TOP TIPS: Here's how to mind your mental health during the Covid 19 lockdown...

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Darren Hassett

Reporter:

Darren Hassett

Email:

darren.hassett@iconicnews.ie

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Clinical Psychologists from across the HSE have been working hard to support all of our mental health and well being at this time.

They have answered some questions that may be on a lot of your minds as Covid 19 continues to pull us away from our day to day routines.

“Remember that talking things through with someone can help lessen worry or anxiety. You don't have to appear to be strong or to try to cope with things by yourself.”-HSE.ie

How Might My Mental Health Be Affected?

Infectious disease outbreaks like coronavirus (COVID-19) can be worrying. This can affect your mental health. But there are many things you can do to mind your mental health during times like this.

The spread of coronavirus is a new and challenging event. Some people might find it more worrying than others. Try to remember that medical, scientific and public health experts are working hard to contain the virus.

Most people’s lives have changed and will continue to change in some way over a period of days, weeks or months. But in time, it will pass.

What Should I Watch Out For?

You may notice some of the following:

increased anxiety
feeling stressed
finding yourself excessively checking for symptoms, in yourself, or others
becoming irritable more easily
feeling insecure or unsettled
fearing that normal aches and pains might be the virus
having trouble sleeping
feeling helpless or a lack of control
having irrational thoughts
If you are taking any prescription medications, make sure you have enough.

How Can I Look After My Mental Health?

Keeping a realistic perspective of the situation based on facts is important. Here are some ways you can do this.

Stay informed but set limits for news and social media
The constant stream of social media updates and news reports about coronavirus could cause you to feel worried. Sometimes it can be difficult to separate facts from rumours. Use trustworthy and reliable sources to get your news.
Read up-to-date factual information on https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/coronavirus/coronavirus.html    

“On social media, people may talk about their own worries or beliefs. You don’t need to make them your own.”

On social media, people may talk about their own worries or beliefs. You don’t need to make them your own. Too much time on social media may increase your worry and levels of anxiety. Consider limiting how much time you spend on social media.

If you find the coverage on coronavirus is too intense for you, talk it through with someone close or get support.

How Do I Structure My Day?

Your routine may be affected by the coronavirus outbreak in different ways. But during difficult times like this, it’s best if you can keep some structure in your day.

It’s important to pay attention to your needs and feelings, especially during times of stress. You may still be able to do some of the things you enjoy and find relaxing.

For example, you could try to:

•              exercise regularly, especially walking but keep within 2 kilometres of your home

•              If you are over 70 you should stay at home and exercise in your garden if possible

•              keep regular sleep routines

•              maintain a healthy, balanced diet

•              avoid excess alcohol

•              practice relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises

•              read a book

•              search for online exercise or yoga classes, concerts, religious services or guided tours

•              improve your mood by doing something creative

Stay connected to others

During times of stress, friends and families can be a good source of support. It is important to keep in touch with them and other people in your life.

If you need to restrict your movements or self-isolate, try to stay connected to people in other ways, for example:

•              e-mail

•              social media

•              video calls

•              phone calls

•              text messages

Many video calling apps allow you to have video calls with multiple people at the same time.

Remember that talking things through with someone can help lessen worry or anxiety. You don't have to appear to be strong or to try to cope with things by yourself.

Try to anticipate distress and support each other

It is understandable to feel vulnerable or overwhelmed reading or hearing news about the outbreak.

Acknowledge these feelings. Remind yourself and others to look after your physical and mental health. If you smoke or drink, try to avoid doing this any more than usual. It won’t help in the long-term.

Try not to make assumptions

Don’t judge people or make assumptions about who is responsible for the spread of the disease. The coronavirus can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, nationality or ethnicity. We are all in this together.

How Do I Talk to Children and Young People?

Involving your children in your plans to manage this situation is important. Try to consider how they might be feeling.

Give children and young people the time and space to talk about the outbreak. Share the facts with them in a way that suits their age and temperament, without causing alarm.

Try to limit their exposure to news and social media. This is especially important for older children who may be spending more time online now. It may be causing anxiety.

What Should I Do If I Am Using Mental Health Services for an Existing Mental Health Condition?

If things get difficult, it can be helpful to have a plan to help you get through.

Things you can do:

•              have a list of numbers of mental health service and relatives or friends you can call if you need support

•              keep taking any medication and continue to fill your prescription with support from your GP or psychiatrist

•              continue with any counselling or psychotherapy session you have

•              limit your news intake and only use trusted sources of information

•              practice relaxation techniques and breathing exercises

•              If your condition gets worse, contact your mental health team or GP.

Online and phone supports

Face-to-face services are limited at the moment. But some services are providing online and phone services.

There are also many dedicated online services that can help.

Use this website to find supports https://www2.hse.ie/services/mental-health/services-search/  

Do you Have Any Relaxation Tips?

Relaxing gives your mind and body time to recover from the stresses of everyday life. Breathing techniques and remembering to be present can help.

Fit things into your day that help you unwind. It's different for everyone - for you, it could be

•              listening to music

•              going for a walk but keep within 2 kilometres of your home

•              If you are over 70 you should stay at home and exercise in your garden if possible

•              yoga

•              running

•              reading

•              watching television

Find something that you enjoy and make a conscious effort to do that relaxing thing every day. Even 10 minutes of downtime can help you manage stress better. The more pauses you can build into your day the calmer you'll feel.

It can help to have a specific place where you go to relax. This can be your bedroom, bathroom, the garden shed or a small corner in the kitchen. It should be somewhere you feel comfortable and secure.

Here Are Some Breathing Techniques That You May Find Helpful

We all take breathing for granted. It's something that happens without us being conscious of it.

You can learn better breathing techniques. This can help to reduce stress, anxiety and panic.

Practice these tips to help you take a moment and breathe:

•              sit in a comfortable and supportive chair

•              put one hand on your chest and the other hand on your abdomen

•              breathe as you would normally, but notice where your breath is coming from in your body

•              concentrate on taking a deep breath - notice how your abdomen rises and falls

•              as you get used to taking deep breaths try holding the breath for a count of 4 and then exhaling to a count of 6 - this will encourage you to take deeper breaths

•              when taking a deep breath it's important to focus on the exhale

•              as you get better at taking deep breaths, try working towards exhaling for 9 seconds and inhaling for 7

What if I have OCD?

If you have OCD, you may develop an intense fear of:

•              catching coronavirus

•              causing harm to others

•              things not being in order

Fear of being infected by the virus may mean you become obsessed with:

•              hand hygiene

•              cleanliness

•              avoiding certain situations, such as using public transport

Washing your hands

The compulsion to wash your hands or clean may get stronger. If you have recovered from this type of compulsion in the past, it may return.

Follow the advice above. Wash your hands properly and often, but you do not need to do more than recommended.

Some people who are very frightened and have become very upset and even angry when someone walks by close to them but when this happens it is much better to move away calmly.  There is very little risk in just passing someone in a hallway and it is important to keep a bit of balance in everything, even in these difficult times.

Where can I get more information?

There is a lot of information for at these sites 

www.hse.ie/coronavirus and www.hse.ie/handhygiene 

Use this website to find supports https://www2.hse.ie/services/mental-health/services-search/ 

This website will be helpful for people with OCD: https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/mental-health/obsessive-compulsive-disorder/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd-symptoms.html  

Follow @HSElive on twitter to keep up to date

Contact the HSE Live phone line on 1850 241850 open 8 – 8 Monday to Friday and 10 – 5 on weekends