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Stay mentally healthy during Covid-19

Infectious disease outbreaks, like the current coronavirus (Covid-19), can be scary and affect our mental health, says LRSN's health and wellbeing lead, Gilly Steel.

The government is telling us to stay at home as much as possible and to social distance or isolate to protect ourselves and others from this awful virus.

It is giving us a different challenge, a new daily routine, altering priorities and in general a new rhythm of life.

Change, in general, can cause both our mental and physical health to be affected. The government has set clear rules regarding exercise once a day. What isn’t clear is how do we all maintain healthy mental health during these uncertain times? Here are a few points to remember to ensure we all manage the best we can.

  • Try to stay connected

At times of stress, we work better with company and the support of others. Be in touch with people as regularly as you can, phone calls, social media and video calling will keep our needs are humans for contact fulfilled. These are god ways of still feeling close to the people that matter to us and avoid feeling socially isolated.

  • Sleep well/eat well

Maintain a good sleep pattern. Try to avoid the trap of staying up late and either not getting enough sleep, or sleeping in late, eating into the next day. A poor night’s sleep is likely to leave us feeling irritable, tired and lethargic and can affect how we perform at work or home the next day. If your sleep is disrupted for several nights, you’re likely to find it difficult to concentrate and make sound decisions. Risk of accidents (and potential injury) increases and your mental health could suffer too. Ensure you continue to eat a healthy, balanced diet. Increasing “junk” food will leave you feeling lethargic and can cause mood swings.

  • Keep to routines

Try to create a routine at home. It is very easy for us all to fall into the trap of letting each day drift into another. Routine can be an anchor. No matter what’s going on in our day, knowing that we will be having our evening meal around 6 pm, and going to bed around 10 pm, can be a real comfort. The certainty of our routine can help us to manage the uncertainty that life can throw up. Coping with unpredictable periods of time can feel more doable when we have a little structure in place to look to.

  • Try to anticipate stress/distress

It's likely at some stage we will all feel stressed or worried about the outbreak. If you have your own health conditions which make you more vulnerable or existing mental health issues then it is likely you may worry more than you would do usually. Try to manage how you follow the media coverage. If you find the media coverage is causing you increased stress it is important to find a balance. We all need to continue to update ourselves, however, it is important to also think about other things. Don’t avoid the news completely but find a balance which is right for you.

  • Be aware of our own coping techniques 

We all have our own ways of coping with situations. Some of those coping strategies may not be possible at the minute (going to the gym/swimming/social groups etc) Be mindful not to fall into negative coping techniques such as smoking more, drinking alcohol in excess, etc.

Download and read the Farm Safety Foundation's "A guide to coping with the stresses of Covid-19" a helpful booklet for you, your family or your staff.

Ask for support - if you find yourself struggling there is help available. Whether it be professional advice or support from friends or family. Do not struggle alone!