Whether you are at home alone or juggling work and family, those working in mental health share their advice on how to cope with the covid-19 pandemic
22 April 2020
These are difficult times and everyone will be experiencing the coronavirus pandemic differently. We asked mental health experts working in a range of specialisms for their tips on how to cope.
Advice from the experts
Maintain regular rhythms: wake up, eat and go to sleep at the same time you normally would. Find a project to keep yourself going, whether that’s work, learning something new or reading Proust. Maintain connections with others by phone or online, and exercise once a day, preferably in green space, and always while social distancing.
Richard Bentall, clinical psychologist, University of Sheffield, UK
Limit your exposure to media stories about the pandemic – especially those with experts’ views about what is going to happen over the next three months – because it can cause anxiety.
Neil Greenberg, psychiatrist, King’s College London
Think about the things you have done in the past that have helped you to feel a sense of calm and stability. For me, it’s reading. That is something I have always enjoyed, that I haven’t often had time to do and I’m able to make space for now – in the silence of being at home.
Aiysha Malik, clinical psychologist, World Health Organization
Whenever you’re on social media, think of your own and others’ mental health. Think about why and how you’re using it. Is it benefiting you, someone else or is it just mindless scrolling? Be analytical and only share something when you’ve verified the source. Sharing fake news is so disturbing, it has a negative impact on all of us, especially on those with mental health problems.
Rina Dutta, psychiatrist, King’s College London
Remember that whatever you put into the atmosphere, you tend to get back – you have some control over that. At home, work as a team with your partner. Plan how you will use the rooms, when you will be together and when you will have your private space. Negotiating this can help you and your partner to feel cared for.
Catriona Wrottesley, psychotherapist, Tavistock Relationships, London
It is important to be honest and acknowledge your emotions, and it’s important for parents to be open and honest with their children. What isn’t helpful is panic. Be factual, explain what the risk is, and what can be done to reduce it. Be responsive – answer questions when they’re asked, and use words and ideas that your children can understand. Parents are good at this, because they have lots of practice.
Andrea Danese, psychiatrist, King’s College London
Allow the chaos for a bit and then start to develop a structure in the home, so that the children feel sane and safe, and the parents feel sane and safe. Understand that this structure will be organic, which is a polite way of saying that it is likely to go tits up at some point. And go easy on yourself: this pandemic is unprecedented. The prime minister didn’t get this right straight away, and neither will we.
Nicola Labuschagne, clinical psychologist, Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, London
Need a listening ear? UK Samaritans: 116123 (samaritans.org). Visit bit.ly/SuicideHelplines for hotlines and websites for other countries
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