• Katie Heyes

Coronavirus Outbreak: How to Look after Your Mental Health

It’s somewhat of an understatement to say we are living in unusual and uncertain times amidst the current outbreak. With the COVID-19 strain of coronavirus dominating the media- from daily news bulletins to numerous posts social media feeds - it has become hard to avoid. Whilst it’s important to stay informed, the constant news about the pandemic can feel relentless, and the extensive fear and worry across the world is having an adverse effect on people’s mental health.

Everyone is going through a difficult time at the moment, however protecting your mental wellbeing, is just as important as protecting your physical health. For many people with existing conditions, such as anxiety or OCD, disease outbreaks such as this can worsen their problems. However, learning how to support and manage our wellbeing during such times will not only help yourself but will consequently make your loved ones and your community stronger.

Please be aware that I’m not at all qualified in mental health diagnosis and understand some reactions and effects of the current situation will be more extreme than others. Therefore, I’ll attack some links to websites that give more thorough advice on how to manage existing mental health conditions as well as protecting your loved ones. I just wanted to do what I can to help anyone who might be struggling during these unusual times and offer advice where I can.

So how can you look after your mental health?

Have a break from the news and social media:

Constantly refreshing your news for updates and keeping tabs on the bulletins can quickly become overwhelming. The upsetting statistics alongside how close to home things are for some people can easily stress you out and overthink potential catastrophic outcomes. In some cases, it has caused panic attacks amongst individuals due to the constant worrying and anxious thoughts spiralling out of control.

Limiting the amount of time, you spend checking the news will help manage stress levels. Although you should still keep yourselves updated and follow the safety precautions, long periods away from it will help you keep things in perspective and reduce anxiety levels. Realistically nothing serious will happen every five minutes you refresh your feed, it’ll quickly become obsessive and it’ll consume you completely. So please, please look after yourself and don’t read things that you know will stress you out

Self- Isolation: Find a new routine you’re comfortable with

Self-isolation is another consequence of the disease outbreak that many are finding daunting and difficult to adjust to. With the government’s instructions to avoid unnecessary social interaction such as avoiding bars, restaurants and theatres, this will mean more of us will be spending the majority of their time at home. This prospect of long term isolation, being essentially cooped up in one place for weeks, can have profound psychological effects.

For many extroverts, no social interaction may feel like a void in their lifestyle as well as the older generation being particularly affected as for many of them leaving the house is one of their main sources of enjoyment.

It means a new rhythm of life but fortunately you can see this as an opportunity to create a new daily routine that can be just as productive as one with a full social calendar. For many this could be an opportunity to get back into old hobbies like baking, sewing, art and reading. And you could also try making a reading list or watching that movie or that TV series you keep putting off. But don’t forget to take care of your body! A tiny exercise routine or some stretches every now and then will not only give you time to unwind but help ease any tension or stress that might be building up.

Sometimes it’s good to look at things from another perspective. Try and view this as an opportunity to start something new or find new exciting ways to fill your time. A change of routine might prove to have its benefits.

Keep checking in on your friends, family – even if it’s just with a message

Having to cancel plans is a disheartening experience on its own, yet now it’s becoming the norm. For many, it feels like all the fun things planned for this year are getting postponed or called off all together for everyone’s and for a lot of people (myself included) they have been what’s keeping them going.

With many Universities encouraging students to go home and further to the government’s instructions to avoid social interaction, everyone will inevitably miss seeing their friends and loved ones on a regular basis

Yet this doesn’t mean you have to stop contact all together!

In stressful times, that’s when you need the support of friends and family the most. So why not send them a message or give them a phone call? Thanks to social media it’s now easier than ever to stay in instant contact with loved ones and even just a little few words of endearment can make all the difference.

True friendship doesn’t need constant face-to-face contact with each other to make it work. True friendships are those who make it through thick and thin, and even if a lot of time passes before you next see each other, it won’t have any bearing on the bond you both share whatsoever. Just a little message can go a long way!

Don’t believe everything you read online – Check your sources

It’s true that a serious situation brings out the best and worst of social media.

With many media outlets sensationalising the current outbreak, it has led to many misconstrued ideas concerning the cause of the disease and the emergence of racist and prejudicial attitudes. Such a widespread coverage has led to the circulation of a lot of misinformation, particularly on social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter which have facilitated the circulation of false news. So it’s important to stay informed by sticking to trusted sources of information such as the NHS websites.

Don’t Try and Search for a Scape Goat

During times of crisis it inevitably leads to the creation of fear which results in people looking for scapegoats to blame for their problems. Since the pandemic first occurred, people of East Asia in particular have become victims of verbally abuse, shop boycotts and even violently attacks – these incidents have subsequently been labelled under a term known as ‘coronaracism.’ Violent discriminatory trends like these can become (for lack of a better word) toxic for the community and it’s important never to fall victim to this.

That’s why I please urge everyone to check their sources and not to misinterpret what they read. Pandemics should not be labelled after ethnic groups and nationalities and now more than ever we need to united as a community to get through these upsetting times and overcome the current situation.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a bad taste joke or a racial slur, targeted and discriminatory posts and comments can have an extremely detrimental impact on the mental health of the Asian community in particular so please think before you post.

If you have any questions, please contact your GP or 111 for more information. I have also attached some websites below if you have any more queries as to how you can look after your mental health. Look after yourselves and your loved ones, follow all the safety precautions but take some time out to unwind and try not stress yourself out. You can all get through it!




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