Mental health during COVID-19

Advice from experts you can implement now

Looking after our mental health during the normal state of affairs can be tricky, never mind during a global pandemic. So we’ve rounded up advice from experts for things we can all do today. By Holly Beddingfield.

Our days are filled with panic purchasing, never-ending scrolling, and the anticipation of a new announcement from the government. It’s no wonder our mental health is feeling fragile. 

But we’re here to research and offer advice you can implement straight away. Over to the experts! 

Dr Amir Khan, an NHS doctor and Senior Lecturer at The University of Leeds School of Medicine, said: 

“The uncertainty and feeling of a lack of control are what underpins most people’s anxiety. You are waiting for something to happen, and that in itself feeds further anxiety.

Another problem is that the new protocols around washing hands and not touching our faces, among other things, may well be making some people with OCD more unwell.” 

Dr Khan recommends the following steps to reduce the chance of COVID-19 having a detrimental effect on our mental health. 

1. Limit your news intake 

Yes, we’re really recommending this! We hope to be a one-stop shop for your news. A quick general update in the morning, balanced out with some non-coronavirus stories, and some longer features to read in the afternoon. 

We know that it’s hard to avoid breaking news and push notifications, but limiting your time on media outlets can give you mental space for other things. Dr Khan recommends muting key words on social media if you need to. 

2. Exercise 

It comes up time and time again for a reason! Whilst outdoors is best – the charity Mind recommends continuing to access nature and sunlight wherever possible – it might be time to get creative inside. 

Try Yoga with Adriene on YouTube, the FIIT app, the Shreddy app, or, for some comedic value, an exercise tape from the eighties. 

3. Fresh air 

Dr Khan says that being outdoors is increasingly used to manage anxiety and mood disorders. 

He said, “If they are still accessible, woodlands and open parks are among the few places where chances of catching the coronavirus are low, so, if you can, find a time when it is likely to be less crowded and go for a walk. And try not to look at your phone.” 

4. Ration your worry time 

This one is a favourite of our founder Emily’s, who was told by a CBD therapist years ago (and is still key today). You could try to limit your worry time over coronavirus to just ten minutes a day, or to a certain hour. 

Rationing your time can also be helpful if you are falling into repetitive habits because of the virus. Limit the number of times you can wash your hands or clean surfaces.

5. Maintain contact with your therapist 

Professor of Public Health Linda Bauld said it is “imperative” for those with long-standing mental health conditions to “maintain contact with their healthcare professional”. We are already seeing therapists move their services to Skype or Zoom. Don’t be afraid to ask what measures yours are putting in place. 

6. Keep taking your medication

Brilliant tips from Mind: 

You might be able to order repeat prescriptions by phone. Or you may be able to do this online using an app or website, if your doctor’s surgery offers this. You could download the free NHS App and search for your surgery, although some surgeries aren’t on the app yet. 

The NHS website has more information about getting prescriptions for someone else and checking if you have to pay for prescriptions.

Be careful about buying medication online. You should only buy from registered pharmacies. You can check if a pharmacy is registered on the General Pharmaceutical Council website. 

7. Routine 

Linda Bauld (Professor of Public Health) also advised sticking to a routine, and particularly recommends having contact with a person early in the day if you can. Sticking to this not only gives you normality, but allows you to change your routine if it’s not working for you. 

  • We like this advice from Mind: if you live with other people, it may help to do the following:
  • Agree on a household routine. Try to give everyone you live with a say in this agreement.
  • Try to respect each other’s privacy and give each other space. For example, some people might want to discuss everything they’re doing while others won’t.