Ella Mosby, Mental Health Adviser. Student Futures: Support & Development.
Understandably the headlines over recent weeks have been dominated by issues relating to our physical health in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst I feel it is useful for us to have the option to be informed about what we are facing, I cannot help but think of the inevitable impact something like this may have on our emotional wellbeing and mental health.
In my current job, throughout my career in mental health and in my own lived experience I have come to learn that two of the most significant things which promote positive mental health are human contact and connection with others and filling our day with activities which give us a sense of achievement and pleasure. Current restrictions mean that our ability to engage in these things is significantly restricted-so times like these call for some creative thinking as preserving our wellbeing feels more important than ever.
Below are 10 ideas you could call upon to fill your day and promote a sense of mental wellness. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, just a starting point as we are all trying to figure this out together. In reality I know that some of you may look at some of the options and dismiss them out of hand-but I would urge you to give them a go. The worst that could happen is you do not enjoy it-but then you have the power to make the decision not to do this task again.
1: Focus on the elements of the current situation that you can control, and do not feed energy into those which are beyond your power.
This applies to all situations-but might feel especially pertinent now. There may be things about the current climate which are causing you significant distress, however you have a choice about what you do and do not allow into your mind and daily life.
2: Limit your exposure to social media.
Whilst knowing some information can bring us a sense of security, the amount of contradictory reporting out there means it can be the case that the more we read the less we know. Social media may be a crucial tool for maintaining contact with others, but maybe review the accounts you follow and evaluate whether they tend to leave you feeling better or worse.
3: Stay connected with others by safe means.
Whilst many of us are undoubtedly struggling with not being able to keep in physical contact with our nearest and dearest, we live in an age where we are fortunate to have a broad range of technology and apps which make other means of communication possible.
4: Get active.
I cannot emphasise this one enough, and it is one which has been serving me brilliantly. Exercise releases endorphins and can help to reduce stress and anxiety. Again, YouTube has lots of brilliant free workouts and lots of Instagrammers are offering live streams through their accounts.
5: Keep your brain active.
This is not my opportunity to nag you about academic work. That said, keeping mentally stimulated is important to good mental health and contributes to our sense of achievement.
5: Try and maintain a routine.
I am sure a few of us initially rejoiced at the idea of working or studying remotely but in reality this may mean a prolonged break from established routines and that can leave us feeling unsettled and lost. Each day set yourself some goals or tasks to fill your time, making sure they are achievable within current constraints otherwise we risk not being able to complete them which ultimately reinforces any negative thoughts and feelings we might be having about ourselves.
7: Accept that there is no right way to feel right now.
I have read a lot about people being too anxious, or even not anxious enough in the current climate. Forget that. Nobody has the right to question or invalidate your experience. Remember-thoughts and feelings are not facts, but they are powerful nonetheless. Rather than trying to block out difficult feelings try to stop, observe them, and move on.
8: Take advantage of the time this situation is affording us.
So often we hear ourselves uttering words such as ‘I haven’t got the time’ or ‘I am too busy’. One thing we are rich in now is time, and we have a valuable opportunity to slow things down and reflect on what truly is important to us.
9: Do not neglect your diet and sleep.
Food and sleep are two absolute necessities to maintaining a sense of wellbeing. There may be tendencies at present to sleep during the day or treat ourselves to more takeaways than we usually would. Whilst the odd afternoon nap or uber eats is not going to rock the boat, we have to be mindful of what we are putting in to our body and what we are doing to recharge in a climate which inevitably brings more stress to most of us.
10: Volunteer to help in your area.
Evidence shows that doing things for others promotes a sense of wellbeing in us. Now more than ever there will be people in need. If you feel fit, healthy and able then giving some time to a worthwhile cause might bring you some much needed brightness to your day and to the day of someone else.
Although face to face contact has stopped, please remember the Wellbeing and Mental Health Team is still available to support you and we continue to offer appointments during this time, just virtually instead of physically! We have added a new section to the support tab of the University of Chester app under ‘I need help now’ with information and resources to support: Physical health, Emotional Health, Living with a mental health condition and Domestic abuse and self-isolation during the Coronavirus pandemic.
You can also keep connected with us by following our Instagram account: UOC.happyhealthylife and keep an eye on Portal for updated advice and information.
Below are some links to various websites and resources you may find useful at this time. The first list relates to general mental health and wellbeing, whilst the latter is more specifically related to wellbeing in the context of the current situation.
General mental health and wellbeing:
- Contact your GP by phone (within surgery hours)
Phone NHS 111 for advice out of hours
- If any person feels they are in mental health crisis and need to go to A+E, they should call 111 first so potential COVID-19 symptoms can be assessed, and to see if the crisis can be managed over the phone
- Useful phone numbers: Samaritans (116 123) and Papyrus (0800 068 41 41) text Shout on 85258.
- For those who live in and around Chester there is a new space at 71 St Anne’s Street however the staff there are now only working remotely. The telephone number is 01244 393139. Updates can be found on their twitter feed @number71chester
- Hub of Hope – directory of local services https://hubofhope.co.uk/
- Big White Wall (confidential, anonymous online mental health and wellbeing resource) – register for free with your University of Chester e-mail at: www.bigwhitewall.com
- Staying Safe – Useful resource for people who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts: https://www.stayingsafe.net/home
- Living Life to the Full – online course using a CBT type approach helping manage problematic thinking, behaviours, and emotions: https://llttf.com/home/living-life-to-the-full-series/llttf-adults/