It is so important to look after your mental and physical health and overall wellbeing during these difficult times.
This guide, produced by Public Health England (PHE) for Her Majesty’s Government, provides advice on how to look after your mental health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 outbreak1.
For other guidance on how to protect yourself and others, and actions to take if you think you may have contracted the virus, see the guidance here.
This guidance will be updated in line with the changing situation.
We are fortunate here in our commuinity because spending time in ‘green spaces’ can benefit both our mental and physical wellbeing, however it is not always accessible to us all. Below is a list of activities you can consider to help mental health and wellbeing.
What can help your mental health and wellbeing
Think about your new daily routine. Life is changing for us all for a while and you will have experienced some disruption to your normal routine. Think about how you can adapt and create positive new routines – try to engage in useful activities (such as cleaning, cooking or exercise) or meaningful activities (such as reading or being in touch with friends). You might find it helpful to write a plan for your day or week.
Consider how to connect with others. Maintaining relationships with people you trust is important for your mental wellbeing. If you can’t meet in person, think about how you can stay in touch with friends and family via telephone, video calls or social media instead – whether it’s people you normally see often or connecting with old friends.
The NHS Volunteers Service can also provide a telephone ‘check in and chat’ for if you have mental health issues and are feeling isolated. Call 0808 196 3646 (8am to 8pm) or visit the website.
Help and support others. Think about how you could help those around you – it could make a big difference to them and can make you feel better too. It is important to listen to and accept other people’s concerns, worries or behaviours. Could you message a friend or family member nearby? Are there community groups that you could join to support others locally? Remember it’s important to do this in line with guidance on COVID-19 to keep yourself and everyone safe.
Talk about your worries. It is quite common to feel worried, scared or helpless about the current situation. Remember that this is a difficult time for everyone and sharing with family and friends how you are feeling and the things you are doing to cope can help them too. If you don’t feel able to do that, there are people you can speak to via NHS recommended helplines.
Look after your physical wellbeing. Your physical health has a big impact on how you are feeling emotionally and mentally. At times like these, it can be easy to fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour which, in turn, can make you feel worse. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals and drink enough water. One You has a lot of advice and ideas for healthy meals you can cook at home.
Where possible, exercise at home and/or outside as often as you wish. If you can’t exercise outside, you can find free, easy 10-minute workouts from Public Health England (PHE) or other exercise videos to try at home on the NHS Fitness Studio. Sport England also has good tips for keeping active at home.
If you are able to go outside, there are lots of easy ways to get moving like walking or gardening. You can also exercise and use outdoor sports courts or facilities, such as a tennis or basketball court or golf course.
Seek advice and support if you smoke or use drugs or alcohol. Smoking or using drugs or alcohol to cope in times of stress and disruption can make things worse, including your mental health. NHS Smokefree provides information and advice on quitting smoking and One You has resources to help with cutting back on alcohol. You can also call Drinkline for free on 0300 123 1110 for advice and support and Down Your Drink provides interactive web-based support to help people to drink more safely. If you are concerned about drugs use, FRANK offers information and advice, including where to get help, and has a free advice line – 0300 123 6600. You can also reach Marijuana Anonymous and participate in their weekly online meetings to receive support from other peers.
Look after your sleep. Feeling anxious or worried can make it harder to get a good night’s sleep. Good-quality sleep makes a big difference to how you feel mentally and physically, so it’s important to get enough.
Try to maintain regular sleeping patterns and keep good sleep hygiene practices, including avoiding screens before bed, cutting back on caffeine and creating a restful environment. The Every Mind Matters sleep page provides practical advice on how to improve your sleep.
Try to manage difficult feelings. Many people find the news about COVID-19 concerning. However, some people may experience such intense anxiety that it becomes a problem. Try to focus on the things you can control, such as managing your media and information intake – 24-hour news and constant social media updates can make you more worried. If it is affecting you, try to limit the time you spend watching, reading, or listening to media coverage of the outbreak. It may help to only check the news at set times or limiting yourself to checking a couple of times a day.
It is okay to acknowledge some things that are outside of your control right now. The Every Mind Matters page on anxiety and NHS mental wellbeing audio guides provide further information on how to manage anxiety.
Get the facts. Gather high-quality information that will help you to accurately determine your own or other people’s risk of contracting COVID-19 so that you can take reasonable precautions. Find a credible source you can trust such as GOV.UK, or the NHS website, and fact-check information you get from newsfeeds, social media or other people.
Think about how inaccurate information could affect others too. Try not to share information without fact-checking with credible sources.
Do things you enjoy. When you are anxious, lonely or low, you may do things that you usually enjoy less often or not at all. Focusing on your favourite hobby, learning something new or simply taking time to relax indoors or outdoors (in line with the guidance) should give you some relief from anxious thoughts and feelings and can boost your mood.
If you can’t do the things you normally enjoy because you are staying at home, try to think about how you could adapt them, or try something new. There are lots of free tutorials and courses online and people are coming up with innovative online solutions, such as online pub quizzes and streamed live music concerts.
Set goals. Setting goals and achieving them gives a sense of control and purpose. Think about things you want or need to do that you can still do at home, such as watching a film, reading a book or learning something online.
Keep your mind active. This can help you feel in control and less low or worried. Read, write, play games, do crossword puzzles, sudokus, jigsaws or drawing and painting, whatever works best for you.
Take time to relax and focus on the present. This can help with difficult emotions, worries about the future and generally make you feel better. Relaxation techniques can also help some people to deal with feelings of anxiety. For useful resources, see Every Mind Matters and the NHS mindfulness page.
If you can, get outside. If you can’t, bring nature in. Spending time in green spaces can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing. You can spend time outside for recreation or travel to outdoor publicly accessible open spaces, irrespective of distance. You can also sit and rest outside if you want to. If you can’t go outside, you can try to still get these positive effects by spending time with the windows open to let in fresh air, arranging space to sit and see a nice view (if possible) and get some natural sunlight, or get out into the garden if you can.