This post was written with older people in mind, however, the tips apply to anyone who needs mental health support during this unprecedented time.
During this time of isolating and social distancing, disruptions to normal routine and fears about health and world events can leave many feeling sad, lonely and anxious. Nothing could have prepared many of us for such an unsettling time, however here are some ideas that may help you look after your mental health or that of someone you care for.
Tips for Coping with Boredom, Loneliness and Anxiety
Set a routine: Even when you are stuck at home, planning a set of activities to complete throughout the day and setting a routine can help you feel more positive and prevent boredom.
Activity swops: Exchange something you normally do for a suitable alternative. For example, if on a Wednesday morning you normally meet for coffee with friends use this time to put the kettle on and ring someone for a chat. If you normally go for a walk in the afternoons try some appropriate physical activity in the house or garden.
Local Support: Many communities, charities or churches have set up groups to provide advice, support or shopping for those who are isolated using social media or text messages. Local council websites also provide information and ways of requesting support. Please remember to be vigilant and do not provide money or bank details to anyone you do not know or not from a recognised organisation.
Treat Time: Set a time in the evening to treat yourself. This could be soaking in the bath, having a favourite snack, watching a television programme or reading a chapter of a favourite book. Try to keep the ‘treat’ you choose to only this set time in the evening, so you have something to look forward to through the day
Physical Activity: Exercise and physical activity can improve mood, concentration, sleep and appetite, and can reduce anxiety. Even light activity such as walking around the house or garden, cleaning, gardening, standing and stretching can help. More moderate exercise at home can be jogging on the spot and dancing to favourite music. Only do activity that is suitable for your health and mobility. The NHS website have a selection of exercise videos including Pilates for people with various physical needs.
Sing: Whether it is in the shower or to your favourite song on the radio, studies have shown singing can lower stress and elevate mood.
Breathe: Many people, especially when they feel stressed, breathe rapidly at the top of their chest. Even when you are not feeling anxious it is good to practice breathing for 3-5 minutes a day. Breathe in gently through your nose, counting to 5 and feel your stomach rise without forcing it. Then breathe gently out through your mouth slowly, again counting to 5.
Reading and writing: Record funny jokes or incidences, create a poem, short story, or even begin an autobiography of your favourite memories. Libraries have created means of accessing free e-books, audio books and magazines through their websites.
Brighten up the house: Pick yourself some flowers from the garden, put up some fairy lights or create a window decoration. People are currently painting rainbows to stick in the window during the coronavirus pandemic as a symbol of hope
Avoid an information overload: Try to limit time spent watching news channels or viewing social media articles relating to coronavirus, especially if you experience low mood or anxiety. There is often many ‘fake news’ articles published online so only take advice from trusted sources for example the NHS and government websites.
Wildlife watch – The RSPB website has some great ideas of which birds to look out for and which foods to give them depending on the season. Edinburgh Zoo have also provided free webcams on their website.
Try a new recipe: There are many chefs on television and online supplying ideas for using store cupboard ingredients and leftovers plus we have lots of easy recipes on this blog.
Create a scrapbook: Collate photographs, pressed flowers, postive newspaper and magazine articles, recipes or pressed flowers or leaves.
Get some fresh air: If you are fortunate to have a garden or balcony spending time outside can help your mood, with sunlight having many positive benefits. Even opening the curtains and windows if the weather permits can help you feel less claustrophobic.
Stay connected: Frequent telephone or live video calls, and exchanging photographs and videos with family and friends is a great way to keep in touch.
Talk to someone: Talking through fears and concerns with the right people can often help. Anxiety UK have a wealth of resources and a helpline for anyone experiencing anxiety during this time, for more information please see the links below.
Useful Websites and resources
Anxiety UK Helpline – Special Coronavirus Hours – Weekdays until 10pm and Weekends 10am – 8pm Telephone – 03444 775774