These are difficult times. As nations try to contain and curb the spread of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, there’s plenty of worrying going on about our wellbeing, being isolated, and what comes tomorrow.
The economic fall-out and panic over supplies added to that list means that we all have to take extra care to look after our mental health.
If like me you live with chronic health problems, you probably share some of the same worries. The authorities describe the most vulnerable people as the same who tend to be recommended for flu vaccines – elderly people, pregnant women, and people with conditions like diabetes and respiratory conditions.
If like me, you live with a lifelong condition not usually mentioned, you may be wondering, and /or worried.
People with conditions like fibromyalgia tend to be more susceptible to picking up viruses and it often takes us longer to recover. We are already used to being precautious in looking after our wellbeing because we know how tough daily living can be with our conditions, so this time will be more anxiety-inducing for many of us.
Apart from the usual advice (making sure you wash hands properly, sneeze/cough into tissue or our elbows) there are other things that we can do to manage our wellbeing during these trying times.
It might be tempting to bury our heads in the sand, but we’ll feel a lot better about it if we are prepared. With panic over supplies, we undoubtedly face some challenges with this. Make sure as best as you can that you have all the usual items you use to manage your condition, including alternative remedies. Most of my diet for managing my health is fresh food so it may be tricky but do what you can. I am topping up my ginger root for pain and inflammation, and juicing a batch to freeze for rainy days. Buy/get what non-perishable food items you need when you can, and remember not to buy more than you need so others can stock what they need too.
Keep stock of prescription medication
Make sure you have enough supplies of prescription medication and if not, ask your GP if you can have a backup prescription. The last thing we want is to be worrying about medication withdrawal symptoms on top of everything.
Limit social media and news consumption
It’s important to stay informed, but don’t get too consumed by it. This is advice I’m prioritising for myself. As a journalist by trade I am constantly reading the news, but I’ve not found this helpful lately as it’s been making me more anxious. I’m trying to balance things out by reading, writing, cooking, listening to music, watching favourite movies, and doing more offline activities. I have a selection of music that I listen to when I need calming. This includes my Enya album, which I find soothing. Make a playlist, you’d be surprised how helpful it can be.
Having to self-isolate or work from home more doesn’t mean that you can’t connect with people. Connecting with people will be especially important in these times, and I’ve found it useful being more in touch with loved ones through chat Apps (like Whats App and Facebook Messenger) and phone calls.
Don’t forget about looking out for others with all the panic. We can check in on our elderly neighbours, friends and family at a safe distance, on the phone and by texting.
Exercise your body & mind
All of us will be affected by restrictions on social gatherings. Being in the same space for too long can really impact our mental health but the official advice is we can still go out to exercise as long as we keep a safe distance from others. I will be taking regular walks near home to keep my mind and body strong. You should consider it too. When/where this can’t happen, we can take time each day to do some stretches, and centre ourselves with meditation or mindfulness.
You can practice mindfulness while doing anything at all, and anyone can do it. I like to when I’m cooking or walking. I am putting more focus into practising mindfulness more. We don’t know what will come tomorrow, but we have now and we can try to make the best of it by being fully present.
Future Learn has a range of helpful, free courses to manage your mental health and support others who are struggling, including children and young people. I’ve done their courses before and would highly recommend.
Sending you love and hugs,