Coronavirus and your well-being
How to stay sane when it all seems a bit crazy
Q&A on COVID-19 and mental health with WHO’s Aiysha Malik
1 - PLAN FOR STAYING INDOORS
If you’re staying at home or indoors, you might find these ideas helpful:
Staying indoors might mean you stay at home. But this might not be ideal, for example because of poor housing conditions or other people who live with you.
There are a few things you could try:
Think about other options, like if there’s a friend or family member who would be happy for you to stay with them.
If you’ve been asked to self-isolate, it might not be possible to stay away from your own home. You can check if this is OK by reading current government health advice in English or the current government health advice in Welsh.
Get help with housing problems. See our page of useful contacts for housing to find details of organisations who may be able to help.
If you’re supporting someone who is self-isolating, see the government advice: how to do this safely.
Find out about getting food delivered. For example, you might be able to order food online for home delivery. Or you could ask someone else to drop food off for you.
Think about your diet. Your appetite might change if your routine changes, or if you’re less active than you usually are. Eating regularly and keeping your blood sugar stable can help your mood and energy levels.
Drink water regularly. Drinking enough water is important for your mental and physical health. Changing your routine might affect when you drink or what fluids you drink. It could help to set an alarm or use an app to remind you.
Ask about having appointments by phone, text or online. For example, this could be with your counsellor, therapist or support worker.
Ask your therapist how they can support you, for example if you’re struggling with not seeing them face to face.
If you are spending a lot of time at home, you may find it helpful to keep things clean and tidy, although this is different for different people.
If you live with other people, keeping things tidy might feel more important if you’re all at home together. But you might have different ideas about what counts as ‘tidy’ or how much it matters. It could help to decide together how you’ll use different spaces. And you could discuss what each person needs to feel comfortable.
Cleaning your house, doing laundry and washing yourself are important ways to help stop germs spreading, including when there are warnings about particular diseases.
Your energy costs will probably rise if you’re at home more than you usually would be. Think about how you can manage your energy use, or how to cover any higher bills. You could also ask your energy provider about any support they offer, for example if you can sign up to their priority services register.
If you use care services, you should let your Local Authority and care provider know if you have to self-isolate.
If you provide care, or support someone you don’t live with, you should also let your Local Authority know if you have to self-isolate.
Make it clear that any support is still needed. Tell them that alternative arrangements are required if any of the usual support can’t continue. This may include things like carers visiting, day centre sessions, or friends and family coming over to help.
Your Local Authority should have policies for this situation and should tell you how they can meet your needs.
2 - MENTAL HEALTH AND WELL-BEING
If this is making you feel stressed or anxious, here are some things you could try:
- Don’t keep re-reading the same advice if this is unhelpful for you.
- Let other people know you’re struggling. For example, you could ask them not to remind you to wash your hands.
- Breathing exercises can help you cope and feel more in control. You can find a simple breathing exercise on the NHS website. Our pages on relaxation also have some exercises you can try, and other relaxation tips.
- Set limits, like washing your hands for the recommended 20 seconds.
- Plan something to do after washing your hands. This could help distract you and change your focus.
Keep in touch digitally
- Make plans to video chat with people or groups you’d normally see in person.
- You can also arrange phone calls or send instant messages or texts.
- If you’re worried that you might run out of stuff to talk about, make a plan with someone to watch a show or read a book separately so that you can discuss it when you contact each other.
Think of other ways to keep in contact with people if meeting in person is not possible. For example, you could check your phone numbers are up to date, or that you have current email addresses for friends you’ve not seen for a while.
Connect with others in similar situations
- If you’re part of a group of people who are also self-isolating, you may be part of group communications to receive updates on your situation. This group could also act as an informal support network.
- You could join a peer support community. The charity Mind runs an online peer support community called Elefriends, where you can share your experiences and hear from others.
- If you’re going online more than usual or seeking peer support on the internet, it’s important to look after your online well-being. See their pages about online mental health for more information.
