It feels impossible to escape updates about coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) right now, be it through the news, social media, TV or from friends and family. While it is important to stay up-to-date about the virus, an endless cycle of speculation and panic is the opposite of helpful, and can end up making you feel very anxious about the situation.

We have gathered a number of tips and recommendations to help you manage your mental health and wellbeing during this difficult time:

Schedule times to look at the news—and avoid it otherwise

The news is 24/7, so it will always seem like there’s an urgent news update you need to read. This can quickly become overwhelming, so turn off news notifications on your phone (even uninstall apps if you need to), and set aside some time each day to check the internet and stay informed. For the rest of the day, try to avoid news websites, TV shows and social media which might make you feel more anxious. If someone you know is posting about coronavirus often, you can either ‘unfollow’ them or temporarily ‘mute’ their posts.

Check the right sources

When you do seek out updates, make sure to get them from a trusted source. Both the World Health Organisation (WHO), The UK Government and the NHS have pages set up to report the latest stats and guidance.

Talk about how you’re feeling

If you are feeling anxious or worried about the coronavirus then it can be good to get someone else’s point of view.  It is easy to get overwhelmed in our own pattern of negative thoughts, so talking these though can help break those cycles.

If you’re currently staying in isolation, make plans to keep in touch with people anyway wherever possible. Maybe set up a video chat with people or groups you’d normally see in person. You could also arrange phone calls or send instant messages or texts. If you’re worried that you might run out of things to talk about, make a plan with someone to watch a show or read a book separately so you can use as a topic of discussion when you are next in contact.

Emotional and medical support

There are a number of options available to you:

  • Carers Support West Sussex response line
  • Our Response Line is open Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm (Wednesday until 7pm) and Saturday 10am – 12pm for carers to obtain information and support. All carers are provided with information, guidance and support relevant to their situation. Phone 0300 028 8888 or email info@carerssupport.org.uk
  • The Sussex Mental Healthline 
    Is a 24 hour telephone service offering support and information to anyone experiencing mental health problems including stress, anxiety and depression. The service is also available to carers and healthcare professionals. You do not need an appointment. Phone 0300 5000 101
  • Samaritans
    For another 24hour service for someone to talk to, no matter what you are going through, the Samaritans are available. There is no judgement, no pressure and they are there for anyone who needs someone. Phone 116 123
  • If you are concerned you have Coronavirus
    NHS 111 have set up an online questionnaire to self check if you have coronavirus symptoms. Please see here: https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19
  • NHS 111 
    NHS 111 can help if you have a medical problem and you’re not sure what to do. Phone 111 although please be aware that they are currently very busy so you may have a long wait.

Keep busy and distract yourself

Making time in your day to do the things you enjoy is a good way to distract yourself from the news cycle. Keep your brain occupied and challenged.

You can access a wealth of resources such as books, audiobooks, magazines and newspapers to read online from West Sussex County Councils e-library.

There are lots of different ways that you can relax, take notice of the present moment and use your creative side. These include:

  • arts and crafts, such as drawing, painting, collage, sewing, craft kits or upcycling
  • DIY
  • colouring
  • mindfulness
  • playing musical instruments, singing or listening to music
  • writing
  • yoga
  • meditation
  • reading – books or your favourite magazine or newspaper
  • listen to podcasts – check out BBC Podcasts for some ideas
  • watch films
  • do puzzles such as Sudoku

Eat well stay hydrated and sleep well

It is very easy to forget to have a well-balanced meal when we are stressed or anxious. Think about your diet. Your appetite might change if your routine changes, or if you’re less active than you usually are. Eating regularly and keeping your blood sugar stable can help your mood and energy levels. Cooking can help detract from negative thoughts and ensure that you eat well. There are many online cooking resources, such as BBC Good Food. Find out about getting food delivered. For example, you might be able to order food online for home delivery. Or you could ask someone else to drop food off for you.

Drink water regularly. Drinking enough water is important for your mental and physical health. Changing your routine might affect when you drink or what fluids you drink. It could help to set an alarm or use an app to remind you.

Don’t forget to wind down ready for bed to encourage a good night’s sleep. Spend at least an hour winding down from your day with the television or the internet turned off and unwind with perhaps a warm bath or maybe some reading while listening to your favourite music

Practice mindfulness techniques

Using mindfulness techniques can help you cope and feel more in control. Here’s a simple breathing exercise from the NHS which takes just a few minutes and can be done anywhere. You can do it standing up, sitting in a chair that supports your back, or lying on a bed or yoga mat on the floor.

  • Make yourself as comfortable as you can. If you can, loosen any clothes that restrict your breathing.
  • If you’re lying down, place your arms a little bit away from your sides, with the palms up. Let your legs be straight, or bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor.
  • If you’re sitting, place your arms on the chair arms.
  • If you’re sitting or standing, place both feet flat on the ground. Whatever position you’re in, place your feet roughly hip-width apart.
  • Let your breath flow as deep down into your belly as is comfortable, without forcing it.
  • Try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  • Breathe in gently and regularly. Some people find it helpful to count steadily from 1 to 5. You may not be able to reach 5 at first.
  • Then, without pausing or holding your breath, let it flow out gently, counting from 1 to 5 again, if you find this helpful.
  • Keep doing this for 3 to 5 minutes.

Remember, Carers Support West Sussex is here to support you through these difficult times. Get in contact with us so we can provide you with help, support and guidance.