1. Reduce news consumption. We are now in the 24 hour coronavirus news cycle. This is a topic that everyone knows and worries about, therefore news outlets are incentivised to produce as much as possible. We are already overwhelmed with case statistics, death statistics, global updates, political updates, human interest stories, speculations regarding vaccines and much more. This is likely to continue and no person can feel on top of it all. It therefore makes sense to limit consumption of news in all their forms, including TV, radio, online news and social media news feeds. If you are worried about missing important government updates, you can sign up to official email alerts here https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
2. Create structure in your day. We have all experienced significant changes to our daily routine. Spending some time to purposefully create a new timetable can give us a sense of control over our lives and also reduce the cognitive resources required to plan each day from scratch. To create a structure, firstly make a list of everything you have to do now (recognising that some tasks may be new). This may include working from home, procuring food and household items, home schooling your children, exercise, virtual catch ups with friends and family, preparing meals etc. Next, prioritise complex tasks, such as work projects, to be done early in the day when your energy is high; this will also create a sense of achievement for the rest of the day.
3. Stay connected. Quality social connections create a foundation for a healthy emotional life. However, the nuance of living under coronavirus rules means that instead of a social mix of family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances, we have ended up with two very distinct groups: (1) people we live with (perhaps family, love ones or housemates) and (2) everyone else, who we cannot see. The balance here is to recognise that group 1 we see a lot more than usual so it is important to cultivate patience and give each other personal space. With group 2 on the other hand, we need to make more effort to keep in touch through means we have available.
4. Take any opportunity for physical exercise. Exercise has been scientifically proven to have a hugely beneficial impact on mental health, including improved brain function, improved sleep, reduction in stress, depression and anxiety. Now is more important than ever to try to fit in regular, particularly aerobic, activity. As of today, we can still go outside once a day, so if you can, go for a brisk walk, run, interval run (NHS has an excellent Couch to 5k app) or a ball game with people you share your home with. You can also do exercise videos at home, work in the garden if you have one or play active games, such as hide and seek, with children.
5. Adjust your expectations and be kind to yourself. We are all struggling with the pace of change at the moment. You may have had plans for this year which had to be put on hold. You may have had goals in different areas of life which are now more difficult to work towards. Give yourself permission to not be ok. Take things one day at a time. We have not chosen the external events which are taking place right now, but this period need not be all bad if we can be open to adaptation.
Fernwood Clinic Team
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