Managing mental health during coronavirus

By Dr Dennis Wolf on Wednesday, May 13, 2020

For many of us, the current period is proving very mentally stressful. People are feeling very anxious about what might happen, and as such stress levels have gone through the roof. For some, this has been something they’ve been keeping an eye on for a while - maybe they’ve always experienced anxiety and depression, but coronavirus has highlighted it further. For others, this is the first time they’re experiencing a challenge to their mental health, which can be scary and unsettling.

 

Either way, we all need to look after ourselves and each other when it comes to our mental wellbeing, but how do we do that? We’re taking a look at some of the quick wins when it comes to mental health, that should help keep you on track and feeling a bit more mentally healthy. 

 

Of course, if you are experiencing serious symptoms of anxiety and depression, it is always recommended to see your GP before doing anything else. However, these 5 things that are in your control are worth experimenting with to see if they improve your current situation.

 

Alcohol Intake

 

As a nation, the UK loves a drink. However, although alcohol might feel like it’s assisting you with relaxing and switching off, it’s actually doing the opposite. Alcohol affects your body’s ability to rest, meaning that although you might feel like you drift off into a deep sleep, you’ll wake up more tired and grouchy.

 

Not to mention that alcohol is a depressant, so if you’re feeling low and unmotivated already, then adding alcohol to the mix will not help. On top of all of this, alcohol has been proven to weaken the immune system - not ideal if you’re worried about catching the virus. The best thing you can do to protect your body and mind during this period is to cut back on drinking and stay hydrated instead.

 

Diet

 

Eating a healthy, balanced diet is another way to keep your body healthy and well. It goes without saying that when we eat healthy foods that are rich in nutrients and vitamins, we feel better mentally. However, studies have shown that eating lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains can actually reduce your risk of some mental health conditions such as depression. This can be a game changer for those of us who are feeling lethargic and sloppy during coronavirus - mix up your diet and see if your energy levels and motivation changes.

Caffeine 

 

Lots of us forget that caffeine is a stimulant and a psychoactive drug, which means that it essentially speeds up the processes between the brain and body. Sometimes this can be handy - for example if you have lots of work to do and need to get things done quickly.

 

However, if you’re already feeling anxious and are cooped up inside all day, adding caffeine to that mix is a sure fire way to feel more anxious and mentally unwell. Cutting caffeine is one of the best ways to improve anxiety levels on your own.

 

Sleep

 

Cutting caffeine goes hand in hand with getting more full, deeper sleep. When we’re feeling anxious, it can be harder to get off to sleep, and the quality of that sleep can be a lot more interrupted.

 

Try to keep up a good bedtime routine, that gets your mind relaxed and ready for bed. This might include reading, meditation or listening to calming music before bed that helps you drift off. Ensuring you get enough sleep is essential, since neuroimaging and neurochemistry studies suggest that a good night's sleep helps with mental and emotional resilience, while sleep deprivation creates patterns of negative thinking and emotional vulnerability.

Exercise 

 

Exercise can be an amazing way to help the body stay energised and healthy, and keep us mentally switched on. Exercise releases endorphins which make us feel a lot more positive, and research shows that people who exercise regularly have better mental health and emotional wellbeing.

 

Start small by adding a walk or a quick circuit into your daily routine. Before you know it you’ll be into a routine of exercising daily, and hopefully this will improve your mental wellbeing.

 

We hope you all feel well and happy, despite the craziness going on in the world. If you do feel like it is all getting too much, please contact your GP or reach out to the following helplines:

 

www.samaritans.org.uk

www.mentalhealth.org.uk

www.anxietyuk.org.uk

www.mind.org.uk