Some of you will already know Amy, the British Liver Trust's Scotland Project Manager. She manages our network of support groups for liver patients in Scotland, and is also a qualified cognitive behavioural therapist.
Here, Amy shares the first in a series of blogs about how to protect your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak:
The impact of the COVID 19 pandemic is sure to have an impact on us all as individuals in many different ways.
Almost all aspects of our lives will be affected. It is certain to have an impact on our mental health. Therefore, it is really important we try and protect our mental health as best we can.
With the unfolding uncertainty during the COVID 19 outbreak, it can be very difficult to stay upbeat and positive. However, there has never been a more important time to do so. The way we think affects how we feel and how we behave. Therefore, we may need to think differently and act differently in order to feel differently over the next few months.
Over the next few weeks, I will use my CBT skills and psychology knowledge and share with you some tips, advice and exercises which will help protect and strengthen your mental health.
Today, I would like to focus on self-isolating and anxiety.
Anxiety can appear in each of us in a variety of ways. For some people it is anxious and overwhelming thoughts. For others, it may be an increase in blood pressure.
It is important to look out for the symptoms of anxiety in order to be able to control them. Some common symptoms include: fatigue, muscle tension, restlessness, mood changes and sleep issues.
This is understandably a very stressful and scary time everyone. But there are lots of things we can do to make it a little easier on ourselves.
- Decide on a routine - plan on how you will spend your time. Come up with a routine that will help you to try follow as much of your old routine as possible but with the idea that maybe we will need incorporate some changes. For example: we may be able to go to sleep earlier or have more time to cook dinner in the evenings. Use your time to suit you.
- Take care with the news and media communications - while it is natural to want to know everything we can about the ongoing situation, it can take a toll on our mental health. Only focus on trustworthy sources and follow up to date NHS and government guidelines.
- Limit social media - Social media is great for many things. However, not all information is reliable and sometimes it can cause panic. Use social media to connect with others, share tips and positive messages, watch funny videos or practice online relaxation and meditation.
- Connect with others - This is a very important time for us to feel close to others and not struggle through this alone. Plan time to phone, Skype, FaceTime or message family and friends. Join a peer support group (for example, Health Unlocked). Listen to the radio or podcasts, or even put up some photos in your home of the people important to you to remind you of who you have.
- Exercise - Make time to keep active. Exercise has so many health benefits. It improves sleep, increases energy levels, reduces stress and anxiety, but most importantly releases endorphins which help to keep us feeling positive. Whether it is cleaning, seated exercises, yoga, online workouts or getting out and doing some gardening at home there are plenty of ways we can incorporate exercise into our lives.
- Try something new - we may have more time on our hands than usual so it’s important we keep ourselves doing things we enjoy. It may be the perfect opportunity to take up a new hobby. There are plenty to choose from: learn a new language, take an online course, read a book, get arty or learn a new recipe. You will surprise yourself how great it feels to do something new.
This is a very stressful time for everyone but remember you are not alone. It has never been more important to keep positive and be kind to yourself as well as others.
Just take it one day at a time,