Tips to maintain your mental wellbeing during the coronavirus pandemic

With lockdown extended, how are you coping mentally with the social distancing measures and isolation guidelines?

ITV News Central has asked Dr Charlotte Hilton, a Chartered Psychologist from Derbyshire, to provide some tips for keeping up your mental wellbeing at this time.

By Dr Charlotte Hilton

With the physical distancing measures and isolation moving into their fourth week (and even longer for some), there’s no doubt that these uncertain, unusual and challenging times present a potential strain on our mental wellbeing.

Whilst we have seen some innovative and heart-warming examples of theopportunities that the Covid-19 pandemic has presented us with, for some the dramatic changes in lifestyle can be stressful.

Our increased appreciation for the NHS and other key workers that has brought us out of our homes to clap, cheer and rattle pans with a wooden spoon has helped to lift our spirits and enhance some sense of the shared experience of these truly difficult times.

Social media has presented us with new opportunities to appreciate the things that we may not have noticed quite so much before, feel humbled by examples of bravery, learn new skills and share our laughter with fun videos and memes, for example. I finally got to try that yoga app that I have been meaning to for the last 6 months!

We’re connecting with friends and family differently yet meaningfully. We’re making the most of technology, the internet, and for those that can access outdoor space, we’re reminded of just how grateful we are for it.

However, some may struggle more than others and I’ve been invited to share some brief top tips for protecting our wellbeing during these times of isolation:

  • It’s OK not to feel OK from time-to-time

Our lifestyles have been disrupted, we have restrictions in place that may lead to feelings of loss of control, loneliness and uncertainty. Sometimes acknowledging any feelings of worry and/or upset and reaching a point of acceptance can be a useful part of the process of managing lockdown. Sometimes I like to refer to this as ‘allowing your wobble’ – acknowledge those feelings then try to move past them.

  • Try to avoid catastrophic thinking

If you feel ‘worst-case scenario’ thoughts creeping in, try to replace them with ones that are more helpful to your wellbeing. Remember, we’re all in this together, we have a shared experience of the challenges brought by the Covid-19 pandemic but this too will pass.

  • Control the controllable

By now we all have a better sense of what things enhance our wellbeing during lockdown and what doesn’t. We’re all learning new things about ourselves and what our individual coping strategies are. For most, planning the next day’s activities the night before that include opportunities for remotely connecting socially with people, being creative (I’ve seen a lot of lovely cakes being made recently), and time for physical activity are typically important. Try to avoid increased alcohol consumption and long periods of sitting.

  • Stay connected

Physical isolation and distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation, emotional distancing or disconnection. Perhaps now more than ever, it is important to stay connected with others. If you have access to the internet, perhaps make use of video call platforms to arrange time with friends and family. Do whatever works for you to keep you socially and emotionally engaged with others.