Friday, 20 March 2020

How to Look After your Mental Health during COVID-19 Outbreak

Luke shares tips and advice on how to preserve your mental health during this unprecedented time.
- Luke Sullivan


I am the same as everyone at the moment. Am I under-reacting? Is everyone overreacting? What to do, when the future looks so bleak? However, the key question I want to focus on is: are you worried about how to keep yourself busy and preserve your mental health? I, like many other students enjoy the day-to-day hustle and bustle of university life. The unconscious reassurance of having your friends’ network around you and having a consistent (ish) timetable. Your mental health being preserved and looked after by doing the stuff you love doing and having events to look forward to. It’s difficult to imagine all of that being taken away at once and being left with, well… nothing. 

This is, however, the situation that we all are left to face. Not being able to go out, being anxious about going to the gym. Feeling empty and hopeless with a future looking so bleak. It doesn’t look so good does it? I myself suffer from an anxiety disorder so being able to maintain a healthy mindset and a positive outlook is paramount for my wellbeing. I am here to tell you that although what we are experiencing is unprecedented, there are healthy ways to look after yourself and to try new things. Therefore, I have come up with a list of seven things to help keep you sane during these challenging times: 

1) Make your Bed 
This sounds like a trivial thing to do, however, the simple ritual of making your bed every morning can set the day off right and help instil a simple routine into your life. In times of despair it will give you a flash of consistency to rely on. And a tidy room = LESS STRESS.  

2) Get Washed and Dressed 
When you’re at home with your mates or your family, there is a strong temptation to lounge about in your pyjamas all day. However, with no routine there is less distinction between day and night as they blend into one, which can become disorientating, and further, detrimental to your mental health. So, every day, set your alarm as if it were a normal day, have a shower, get dressed as if you were going to university/work. Obviously, still allow yourself a lazy day once in a while though! 

3) Make a List 
Formulating a consistent list of things to do every day will help time pass quicker. Having a list of ‘TO DO’s’ that are repeated each day, a list of things that you want completed in the day, and a ‘maybe’ section for things that you would like to get done but aren’t a priority, will allow a level of structure in an extremely unstructured environment. Mentally prioritising what’s on your list every day could help put your mind at ease. Set yourself time to do work and stick to it, with consistent breaks to maintain concentration. 

4) Use and Ignore Social Media 
Social media can be great: staying in contact with loved ones, learning new things, staying up to date with the news. However, reading too much of the latter (especially with the amount of negativity going around at the moment) may damage your mental health. Getting sucked into the deluge of negativity currently engulfing social media and the world can be mentally consuming and draining. Therefore, limiting your access to social media can be okay e.g. a few hours a day. 

5) Try New Things 
Literally try anything and everything. From learning card tricks and trying a new instrument to practising yoga and mindfulness, let your mind run free! However small, it will go a long way to staving off the worries we’re all feeling at the moment. 

6) Work Out 
Being stuck at home with anxiety about visiting the gym and with no sports clubs to go to, the thought of no serious workouts is ominous to us (me included!). However, this doesn’t mean you can’t still workout. There is an abundance of fitness apps to help structure specific workouts for you. Making yourself a workout schedule for the week and setting yourself a time period every day for a workout can give you something to look forward to. And a healthy body = a healthy mind. 

7) Be Kind to Yourself 
Obviously, it’s very easy to read these points and have little motivation to do them. I haven’t lost sight that some days are going to be rubbish. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t stick to your routine. Cut yourself some slack, what we’re going through is unprecedented. Isolation is a psychologically frightening terrain to navigate, but if we remain patient and support each other we can come out the other side, more optimistic and better than before. Look after each other and stay safe!

Visit the Student Minds website for further information on COVID-19 and looking after your mental health here

My name is Luke Sullivan. I am a second year Sport and Exercise Psychology student at the University of Portsmouth. I, myself, suffer from an anxiety disorder and have lost my Dad to suicide. I would like to share my advice on how someone who battles with themselves everyday can preserve their mental health during this pandemic chaos.

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