Minding your mental health
Infectious disease pandemics like COVID-19 (coronavirus), can be worrying. This can affect your mental health. But there are many things you can do to mind your mental health during times like this.
How it might affect your mental health
The COVID-19 pandemic is a challenging event. Some people might find it more worrying than others. Medical, scientific and public health experts are working hard to contain the virus. Try to remember this when you feel worried.
It has affected all our lives in some ways. But in time, it will pass.
You may notice some of the following:
- increased anxiety
- feeling stressed
- finding yourself excessively checking for symptoms, in yourself, or others
- becoming irritable more easily
- feeling insecure or unsettled
- fearing that normal aches and pains might be the virus
- having trouble sleeping
- feeling helpless or a lack of control
- having irrational thoughts
How to mind your mental health during this time
Keeping a realistic perspective of the situation based on facts is important. Here are some ways you can do this.
We also have guides on:
- Older people's mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Young people's mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic
Stay informed but set limits for news and social media
The constant stream of information about COVID-19 can be overwhelming. I can also make you feel unnecessarily worried. If it does, find ways to moderate what information you choose to take in, and when.
For example, you could set aside a short time slot every day or two, to look out for important updates.
It can also be difficult to separate facts from misinformation. Always make sure to get your information from trustworthy and reliable sources.
On social media, people often talk about their own worries or beliefs about COVID-19. This could increase your own worry and levels of anxiety. It is important to choose carefully who you engage with on social media, and for how long.
If you find the coverage on COVID-19 is too intense for you, talk it through with someone close or get support.
Keep up your healthy routines
Your routine may be affected by the COVID-19 outbreak in different ways. But during difficult times like this, it’s best if you can keep some structure in your day.
It’s important to pay attention to your needs and feelings, especially during times of stress. You may still be able to do some of the things you enjoy and find relaxing.
For example, you could try to:
- exercise regularly, especially walking
- keep regular sleep routines
- maintain a healthy, balanced diet
- avoid excess alcohol
- practice relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises
- read a book
- search for online exercise or yoga classes, concerts, religious services or guided tours
- improve your mood by doing something creative
Stay connected to others
During times of stress, friends and families can be a good source of support. It is important to keep in touch with them and other people in your life.
If you need to restrict your movements or self-isolate, try to stay connected to people in other ways, for example:
- social media
- video calls
- phone calls
- text messages
Many video calling apps allow you to have video calls with multiple people at the same time.
Remember that talking things through with someone can help lessen worry or anxiety. You don't have to appear to be strong or to try to cope with things by yourself.
Try to anticipate distress and support each other
It is understandable to feel vulnerable or overwhelmed reading or hearing news about the pandemic.
Acknowledge these feelings. Remind yourself and others to look after your physical and mental health.
Smoking, drinking and eating for comfort
If you smoke or drink, try to avoid doing this any more than usual. It won’t help in the long-term.
Eating habits can often be linked to your emotions. You may turn to food for comfort during this pandemic. Long-term comfort eating can lead to weight gain and affect your health. It’s important to be able to recognise and separate out your emotions from your eating.
Don’t make assumptions
Don’t judge people or make assumptions about who is responsible for the spread of the disease. COVID-19 can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, nationality or ethnicity. We are all in this together.
Online and phone supports
Face-to-face services might be limited at the moment because of the COVID-19 outbreak. But some services are providing online and phone services.
If you are using mental health services for an existing mental health condition
If things get difficult, it can be helpful to have a plan to help you get through.
Things you can do:
- have a list of numbers of mental health service and relatives or friends you can call if you need support
- keep taking any medication and continue to fill your prescription with support from your GP or psychiatrist
- continue with any counselling or psychotherapy session you have
- limit your news intake and only use trusted sources of information
- practice relaxation techniques and breathing exercises
If your condition gets worse, contact your mental health team or GP.
If you have an intellectual disability
If you have an intellectual disability, you may feel more worried or sad because of COVID-19. You could also be worried about your family or those close to you.
It is important to take care of yourself. Try to keep a routine, shower every day and eat healthy food
Keep in touch over the phone or in person with people you trust, while following social distancing guidelines.
For more advice on minding your mental health visit inclusionireland.ie
OCD and COVID-19
If you have OCD, you may develop an intense fear of:
- catching COVID-19
- causing harm to others
- things not being in order
Fear of being infected by the virus may mean you become obsessed with:
- hand hygiene
- avoiding certain situations, such as using public transport
Washing your hands
The compulsion to wash your hands or clean may get stronger. If you have recovered from this type of compulsion in the past, it may return.
Follow the advice above. Wash your hands properly and often, but you do not need to do more than recommended.