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Coronavirus: How to protect your mental health

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We’re living through uncertain times, with the coronavirus crisis causing many of us significant levels of stress and anxiety.

If you’re a key worker who needs to travel to your workplace to carry out your job, you may feel understandably concerned about staying safe from infection.

And although you might feel more protected from the risk of catching the virus if you work from home, you’ll have other concerns - from feelings of isolation and loneliness if you live alone, to demands of homeschooling children alongside everyday work duties. Uncertainty over the future of many jobs and the economy in general also contributes to anxiety.

Things can feel quite overwhelming right now - particularly as life seems to have changed so rapidly, and in so many ways.

Here are tips on protecting your mental wellbeing as many of us contemplate working from home under lockdown for the foreseeable future.

Focus on connections

It’s important to physically stay apart from other people to stop the spread of infection, but human connection is crucial for mental wellbeing and prevent social isolation.

Everyone has a higher desire to connect with others right now, and the urge to have kinship and camaraderie seems even stronger.

If you’re working from home as part of a team, you’ll probably already be in daily contact through video, chat or voice call with the colleagues you’re used to seeing in person.

These new ways of connecting are crucial to help you stay close to the people who are important to you outside of work, too. Look into remote shared activities with family and friends, like video hangouts, virtual quizzes or watching movies and doing online workouts at the same time together.

Stick to your routine

Sticking to a daily routine as much as possible will help with mental wellbeing while the nation goes through this crisis.

You’ll probably need to adapt your normal timeline, especially if you have children at home. But even something like starting your day at the same time will help your sense of purpose and identity. And building little ‘wins’ into your routine can boost your sense of achievement.

In normal times, do you often congregate with coworkers in the kitchen every morning to make coffee? Perhaps schedule a virtual coffee break every day now, too.

At HR GO, where all our staff are currently working from home, we’re working to daily routines to make sure no one feels out of touch in the current situation.

Stay active

It’s never been more tempting to do as little as possible - particularly as the latest government advice is to venture outside to exercise no more than once a day.

But exercise doesn’t just keep you in shape - it clears your head and releases ‘happy hormones’ known as endorphins.

Even if you’re self-isolating or shielding (as one of the most vulnerable to the effects of the virus) and need to stay at home 24 hours a day, the growth of online living room workouts and yoga sessions means you can still exercise in your living room. There’s also meditation to help to reduce the physical, emotional and mental effects of stress.

Limit news updates

Many of us want to hear the latest updates on the coronavirus and ways to keep ourselves safe.

But a constant stream of unsettling news on TV or social media can be unsettling and damage a sense of wellbeing.

It’s best to limit your consumption of news to check at certain times during the day, and have regular breaks from social media. Any book, TV show, film or podcast not related to coronavirus is a good way to escape what’s happening at the moment, too.

Get help when you need it

There are concerns that people who already suffer from illnesses like OCD, depression and anxiety will experience greater struggles without the right support.

If you’re starting to feel worse, aim to check in regularly with a friend or family member to chat about how you’re feeling.

And make sure you know how to access your normal sources of support remotely to help you talk through your anxieties and help you rationalise them. There’s a list of emotional support organisations below, too.

Fix your view past this crisis

There’s no doubt that 2020 will see a great deal of suffering of all sorts. And even if you’re not medically affected by coronavirus, social distancing and self-isolation can take its toll on mental health.

Aim to focus on any small positives that can come from these unsettling times. This could be a great time to reconnect with people you’ve lost touch with. Or enjoy spending more time with your children, or have the time to start a new hobby from home.

And if you plan to move roles when this is all over, you have a chance to become a much stronger job candidate. That might mean building up extra skills through online learning, honing your CV or crafting your LinkedIn profile (and if nothing else, working from home is bound to make you an expert video interviewee).

Remember this will end, and the crisis will pass at some point. In the meantime, be kind to yourself as you adjust to a new way of living and working under lockdown.

More help

Leading mental health and emotional support charities have produced support resources for those experiencing anxiety around coronavirus: AnxietyUK, Samaritans, Mind and Mental Health Foundation.

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