Protect your mental health

Human beings like certainty.  We are hard-wired to want to know what is happening when and to notice things that feel threatening to us.  When things feel uncertain or when we don’t generally feel safe, it’s normal to feel stressed.  This very reaction, while there to protect us, can cause all sorts of havoc when there is a sense of uncertainty and conflicting information around us.

A large part of anxiety comes from a sense of what we think we should be able to control, but can’t.  Right now, many of us are worried about coronavirus.  We may feel helpless about what will happen or what we can do to prevent further stress.

Here are some things you can do to take care of your mental health in the face of uncertainty:

  1. Separate what is in your control from what is notThere are things you can do, and it’s helpful to focus on those.  Wash your hands.  Remind others to wash theirs. Take your vitamins. Limit your consumption of news (Do you really need to know what is happening on a cruise ship you aren’t on?).
  2. Do what helps you feel a sense of safety. This will be different for everyone, and it’s important not to compare yourself to others.  It’s ok if you’ve decided what makes you feel safe is to limit attendance of large social events, but make sure you separate when you are isolating based on potential for sickness versus isolating because it’s part of depression.
  3. Get outside in nature–even if you are avoiding crowds.  Take a walk in your local area.  Exercise and fresh air also helps both your physical and mental health, and we can do it responsibly by observing the distancing guidelines.
  4. Challenge yourself to stay in the present. Perhaps your worry is compounding—you are not only thinking about what is currently happening, but also projecting into the future. When you find yourself worrying about something that hasn’t happened, gently bring yourself back to the present moment.  Notice the sights, sounds, tastes and other sensory experiences in your immediate moment and name them. Engaging in mindfulness activities is one way to help stay grounded when things feel beyond your control.
  5. Stay connected and reach out if you need more support. Talk to trusted friends about what you are feeling. If you are feeling particularly anxious or if you are struggling with your mental health, it’s ok to reach out to a mental health professional for support.  You don’t have to be alone with your worry and it can be comforting to share what you are experiencing with those trained to help.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and need to talk to someone out of hours, our Edinburgh Crisis Centre is 24/7 for people aged 16+ in Edinburgh.

Samaritans, Breathing Space and the Silver Line operate nationally on an out of hours basis.