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Coping with your feelings during the COVID-19 pandemic

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Coping with your feelings during the COVID-19 pandemic

Credit: NHS Lanarkshire Psychological Services (March 2020)

First of all: there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to feel

  • It is normal to be feeling stressed, anxious and scared right now. We haven’t experienced anything like this before. That’s true right around the world.
  • One of the scariest things is uncertainty, especially as everything unfolds so fast. Human beings hate uncertainty, and want guaranteed answers. Because there aren’t any, our anxiety is likely to be high. Again, this is the most normal thing in the world right now.
  • Anxiety brings with it lots of different physical feelings. This can include a racing heart, chest pain, sweatiness and a shortness of breath. Again, all of these are very normal.
  • In response to those feelings, our minds might say: “What if it’s coronavirus?” That’s normal too. The NHS website, www.nhs.uk , is very good on what the actual symptoms are. Visit its dedicated coronavirus page for this and lots more useful information.
  • When we can’t go out and do what we usually do, that is also going to give rise to very understandable frustration, confusion and worry.

What we can all do (and what we can’t)

  • The most important thing is to allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling. It’s OK not to feel OK. Our thoughts and feelings might keep changing very rapidly: that’s totally normal.
  • Different people will feel different things at different times, and that’s OK too. We’re not always going to be on the same page as our family and friends.
  • We can’t switch off, or get rid of, difficult thoughts and feelings. But we can learn ways of coping with them and responding to them. We’ve put together some ideas below.
  • It’s tempting to spend a lot of time looking online for news – especially at social media. However, this can make us feel worse. So, if you’re going online to look for updates, try to do it only once or twice a day, at specific times.
  • Use trusted sources, such as www.nhs.uk and Public Health England, which have links to the latest reliable information.

How you can help your own mental health

  • The key thing is to be kind to yourself. Try to eat healthily. Take some exercise where you can. Stick to a sleep routine. Pace yourself. And, most of all, don’t blame yourself or beat yourself up if you feel you’re not coping as well as you’d like. This is new, for all of us. We’re not suddenly going to become perfect at working from home or looking after our children all day.
  • Be kind to others, too. Doing this makes us feel good about ourselves as well. Some ideas are available here.
  • Take time to do the things you enjoy. Even when we can’t go out, we can watch, read, play, listen … and learn. See below for a link to a useful NHS booklet about coping with being indoors.
  • Stay in touch with people you like and trust if you can. When you’re physically distancing, or if you’re having to self-isolate, why not reach out by phone, message or video call?
  • Remember that alcohol and drugs are never good coping strategies. Even if they feel it in the short term, they very quickly cause problems to mount up.

More things that everyone can try