Looking after your mental health during the coronavirus pandemic

Posted on: 4th January 2021

We are now ten months into the COVID 19 pandemic and it’s been a really difficult time for everyone. It's been a particularly challenging time for those who are clinically extremely vulnerable and have had to take additional care.

Here, Amy, our Scotland Project Manager, shares some tips about how to strengthen your resilience and improve your mental health in the new year.

"It's only natural that it's increasingly difficult to stay positive and happy all the time. We can't do many of the things we did on a regular basis such as spending quality time with family and friends, going to the shops, going to the gym, eating out with others outside of our households and so on. So much time away from a regular routine is bound to have an impact on our mental health.

"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. Today, I would like to focus on self-isolating and low mood and share with you some tips, advice and exercises which will help protect and strengthen your mental health.

"The way we think affects how we feel and how we behave. If we have negative thoughts, we feel much lower which in turn encourages us to use some withdrawing and isolating behaviours.

"Therefore, we may need to think differently and act differently in order to feel better over the next few months.

"Low mood can appear in each of us in a variety of ways. Ultimately, having a low mood takes joy away from doing the activities we previously loved doing.  Some common symptoms of low mood include: increased and persistent irritability, weight changes (for some it's weight loss, for others weight gain), difficulties sleeping, feeling of fatigue, feelings of guilt or worthlessness and poor ability to make decisions.

"This is understandably a very difficult, frustrating and lonely for everyone. But there are lots of things we can do to make it a little easier on ourselves.

  • Exercise: Keeping fit and active has many health benefits but also plays a huge role in keeping managing our mood. Exercise helps to reduce stress, improve sleep patterns, increases our self-esteem and also fights off long lasting feelings of low mood.
  • Avoid or keep alcohol intake low: Anyone with liver disease is aware of the damage that alcohol plays in liver disease but it also alters the balance of chemicals in your brain. Alcohol is considered a depressant and can play a part maintaining a low mood.
  • Stay connected with others: The past year has felt like no other with unnatural amounts of time spend away from face to face contact. But it is also extremely important to feel closeness of family and friends. It is more important than ever to schedule time for social activities. Virtual connection has been a real lifeline during the pandemic. Make sure to use social media, Whatsapp, Zoom, Skype and peer support groups to keep in contact with family and friends.
  • Eating well: A healthy balanced diet is not only helpful for our physical health but also has major benefits on our mental health. Foods high in vitamins, protein and minerals can help to keep your brain healthy. Too many sugary laden foods can cause a crash in our moods so keeping to a healthy balanced diet can have protective factors for our mental wellbeing.
  • Keep informed: It is important to keep up to date with the government guidelines and measures surrounding COVID 19 to help keep ourselves safe. However, too much information can take a toll on our mental health. Try to limit how much time we spend on this each day. Aim to spend a reasonable amount of time scrolling through social media and try to focus on trustworthy resources such as the government website or NHS resources.
  • Get into a routine: By actively planning how to spend your time, individuals can include some positive activities which help us to feel better about ourselves and in turn keeps our mood from dipping. By planning achievement (housework, cooking, walking the dog) creative (jigsaws, puzzles, card making) and fun (board games, watching films or indulging in a hot chocolate) activities, our routines can allow us to plan for things we enjoy and ensure we incorporate them into our weeks.

"Some small positive changes can make all the difference on our mood. And remember, you are not alone and there are brighter days ahead.

"Together we will get through this."