Coronavirus and mental wellbeing
Looking after our mental health whilst socially distancing and self-isolating
To reduce the risk of infection from Coronavirus, the government has recommended that the general public engage in social distancing and for those in certain vulnerable groups or with symptoms of Coronavirus, to self-isolate. We know that there are wider impacts of the social-distancing measures, including economic impacts, social impacts through loss of contact and loss of routine or enjoyable social activity and specifically, impacts on mental health.
Although this is a time of uncertainty, following reliable sources of information from central and local government and the NHS, and avoiding sources of information which are prone to sensationalise, can help to reduce anxiety and provide clarity.
The good news is, by following the Five ways to wellbeing, there are lots of ways that family, friends, carers and organisations can look after our mental health and help to support others to create a positive strategy to maintain their mental wellbeing.
Keeping physically active is important for our physical and mental health and wellbeing and is currently part of permitted activity outdoors.
While people may be unable to participate in their regular activities, there are plenty of other forms of exercise and activity which can be enjoyed. A walk from your front door to a local park or around the block, on your own or with someone from your household if you prefer time away from home.
Exercising at home is also a fun alternative, with a number of resources detailed on the TV schedule as well as online. Some local services are providing online video classes to enable you to carry on with, or join in a new activity. Check your usual provider for details. There are a number of options, for every level of fitness (see below). If you have a garden, doing these exercises outdoors will have further benefit.
All activities should adhere to the 2 metres (6ft) social distancing rule.
Avoid extended periods of sitting, reclining or lying while awake is important – for example get up every hour and make a drink or do some housework. There are many online resources including:
- Ways to keep moving
- NHS low impact exercises at home
- Sport England - How to stay active while you are at home
Being at home can provide opportunities for learning new skills, or developing those you enjoy. Here are some ideas to get you trying something new:
- Try learning to cook something new or learn to bake. Find out about healthy eating and cooking tips on the NHS website.
- Work on a DIY project, or learn a new practical skill such as fixing a broken bike, garden gate or something bigger. There are lots of free video tutorials online.
- Consider signing up for an online course. You could try learning a new language, learn sign language, learn to draw or a practical skill.
- Try new hobbies that challenge you, such as writing a blog, trying knitting or sewing, make a scrap book or try trace your family tree.
- Challenge your brain with online puzzles, or puzzle books.
It has never been easier to stay connected to the outside world and with our support networks from our homes. Using technology can be a great way of maintaining connections with people during social-distancing measures.
- If you are well and not self-isolating, take time each day to be with those you live with, for example, try arranging a fixed time to share a meal and talk.
- Arrange a time to talk with people you are used to seeing so you can structure your day.
- Try switching off the TV to talk or play a game with those you live with.
- Stay in touch with your colleagues or organise a group chat with friends.
- If you feel you would like to help the COVID-19 response, you can look for volunteer opportunities happening in your area through your local council, Wellbeing hub or Facebook groups.
- Check in with a telephone call to a friend or family member who needs support or company.
- Search and download online community apps in the NHS apps library.
Research suggests that acts of giving and kindness can help improve your mental wellbeing:
- creating positive feelings and a sense of reward
- giving you a feeling of purpose and self-worth
- helping you connect with other people
It could be small acts of kindness towards other people, or larger ones like volunteering in your local community where it is safe to do so. Some examples of the things you could try include:
- saying thank you to someone for something they have done for you
- asking friends, family or colleagues how they are and really listening to their answer
- using technology to connect with friends or relatives who need support or company
- offering to help someone you know with learning something new or sharing a skill – using technology to connect such as video calling
- volunteering in your community, where it is safe to do so.
Paying more attention to the present moment can improve your mental wellbeing. This includes your thoughts and feelings, your body and the world around you. Some people call this awareness "mindfulness". Mindfulness can help you enjoy life more and understand yourself better. It can positively change the way you feel about life and how you approach challenges.
Read more about mindfulness on the NHS website, including steps you can take to be more mindful in your everyday life.
In addition to the resources above, further information and support as well as positive ideas to keep mentally well are available on these websites:
Although this is a challenging time, there are still lots of positive things that we can do to maintain mental health and wellbeing whilst socially distancing and self-isolating.