Looking After Physical and Mental Health During COVID-19

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by Rebekah Valero-Lee on

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is an exceptional event posing a threat to worker health and safety and a risk to business operations. As a new virus, it is unclear how long the threat will last so we must plan for ongoing disruption to how we work and interact with each other on a day to day basis.

 

Health, safety and well-being is paramount and we must be proactive in protecting our people, minimising the risk and ensuring our networks have the means to stay fit and well during this uncertain period. Many of us now find we are working from home on a permanent basis and for an indefinite period of time.

We have produced a guide to help support our home working communities and includes information about adopting to new ways of working, maintaining good nutrition and limiting comfort eating, reducing the effects of isolation, how to safeguard our mental health, supporting others and what to do if you become unwell.

You can download the full document here.

 

Mental wellbeing

Curbing anxiety resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak

Experiencing anxiety now and then is a normal part of life. It is not unusual to temporarily feel anxious when facing stressful situations, uncertainty, or extreme challenges. The emotions of anxiety and fear in confronting a real threat are part of our survival instinct.
The information which we have highlighted below is to help you if;​

  • you’re feeling anxious or worried about Coronavirus
  • you’re asked to work from home or limit your time spent in public places
  • you have to self-isolate and avoid contact with other people

Feeling worried?
Being concerned about the news is understandable, but for many people it can make existing mental health problems worse. It's understandable that many individuals with pre-existing anxiety or OCD are facing challenges at the moment. There is a lot of misinformation swirling around but it is better to stay informed by sticking to trusted sources of information such as government and NHS websites.

One helpful tip is to limit the amount of time you spend reading or watching things which aren't making you feel better. It may be best to decide on a specific time to check in with the news or look at social media coverage. You can also mute key words which might be triggering on Twitter and unfollow or mute/hide accounts on WhatsApp or Facebook, if you find them too overwhelming.

It is likely we will see increasing numbers of people self-isolating and working from home in the weeks to come so now might be a good time to make sure your contact phone numbers and email addresses of the people you care about or need to stay in touch with are up to date.

It can also be helpful to agree regular check-in times with family or friends and if you are self-isolating, strike a balance between having a routine and making sure each day has some variety. Self-isolating doesn’t mean staying indoors for the whole time and getting a daily dose of fresh air can lift your mood and help you feel connected with the world around you.

With ongoing uncertainly surrounding the coronavirus pandemic it is important to have down time. The UK’s mental health charity Mind, recommend continuing to access nature and sunlight wherever possible. Getting some exercise, eating well and staying hydrated are important factors to support your daily wellbeing. For more specific advice and information on keeping well, go to their dedicated pages; https://www.mind.org.uk/information-
support/coronavirus-and-your-wellbeing

 
Isolation and loneliness

As the UK position moves towards the majority of people homeworking wherever possible, it is important to combat the effects of social isolation and to find creative ways of staying connected with others. Even for those who are used to homeworking the current restrictions may mean that many of us may soon be accompanied by partners and possibly children. It is important to appreciate that each person in the household may still need some space and privacy and may not be used to being restricted to their homes for long periods of time. Try and allow space for each person to work, rest and to take breaks. Stick to routine mealtimes when you would normally come together.​

 

Supporting others during the COVID-19 outbreak

Giving is one of the 5 ways to wellbeing and is the act of freely parting with something and offering it to someone or something beyond ourselves - a stranger, friend, family member, a charitable organisation, our local community or our wider-community. It can involve parting with material things like money and gifts, or immaterial things like our time. Giving to others can be hugely rewarding and can bring huge benefits to our personal wellbeing. During the COVID-19 pandemic there will never be a more important time to give to others who may find themselves in vulnerable or at risk groups. Find out more about how you can help others here; https://www.goodsamapp.org/NHS

You may also wish to consider those living closer to home such as elderly friends or neighbours who may rely on routine visits from family members or those working in social care for their day to day interaction. These are people who might already experience isolation and loneliness and might be even more affected by the restrictive measures currently in place.