If you’re worried about loneliness
- Think about things you can do to connect with people. For example, putting extra pictures up of the people you care about might be a nice reminder of the people in your life.
- Listen to a chatty radio station or podcast if your home feels too quiet.
- Plan how you’ll spend your time. It might help to write this down on paper and put it on the wall.
- Try to follow your ordinary routine as much as possible. Get up at the same time as normal, follow your usual morning routines, and go to bed at your usual time. Set alarms to remind you of your new schedule if that helps.
- If you aren’t happy with your usual routine, this might be a chance to do things differently. For example, you could go to bed earlier, spend more time cooking or do other things you don’t usually have time for.
- Think about how you’ll spend time by yourself at home. For example, plan activities to do on different days or habits you want to start or keep up.
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.
Build physical activity into your daily routine, if possible. Most of us don’t have exercise equipment like treadmills where we live, but there are still activities you can do. Exercising at home can be simple and there are options for most ages and abilities, such as:
- cleaning your home
- dancing to music
- going up and down stairs
- seated exercises (from the NHS)
- online exercise workouts that you can follow
- sitting less – if you notice you’ve been sitting down for an hour, just getting up or changing position can help.
Spending time in green space or bringing nature into your everyday life can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing. It can improve your mood, reduce feelings of stress or anger, and make you feel more relaxed.
It’s possible to still get these positive effects from nature while staying indoors at home. You could try the following:
- Spend time with the windows open to let in fresh air.
- Have flowers or potted plants in your home.
- Use natural materials to decorate your living space, or use them in art projects. This could include leaves, flowers, feathers, tree bark or seeds.
- Arrange a comfortable space to sit, for example by a window where you can look out over a view of trees or the sky, or watch birds and other animals.
- Grow plants or flowers on windowsills. For example, you could buy seeds online or look for any community groups that give away or swap them.
- Look at photos of your favourite places in nature. Use them as the background on your mobile phone or computer screen, or print and put them up on your walls.
- Listen to natural sounds, like recordings or apps that play birdsong, ocean waves or rainfall. Get as much natural light as you can. Spend time in your garden if you have one, or open your front or back door and sit on the doorstep.
If you are asked to stay at home and away from other people, it might be difficult to keep working. If you have children, you may also need to look after them if they asked to stay away from school or college.
These ideas might help you plan for this:
For parents of children and young people in school or college:
- Think about being more lenient with your children’s social media and mobile phone use during their time away from school. Children and young people who go to school will be used to being around other children for several hours a day. They might find it difficult to be removed from this, especially if they’re also worried about their health.
- Find out from their school what homework and digital learning will be available if they need to stay at home, and what technology they might need. Remember to add time in for breaks and lunch.
- If their school has not supplied homework or digital learning, you could encourage your children to select books or podcasts they’d like to explore during their time away from school. You can also think about card games, board games and puzzles, and any other ways to stay active or be creative.
- For older teens, there are free online courses they could try out. For example, these could be from FutureLearn and BBC Bitesize. Your local library might also have online activities or resources you can use.
- If you plan to work from home, think about how to balance this with caring for your children. Some employers may ask if there is another adult who can supervise your children while you’re working.
- Talk to your employer about any policies they have for working from home, if this is possible for your job.
- Plan ahead for working from home if you can. Your employer may be able to help you set things up in advance, like any technology you might need.
There are lots of different ways that you can relax, take notice of the present moment and use your creative side. These include:
- arts and crafts, such as drawing, painting, collage, sewing, craft kits or upcycling
- playing musical instruments, singing or listening to music
- Keep your brain occupied and challenged. Set aside time in your routine for this. Read books, magazines and articles. Listen to podcasts, watch films and do puzzles.
- Some libraries have apps you can use to borrow ebooks, audiobooks or magazines from home for free, if you’re a library member.
- FutureLearn and OpenLearn have free online courses you could try.
- There are lots of apps that can help you learn things, such as a foreign language or other new skills.
- Stay connected with current events, but be careful where you get news and health information from.
