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COVID-19 and wellbeing & mental health

Reading Time: 8 minutes

COVID-19 has affected pretty much every area of life. Everything that we knew has been turned on its head and we have been left to build new lives until we can get back to seeing friends and family, doing things we love and spending time somewhere other than our houses!

For many of us, this has been a really difficult time, and we are still processing what happened in March 2020, let alone for the rest of the year. This has affected our wellbeing in different ways, including but not limited to, feelings of  increased anxiety, stress or fear, and the loss of income. Many people have also had to deal with bereavement and some of the physical and mental effects of contracting COVID-19. There’s a lot to cope with right now, and it is important to remember that you are not alone in your feelings and that this period, however long it has felt, is temporary.

What can it feel like?

Coping with the effects of COVID-19 can feel overwhelming. Whilst there have been pandemics before, including the AIDs pandemic, SARS and Spanish Flu, many of us might not have directly experienced the fear of a global health crisis before now. It is entirely natural to feel overloaded, sensitive and unsure of what the future holds.

Loneliness and Isolation

One effect that has been felt by a majority of people is loneliness and isolation from loved ones. Whether you’re living with your parents or not, we all have people who we have missed. Feelings of loneliness are hard to manage at the moment, as it is difficult to take steps to see others. For those who don't have safe home environments, this period has also been one of fear, and previous feelings of isolation from friends and family may have grown. Loneliness and isolation can increase difficulties sleeping, anxiety and potentially lead to social phobia.

Anxiety, stress or fear

Another effect that many of us are feeling is increased anxiety. This anxiety relates to many different aspects of the pandemic and can include social phobias, health anxiety and anxieties around our futures. Social phobia may lead to self-enforced isolation and low self-esteem, whilst health anxiety means someone may feel increased panic about changes in their body and frequently check for medical symptoms. For young people, this is intensified by social pressures to plan for our futures, despite the unprecedented nature of our lives. Anxiety may feel like a constant fear or short bursts of intense worry, and can sometimes lead to panic attacks. 

Throughout the pandemic, there has also been the fear of the direct experience of COVID-19. For people with existing health concerns or disabilities or who have family members who are elderly, there can be a fear of the symptoms or fatality of COVID-19. This can produce severe anxiety, which can manifest in insomnia, panicking, and sustained worry.

Lack of Control and constant changes

For young people in this pandemic, changes to our school or work life, family life and futures have been the source of huge concern and worry. As exams, employment and living situations have mostly been taken out of our hands, many of us may have been left with less control over our lives. Sometimes this has led to increases in eating disorders, depression and self-harm in young people who are coping with a significant range of social pressures.

Loss of Income

For many individuals and families throughout the pandemic, COVID-19 has had severe financial impacts. Many people have lost their jobs, or have seen family members made unemployed, which can often produce financial anxiety. As the pandemic has continued, many sectors have struggled with less funding, including the arts, hospitality and education, causing huge unemployment. This can lead to fear for the future, anxiety and low self-esteem.

The feelings and impacts listed here are not comprehensive, and there are many other pages on this website you might like to check out, including Anxiety, Experiencing Trauma and Loneliness & Isolation.

What can help

We are all still developing our strategies for dealing with the impacts of COVID-19. Different things work for different people, but it important to remember that whilst the world has changed, we will have some freedoms and controls back soon. Whilst we are waiting, however, you could try some of the options below to cope with some of the impacts.

Keep a journal.

During the lockdown, it is easy to feel like the days are floating by, and hard to keep an eye on time passing. Keeping a journal can help track this, remind you of good moments or days, and also notice patterns of mental health issues you feel you're experiencing.

Try to make a routine.

Different parts of a daily routine can help different people, but figuring out what helps your mental wellbeing can mean you can fit this into each day and have something to look forward to when you wake up. Whether this is getting an early morning, getting out for a walk or eating regular homecooked meals a day, keeping a sense of routine or pattern to your day can boost feelings of low self-esteem and boredom, and allow you to keep on top of schoolwork, workload or other projects.