You may already have seen online community support groups springing up in your local area. If not, and you want to support those who will struggle for household supplies during this period, search online or on social media channels and you will probably find a community group seeking support with deliveries, collecting supplies from shops and generally making food or toiletry donations. If you can not find a community group of this nature you could always consider setting up an online community forum to get the ball rolling.

 

Helping your brain wind down

As well as physical exercise, during this time it is also imperative that we take extra care of our mental health. In addition to yoga, there are many resources out there to help ease your anxiety. 

We’re all having to deal with things on the fly, think about how we’re going to work things out. There are people working round the clock at the moment to try and get their organisations in the best possible shape whilst simultaneously worrying about their home lives.
A solution that requires as little as 10-15 minutes and helps you really switch off and quieten down your mind so that you can get some proper rest is meditation.

There’s a free App called Insight Timer, with lots of meditations available. Some teachers on it that get highly recommended are Tara Brach, Sarah Blondin and Kate James.

Other apps which could be helpful to anyone suffering from anxiety during this time are Headspace and CALM. And whilst you have to pay for some of the more intense courses on these apps, there are still plenty of free 5-10 minute meditation sessions which you can take part in.

An NHS-approved app, Thrive is used for the prevention, early detection and self-management of common mental health issues. Users can access exercises and activities proven to treat and prevent stress and anxiety – including calm breathing, deep muscle relaxation, meditation, thought training, and self-suggestion, plus other interactive features. Based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), users can complete a daily mood meter to monitor their mood and symptoms and this is used to recommend exercises. Using clinical scales, the app will identify users scoring positively for anxiety or depression and direct them to support modules that use the latest computerised CBT methods to help manage specific stressors and retrain unhelpful thoughts. 

 

Physical wellbeing

 

Eating well during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Most of us are experiencing big changes to our routines. Try and retain a sense of normality and eat according to your normal meal pattern. If you do get sick, try to eat regularly even if you’re not hungry, and make sure you are drinking enough water. You can monitor your hydration by paying attention to your thirst levels, urine colour (should be no darker than a pale yellow), and other symptoms of dehydration like dry lips, fatigue, and headaches.
  • Minimise trips to the shop by planning ahead. Think about what you want to make for breakfast, lunch, and dinner over the upcoming week, write a list of everything you need, and shop accordingly. N.B. If you need to self-isolate, you should be having your food delivered or purchased by somebody else.
  • Be thoughtful about how you can make best use of the food that you buy. Use up your fresh and perishable ingredients first so they don’t go to waste. You might batch cook some meals to be frozen and eaten at a later date. Do some research into what keeps the longest, and make sure you’re storing fruits and veggies in the appropriate places – if you’re not sure, check whether something should be stored in the fridge or at an ambient temperature.​
  • Despite the UK Government repeating multiple times that the food supply chain is robust enough to support increased demand during this time, panic buying has created some shortages. This might mean getting imaginative with recipes and ingredients. If you are missing one specific ingredient, try Googling ‘alternative to [whatever it is you’re missing]’ – you will be surprised as to how easily substitutes can be made without compromising taste. If you’re stuck for ideas as to what to cook, there are millions of recipes available online. Again, if there’s a particular food you need to base a meal around, the internet can help you get creative.
  • You may want to consider taking a vitamin D supplement. Unlike all other vitamins and minerals, we get most of our vitamin D from sunshine, rather than food, and even a healthy, well-balanced diet is unlikely to provide you with as much vitamin D as you need. As many of us may be going outside less frequently, you may want to consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement. This should contain at least 10μg (micrograms).
  • Comfort eating is a common reaction to stress and negative emotions. This isn’t something you should feel bad about, but try to be aware if this is a habit of yours. Try to practice eating mindfully – in response to your body’s signals rather than your emotions – and have healthy snacks on hand.
  • Comfort eating is a common reaction to stress and negative emotions. This isn’t something you should feel bad about, but try to be aware if this is a habit of yours. Try to practice eating mindfully – in response to your body’s signals rather than your emotions – and have healthy snacks on hand.

 

Should you feel that you need emotional or physical advice and support during this time, please contact Morson Health, Wellbeing and Engagement Partner Heather Deeringheather.deering@morson.com or download the full guide here.


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