Coronavirus strategies: managing stress
23rd March 2020
It’s perfectly natural to feel stressed, sad, confused or frightened during a crisis like the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, but there are plenty of things you can do to keep these negative feelings at bay.
As long as you are following the general advice for how to avoid contracting Coronavirus, you’re doing all that you can to protect yourself and those around you. But as social distancing and self-isolation become increasingly prevalent, here are some things you can do to stay happy and mentally healthy as well.
Stay in touch
Social distancing doesn’t have to mean not talking to anyone – you should absolutely stay in contact with your friends and family. Talking to people you trust can be very reassuring, and in this day and age there are a huge variety of ways to drop someone a line, whether that be by phone, email or other web-connected services.
WhatsApp, Viber and Facetime can be a great way to stay connected with friends and family abroad without having to worry about long-distance charges – and many of these apps also offer video calling functions for an added personal touch.
Keep to your routine
When working from home – or self-isolating – one of the best things you can do is stick to a routine. So that involves waking up at the same time every day, eating properly and making sure you get enough sleep. Getting into these habits gives your day structure, which is a really important aspect of mental wellbeing.
Even when the official advice is to avoid socialising wherever possible, you are still encouraged to get outside for some exercise – which can be anything from taking a walk to going for a run. So you can still get out of the house, as long as you keep your distance from others wherever possible.
Get help if you need it
One thing you shouldn’t do is use smoking, alcohol or other drugs as a way of coping with your emotions. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, there are still people you can reach out to such as health workers or counsellors, some of whom you may be able to contact over the phone. You should also have an idea of where to go and how to get help for physical or mental health concerns should you need to.
Stick to the facts
Make sure the information that you are getting about the Coronavirus comes from reliable sources, such as the World Health Organization website or from local or state public health agencies.
Gathering the right information from the right places will ensure you can get a fact-based sense of your risk level and the precautions you should be taking. Steer clear of taking advice from social media.
Limit your exposure to the news
Watching rolling news coverage in a crisis is likely to cause worry and agitation more than it is to help ease fears. Try and reduce the amount of time you and your family spend watching or listening to media coverage that might cause undue stress. As long as you are doing what’s necessary to stay safe and healthy, everything you need to know is likely to be covered by the evening news or the occasional alert on your phone.
Try something new
Given the advice to minimise all unnecessary contact with other people, your social life is likely to be very different in the coming weeks. With extra time on your hands, it’s the perfect moment to read that book that’s been sitting on your side table, to learn a new skill – you can find guides to just about everything on YouTube – or to re-engage with traditional pastimes like jigsaw puzzles, board games and knitting. It might even be time to slip a pair of gloves on those green fingers and try your hand at gardening.
Exercise is also great for relieving stress. While you may not have access to your usual gym, there are ways to stay active while at home. The NHS has six equipment-free fitness routines that are designed to do indoors. So long as you maintain your distance from others, running is still an option for those eager to stretch their legs outdoors. It may sound like a scary prospect, especially if you feel out of shape or unfit, but the NHS Couch to 5K will help you gradually work up towards running 5K in just nine weeks.
Think about how you’ve coped with difficult situations in the past
If you’ve dealt with adversity in the past, consider what skills you used to overcome the difficulty and how you might be able to draw on those skills now to manage your emotions. If you’ve found certain strategies helpful in the past, they may come in very handy during these potentially stressful times.
If you need to talk to someone about your concerns there are a number of charities you can call.
Call free: 0300 123 3393
Open 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday (except for bank holidays).
Call free: 116 123
Call free: 0800 1111
You can also chat to a counsellor online (LINK)
The Mix (for people under 25)
Call free: 0808 808 4994
Text: YM to 8525
If you know someone who is struggling to sleep or having issues with their mental health, there are lots of things you can do. The NHS campaign ‘Every Mind Matters’ provides very useful advice here. (LINK)
St John and St Elizabeth Hospital is not a testing or treatment facility for Coronavirus. If you have symptoms of a cough and/ or fever, then please do not visit. Our services remain open throughout the pandemic, for appointments with a GP or Consultant please call our Contact Centre on +44 20 7806 4000