Understanding mental health
We’re living in uncertain and rapidly changing times, and it is understandable to be concerned about the impact this may have on your mental health or that of your children or people you care for, particularly if they have underlying difficulties. It's really normal to feel stressed or anxious and it's important to take extra steps to look after your mental health.
Look after yourself
You may already be aware of the '5 ways to well-being'. It is still possible to do these activities from home, but they may require some creativity to adapt them during the coronavirus outbreak. We have collated a number of resources available to help you do this and to look after your well-being more generally.
There is strong evidence that indicates that feeling close to, and valued by, other people is a fundamental human need and one that contributes to functioning well in the world.
It’s clear that social relationships are critical for promoting wellbeing and for acting as a buffer against mental ill health for people of all ages.
Whilst we are not able to connect with people in person in the same way at the moment there are many ways that you can still connect with family, friends and colleagues using digital technology, such as WhatsApp, Skype and Social Media. Learning Disability England have put together advice on keeping in touch.
- Be Active
Regular physical activity is associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety across all age groups. Exercise is essential for promoting well-being.
But it doesn’t need to be particularly intense for you to feel good - slower-paced activities, such as walking, can have the benefit of encouraging social interactions as well providing some level of exercise.
Even though lockdown restrictions are easing, many people will be spending more time indoors than before lockdown started. There are a number of great ways that you can stay active at home. Visit our page on keeping active on the Local Offer for more information on how to stay active at home while self-isolating.
In addition, you can now leave your home to exercise and spend unlimited time outdoors for recreation with your household, or in groups of up to six people from outside your household or within your support 'bubble.' Visit the government website for more information on meeting people outside your home.
It is also important to eat well and stay hydrated. The Mind website has information about the link between what you eat and how you feel.
- Take Notice
Reminding yourself to ‘take notice’ can strengthen and broaden awareness. Studies have shown that being aware of what is taking place in the present directly enhances your well-being and savouring ‘the moment’ can help to reaffirm your life priorities.
Heightened awareness also enhances your self-understanding and allows you to make positive choices based on your own values and motivations. Take some time to enjoy the moment and the environment around you.
You can do this through relaxation and self-care activities.
The NHS website has information on mindfulness and to help with practising it. Mindfulness can be a helpful technique to help you take notice.
The Anna Freud Centre has over 90 self-care activities that young people can do to look after their own mental health. Many of these will also be relevant for adults and support be able to offer parents/carers ideas of how they can support the children/young people they are looking after.
In particular, try to limit the time you spend watching, reading or listening to coverage of COVID-19 on the news. Use trustworthy sources such as gov.uk or the NHS website, and fact-check information from the news, social media and other people.
Continued learning through life enhances self-esteem and encourages social interaction and a more active life. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the opportunity to engage in work or educational activities particularly helps to people out of depression.
Explore your local libraries online resources for access to more learning and activities.
The Royal College of Occupational Therapists has help advice on routines and activities for staying well when social distancing.
For children, there are many ways that they can still learn whilst they are not in school. Please see some of the useful home schooling resources for parents, teachers and SENCos and the Family Support Pack from Swindon Educational Psychology Service.
It can help to create a schedule for learning at home (but remain flexible). It is helpful to have consistent bedtimes and get up at the same time each day.
Structure the day for learning, including free time, healthy meals and snacks and physical activity. Include a range of activities, like puzzles, painting, drawing and making things.
Remember that independent play can also be used in place of structured learning. Encourage children to build a fort from sheets or practice counting by stacking blocks.
Practice handwriting and grammar by writing letters to family members (also a great way to connect with people whilst limiting face-to-face contact).
Stay in touch with your child’s school, some schools are offering lessons online (virtual learning) whilst others are providing learning activities and suggestions that can be done at home.
Seeing yourself and your happiness linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people around you. See below for how to safely look out for other people during the coronavirus outbreak.
The sudden change we are all facing and the continual daily updates can make the advice confusing. To help overcome this, the government website has a page of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to help get a clearer idea of government advice around what you can and cannot do during the outbreak.
The government website also has official guidance on the mental health and wellbeing aspect of coronavirus.
- Managing your anxiety
Our world is changing rapidly at the moment. Given some of the news coverage, it would be hard not to worry about what it all means for yourself, and for those you love.
Worry and anxiety are common problems at the best of times, and when it takes over it can become all-encompassing. Psychology Tools have put together a free guide to help you to manage your worry and anxiety in these uncertain times and Anna Freud are a useful source of help and guidance for looking after your mental health needs during the coronavirus outbreak.
Once you have read the information, feel free to try the exercises if you think they might be helpful to you. It's natural to struggle when times are uncertain, so remember to offer care and compassion to yourself, and to those around you. Please see the documents below for further information.
Look out for others
Coronavirus is affecting everyone. Now is also a time to look out for others of our friends, families, and within our communities. There are many ways you can do this safely.
- Appoint someone in your community/neighbourhood as the main gatherer of information so that everyone in your area gets access to the same and most accurate information.
- Please be mindful with your comments and actions, so as not to cause undue concern or anxiety within your community. If you hear misinformation that may cause issues, respectfully challenge if you’re able to
- Please be respectful of anyone you know who has been diagnosed with coronavirus, as it’s likely to be an anxious time for them. Please do what you can to respect and protect their privacy, and do not speculate with the local media or on social media.
- Public Health England (PHE) has advised people who are self-isolating to do what they can to avoid visitors to their home and any deliveries of groceries, medications or other shopping to be left at the door so please ensure that when you are providing support this advice is followed.
Visit the government website for advice on how to help others.
Looking out for the signs and symptoms of poor mental health
Everyone is different and mental health problems show themselves in different ways however, the following signs and symptoms are common indicators that someone may be experiencing emotional or mental health problems.
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Changes in appetite
- Feeling low, sad or anxious
- Feeling hopeless, helpless and negative
- Loss of interest in things that you are usually interested in
- Feeling tired, lethargic or having no energy
- Difficulties in concentrating and making choices
- Morbid thoughts of death or suicide
- Restlessness and irritability
This page was last updated on 15/06/2020