Coronavirus has plunged the world into uncertainty and the constant news about the pandemic can feel relentless. All of this is taking its toll on people’s mental health, particularly those already living with conditions like anxiety and OCD. So how can we protect our mental health?
Being concerned about the news is understandable, but for many people it can make existing mental health problems worse.
When the World Health Organization released advice on protecting your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak, it was welcomed on social media.
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Wash your hands – but not excessively
OCD Action has seen an increase in support requests from people whose fears have become focused on the coronavirus pandemic.
For people with OCD and some types of anxiety, being constantly told to wash your hands can be especially difficult to hear.
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Bailey points out that for a lot of people with OCD, getting better means being able to leave the house – so self-isolating can present another challenge.
“If we’re forced to stay at home, we have lots of time on our hands, and boredom can make OCD worse,” she says.
Stay connected with people
Increasing numbers will join those already in self-isolation so now might be a good time to make sure you have the right phone numbers and email addresses of the people you care about.
“Agree regular check-in times and feel connected to the people around you,” says Weatherley.
If you’re self-isolating, strike a balance between having a routine and making sure each day has some variety.
It might end up actually feeling like quite a productive two weeks. You could work through your to-do list or read a book you’d been meaning to get to.
Image copyright Emma Russell
With weeks and months of the coronavirus pandemic ahead, it is important to have down time. Mind recommends continuing to access nature and sunlight wherever possible. Do exercise, eat well and stay hydrated.
AnxietyUK suggests practising the “Apple” technique to deal with anxiety and worries.
Acknowledge: Notice and acknowledge the uncertainty as it comes to mind. Pause: Don’t react as you normally do. Don’t react at all. Pause and breathe. Pull back: Tell yourself this is just the worry talking, and this apparent need for certainty is not helpful and not necessary. It is only a thought or feeling. Don’t believe everything you think. Thoughts are not statements or facts. Let go: Let go of the thought or feeling. It will pass. You don’t have to respond to them. You might imagine them floating away in a bubble or cloud. Explore: Explore the present moment, because right now, in this moment, all is well. Notice your breathing and the sensations of your breathing. Notice the ground beneath you. Look around and notice what you see, what you hear, what you can touch, what you can smell. Right now. Then shift your focus of attention to something else – on what you need to do, on what you were doing before you noticed the worry, or do something else – mindfully with your full attention.