Living and working through an unprecedented event such as the Coronavirus pandemic can be a worrying time for everyone. It’s all too easy in uncertain times to neglect your health, especially when it’s necessary to reduce your social contact and time spent outdoors.
We’ve produced the following guidance to help you look after yourself and your loved ones.
Looking after your mental health
It’s natural to feel worried in unpredictable times. Try to keep things in perspective - public health agencies and experts in all countries are working on the outbreak to ensure the best possible care for those affected.
If you’re frequently having intrusive and negative thoughts, take a moment to assess how realistic these truly are. Reframing negative or unhelpful thoughts into more realistic statements can help you maintain a healthy dose of optimism.
You might find the following resources helpful:
- Guidance on coronavirus and your wellbeing from Mind, the mental health charity
- Coronavirus staying at home tips from the NHS
Try mindfulness and meditation
Mindfulness and meditation can be really helpful tools for managing stress, anxiety and other mental health issues. If you’ve never tried them before, it’s easier than ever to get started. There are lots of resources available online:
- read information on Mindfulness from Mind, the mental health charity and the NHS
- try this bedtime meditation video from the NHS
- use one of the popular guided meditation apps such as Headspace or Calm
- search for guided meditations on YouTube.
Of course, if you find it more peaceful to be away from technology, try simply sitting comfortably in a quiet space for five-10 minutes with your eyes closed, focusing on your breath and breathing slowly.
Supporting those at increased risk of poor mental health
Older adults, especially those in isolation and those with cognitive decline/dementia, may become more anxious, angry, stressed, agitated or withdrawn during the outbreak or while in quarantine. You can help by:
- providing practical and emotional support with help from family, friends and health professionals
- sharing simple facts from trusted sources about what’s going on - give clear information about how to reduce risk of infection in words that are easy to understand, especially for those with a cognitive impairment
- repeating essential information whenever necessary - instructions need to be communicated in a clear, concise, respectful and patient way. It may also be helpful for information to be displayed in writing or pictures.
Getting help if you’re struggling
While it's normal to feel afraid and lonely at a time like this, worsening mental health could indicate the need for outside help.
If you find yourself with very poor mental health while isolated and aren't able to pull yourself out of feelings of anxiety, depression, or fear, it’s important to reach out for help:
- call Samaritans - whatever you’re going through, a Samaritan will face it with you, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Call 116 123
- contact Community Roots, a network of local services committed to supporting good mental health and wellbeing in Brighton and Hove, on 0808 196 1768 (freephone).
Financial wellbeing is also important in managing your mental health:
Taking advantage of some time to yourself
Being alone doesn’t come naturally to everyone. If you’re used to surrounding yourself with friends and family or even prefer the company of strangers, learning to appreciate the joys of being by yourself may take time.
Having friendships and a strong social support system is important for your mental health and wellbeing, but having some time to yourself may help you appreciate those connections all the more.
Learn to value solitude
Research increasingly shows there are real benefits to finding things to do by yourself. Through solitary pursuits, you learn more about yourself and reflect on your experiences.
Being on your own can:
- improve concentration and memory - working alone can help you focus your attention, which can improve your retention and memory recall.
- make your interests a priority – being alone is an important part of self-development and allows you to get to know yourself. Having some time to yourself gives you a chance to make creative choices and focus your attention without worrying about what other people are thinking
- boost creativity - where group efforts are often about achieving consensus and fitting in with the crowd, solo work encourages innovation without added social pressure. You can enjoy activities you love at your own pace and in your own way
- improve your relationships - relationships are often strongest when each person takes time to take care of themselves. Even when it comes to friendships, the old adage may be true - a little absence might really make the heart grow fonder.
Think about your post-isolation future
While it may feel like this period of solitude will last longer than you might normally be comfortable with, there will come a time when you'll be back to your usual routines. One way to feel less alone now is to take positive actions now for the future.
- make a list of all the things you want to do in the future
- plant some spring bulbs if you have a garden or balcony
- declutter – make the home environment as nice as possible by clearing out things you don’t need any more or have been meaning to get rid of, saving any unwanted items to donate to charity once it’s safe to do so
- have a digital clear out – delete unused apps and photos, update software, sort through email inboxes
- plan a fun event with friends or family for when you’re out of isolation.
While it's natural to focus predominantly on managing your mental wellbeing during a crisis, we sometimes forget that our physical and mental health are delicately intertwined.
Whether it’s a few star jumps in your bedroom, yoga, or dancing, exercise will help get the adrenaline out of your system and channel any stress or anxiety you may be fee.
Very importantly, it will also keep the body well in terms of heart and lung, bone and muscle health. This can protect our overall health and also keep us functioning day to day and ensure we are all able to look after ourselves.
Evidence tells us that prolonged periods of sitting are not good for our health so it is important to try to move around the home as much as possible. Can you stand up each time a TV advert break comes on? Can you walk up and down the stairs for a few minutes before sitting down for lunch?
Exercises you can do you at home
Our Healthy Lifestyles team are now sharing a lot of useful online content throughout the day which can help people of all ages keep moving. They will also be producing their own online content including the Active for Life Challenge and Stretching with Vanessa.
You can also try the following to help you stay fit while isolating:
- Advice from Sport England on how to stay active
- British Heart Foundation’s 10 minute living room workout
Staying safe while exercising
Whenever you’re exercising, please do so with caution and only if you feel well enough.
