Looking After Your Mental Health During the Covid-19 Pandemic and Beyond – 10 Top Tips

Looking after your mental health during Covid-19 Pandemic and beyond – ten top tips.

At this point many people are feeling under pressure as they are in challenging circumstances; working from home, being a key worker and worried about their health, possibly home educating children, worried about job losses and financial problems, and many more issues. These challenges lead to increased levels of anxiety and stress. 

Here are ten ideas to help you feel positive and be productive during the Covid-19 crisis and beyond. 

1. Develop a (new) Routine at Home

Develop a routine – to help you to adapt to your new circumstances create a new routine to help you adapt to these changes. Whether you are now working from home or supporting children, a good routine will help everyone know what is expected from them and help reduce stress. 

  • Take regular breaks including a lunch hour 
  • Make sure you take time away from your workspace/learning area – stepping out of the door and getting some fresh air for 5 minutes every 2 hours can be a huge help. Set an alarm to remind you to do this!

If you are new to working from home then Public Health Scotland have developed a website for employers to help them support home workers. It gives lots of great advice and tips. 

2. Try to Stick to Your Usual Sleep Schedule

Getting up and going to bed. If you are now working from home or being at home with the little ones, getting up and going to bedtimes are important. Not only does it set a good example it can help reduce stress by letting your brain and body know what is expected from them.

So, you’re not commuting to work so an extra 30 minutes in bed won’t hurt?  It won’t, but letting that time slip to 1 hour in bed, 2 hours in bed or more could become problematic. Working from home also means that you miss the processing time that a commute allows before and after work. Trying to go for a walk, or doing some yoga or stretching in the house during the time you’d normally be commuting can make a big difference.

The same with staying up late and binging on Netflix. Keep everything in context and try to stay disciplined. If you stay up late regularly you will wake feeling lethargic and lacking energy.  Your children need routine too both for getting up and going to bed, even when school is disrupted. 

The NHS has developed a set of resources to help you with your sleeping. Their sleep guide can help you develop a good sleep pattern.  

3. Eat Well

Eat well.  Eating a well-balanced diet rich in vegetables is associated with feelings of wellbeing. Studies have found high levels of wellbeing were reported by individuals who ate more fruit and vegetables.  Multiple studies have shown a balanced nutritional diets make us feel better and a review on 2014 found that a poor diet (with high levels of saturated fat, refined carbohydrates and processed food products) is linked to poorer mental health. 

One way to try and eat well is to plan meals in advance, involve the family too.  The World Health Organisation (WHO) believes eating well whilst on lockdown, could boost their chances of a fast recovery should they contract Covid-19.

More information about a healthy diet in lockdown can be found in this recent article by the Independent

4. Get Some Exercise

Get some exercise. Try and do some exercise each day, this will help you to feel energised. There are dozens of short videos you can follow which don’t involve any gym equipment or the need to go outside, but do go outside to exercise if you can, the fresh air will also help invigorate you. If outside isn’t possible, maybe open a window wide while you exercise indoors. 

YouTube videos like Little Sports or PE with Joe Wicks are idea for exercising with children, and getting them up and moving is just as important as it is for you. Again, outside is best, but there are plenty of alternatives.

The BBC have also produced some handy fitness guides – BBC fitness guide

5. Stay in Touch

Stay in touch. Human connections are very important, isolation and lack of contact can raise stress levels impacting on our mental health. There are of course many Apps and web conferencing software you can use to call and chat to people although a phone call is often easier and can make a difference. Try and stay in touch with colleagues, family and friends. Take the opportunity to speak to someone you haven’t seen in a while to find out how they are.

If you’re supporting staff as they are working from home try and set some regular times to talk to them, or even develop a staff newsletter everyone can contribute too. Try and help everyone to feel supported.  Think about how often you discuss things with colleagues, or just take 5 mins for a blether. Replicating those human connections are important and shouldn’t be overlooked.

6. Learn a New Skill

Try and learn a new skill – As the pandemic goes on there are more and more organisations offering training courses online. Whilst online learning isn’t always the best way to learn, at present we have limited options. Why not use the current situation to learn something new or something you have always wanted to do such as learning to juggle, or some new language skills? 

First Aid Training Co-operative has a growing number of online resources you could use and Tom and Sadie filmed a series of ‘Rescue Rangers’ videos during the spring lockdown so you can learn first aid with your children

7. Create a Work or Learning Space

Create a work/learning space. Try and create a space which is dedicated to work or learning, even if you have to share it from time to time. This will help you stay organised; it just needs to be a table in the corner of the room or the end of the kitchen table. Try and keep the space clear of clutter. Set up any equipment to try and avoid physical strain. The NHS has produced a guide to how to sit correctly.  https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/how-to-sit-correctly/

It can be tricky to do, and will depend on your situation at home, but being able to mentally leave your workspace even if not physically, can be a really beneficial thing to do.  Covering the desk or computer etc with an old sheet when you are finished for the day is a great mental cue to ‘switch off’ if you aren’t able to physically shut the door on your ‘office’ and walk away.

8. Be Kind to Yourself

Be kind to yourself. Try and make some time to do something for yourself. Even if it is just 30 minutes a day and it may well be something linked to items we have already mentioned; getting in touch with old friends, doing an online Yoga or Mindfulness class, learning something new or simply reading or listening to music.

Try not to spend too much time watching or listening to news about the virus and only trust good sources of information. GOV.UK or the NHS website both carry Covid-19 updates. Remember too that a lot of news sites and especially social media contain a lot of fake or unsubstantiated ‘news’ at the moment.  www.fullfact.org is a helpful site for doublechecking anything you’ve read or seen online. 

9. Ask For Help or Support

Ask for support – don’t feel isolated and if you need help please ask for it. 

There are a lot of online resources specifically designed to help you cope with the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are feeling over-whelmed, help is available.  The Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) has information on coronavirus and your mental wellbeing which includes help with anxiety, OCD, supporting older and young people, benefits, and coping with distressing news coverage.  

If you need immediate help you can call the Samaritans 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, on 116 123.  They also have a specific Samaritans webpage covering Covid-19

10. Build Resilience

  • Build resilience. Resilience is the capacity to recover from difficulties and being resilient is knowing how to cope in spite of setbacks or limited resources. Some basic ideas are similar to the one listed above but may include; 
    • Take time to reflect on how you are, how you are feeling about the current situation and what, if anything, you can control or change.  Reflect on your current reality, try to think positively about what you have got or can do, rather than the restrictions or difficulties you may be faced with.
    • Take time to relax. Do this to suit your needs, not the needs of others. We all relax in different ways, it could be reading a book, listening to music, doing exercise. 
    • Take time to build supportive networks. Think about who you can talk to when your need to. Contact these people and develop your relationships with them.  
    • Take time to have some fun and laugh occasionally. Watch an old DVD of your favourite stand up comedian can be a great tonic!

Ready Scotland is part of the Scottish Government’s Resilience Division. It provides advice on how to access to advice on finding extra support in times of crisis.