The Corona Virus has caused a sudden and dramatic change in all our lives and the challenges of social distancing, school closures and for some strict isolation can feel overwhelming. It can also be difficult to know where to begin and to get a sense of what might be helpful and less helpful in the avalanche of material and advice. I have put together a collection of resources that might provide a starting point and will keep it updated as and when I can.
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Take your time
Firstly, it is important to recognise that this has been a shock to all of us and to take some time to take care of ourselves. At the moment it might feel hard to concentrate or to clearly see ways ahead, especially if you are facing additional challenges like caring for others, home schooling or losing employment. Allow yourself some time to recover from the initial shock, recognising that this phase will pass and give yourself a little time before you try working on solutions.
Over the past couple of weeks a range of information packs and guides have been put online a few of which are listed at the bottom of this page should you wish to explore them. Finding what works for you however is most important, here some basic ideas to try.
Finding a routine can be very helpful, one which can accommodate necessary changes and can give a sense of control as well as making sure that we don’t fall into over-working, getting stuck reading difficult news stories or feeling overwhelmed. It is important to also build in time for exercise and social contact via phone calls, video calls or emails and to make sure there is balance and change over the week, with breaks at the weekend.
An example schedule might be as follows but consider what works best for you.
7:30am Breakfast with housemates, family or video call
9am Work or School Work or Study
2:30pm Work or School Work or Creative Project
5pm Exercise or Free Time
8pm Social Time - movie night, calls, emails, meditation, journalling
Some people may find it easier if they get up earlier in the morning or others later but bear in mind it is helpful to maintain a consistent waking and bedtime. If you are sharing your space it can also be helpful to divide up chores between all the members of a household, even the smallest or oldest, so that everyone can contribute and so that things don’t end up overwhelming one person. This can also be a valuable way of sharing and developing important skills like cooking.
2. Making Space
Working or schooling from a space you usually do not have to or being in the same place for extended periods can be a big change and if that space is limited can be very challenging. Changing the use of spaces for example designating a specific work area during the day or adapting an area like working from your bedroom during the day and then changing the lighting or burning a scented candle before bed can help.
If you are sharing with housemates, friends or even a partner privacy can be at a premium, agreeing to exercise separately or making calls while others are doing essential shopping or in another room can buy valuable personal space as can making sure you take the time you need alone.
Advice on working from home can be found here:
- How to Work Productively From Home - Awareness Centre
- Working from home? Here's what you need to know - TUC
- Working from Home - The Independent
3. Self Care
This has undoubtedly been a shock for all of us so it is important to check in to see where you are and to allow yourself some time to think about ways in which you can find your feet. Many of us have had difficult experiences in the past and current events might remind us of times when we have felt overwhelmed in the past. It can be useful to recognise if we are experiencing feelings that remind us of such times and what we have learned or been able to do to overcome those feelings in the past. These valuable skills are still available to you and you can share them with others. It can also be useful to explore new approaches to add to your existing resources.
Journalling or keeping a diary
It can be hard to keep what is happening in perspective and also to keep a sense of time when thing are changing so quickly. Keeping a journal or diary of your thoughts can be a helpful way of having some space to reflect but also to keep a sense of time.
I will be posting some worksheets on how to begin and exercises here in the next few days.
Other resources can be found here:
Such dramatic change can be frustrating and sometimes overwhelming, taking time out in a journal or just to reflect at the end of the day on five things that went well or what you are grateful for can be helpful to keep perspective and has been shown to improve mood and quality of sleep.
There are a huge number of apps and films online with basic techniques and guided mediations which might be of interest.
Explore what feels right to you
- Range of Useful Exercises from NHS
- NHS One You Mental Health Support
- FACE COVID - How to Respond Effectively to the Corona Crisis - youtube video
4. Building Connections and Keeping in Touch
Old Friends, new friends, neighbours, family. In these times it is particularly important to build and refresh our networks and a great time to reach out to neighbours or those you have perhaps not been in touch with for a while. It is also useful to think if you know of anyone who might perhaps be struggling or particularly isolated that you could reach out to, making connections even just passing on a funny picture or a quick text can help us all to feel connected. A lot of the groups and meeting places we rely on are closed so reaching out by message or online can be a positive way of keeping in touch.
Supporting Each Other
One of the positives to come out of this difficult time has been the way in which people have come together to support one another and it can be helpful to have focus and feel useful at this time. Maybe check online for local schemes or ways in which you might be able to help or might be able to get help should you need it.
There are also wider schemes if you are fit and able and would like to volunteer
- Volunteering to support the NHS, via goodsamapp
- Corona Virus Responders Do It
- Volunteering Matters
- Reach Volunteering
- The Land Army
5. Keeping Moving, Keeping Well
One of the best ways we can take care of our mental wellbeing is to take care of our physical health and moving is one of the best ways. Where ever possible try and get outside for an hour each day, whether for a walk or into a park or garden. Avoid staying still for too long and if you can eat away from your desk or sofa. We may end up being asked to stay indoors for periods of time and if you do not have outside space opening windows and doors and arranging with neighbours to chat from the windows can be a good way of getting some air and feeling connected.
There are also a lot of great online work outs and classes you can follow and there are things that can suit everyone no matter their age or ability.
