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The length of the pandemic, the time of year and a combination of other issues will add to people’s growing stresses, says the director of social inclusion and participation at Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust.
And he warned: “We should all look after our mental health and follow the five ways to wellbeing at any time in our daily lives. But while it is true at any time, it’s more important than ever during the pandemic.”
Michael, who is also head of Mersey Care’s The Life Rooms population health service, believes it isn’t difficult to see why lockdown is more difficult to cope with now.
“It’s harder to get the resolve back that we had in the first one,” he says. “Then, it was spring and summer, it was light, we could get outdoors and people banded to together. This time it’s winter, the days are shorter and we are all stuck within four walls for longer, and feel more closed in.”
* We have the hope of the vaccine, but many will be aware of emerging into the biggest economic depression, and be concerned about job prospects, paying bill and the mortgage.
* There can be an inconsistency of messaging about what needs to happen and that makes it harder to trust.
* People’s anxiety as this has gone on longer has increased.
* Right now, parents have the children at home again, and have to home-school while they are trying to do their work.
And he goes on: “Social isolation is perhaps the biggest challenge and the hardest factor of all in this.
“People had been socially-isolated for a period and then come out of the first one and started to be able to mix a bit more, go to places and see another living soul. Things were opening up and it’s almost cruel to send people back to it after giving them a glimpse of some normality.
“It’s really a combination of things – we can withstand one assault to the system, and perhaps even be able to withstand a second. But throw a third in and even the strongest will start to struggle.
“There will be people who weathered the storm first time round and got by, but that’s a far greater challenge this time. We need those early interventions and we need to follow them.”
1. Connect: Talk and listen to other people, be there for others – be connected to others. “Talking is the most important thing,” says Michael.
2. Be active: Get outdoors, do what exercise you can and what you enjoy – it will lift your mood.
3. Give: Give your time, your presence and your words to others. It will help you and them. “Another thing that’s been re-introduced in lockdown is the importance of community, being part of that and having that good old-fashioned community feeling coming back.”
4. Take notice: Remember the simple things that give you joy. “If we take anything from the pandemic it will hopefully be to appreciate what we have.”
5. Keep learning: Embrace new opportunities and experiences, and surprise yourself.
“It’s the invisible stuff that’s really the challenge. We all know about the five-a-day for our physical wellbeing, but the five-a-day for our mental wellbeing are equally important,” says Michael. “Now more than ever.”
Mersey Care has also created The Life Rooms, now an online service which provides free mental and physical wellbeing courses.
“We were seeing a massive surge in mental health treatment before we entered this stage. We are all susceptible, we are all experiencing this, and mental health issues can happen to anyone.
“There’s only so much an individual system can stand, and we all need to look after ourselves and each other. Get talking – we don’t exist in isolation, we exist to be in a relationship and there’s a lot to be gained from knowing there’s a human being out there who cares.”
Mersey Care – 24 hour urgent mental health support helpline – call 0151 296 7200
Mersey Care Life Rooms – online learning – #StayingWellStayingHome
Mental Health Foundation – Looking after your mental health during the Coronavirus outbreak
Public Health England)
Calm App – Free guided meditations and other resources
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