Coronavirus: Mersey therapist’s advice on looking after your mental health while self-isolating - The Guide Liverpool

Coronavirus: Mersey therapist’s advice on looking after your mental health while self-isolating

17/03/2020

We speak to a mental health practitioner to get some tips on looking after our minds during the corona virus outbreak


As sociable creatures, it’s hard to think about keeping ourselves apart from others. However necessary, the very thought can send some of us into a cold sweat and panic. 

So Merseyside therapist Russell Hoyles, a private practitioner with almost 30 years’ experience as a mental health practitioner with the NHS and Social Services too, has advice to help us deal with it…

‘Self-Isolating’ and ‘Social Distancing’ are key elements of Government policy as the country struggles with the coronavirus pandemic. 

That we are being requested to do so as opposed to being compelled as in other countries implies ‘choice’ when the reality may feel as if we have none.

No choice. No certainty as to what the future holds.

The consequence for many who isolate is that mood and feelings are significantly affected. Anxiety, frustration, boredom, feelings of desperation and hopelessness among others can emerge.

In short, it’s tough mentally. Very tough. Add to this the very real fear of getting ill, especially if you are in a ‘vulnerable’ group and you have the perfect storm for a mental health meltdown. 

What can be done to help us stay positive? Well the first thing is to step back, take a pause and to recognise that it’s the lack of control that most of all impacts us. BUT that there are areas of our lives where we DO have control and where we can make decisions that help us stay well, recover quicker, and empower ourselves to ‘get through this’.

So, make the decision to TAKE CHARGE where you can! Recognise those things you CAN control and adopt strategies and routines that help. I suggest you consider the following: 

Adopt a healthy routine around getting up, making the bed, getting dressed, eating healthily, maintaining self-care and that of your home. Don’t slip into the malaise of lying in bed and ‘couching’. Lethargy and inactivity are the bedfellows of low mood and depression.

Switch off the constant news flow that can overwhelm you and distort your sense of perspective. Take a break! Check in once a day only to gather the latest Government and NHS advice.

Distract yourself positively in things you enjoy, music, films, reading etc. Revisit hobbies, old and new and allocate a time within your daily routine to do so. Order. Routine. Structure. All help you through the day. 

While you may be physically isolated you can still maintain contact with those around you. Phone. Email. Video. Write a letter! If you are alone, organisations like Age UK, The Samaritans, and Charitable bodies like Macmillan are among many who offer support networks. 

Talk. Really talk about how you feel to friends and family and, controversially perhaps, if you’re isolated as a couple or family, consider keeping physical contact going among you. Hugging and other physical contact stimulate hormones that lift your mood! 

Exercise! Its currently accepted that exercise outdoors while maintaining a two-metre distance from others is fine. If you can’t do so then do what you can indoors but let daylight and fresh air in while your exercising. Daylight and fresh air stimulate nature’s own mood lifters, while exercise helps diminish stress hormones. 

Think about using relaxation and meditation techniques to help you manage those unwelcome feelings like anxiety. They do help and there are numerous free apps out there to access. If you have not tried them before maybe now is the time. 

If you do become unwell then follow medical guidance BUT try to adopt a positive outlook. Work done in clinical trials tells us feeling engaged in our own treatment by way of using our own psychological resources can help in the recovery process. 

Create an information ‘security blanket’. Make sure the contacts you need including your GP, trusted friends, neighbours, and others are easily accessible to you.

So you see, there is a choice. You do have a say in how you navigate your way through this. It will require resolve, but routines and habits put in place at the outset offer the potential to really help you.

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. 

Russell Hoyles is a life coach and counsellor, based at Fairfield Independent Hospital. St Helens. www.russellhoyles.com 

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