routines wherever possible. Going for a walk or doing exercise might feel like the last thing you want to do after a long day, especially if you can’t do so with friends as you might have before. But we all know, if we’re honest with ourselves, that we feel worlds better for it the next day than if we spent the evening in front of the telly.
Eat well. With online takeaway delivery pushing to the forefront in simplicity and effortless dining and quick, ready meals to bung in the oven coming in all of our favourite styles, it is easier than ever to lapse into a lazy mindset with food. But does it really feel like you’ve done yourself or your bank balance a favour the next day? Why not get yourself into the kitchen instead. Try some home-style recipes of your favourite foods, it’s all but guaranteed these days that you’ll find plenty of options with the most basic of Google searches, and generally you’ll even find healthier versions to try for an added boost to self.
Stay in touch. The vast array of social media platforms available today makes it very easy to stay in regular contact with friends and family all over the world. It’s true that even this can seem a chore or like too much after a long day, but it is important to maintain a social aspect to your life, especially with increased social distancing and interaction restrictions on the near horizon. Humans are social beings in general, even if we don’t realise it straight away, we tend to thrive and find it easier to buoy ourselves mentally in the company of friends, family and colleagues. Even if face to face interactions are difficult or impossible, reach out for a Skype call or Zoom meeting or use one of the myriad social media platforms available and maintain your connection with other people. This is no less important if you share accommodation, people get on each other’s nerves sometimes, that’s just part of being human, but if you spread your time connecting with friends and family outside your domestic bubble it can drastically improve how you cope with this.
Seek help when you need it. For many people asking for help can feel daunting, unnecessary or even embarrassing. It is impossible to stress enough how untrue the latter two are. Everyone needs help at one time or another, every single person on the planet. It’s not shameful or embarrassing to need or ask for help, it’s just life, and help is available when you need it. It might feel scary to reach out and many people who do need help are stopped at this hurdle for that very reason. Whether you need to speak to a professional about your worries or mental health concerns, get some assistance financially or simply reassure yourself of a situation or feeling, the help is available. Some professional help costs money of course, but there are many free options too if you look. Sometimes the help you need is in actually seeking help, which sounds like a catch 22, but if you can reach out to a friend to ask for a hand in building your Ikea wardrobe (pre-Corona of course) then you can ask for help in any aspect of your life. You may have to push yourself out of your immediate comfort zone, but once you make that jump and know where to look, you will find yourself surrounded by support for whatever you require.
Don’t let worry or anger consume you. This will likely sound a bit generic or obvious, but it is hugely important. It can be very easy at the moment to let your fears for yourself, loved ones or the state of the world in general overcome your thoughts. It can feel easier to channel your frustrations and anger at the continued isolations and restrictions towards the government, your employer or simply others around you but really who does this help? Waving a fist and shouting at the TV when the Prime Minister is on might make you feel better for a few seconds, but in reality it is just cementing the negativity into a concrete lump inside you. Focus all of that energy. Learn new crafts and skills, teach yourself sign language, read that book you’ve been meaning to for a decade, pick up the instrument you haven’t touched in years. We all have things we love and enjoy and when anxiety and fear and frustration creep into our mindsets, angling that negative energy into something creative that brings you joy is a sure fire way to help lift the fog again.
We're here if you need us
H1 Healthcare has launched a dedicated mental health chat line to take calls from anyone who needs it. Just text TALK to 81066. All calls are confidential.