Monday 16 March 2020

Looking after your mental health during the Coronavirus outbreak

Sophie shares her tips on taking care of your mental health at university during the Coronavirus outbreak.      
- Sophie

With the relentless and constantly changing media coverage of the current Coronavirus crisis, its easy to feel overwhelmed or anxious. 

Its everywhere. 

Its all the news channels seem to cover, its taken over social media, and even seems to be filling email inboxes. 

Regardless of whether you or your loved ones have preexisting physical or mental health conditions, the pandemic can create feelings of anxiety within anyone.

Ive put together some tips which I find to be helpful in the current situation, and hope could be helpful or reassuring to others in some way:

Dont be afraid to take time away from social media.

Its okay to limit social media exposure. 

Its important to keep yourself healthy mentally in these times too, and constant scaremongering on social media about the latest unconfirmed case on campus, or the empty shelves at the local supermarket is anxiety-inducing to many.

Your university will most likely email you any important updates regarding your academic situation concerning the outbreak, and you can keep in contact with loved ones directly. Consider limiting your online exposure to only essential health-related information from trusted sources such as the NHS.

Try and keep your mind occupied when in isolation.

Self-isolation can be a daunting concept. Whether its studying for future exams, getting ahead on coursework, exercising or exploring new or old hobbies, try to see the opportunities to keep yourself occupied.  Its easy to feel lonely or to overthink when kept in a confined space. Even finding a new TV series or listening to music may help to reduce anxious thoughts which may seem louder when you are alone.

Keep in touch with friends and family.

Isolation can be difficult to deal with for anyone, especially if youre already living away from your loved ones at university. Try and keep in contact with them via messaging, phone calls or even video calls as much as you can, to lessen the sense of isolation. Knowing that those close to you are okay and seeing it for yourself may also help to put your mind at rest.

Wash your hands but challenge the obsession.

The idea of needing to wash your hands more frequently, and for longer than usual can be triggering to those who suffer from OCD. I’ve found it difficult to know when to stop using hand sanitiser when out of the house, as suddenly a behaviour which was previously considered an obsession, is an expectation. When these thoughts set in and start to cause you distress, it may be helpful take a deep breath to remind yourself you only need to follow the government guidelines on cleanliness, and do not need to exceed them. 

Try to work with whats available to you. 

For people with or without mental health problems, the sight of empty supermarket shelves, or the cancellation of events and appointments can be enough to make you feel nervous.

Whether you struggle with an eating disorder and now cant buy your safe foods, or the lack of hand soap makes your OCD that bit harder to cope with, remind yourself that this is only temporary, and try to find some kind of available alternatives that you can tolerate in the meantime to ease your anxiety.

Similarly, if you see a therapist or rely on medication for your mental health, consider looking into alternative options. Perhaps ask if your therapist can offer phone or video call appointments as an alternative if self-isolation is required, and look into making arrangements to ensure you don’t have to go without your medication.

Contact a helpline if you need to talk. 

If you feel youre struggling to cope in the current crisis, please contact a helpline. There is absolutely no shame in needing someone to talk to, and it may help you to rationalise your fears, and feel less alone in them.

Theres no denying that the Coronavirus outbreak is scary and uncertain right now. Its important to consider your mental health and to protect yourself emotionally as well as you can. Remind yourself that whilst this period is stressful and overwhelming right now, it is only temporary and focusing on getting through it may make it seem less daunting.

For more information on finding support for your mental health during the Coronavirus outbreak, visit the Student Minds Website.

For more information Student Space is here to make it easier for you to find the support you need during the coronavirus pandemic.

Im Sophie, and Im an undergraduate student at the University of Kent and also a Sub-Editor for the Student Minds blog. Having personal experience with mental health problems, I hope to help other students feel less alone in whatever they are going through. 

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