This publication is available at Guidance for the public on the mental health and wellbeing aspects of coronavirus (COVID-19) – updated 31st March 2020.  There has also been a lot of media coverage about the negative impact arising from COVID-19 additional to the worry about catching the virus.  Important factors such as social distancing, self isolating, loss of income, worry about job security, sudden remote working situations and alike are all having a toll on peoples’ mental health and wellbeing.  Hence why the Government has published guidance. 

We have redacted the full document for easier reference, and kept in some of the links. It is well worth accessing the original. You may wish to consider sending this round to employees.

What you need to know

It may be difficult but, by following guidance on social distancing, or staying at home, you are helping to protect yourself, your family, the NHS and your community.

During this time, you may be bored, frustrated or lonely. You may also feel low, worried, anxious, or be concerned about your health, or that of those close to you. Everyone reacts differently to events, and changes in the way that we think, feel and behave vary between different people, and over time. It’s important that you take care of your mind as well as your body, and to get further support if you need it.

What can help your mental health and wellbeing?

Consider how to connect with others: Maintaining relationships with people you trust is important for your mental wellbeing. Think about how you can stay in touch with friends and family via telephone, video calls or social media instead of meeting in person.

Help and support others: Think about how you could help those around you – it could make a big difference to them, and can make you feel better too. Could you message a friend or family member nearby? Are there community groups that you could join to support others locally?

Talk about your worries: It is quite common to feel worried, scared or helpless about the current situation. Remember that this is a difficult time for everyone, and sharing how you are feeling and the things you are doing to cope with family and friends, can help them too.

Look after your physical wellbeing: Your physical health has a big impact on how you are feeling emotionally and mentally. At times like these, it can be easy to fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour, which in turn can make you feel worse. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, drink enough water, exercise inside where possible and outside once a day.

If you are able to go outside, consider walking or gardening (keeping the recommended 2 metres from others as outlined in the social distancing guidance). If you are staying at home, you can find free easy 10-minute workouts from Public Health England, or other exercise videos to try at home on the NHS Fitness Studio.

Look after your sleep: Feeling anxious or worried can make it harder to get a good night’s sleep. Good-quality sleep makes a big difference to how you feel mentally and physically, so it’s important to get enough. Try to maintain regular sleeping patterns, and keep good sleep hygiene practices – like avoiding screens before bed, cutting back on caffeine, and creating a restful environment.

Try to manage difficult feelings: Many people find the news about COVID-19 concerning. However, some people may experience such intense anxiety that it becomes a problem. Try to focus on the things you can control, including where you get information from, and actions to make yourself feel better prepared. It is okay to acknowledge some things that are outside of your control right now, but constant repetitive thoughts about the situation which lead you to feel anxious or overwhelmed are not helpful.

Manage your media and information intake: 24-hour news and constant social media updates can make you more worried. If it is affecting you, try to limit the time you spend watching, reading, or listening to media coverage of the outbreak.

Get the facts: Gather high-quality information that will help you to accurately determine your own, or other people’s risk of contracting COVID-19, so that you can take reasonable precautions. Think about how possibly inaccurate information could affect others too. Try not to share information without fact-checking against credible sources.

Think about your new daily routine: Life is changing for us all for a while. Think about how you can adapt and create positive new routines – try to engage in useful activities (such as cleaning, cooking or exercise), or meaningful activities (such as reading or calling a friend). You might find it helpful to write a plan for your day, or your week.

Do things you enjoy: When you are anxious, lonely or low you may do things that you usually enjoy less often, or not at all. Focusing on your favourite hobby, learning something new, or simply taking time to relax indoors should give you some relief from anxious thoughts and feelings, and can boost your mood. There are lots of free tutorials and courses online, and people are coming up with innovative online solutions like online pub quizzes and streamed live music concerts.

Set goals: Setting goals and achieving them gives a sense of control and purpose – think about things you want or need to do that you can still do at home. It could be watching a film, reading a book or learning something online.

Keep your mind active: Read, write, play games, do crossword puzzles, sudokus, jigsaws or drawing and painting. Find something that works for you.

Take time to relax and focus on the present: This can help with difficult emotions, worries about the future, and can improve wellbeing. Relaxation techniques can also help some people to deal with feelings of anxiety.

If you can, once a day, get outside or bring nature in: Spending time in green spaces can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing. If you can’t get outside much, you can try to still get these positive effects by spending time with the windows open to let in fresh air, arranging space to sit and see a nice view (if possible), and get some natural sunlight.

Staying at home

Recent guidance is clear about the need for people to stay at home. If you are feeling anxious, it might help to think about potential challenges and make a plan for them.

Supplies: Think about how you can get any supplies you need – either from a neighbour, family friends or a delivery service so you don’t worry about running out.

If you care for other people: You may be worried about how to ensure care for those who rely on you – either your dependents at home, or others that you regularly visit. Let your local authority know if you provide care, or support someone you don’t live with.

If you are being treated or taking medication for existing conditions

Continue accessing treatment and support where possible: Let relevant services know that you are staying at home, and work out how to continue receiving support during this time.  Ask about having appointments by phone, text or online.

Keep taking your medication: You might be able to order repeat prescriptions by phone, or online using an app or website if your doctor’s surgery offers this.

●    Ask your pharmacy about getting your medication delivered, or think about who you could ask to collect it for you.

●    Continue to order your repeat prescriptions in your usual timeframe. There is no need to order for a longer duration, or larger quantities.

●    Your GP practice (or clinical team) may move your prescriptions to repeat dispensing arrangements, so you only have to contact your pharmacy to get a repeat of your medicine rather than your practice.

●    Be careful about buying medication online. You can contact NHS 111 in England if you’re worried about accessing medication.

Where to get further support

Managing physical symptoms that are triggered by stress and anxiety

It is quite common to experience short-lived physical symptoms when your mood is low or anxious; for example, faster, irregular or more noticeable heartbeat, feeling lightheaded and dizzy, headaches, chest pains or loss of appetite.

It can be difficult to know what is causing these symptoms, but often people who experience them due to stress, anxiety or low mood find that they get worse when they focus on them.

If you are experiencing stress, feelings of anxiety or low mood, you can use the NHS mental health and wellbeing advice website for self-assessment, audio guides and practical tools.

The Government website also provides further help for specific groups of people:-

            Additional advice for groups with specific mental health needs

            People with a learning disability

            Autistic people

            Older people

            People living with dementia

            Dealing with a mental health crisis or emergency

Our Consultants would be pleased to advise you on any element of the issues arising from this newsletter.