As the news that you will be staying at home for an extended period of time sinks in, it’s more important than ever to keep on top of your mental health.
Many people will not be able to catch up with friends and family members for some time. These are often the people who will first notice any changes in your ability to cope. For now, you need to do those check-ins yourselves. Here are six things you should check-in on weekly.
Set an alarm on your phone, or a reminder in your calendar, so at a set time each week you can quickly do a check in on a scale from 0 (‘not at all’) to 10 (‘extremely’) of how stressed, anxious or down you are feeling.
It is normal for these scores to go up and down each day and throughout the week but if you notice the scores are increasing and remaining very high, then it’s time to prioritise your mental health.
Take a moment to notice any tension in your body like tight shoulders, chest, or jaw. Other signs that you might be feeling stressed include dryness of the mouth, difficulty breathing, and
a racing heart.
Have there been changes in your sleep pattern? If you are constantly struggling to get to sleep, waking in the night or waking earlier than usual and finding it difficult to get back to sleep, these are signs your mind is unable to switch off and relax.
Are you always worrying about the worst-case scenarios? Wondering if things will ever get better or if you will be able to cope? Focusing on the ‘what if’ scenarios is not useful and it is best to try to limit this as much as possible.
Every day brings challenges but it’s how we deal with them which shows how we’re coping. If you find yourself frequently snapping at those you love, finding it extremely difficult to focus, or always depending on things like alcohol or food to cope, it is time to prioritise your mental wellbeing.
6. CHECK-IN BUDDY
Choose a check-in buddy. This may be your partner, housemate or even a friend or colleague you’re keeping in touch with via video messaging. Be honest about how you are coping.
Remember that you are in physical isolation, not social isolation. When we’re at home, we may need to be creative about adapting the strategies we normally use. For example, if socialising helps your mood, schedule a virtual coffee. If going to the gym helps you reduce stress, try an online workout. If taking time out helps, find a quiet place, take a few deep breaths, go for a walk or listen to music.
What to do if you are not coping.
If you take the steps above and notice that you are not coping, you can:
1. Make a self-care plan
Draft a plan of action and enlist a supportive person to help you stick to it.
2. Do activities to help reduce your anxiety
3. Get professional help when you need it
If you are feeling very anxious or sad for more than two weeks, it is time to get professional help. There are a range of free and low-cost online programmes that you can access from home and complete anonymously or with the support of a health professional.