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Mind Your Mood

Some tips and advice about looking after your mental health during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. 

The potential impacts of COVID-19 (coronavirus) and the uncertainty this causes, combined with the increase of negative news reports are naturally leading to an increase of stress and anxiety for everyone. 

These anxieties, compared with the isolation that results from social distancing and an increased reliance on social media can be detrimental to people's mental health, particuarly those who are already living with an anxiety disorder. 

There are many things you can do to maintain a positive mental attitude and keep negative thoughts and anxieties at bay. The advice below is is part of comprehensive guidance provided by Mind and are aimed to help keep your mood in check and recommend some practical ways to tackle stress at home. 


Managing Difficult Feelings or Behaviours to do with Hygiene, Washing or Fears of Infection

Some mental health problems can cause difficult feelings or behaviours to do with washing or hygiene. If you experience this, you might find it hard to hear advice about washing your hands. 

It is important to follow government advice on helping to avoid the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), but if you find you are going beyond the recommendations, if this is making you feel stressed or anxious, or if you are having intrusive thoughts here are some things you could try:

  • don’t keep re-reading the same advice if this is unhelpful for you

  • let other people know you’re struggling, for example you could ask them not to discuss the news with you

  • breathing exercises can help you cope and feel more in control. You can find a simple breathing exercise on the NHS website and Mind’s pages on relaxation have some relaxation tips and exercises you can try

  • set limits, like washing your hands for the recommended 20 seconds

  • plan something to do after washing your hands, which could help distract you and change your focus

  • it could also help to read some of Mind’s tips in their information on obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

Speaking to your Mental Health Team

If you are already receiving mental health care, contact your mental health team to discuss how care will continue, and to update safety/care plans.

Managing Panic & Anxiety

If you have panic attacks or flashbacks, it might help to plan a ‘safe space’ in your home that you’ll go to.

You can also find ways to comfort yourself if you’re feeling anxious. For example, Mind has games and puzzles you can use to distract yourself, and breathing exercises which may help.

Managing Feelings of Being Trapped or Claustrophobia

You are probably spending more time than usual at home so try to get outside if you can, once a day. You could also open the windows to let in fresh air, find a place to sit with a view outside, or sit on your doorstep or in your garden if you have one. It can also help to regularly change the rooms you spend time in (if possible). This can help to give you a sense of space.

If you are Reducing your Drinking Significantly

If you are reducing your drinking, remember it can be dangerous to stop too quickly without proper support. If you have physical withdrawal symptoms (like shaking, sweating or feeling anxious until you have your first drink of the day) you should seek medical advice. For further advice available in your area (including remote services) see NHS advice.

People with a Learning Disability

You may be finding the coronavirus outbreak stressful. You may be worried about changes that might happen because of it, including having to stay at home. You may also be worried about your family or those close to you.

Public Health England has easy read guidance on coronavirus and how it may affect you. There is also other information available about coronavirus from Mencap and how to manage difficult feelings you are having.

Take Care of Yourself & Prevent Spreading the Virus

There are ways you can take care of yourself and prevent spreading the virus:

  • as you are asked to now stay at home you should keep in touch with people you trust (like friends, family and employer) over the phone or internet - follow the advice from the stay at home and social distancing guidance

  • there may also be self-advocacy groups in your area offering more support online or by phone - you can ask your families or carers for help to search for these groups

  • it is also important to get information about coronavirus (COVID-19) only from places you can trust, such as the NHS website

There are 4 easy steps you can take to reduce the risk of getting coronavirus or spreading it to others:

  • wash hands regularly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water

  • use a tissue for coughs and sneezes and bin it

  • avoid touching your face, including your mouth and eyes

  • get up to date information about staying at home or what to do if you feel unwell on the NHS 111 website

​If you are unsure about your symptoms speak to someone you trust about them, like a support worker

While it is important to be aware of coronavirus, it is important not to forget about any other health conditions you might have. Make sure you take any medication you have been prescribed, keep any hospital appointments you have (unless you have been told otherwise by the hospital) and tell people if you can’t attend appointments.

