How you’re staying on top of your mental health during the coronavirus lockdown

teenager looking worried

The latest message from the NHS is to “stay home, save lives” – here are some tips from the community to help you cope with being stuck at home

The UK has been put on lockdown to help slow down the spread of coronavirus, meaning that we’re only allowed to leave the house if we absolutely have to – to go food shopping, for example – and that we can’t meet up with any friends or family who we don’t already live with.

This might seem harsh, but it’s for good reason. COVID-19 is an incredibly quick-spreading virus, and we need to slow down the amount of people getting sick to avoid hospitals being overwhelmed with patients. To make things even more complicated, coronavirus can take about 14 days to incubate before you get any symptoms, and for some people the symptoms are so mild they don’t even know they have it – so you could be walking around while you’re contagious without realising it.

Social distancing – or, in other words, staying at home and not meeting up with people – is the only way we have to slow coronavirus down at the moment. If people aren’t going out and mixing with each other, they’re not going to be accidentally spreading the virus either, after all.

So by staying at home you’re doing a truly great thing and really helping out – but what about the impact that social isolation can have on your mental health? This is a tough time for lots of people, but there are little things you can do to feel better – here are a few ways that TSR members are coping.

teenager looking at his mobile phone

Turn off the news

Yes it’s good to be aware of what’s going on, but there’s a pretty relentless stream of coronavirus news out there at the moment, and overloading on all that doom and gloom can get really stressful really quickly.

Perhaps think about whether you need to be checking the news more than once or twice a day, and then limit yourself accordingly.

“My parents have been watching BBC news 24/7 lately and I've barely seen anything at all on there that isn't about the coronavirus. It is definitely stressing me out more than it should be,” says TSR member GreenCub.

“Stop listening to the news so often, I beg,” says Parties, while CoffeeAndPolitics agrees that “I have to turn off the news, otherwise it’s just too much to bear.”

teenager staring at mobile phone

Limit your social media scrolling…

Of course, you should definitely stay connected to your friends – but endlessly scrolling through your social media feeds isn’t necessarily the best way to do it. Do you really want to read your second cousin’s ex-boyfriend’s conspiracy theory-heavy status updates or would it be better for your mental health to log off for a while?

As Ambitious1999 says, “I know it’s hard staying away from your contacts and favourite groups, but Facebook is not worth the stress and misery from the constant bad news.”

… But still stay in touch with your friends

It’s really important that you stay in touch with your friends. Having a chat or sending some texts is a great way to boost your morale and make being stuck at home feel way less isolating.

 “Try keeping in touch with people by video calling and messaging,” says TSR member shadowdweller. “It can be easy to let this slide with everything else going on, but it’s important to make time for it.”

There are loads of group video calling and messaging apps out there – from FaceTime to Houseparty, Zoom, Google Hangouts or Whatsapp – so there’s nothing stopping you from checking in with your pals as often as you fancy.

Get moving (indoors)

Whether you’d rather do star jumps with Joe Wicks on YouTube, stretch out on your yoga mat or slip into your sparkliest ‘80s jazzercise leotard, there are all sorts of exercises you can do at home – and the mental health benefits of getting active are well documented.

“Exercising releases endorphins, which causes us to feel less pain and fewer negative effects and can bring a sense of euphoria,” says Hallowmancer. “This makes you feel happier and have a general sense of wellbeing.”

Go outside (if you can)

If you have a garden, a balcony or any outside space, spending a bit of time outdoors every day might give your mental health a boost.

“Sunlight really helps my mental heath,” comments ravenwing. “If you don’t have access to the outdoors, maybe try keeping your curtains/windows open when possible.”

And it’s okay to go outside to exercise once a day, as long as you head for open spaces that aren’t likely to be too crowded and stay at least two metres away from anybody else.

“Go for walks in spaces without a large amount of people,” recommends MartinisSkip.

teenage boy writing in diary

Have a routine

Whether you’re at school, college or university, you’ve just had your usual daily schedule snatched away from you pretty abruptly – so creating a new routine might restore a bit of normality.

You don’t have to map out every last second of your day, but even something as basic as having a shower and getting dressed when you wake up can be a big help.

“Keeping in a routine is really important for me,” says TSR member s666. “Making sure that the first thing I do in a morning is get up, get changed and overall make myself feel a bit more human is critical in setting myself up for a good day.”

“It can be really hard sometimes,” s666 adds, “but one little step to make yourself feel good in the morning is sometimes enough motivation to keep getting on with the day.”

ravenwing suggests that “a journal or planner can help with feelings of low motivation – both in helping you plan for the days ahead, and by noting down the things you’ve done you can feel proud of your achievements.”

And if you want to keep on top of your studies, an anonymous TSR member suggests that you could follow your previous timetable, as “this will make it easier to structure a routine”.

Get tips from TSR members on studying from home during the lockdown.

cacti on windowsill

Take up a hobby

Staying at home should mean that you’ll have a lot more time on your hands than usual. If you feel up to it you could make really good use of all that extra time by taking up a hobby, whether you fancy trying something totally new or picking up where you left off with an old project.

TSR member ravenwing is planning on getting their green fingers: “looking after something – whether a pet or a potted plant – helps. Cacti are good as they’re pretty hard to kill (although I’ve murdered about four by now).”

Get inspired by taking our three week lockdown challenge

You’re not alone

It’s easy to get trapped inside your own head and feel very lonely when you’re going through something stressful. But remembering that everyone is going through this crisis together should hopefully make you feel a bit less alone.

“Know that you’re not alone and everyone is in the same boat,” says an anonymous TSR member.

And you can always visit the TSR coronavirus forum if you feel like you need to chat. As CatusStarbright says, “If you need to talk there are lots of us here who can probably relate to some degree.”

Advice from PAPYRUS on dealing with school, university and exams being cancelled

TSR's mental health hub

Mental health charities and helplines

Campaign Against Living Miserable (CALM) – 0800 58 58 58

Childline – 0800 1111

The Mix – 0808 808 4994

The Mix also has resources for dealing with coronavirus anxiety.

Nightline is a listening, emotional support, information and supplies service, run by students for students.

You can find your university’s Nightline here.

Papyrus provide support for those dealing with suicide, depression or emotional distress – particularly teenagers and young adults.

You can call the Papyrus HOPELINE on 0800 068 41 41.

You can call The Samaritans on 116 123 24 hours a day. You can also get help from the Samaritans by emailing [email protected].

stem4 is a charity supporting teenage mental health. You can find resources related to helping you dealing with coronavirus anxiety on their website.

Young Minds are committed to helping young people improve their mental health. If you’re in crisis, you can text the YoungMinds Crisis Messenger for 24/7 support – for urgent help text YM to 85258. They have resources related to dealing with anxiety about coronavirus.

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