- Jo Wicks Daily Workout for Kids and Families
- Yoga West Online
- Special Yoga Centre Online Training
- Qigong Daily Routine
- NHS Couch to 5k
6. What can I control
Sometimes it can be difficult to focus but having a list prepared of things that might help lift your mood and then doing one can be a great help. Lists are obviously very personal but some suggestions might be:
- Take a walk
- Go outside
- Open a window
- Drink a cup of tea
- Have a nap
- Do yoga
- Call a friend or family member
- Hug your kids/ cat /teddybear
- Take a bath or shower
- Write in a journal
- Give yourself a foot rub
- Do some colouring
- Do a crossword
- List 5 things you are grateful for
- Declutter a drawer
- Create a vision board
- Look through old photos
- Make yourself a play list
- Learn about mindfulness or another new skill
- Count the stars
- Draw a sketch
- Read a poem
- Write a poem
- Make your bed
- Light a candle
- Sing a song
- Take a deep breath
- Make a list of things that make you feel good
- Play an instrument
- Have a kitchen disco
- Tend a plant
- Feed the birds
- Reach out to an old friend
- Revisit a favourite novel or film
- Give yourself permission to just sit
Other things that can help are making sure you finish tasks that you begin and keeping your daily to-do list down to three things, checking them off before you begin another.
What if I get ill?
A lot of us are anxious about the virus itself which is natural and daily tolls of hospital admissions and deaths can make it seem very scary. Checking reliable sources of information like the NHS can be useful as can making some small preparations such as making sure you have some tissues, paracetamol or honey and lemon or making and freezing some of your favourite soup. If you have pre existing medical conditions check with your GP or usual specialist on what might be best for you and follow the government guidelines about self care and when to call 111 for advice.
Identify what makes you feel worse
It can be helpful to take some time to notice what is making us feel better and what is not helping. Alcohol perhaps might be a temporary lift but can often make us feel more anxious and can disturb sleep leaving us less able to manage. Staying up late or watching violent films can also lower mood as can repeatedly checking difficult news stories. It is a good idea to limit yourself to checking the news to perhaps once or twice a day.
An unprecedented amount of material has been made available so finding other things to explore has never been easier.
- Wold Famous Museums Available Online
- Tour Bath and Bristol from your Sofa
- Tours of American National Parks Online
- London Theatre Shows Online
- Best Virtual Tours of World Famous Landmarks - The Guardian
- Watch Charlie Chaplin Films
- Colouring Books from Museums Around the World
- Art Books Online
- Funny Podcasts to Lighten your Mood
- Free Cooking Lessons
- Free to access 100s of courses Ted Ed
- Stay inspired while staying staying at home
- Northern Lights Live Stream
- New York Philharmonic Free Live Performances
- World Folk Music Archive
7. Kids and Young Adults
It is important to recognise that this is also very challenging situation for kids and young adults, many have had school closed unexpectedly on them, may be being forced into transitions much earlier than expected and will be really missing their social groups and the routine of school. This is a significant loss and may be played out in sadness, anger or frustration. Making space for these feelings and time for them to adjust is important. The schools have done a heroic job at getting teaching materials online but it may take a little while before your child feels ready to go back to it and it is important for them to take the lead on this. In a world where they are worked very hard at school and have very full schedules it will be a significant adjustment for everyone so a balance will be important. Concerns about screen time are natural and with the usual advice about online safety in mind, at this time such games might allow them to be talking to friends and socialising as well as allowing them to spend some time in a familiar space where they can feel in control, giving them a valuable break from what can feel like a chaotic situation.
- Young Minds What to do if you’re anxious about corona virus
- Dr’s Chirs and Xand help explain what is happening
- Unicef Advice on How to talk to children about coronavirus
- Guardian Isolation Guide for Parents and Teenagers
- Think Ninja support for kids
For children and young adults this can be a difficult transition as it is neither school time nor holidays and establishing that this is different can make it easier to understand. Taking time to talk to children about your own childhood experiences of significant events might help put it into context as might sharing favourite stories or films and creative time together.
- Free Audio Story from David Walliams Every Day
- Childrens Books to Share about Kindness
- Blue Peter Five Ways to Beat Boredom
- Free Audio Books for Children from Audible
- Free Access to Thousands of Historical Childrens Books
8. Further Support
- Creating a Home Retreat
- Pause, reflect and stay home': how to look after yourself and others in self-isolation The Guardian
- School of Life
- Coronavirus How to Protect your Mental Health - BBC
- Recovery College
- Action for Happiness
- Tara Brach
- Positive Psychology Crisis Kit
- Downloadable PDF from Bristol based Psychologist Dr Kate Castle
9. Professional Help
Many therapists and counsellors are working to put themselves online and are also grouping together to offer a range of services including free or reduced price spaces to individuals who may not be able to afford professional help at this time. I will add links as these services go online but good places to look are:
- NHS Helplines
- NHS - Mental Health Apps
- Cunselling Directory
- The Practice Rooms
- The Help Hub
- Awareness Centre Online & Telephone Counselling London Based
- Cruse Bereavement Care
- National Domestic Abuse Helpline (24/7 service) 0808 2000 247
- Women’s Aid also offer online support: 10am - midday each day
- SARSAS (Somerset and avon rape and sexual abuse service) are running extended hours on their helpline