Getting some good sleep
Sleep is crucial to our overall health and wellbeing – we spend up to a third of our lives sleeping.
A continuous stretch of 7-9 hours of sleep a night is recommended, although studies suggest that sleep quality (continuity and depth of sleep) has a greater impact on good daytime functioning than overall length of sleep. Just one night of poor quality sleep can negatively affect your attention span, memory recall and learning ability.
Lack of sleep in the longer term can increase the risk of stress, anxiety and depression, while physical effects include an increased risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and other chronic illnesses.
- Food and mood – advice from Mind, the mental health charity
- For those who have stockpiled food – basic food safety advice (Food Standards Agency)
- Hungry, isolated or can’t access food? Get help from Brighton & Hove Food Partnership
- How to grow food throughout the year - Brighton & Hove Food Partnership
Alternatives to supermarket shopping include local veg and food deliveries. Please note that as demand is high for food supplies, the independent suppliers may also be at capacity and unable to provide a delivery as soon as you’d like.
Local suppliers still operating include:
- Beelivery - food delivery
- Brighton express meats - home delivery
- The Flour Pot - Bread, eggs, milk - home delivery
- Hankham Organics – veg, fruit and eggs - home delivery
- Harriet’s of Hove – click and collect/home delivery
- Hove fish shack - home delivery
- The Mac’s Farm Sussex – visit the farm to buy eggs (Mon-Sat)
- Pale Green Dot – home deliveries
- The Sussex Peasant – shop online
- V&H café Hove – bread, eggs, veg boxes – takeaway and home delivery
Working well from home
When working from home, try to:
- create physical separation between work and leisure time – if possible, try working in a different room than the one you usual spend most of your leisure time in
- stay connected – create a network of regular, supportive communication with your colleagues during your working hours
- arrange frequent two-way feedback sessions about work and work-related issues
- keep in touch with staff working from home (if you’re a manager) and ensure regular contact to make sure they are healthy and safe. If contact is poor, workers may feel disconnected, isolated or abandoned
- break up long spells of Display Screen Equipment (DSE) work with rest breaks (at least 5 minutes every hour) or changes in activity
- avoid awkward, static postures by regularly changing position
- get up and move or do stretching exercises
- avoid eye fatigue by changing focus or blinking from time to time.
Advice for parents
Children often adopt the coping strategies they observe in their parents. Parents who grow anxious during a pandemic may end up witnessing their children develop anxiety along with them.
You might find the following helpful for supporting your children:
- advice on talking to your child about the coronavirus from Young Minds
- 10 Minute bursts of exercise for young children from the NHS
- yoga for young children from Cosmic Kids Yoga on YouTube
- five minute work out for Key stage 1 children from The Body Coach on YouTube
- PE for kids with Joe Wicks on YouTube - 9am each day
Our Healthy Lifestyles team have started work on '5 days to wellbeing', offering messages and activities each day. Check the Brighton & Hove Healthy Lifestyles Facebook page for updates on activities.
Mental and emotional wellbeing support for children still at school
If your child is still going to school and you have any concerns about their emotional or mental wellbeing, you’re invited to talk to a Primary Mental Health Worker from the Schools Wellbeing Service.
Telephone consultations are available while schools are closed. Please email SWSConsultationLine@brighton-hove.gov.uk or call 01273 293481.
You’ll need to give details of your name and phone number and a Primary Mental Health Worker will call you back. While we aim to call back within two days, please be aware we may have a high demand so your patience is appreciated.
Please note that this is not a crisis number – if you need immediate support, contact your GP, call Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) duty care on 03003040061 or go directly to A&E. For alternative sources of support, please visit Find Get Give – mental health and wellbeing services for young people, parents and carers.
Department of Education coronavirus helpline
There is a helpline to answer questions about coronavirus related to education. Staff, parents and young people can contact the helpline in the following ways (open Monday to Friday - 8am to 6pm):
- phone 0800 046 8687
- send an email to DfE.email@example.com
Advice for pregnant women and new mums
The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists has released official guidelines to outline information for pregnant women and new mums surrounding the recent outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19):
Advice for Carers
Advice for carers As the situation with coronavirus evolves, it's important to know what support is available locally to you as a carer and for those you look after.
Who are carers?
Locally, we have adopted the NHS England’s definition of a carer:
“A carer is a person of any age, adult or child, who provides unpaid support to a partner, child, relative or friend who couldn’t manage to live independently or whose health or wellbeing would deteriorate without this help. This could be due to frailty, disability or serious health condition, mental ill health or substance misuse.”
If you’re worried that you or someone you look after may be at risk, NHS 111 can offer direct guidance and they have set up online coronavirus help. Call 111 if the symptoms of the person you care for become severe and let them know you’re a carer.
Relate are the UK’s largest provider of relationship support.
Many of Relate’s services including relationship counselling, individual counselling and sex therapy are now available via webcam. Call 0300 003 0396 to book an appointment. You can also access telephone counselling via the same number and you can access live chat allowing you to talk to a trained counsellor via instant messaging.
If you’re being abused or think you could be, make sure you get support from Relate to stay safe.
Support for those affected by bereavement or suicide
- Bereavement factsheet
- Coping with bereavement
- Managing bereavement in the workplace
- Organisations that can help you cope with bereavement