Get chatting!

We might not be able to see each other, but at least we do live in an age where we can talk to people on the phone or on a video call. Calling people whilst you walk could be a nice way to make sure you are getting some exercise whilst socialising- you might even just about be able to convince yourself that you are walking together...

Get creative.

Whilst there is no need to put any pressure on yourself to achieve big things whilst in lockdown, if you have the time it may suit you to get creative. Trying some drawing, or getting some paints out might not only be a great distraction from things, but give a little sense of control over more tangible processes. Remember though, it is not necessary to be productive in lockdown. We are all dealing with this new and scary phenomena, so just maintaining your mental wellbeing and preserving your energy is important.

Find some interesting shows or podcasts.

Sometimes it can feel tough to remind yourself that there is a world outside the walls of your home. Podcasts or the radio can help you to connect with the outside world, and learn about some topics that interest you. It might be a welcome break from news-cycles and day-time TV to learn about something new. However, news channels and political podcasts can lead to an audio version of 'doomscrolling' so remember to switch to a different topic or call a friend instead if it’s getting you down!

Join some online classes.

There’s a range of content out there, from music lessons to language courses, and the lockdown might be a good time for you to learn something new and pass the time.

Seek out financial benefits.

The government benefit scheme offers some financial support to those who have been made unemployed in the pandemic, including housing benefit. This has really helped many people to pay their rent and keep some stability in their lives throughout COVID-19 so check out if you’re eligible at:

Talk to your GP.

If feelings are getting unmanageable, it is important to know that you can get help through your GP. Where these feelings are causing mental health concerns, such as difficulties with eating, self-harm or feelings of depression, it is important to seek out help where you feel comfortable.

Set up calls with friends and family

This could just be with a couple of friends, as a celebration of a birthday or festival but could give you something to look forward to in the week.

Ask for help from your school, university or workplace.

If you are struggling, different institutions have different support mechanisms to ensure that COVID-19 has less of an impact. Extenuating circumstances at university, or support plans to help you with your grades at school should be accessible, so ask around to see what is possible.

Find some local support groups.

Mutual aid support groups can help you get food or other necessities and ease financial pressures. you can find some at: 

Where to go for more support

  • 42nd Street offers a range of support for anyone who is struggling with the effects of COVID-19. We offer a range of face to face service and you can also register for online support via the online support portal, or attend weekly drop-in sessions to speak with a 42nd Street worker without organising an appointment. You can find out about all our services here
  • Mind also offers a range of services that you might find helpful, including peer support groups, and information on different mental health issues.
  • Skillshare is an example of online classes, and offer a range of different courses to help you distract yourself and learn something new. Similar apps, such as Duolingo which is free, can provide a space to learn in lockdown.
  • Beat provides information on different types of eating disorders, how best to manage them and offers helplines. Their main helpline can be found at 0808 801 0677.
  • The government website gives information on accessing financial support through this time. Alternative local community groups can ensure that you have access to food, and any other resources you may need. Check on Facebook for local groups.
  • YoungMinds offers information on self-harm and provides a crisis messenger, which can be used by young people who are experiencing mental health issues.
  • Similarly, Childline and the Samaritans offer a phone line for those who are struggling with their mental health. They can respond to a diverse range of mental health concerns, so don’t hesitate to give them a ring for some support. Childline can be found at 0800 1111.
  • AnxietyUK’s website offers a range of resources for dealing with the anxiety and stress associated with COVID-19. Their helpline is 03444 775 774 to speak to someone about how you are feeling.
  • Download a mindfulness app. Mindfulness can help you stay focused on the present and develop grounding techniques, which is especially useful when everything feels overwhelming. There are many free apps, like Headspace and Smiling Mind which can help you track your feelings and access support around the clock.

By: Iona Taylor

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