Coronavirus is all anyone is talking about. It can feel impossible to get away from. For many of us, this is more than likely to raise our levels of stress or anxiety.
We know that at times of high pressure and uncertainty, leaning on those around us is of the utmost importance. But how do we do this when health guidance for many, particularly the most vulnerable in society, is to self-isolate or to engage in social distancing?
Social distancing measures and self-isolation will have an impact on all our mental health but particularly those with existing mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety disorder. At times like this we need to think more broadly about how to build and maintain support networks when the usual opportunities for social connection are not available to us.
For those of us self-isolating, think about alternative forms of communication. Do we have friends or family who are in a similar situation? Can we agree to check in with each other every few days? It can help knowing that someone is looking out for you and that you have someone to talk to.
Although social media can exacerbate feelings of fear and anxiety, we can also use it to aid us. Rather than scouring the news, set aside time to check trusted news channels in order to feel updated. Find a network or community of people online who you can talk to, a virtual book group or an exercise programme to do at home.
Remember it is very normal to have mixed feelings. Many of us will be wondering what the future holds or what our next few weeks might look like. We need to acknowledge these feelings as real and where possible share them with those around us. This too can help us feel less alone. We can do this by speaking with people directly or indirectly, or some people may prefer to channel their feelings in creative ways, through art or writing.
For those of us who are social distancing but are not self-isolating, we may want to think about how we can help those around us. This is a time for us to pull together as a community when so many people will be feeling isolated and alone. Who do you know who may need an extra phone call? Are there friends or neighbours who are elderly or have a pre-existing health condition, can we reach out and offer to pick up food or supplies for them? How can we help acknowledge people’s feelings as real? Perhaps by sharing some of our own, sending extra messages of support and letting them know we are there.
For people who may need an extra level of support, there are a number of services you can contact:
Samaritans – Phone 116 123
Childline – 0800 1111
YoungMinds Parents helpline – Phone 0808 802 5544
AnxietyUK – Text 07537 416 905, Phone 03444 775 774
CALM (for men) – Phone 0808 802 5858
SHOUT – Text 85258
Jami is the mental health service for the Jewish Community. If you have concerns about yourself or a loved one, visit www.jamiuk.org or call 020 8458 2223