People with Autism

You may be finding the coronavirus outbreak stressful and are be worrying about getting the virus or changes that might happen because of it, including having to stay at home. There are ways you can take care of yourself and prevent spreading the virus:

  • Understand what is happening

  • Keep up to date with information about Coronavirus (COVID-19) from sources you can trust, such as the NHS website.

  • Help to stop the virus from spreading


Plan to Keep Mentally Well

Do the things you would usually do to keep well, like eating food you enjoy and taking exercise, once a day outside if you can. If you have support from others, plan with them how you can remain well and relaxed.

There are also other things you can do to help to manage your emotions if you feel you are losing control, such as:

  • keeping a diary

  • using apps like Brain in Hand

  • learning relaxation techniques

  • creating a plan with your carer for when you feeling anxiety

You know what strategies have helped in the past, so use them again now. The National Autistic Society guidance on managing anxiety might also be helpful.

Get Help if you are Struggling

Hearing about coronavirus and the changes it causes in your daily life, might make you feel like you don’t have control, or make you worried or scared about your health. These feelings are common. Try to speak to someone you trust such as a friend, family member or supporter.

If you do become unwell and need medical treatment, share your hospital passport or autism diagnosis so staff know the best way to support you.

If you are still feeling worried and want more help. You can call the Autism Helpline on T. 0808 800 4104.

Older People

Government guidance is that older people are at increased risk of severe illness and need to be particularly stringent in following social distancing measures and staying at home. Given this, it is natural for older people, particularly those with pre-existing medical conditions, to feel concerned or affected by changes you have to make to your daily life. The following suggestions may help with any difficult feelings and look after your mental health:

  • Stay connected

  • Draw on support you might have through your friends, family and other networks.

  • Try to stay in touch with those around you, this might be over the phone, by post, or online. If you have been advised to stay at home, let people know how you would like to stay in touch and build that into your routine.

  • Get practical help

If you need help, for example with shopping or running errands, ask for it and let those around you know what they can do. If you need help but you’re not sure who to contact, Age UK runs an advice line  T. 0800 678 1602 lines are open every day 8am-7pm, that can put you in touch with local services.

People Living with Dementia

You may feel concerned about coronavirus how it could affect you. Alzheimer’s Society have published information on coronavirus for people affected by dementia.

If you’d like to connect and talk with other people affected by dementia, you can visit the Alzheimer’s Society online community Talking Point.

A range of information on information on dementia is also available from Alzheimer’s Research UK

If you are still feeling worried and want more help you can call the Alzheimer’s Society Helpline on 0300 222 11 22

You can also speak to a dementia specialist Admiral Nurse on Dementia UK’s Helpline, on 0800 888 6687.

Dealing with a Mental Health Crisis or Emergency

You may find that the added stress of the current situation could have a big impact on your mental health. In some cases, you may feel that you are having a mental health crisis as you no longer feel able to cope or be in control of your situation.

You may feel great emotional distress or anxiety, feel that you cannot cope with day-to-day life or work, think about self-harm or even suicide, or experience or hear voices (hallucinations).

If this sort of situation happens, you should get immediate expert assessment and advice to identify the best course of action:

  • If you have already been given a Crisis Line number from a health professional, please call it.

  • If you’re under the care of a mental health team and have a specific care plan that states who to contact when you need urgent care, follow this plan.

  • Mind also provides information about how to plan for a crisis.

  • Samaritans has a free to call service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, if you want to talk to someone in confidence. Call them on 116 123.

  • Find local crisis support services near you that can support you.

  • You can contact NHS 111 if you need urgent care but it’s not life threatening.

  • In a medical emergency call 999 if you are seriously ill or injured and your life is at risk. A mental health emergency should be taken as seriously as a physical health emergency.

Other Useful Resources
PHA Take 5 Guidance Click here for information

Mind Your Head

Click here to visit the website

NHS: Every Mind Matters

Click here to visit the website

Headspace: Free meditations available to all

Click here to visit the website

Aware NI

Click here to visit the website

NI Direct

Click here to visit the website

Mindfulness in Schools 

Click here to visit the website

Inspire Wellbeing 

Click here to visit the website

HSCNI Psychological First Aid Training

Click here to visit the website

FutureLearn Click here to visit the website

See further advice from the NHS on dealing with a mental health crisis.

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