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The Pandemic and Your Mental Health

How are you feeling right now? A bit raw around the edges? Emotional? Tired? More fatigued than you've ever been?

As we fight a virus that's taking lives, we're also preparing ourselves for the tsunami of mental health problems that are going to occur in the wake of the pandemic. Socially isolating ourselves, while necessary, is causing problems. Wearing cloying PPE is causing problems. Seeing people die the most horrific death you can imagine is causing problems. Being cut off from the world, and everything we once knew, is causing problems.

At the moment your brain has, to put it simply, gone into “Survival” mode. It's shut down parts that it doesn't deem necessary and is allowing you to function in the most basic way possible. You, and your brain, are running from an enemy that none of us can see and therefore can't fight. In the meantime, you have to look after yourself and that includes being able to say “No” both to yourself and other people.

The world isn't going to get back to normal any time soon. I think all of us can agree on that. Right now we're currently waiting to see what the consequences will be from some of the places that are restoring normality and what reactions will take place to any increased cases.

If you're not feeling great right now, or if you've never lived with mental health issues, the first thing you should do is to seek help from a medical professional. Call your doctor. Many of them are ready for this and waiting for your call. They'll be able to help. If you don't have a medical professional, call a local or national helpline. There are so very many of these and all of them are a quick internet search away.

There are other things that you can do while either at home or waiting to receive help:

  • Listen to soothing music or white noise. White noise includes wind, rain, and nature sounds. Sleep Droid Studios (as well as many other channels) on You Tube has lists of videos that are several hours long. These videos can also be used to aid fractured sleep patterns.

  • Meditate. Take a few minutes to close your eyes and clear your mind. This may seem difficult in the present moment but allow those racing thoughts to filter through your head.

  • Drink a herbal tea. There's many out there. Chamomile is recommended for relaxation, especially just before bed.

  • Ignore the news. Yes, it's difficult when it's thrust in our face, dropped into our phones, and posted on social media. Turn off notifications, block news websites and “snooze” people on social media who are posting anything that distresses you.

  • Take a social media break or limit your time on social media. For many of us, social media is one of the primary ways that we're keeping in touch with friends and family. But it's also causing some of the stress that we're experiencing right now. Limit how much time you're on there. If you need to take a break, log out or delete the apps from your devices.

  • Post positive messages. Over the past weeks, the news has become darker as conspiracy theories and politics take hold. If you need to be on social media and feel the need to post, use the moment to post a photo that you took or to speak on his everything is making you feel. It may not change the minds of those who are speaking negatively but you're using the time to help remove some of your own feelings. Turn off commenting or limit the audience if you fear any negativity may come from it.

  • Spend time outside, especially if it's sunny. If this isn't possible, try and be beside a window to allow the sunlight on your skin. Vitamin D is a great mood booster. If you're worried about vitamin D deficiency, you may also want to talk to a medical professional.

  • Find something to help pass the time. Yes, motivation is low at the minute. Everyone's feeling that right now but even doing something for a few minutes can help. Read those books you've always wanted to read. Learn a new language (Duolingo is free from the app stores). Listen to music. Walk laps around your house. Finish that series you started back before Christmas.

  • Journal. Writing can be a real relief during this period. Again, motivation is low so don't beat yourself up if you start and then don't continue. You can even do a simple bullet point journal of things that you're grateful for right now.

  • Places like Reddit can, despite being rife with conspiracies or politics, be a bit of a safe haven. They allow you customise your front page so find comforting subreddits like r/raining, r/Autumn, or r/CosyPlaces.

  • Having anxiety attacks at being outside? Products like Bach's Rescue Remedy are all natural and help to ease off those anxious moments.

  • Breathe. Whenever you start to feel overwhelmed, take a few moments to pause and take some deep breaths.

  • Drink water, especially if you're drinking alcohol or caffeinated drinks. Water will help to keep you hydrated, stave off hangovers or caffeine headaches, and help your body to keep itself going.

Most of all, look after yourself. Don't force yourself to do anything that you don't want to do. Allow your mind to rest and wander. If you need help, don't be afraid to ask for it.

Rachael lives with bipolar and has written a book full of her personal tips and tricks on how to look after your mental health (You Are Not Broken).