As the world focuses this week on raising awareness about mental health, it’s almost impossible to not link this campaign to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Nations of many countries have been facing and continue to face weeks of lockdown, social distancing, closed public places, and having to hide their faces behind masks and visors… Frequent handwashing and checks of our temperature have become an inseparable part of our daily routines and queuing outside of supermarkets or pharmacies doesn’t surprise anyone anymore. Our lives have been impacted on all possible levels – financial, social, emotional, physical, and, of course, mental. There’s no argument about how challenging are the times we live in, but we definitely can and should have a discussion about what we can do about it!
First of all, if you haven’t done it yet, try and create a new routine for your life that prioritises your health and wellbeing. Staying mainly at home means you should be able to devote a lot of your time to physical exercises, cooking healthy meals, relaxation techniques, learning new things, or simply enjoying your hobbies (like watching movies or reading books). You should also make sure that you stay connected to your family and friends. Loneliness can make everything seem worse than it actually is. The best way to keep in touch is over the phone or through social media. Also, to keep your stress levels as low as possible, try to keep away from speculations and conspiracy theories and only check most recent updates and information about the pandemic on official, government websites.
If you have to carry on working, try and maintain your usual habits and ways. When working from home, still make the effort to put smart clothes on, set up a comfortable and professional environment for yourself, and keep to your regular office hours. If you’re a key worker and still have to leave your house daily, remember to take your lunch with you, stay hydrated, and be as positive as you can. This will help you stay connected to your sense of normality and keep calm.
Another thing about having to stay at home for most of the time is that your relationships with other people will change. Spending too much or not enough time with people that are important to us can be upsetting and difficult. With some people, you might sometimes need a little break from their company, while with others you might miss them and need their presence. It’s important for your mental and emotional wellbeing that you pay extra attention to what you can do, to ensure that your relationships stay strong and healthy. Remember to really listen and be present when interacting with other people, but also respect your own, personal space and don’t feel bad or guilty about needing some alone time.
Finally, as much as COVID-19 has been proven to have a relatively low fatality rate, it still claims the lives of thousands of people on a daily basis. Loss of a loved one and grieving are very hard even when everything else in our lives seems to be good. It’s understandable that during such a stressful time it will be much harder to come to terms with such a painful experience. Remember that there are plenty of charities and organisations out there through which you can connect with people in similar situations and you don’t have to deal with it alone. Give yourself time and don’t pressurize yourself into “staying strong”. Your feelings are valid and it’s absolutely normal and fine to ask for help (Samaritans, your GP practice, online counselor, etc).
There are, of course, many other important issues that deserve to be addressed and that you might need guidance and assistance with and that’s okay. Don’t be embarrassed or afraid to reach out and seek information on how to receive financial support, home school your children, deal with the pandemic related stress while already suffering from some mental health issues, or how to support the elderly in our society. To find out more, I encourage you to visit Mental Health Foundation’s website ( https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/coronavirus ) or reach out to us, Ocala Healthcare, and we will do our best to support you in those uncertain times.
Let’s all be kind to one another!