- If news stories make you feel anxious or confused, think about switching off or limiting what you look at for a while.
- Social media could help you stay in touch with people, but might also make you feel anxious including if people are sharing news stories or posting about their worries. Consider taking a break or limiting how you use social media. You might decide to view particular groups or pages but not scroll through timelines or newsfeeds.
- If you are specifically anxious about COVID-19, visit this page on our website
- If you have panic attacks or flashbacks, it might help to plan a ‘safe space’ in your home that you’ll go to.
- You can also find ways to comfort yourself if you’re feeling anxious. For example, here are some games and puzzles you can use to distract yourself; or do breathing exercises – take time to inhale – which may help.
- Open the windows to let in fresh air. Or you could spend time sitting on your doorstep, or in the garden if you have one.
- Try looking at the sky out of the window or from your doorstep. This can help to give you a sense of space.
- If possible, regularly change the rooms you spend time in.
3 - sELF-ISOLATION CHECKLIST
Checklist of what you'll need
The elderly: If people are concerned about an older person, you can contact AgeUK at firstname.lastname@example.org with their contact details and AgeUK will get in touch with them. If it is outside Mon-Fri 9-5 office hours then please contact Social Services in their area.
Carers: We advise all carers to create an emergency plan – for you and all those you look after. Having a plan in place can help ease your worries if you are not able to care for those you look after at any point in the future.
In order to create an emergency plan that fits your needs, you will need to consider:
- details of the name and address and any other contact details of the person you look after
- who you and the person you look after would like to be contacted in an emergency – this might include friends, family or professionals
- details of any medication the person you look after is taking
- details of any ongoing treatment they need.
Food: Make plans for food and supplies to be delivered to you if your household is self-isolating or you fall ill. Can a neighbour help? Do you have a local support group? If not, join one.
Cleaning: Stock up on cleaning supplies. Useful items include bleach, soap, hand sanitiser, disposable paper tissues and paper towels.
Money: Make sure you can tide yourself over. Do you have access to credit cards as well as cash, as some places won’t accept cash? Can you get help from family, friends, neighbours or the local community? Speak to your bank.
Work: Can you work from home or not? If not, what are your rights to payment or benefits? Check our useful advice and links for employees and employers HERE.
Medication: Make sure you have enough medication for any existing conditions. Remedies for colds and flu are also useful. Get a thermometer to check temperatures. You could sign up to a repeat prescription delivery service if the
person you care for is reliant on regular prescription medication. For further information visit this NHS site for guidance on the online ECHO pharmacy.
Health: For your own sake, and to relieve pressure on the NHS, can you reorganise any planned therapy or treatments?
Commitments: Make plans now to ensure that someone else can help you care for any dependents, walk your dog, or take care of any other commitments. Check with friends, neighbours and your local support group.
Connectivity: Check you have the contact details of people you care about, or care for, and that they have yours. This includes phone numbers or email addresses.
Updating: If you change your plans or move elsewhere, make sure the people who care about you, or for you, know this.
Routine: If you have to self-isolate, prepare for the tedium by creating a routine or timetable for yourself. If you live with other people, create a household schedule. You all need to agree how the household will run with everyone at home all day and unable to leave. Being clear at the start will help keep things calm.
Exercise: Keeping fit and keeping strong will help keep you healthy. It’s also good for the mind and reduces anxiety. With a bit of imagination, you can turn the home into a gym.
Nature: Access nature if you can. It’s springtime soon. Can you get some seeds and planting equipment, houseplants or living herbs?
Entertainment: Netflix and TV are fine, but think about what else you’re going to do. At our home, we’ve decided to go through 20 years of digital photos and turn them into albums that we can print. A good use of time that will entertain everyone.
Relax: If there’s something you’d really like to do if stuck at home, make sure you have what you need to do it.
Acknowledgments and sources:
Thank you to our volunteer researcher Emily for finding this information.
Thanks to WHO, Mind, Mental Health Foundation, NHS, and Age UK, from whom this information was sourced.