* Adapted from advice given by Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council
There is a lot of uncertainty around the current COVID-19 outbreak, particularly given that the situation is constantly developing and the information about the virus remains incomplete. Understandably, this is causing a lot of worry and anxiety for people. It is therefore important to not only consider our physical health during such challenging times but also to pay attention to our mental health. It is normal to feel worried, stressed and anxious when we are faced with uncertain situations, but the sooner we acknowledge and learn to take care of our mental health, the healthier and better equipped we’ll be to cope with the situation we’re having to face.
Taking care of our mental health and checking in on others is something that we can all do. Remember when they tell you on aeroplanes that you need to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others, it’s like that. Try to plan your days or weeks to include something from each of the ‘5 ways to wellbeing’.
1. BE ACTIVE
Regular physical activity is associated with lower rates of depression and it doesn’t have to be intense to make a difference. Do as much or as little as you can – you could try walking, dancing, running, cycling or gardening.
People who are connected with family, friends or people living in their community are happier, physically healthier, live longer and generally have fewer problems mental health problems. To connect with others, you could join a group, help a friend, family member or colleague or try volunteering.
It has been proven that people who offer an act of kindness once a week over a six-week period report an improvement in their wellbeing. Giving could be smiling at someone and saying thank you. It could be volunteering within the local community or doing something nice for a colleague or friend.
4. KEEP LEARNING
People should never stop learning. Learning throughout life enhances self-esteem, increases confidence, encourages social interaction and generally leads to people having a more active life. Why not learn a new skill like cooking, playing an instrument, fixing a bike, photography or painting.
5. TAKE NOTICE
Life can be very busy with little time to stop and reflect. Studies have shown that when people are aware of what is taking place in the present it directly enhances well-being. People worry less about the future and what has happened in the past and can see what really matters, allowing them to make positive choices. Stopping and observing; spending time with friends and family; enjoying nature; and taking a different route home from work or the shops noticing what is different are all ways to take notice.
Below are some example timetables that you might find useful. These are just shared as a guide but may be helpful in terms of thinking about how to maintain some structure and routine throughout days at home. Remember to intersperse activities with breaks, and don’t forget healthy snacks and drinks!
- Talk to your children, and answer their questions. Ask about what they have heard about the virus and the situation so that you can correct possible misconceptions and reassure them.
- Avoid being too immersed in media coverage. Be mindful of the amount of things you are reading and watching, including social media – as this may add to worry and anxiety. Consider a few updates every day from trusted sources.
- Remember that people react differently to significant events. Some people – adults and children – may feel worried, some excited, some nothing much at all. Be reassured that different reactions are normal and ok.
- If your child seems worried, it may be good to distract them with something that takes their mind off their worries. You might also want to set aside 10-15 minutes each day for them to talk about any worries and to reassure them.
- Remember to keep things positive and give children hope. For example, tell children that now many people are working to make this better and that even though it is serious, everyone is doing their best to help people.
- Try to keep familiar routines. Well-known routines in everyday life provide security and stability.
- Do nice things together, and keep active. Make a plan and suggest some regular family times where you can play games, do some exercise together, or do other things that you know most of you like. Try to find a good balance between time together, and screen time.
- Keep in good contact with family and friends (via Facetime, Skype WhatsApp etc.; following NHS guidance on ‘social contact’). This will help children connect with others and know that others are thinking about them. It will also reassure them that others are well.
- As a parent, you may be concerned yourself. Take care of yourself and make sure you have breaks, time to relax and ask for help from others if you need.