Coronavirus (COVID-19): taking care of your mental health and wellbeing

There is information and advice available about taking care of your mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Good mental health and positive wellbeing can help you better cope with the current circumstances and the uncertainty that coronavirus is creating.

Mood and feelings

Taking care of your mental health is as important as looking after your physical health.

You may find that social distancing and staying at home can be boring, frustrating or lonely and that your mood and feelings are affected.

You may feel low, worried or have problems sleeping and you might miss being with other people.

It's important to remember the actions that we are taking by staying at home may be difficult, but that they are helping to slow spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

It's natural to feel worried or anxious during these uncertain times, but there are things we can all do to help ourselves and others, to prevent these feelings from becoming more serious.

Coping with staying at home

There are some helpful suggestions to help you cope with staying at home more than you usually would. 

Keep in touch with the people who matter to you

Continue to check up on friends, family and neighbours. This could be by telephone, video calls such as Facetime, WhatsApp or Skype, email, social media or even by post.

Create a new daily routine

Get up at the same time as normal and plan how you will spend your day – cooking, reading, tidying, watching TV and so on.

If you’re a parent or carer then developing a routine for your children can also be really helpful.

Talk about your worries

You might feel worried, scared or helpless about the current situation.

It's good to talk about your concerns with others, or if you don’t have anyone to talk to you could try contact Lifeline or a charity helpline.

For those who already suffer with anxiety or other mental health issues this may bring new and difficult challenges.

It’s important that people get further support if they feel they need it. For anyone in distress or despair, the 24/7 Lifeline helpline is available on 0808 808 8000 where trained counsellors are available to help.

Avoid information overload

Rumour and speculation can fuel anxiety. Try to limit the time you spend watching, reading or listening to coverage of the coronavirus outbreak, including on social media.

Make sure you access good quality information such as nidirect, Public Health Agency and the Health and Social Care websites.

Get as much fresh air as possible

If you can, spend time in your garden, yard or even open a window to let in fresh air.

Keep active

If possible try and build some physical activity into your daily routine in line with the guidance, such as cleaning or just getting up and walking about the house.

Eat well, sleep well

If you're stressed or anxious it can be easy to forget to have a well-balanced meal.

Also drinking too much alcohol or smoking can contribute to poor mental health.

Getting a good night's sleep is also important to both mental and physical health.

Talk to your children

Most children have already heard about coronavirus or seen people wearing face masks on TV.

Children can take their cues from adults, so if you're worried, they may be also.

Don’t be afraid to ask your children what they have heard about the outbreak and support them, without causing them alarm.

It's important to try to minimise the negative impact coronavirus has, so try to avoid over-exposure to news coverage of the virus.

It's important not to give them too much information, as this may be overwhelming. Instead, try to answer your child’s questions in a way that is developmentally appropriate. Be as factual and truthful as possible.

Every child has his or her own way of expressing emotions. Sometimes engaging in a creative activity, such as playing or drawing, can facilitate this process. Children feel relieved if they can express and communicate their feelings in a safe and supportive environment.

Support for older people

Older adults, especially in isolation and those with dementia, may become more anxious, angry, stressed, agitated and withdrawn during the coronavirus outbreak and while having to stay indoors.

Share simple facts about what is going on and give clear information about how to reduce risk of infection in words that they can understand.

Repeat the information whenever necessary and keep in regular contact by telephone, email, social media or video calls.

Further information

Further advice and guidance about how to look after your mental wellbeing is available at these links:

Health and Social Care (HSC) in partnership with Organisation for Review of Care and Health Apps (ORCHA) has developed a library of apps to support health and social wellbeing during the coronavirus pandemic.

A list of telephone helplines in Northern Ireland offering support and advice around numerous areas can be found on the HelplinesNI website.

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