BY DR. SWATI KEDIA, WYSA
As ‘social distancing’ and ‘self-isolation’ are fast becoming our new reality, our partner Wysa (an artificially and emotionally intelligent chat service) and clinical psychologist Dr. Swati Kedia have offered some insight on protecting your mental health during this time of ‘lockdown’.
In any epidemic, it is common for people to feel worried and stressed. The uncertainty, concerns on treatment and the fear surrounding quarantine can affect people. Some common thoughts, problems and behaviors include fear of the unknowns such as illness, infection, social isolation, loneliness, as well as any financial concerns. Taking care of your mental and emotional health is absolutely necessary and there are many self-help measures that every person can use.
Specific mental health issues
These issues can be problematic if someone is already suffering from mental illness, especially anxiety disorders (e.g. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and depressive disorders.
- Insomnia or disturbed sleep
- Heightened anxiety regarding well being of self and loved ones
- Mistrust of others and their health conditions
- Increased preoccupation with cleanliness
- Catastrophic thinking due to uncertainty
- Desire to use alcohol and drugs
Taking care of your mental health
In these testing times, we can be overloaded with information. Each day, without being aware, we interact with a number of people and as human beings, we like to believe that things are under our control at all times. Pandemics and natural disasters take that control away.
At such times, it is important to take care of your psychological health and here are some tips that can help:
Understand the risk
Stay up to date on COVID-19 but only trust the information that comes from authentic sources.
- From the government: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
- From the NHS: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
- Try not to be glued to the news 24/7
- Do not believe every message or tweet circulated in social media
- Facetime/Skype with family and friends
- Telephone, text messages or whatsapp groups
- Distract yourself by working on a hobby or developing a new one (read a book, watch a film, gardening, cooking, art). Perhaps do work around the house that you haven’t got around to all these years due to a lack of time
Maintain a healthy lifestyle
- Get adequate and healthy sleep
- Daily routine of working and resting
- Eating nutritious food
- Exercising at home
- Practice meditation or try to relax when you can
- Do not be afraid to discuss your anxieties and fears with someone. It helps to ventilate and talk things out. You could also use Wysa to talk about your feelings.
Be optimistic and maintain a sense of hope. Within this crisis there is a real community spirit with over 700,000 people having signed up to be NHS volunteer responders helping support those most vulnerable in society. Pollution levels have gone down and you are getting to spend time with yourself.
Maintain hygiene but do not be preoccupied with it all the time. Be mindful of washing hands, and not touching metal surfaces, do not cough or sneeze without tissue paper.
- Make a list of helpful contact numbers and emails – such as for healthcare
- Keep enough supply of non-prescription medicines to last at least a month
- Keep enough groceries and non-perishable items to last for a month
- Talk to family and friends nearby about how you can support each other, in case one household is quarantined. For example, dropping supplies outside the front gate.
- Use self-help tools. There is a list of clinically approved apps that have been put together by ORCHA – who’ve been set up to help regulate the safety and value of these apps and make sure people find the right app for the right reason. They have recommended Wysa to cope with stress or anxiety issues. Wysa has released free tool packs for everyone to cope with the stress of isolation and current health anxiety. They want to ensure that everyone has mental health resources during this crisis.
At this time, it is important that everyone gets the help they need – and this includes looking after yourself.
Please continue to follow NHS guidance, stay at home, protect the NHS, and save lives.