Free Mental Health Resources
to use during the
COVID-19 Pandemic 

The COVID-19 pandemic is something none of us have ever faced before, and it is normal for us to feel anxious about the uncertainty and the threat of the spread. We’re all concerned about ourselves, our loved ones and how it will affect us financially. Having to stay at home also brings unique challenges - how do we organise ourselves and our families? How do we stop ourselves from feeling down? How do we cope with having our freedom curtailed?

It’s okay to have good days and bad days – the situation is serious and it would be strange if we didn’t feel anything at all – but feeling overwhelmed by the situation can lead to depression and anxiety and can exacerbate existing mental health conditions. 
We’ve compiled some resources that can help you take care of yourself and your mental health during this challenging time.

LOOKING AFTER YOUR MENTAL HEALTH

Top 10 Tips for Looking After Your Mental Health During Lockdown…

1) Allow yourself to feel what you feel – Chances are we will all go through a range of different emotions at different times – shock, fear, anxiety or sadness to name but a few. And you can be sure, someone somewhere is feeling the same way too. Everyone is being impacted by the pandemic in some form or another – whether it’s being in lockdown, having a loved one who is ill or who has lost their life, or being ill yourself. Take the time to give yourself what you feel you need – to talk or be silent, to rest or to work if you can. We all deal with feelings in different ways. You might feel you need external support. Many organisations, including Care to Listen are providing telephone and online support for anyone impacted by the coronavirus. Shall we include a list of other support organisations?

2) Limit your exposure to the news - Information and speculation about the pandemic everywhere – in newspapers, on the TV, direct to our phones. There are lots of projections, updates on numbers of cases and deaths and predictions on how bad things will get. The truth is, that nobody knows exactly how things will progress, and focussing on figures can raise our stress levels, so the less speculation we indulge in the better.

3) Stay informed – This might seem like it contradicts the previous point, but useful knowledge is power, so stay informed about the best ways to keep you and your family safe from reliable sources. The following official websites have up to date information about keeping safe. They will also let you know about any changes to the guidelines.

https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/symptoms-and-what-to-do/

4) Keep a routine – We all react differently to change, but it’s important that we do what’s best for us and what will keep us healthy. Keeping a routine can give us some structure and routine at a time when we may feel quite helpless and unable to control our environment. It can also give us a positive focus. Below are some organisational resources:

https://www.wikihow.com/Time-Block
https://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/how-to-plan-your-day-to-make-it-all-ultra-effective.html
https://www.un.org/en/un-coronavirus-communications-team/life-under-lockdown-practical-tips-un
https://jobs.mumsnet.com/article/working-from-home-as-a-parent

We all react differently to stress, so if having a routine doesn’t feel like the right thing for you, then don’t have one – no pressure.

5) Stay connected – given the current restrictions, there’s a real danger that we might become isolated from family and friends, and our usual social interactions. It’s important that we stay connected where we can; seeing people and talking to people helps us feels better and staves off loneliness. We can also share good news and ideas for keeping ourselves well. Technology can help us a great deal with this – applications like Skype, Zoom, Facetime, Houseparty and WhatsApp are great at helping us keep in touch, but regular email, texting and phone calls are just as good. It might be a time to check in with others more than we normally would – especially those who are vulnerable. We can also reach out to people that we don’t know by volunteering to keep in touch with people who are isolated. Below are some ways that we can volunteer to keep in touch. 

https://www.goodsamapp.org/NHS
https://simplyconnectcommunity.uk/

6) Stay physically active – Not being able to go out reduces our physical activity dramatically – the average person in the UK takes between 7,000 and 10,000 steps a day. Exercise also releases ‘feel good’ endorphins, so being sedentary has big implications for our mental health too. This means that we need to find new ways to keep active and healthy. Simple activities like gardening, cleaning and even just climbing the stairs will help. It’s best to keep it simple and do what works for you and what you enjoy. You can involve other members of your household too – putting on a bit of music and dancing around with the kids is exercise too. For those who want a more structured approach, there are plenty of online resources and videos that can help us create an exercise routine.
https://www.youtube.com/

7) Stimulate your mind – Being at home can mean that we have more time for ruminating and worrying about the pandemic. Structure helps, but keeping our minds active during down time helps too. This could be as simple as doing a jigsaw puzzle or playing a board game or a game on your phone. How about starting a new book? If you have more time than usual, this could be a good time to learn something new. There are lots on online learning resources that can help us to stay engaged and keep our skills up to date.

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses
https://www.learndirect.com/
http://www.open.ac.uk/

8) Talk it through – If you have the opportunity to blow off steam by talking to someone that you trust, take it. We often keep our thoughts to ourselves because we feel we don’t want to burden others or because we want to be strong for others who depend on us. Our needs are equally important, and bottling things up can lead to even more emotional distress. If we are caring for others, then our self-care is even more important. There may be occasions where talking to a friend or family member is difficult, especially if you have a pre-existing mental health condition. If you’d prefer to talk to someone independent, counselling might be more appropriate for you.

Care To Listen provides low cost affordable counselling by telephone or video chat to anyone in need.

9) Keep things in perspective – It’s easy to get caught up in the facts and figures of the pandemic, but it’s useful to keep things in perspective. There is good evidence to show that if we adhere to the government guidelines, we can significantly reduce the risk of becoming infected. Its important that we stay at home, only going out for essential food or medication, exercise, or to work if we cannot work from home. While we don’t yet know everything about the virus, there are some things that we do know about it and how it is transmitted. Research still confirms that most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment.

10) Just breathe – This is one of the many things that we are still allowed to do! It’s important to find ways to relax during this stressful time and doing breathing exercises can help to reduce stress, anxiety and panic.

Breathing exercises can be done at any time and are a good way of winding down before sleeping.

https://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/relax.htm
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/ways-relieve-stress/
https://www.healthline.com/health/breathing-exercises-for-anxiety

Getting enough sleep will also help, but it can be difficult at times like this. Accepting that our sleep might be disturbed because of the way in which our lives have changed and the uncertainty that we are living with can be helpful and can stop us from becoming anxious about not sleeping – which can further disrupt our sleep patterns. Other sleep hygiene techniques can also help, as well as doing a breathing exercise.