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5 Ways to Protect Your Mental Health during COVID-19

Coronavirus has plunged the world into uncertainty and the constant news about the pandemic can feel relentless. Isolation and remote working can take a huge toll on people's mental health, particularly those already living with chronic conditions. So how can we protect our mental health during this tumultuous period?

Limit the news and be careful what you read

Receiving and reading lots of news about the coronavirus has been time-consuming for Estefania Cordero, our Projects Communications Officer.

“The past days I’ve spent considerable time explaining to relatives and friends, that the information they’ve shared is not factual. It’s a difficult and awkward conversation. There is no easy way to call someone out. Which is why I’ve embarked on a sort of campaign, making sure to check where the news I’ve received comes from – and if false – notify the sender so they can stop sharing it. Its easiest to find a source citing the post, or something similar, as fake news, this way it doesn’t come off as a personal attack. But what is really important is to replace that news source with a link to credible information, in the persons native language.”

Our advice is to limit the amount of time you spend reading or watching things which aren't making you feel better. Perhaps decide on a specific time to check in with the news. Also, stay informed by sticking to trusted sources of information like the World Health Organization, ECDC and government websites.

Take social media breaks

Social media is most addictive especially with more free time in isolation and everyone in constant contact. Although it’s part of his job, our Communications Manager is doing his best to develop a daily schedule.

“I find it extremely difficult to stay away as content creation and media monitoring is part of my job. It’s quite easy to go down a rabbit hole of COVID-19 information and get completely side-tracked which is why I limit my 9-5 for professional work and then turn off my phone for a few hours to rest my eyes and spend time with loved ones.”

Our advice is to develop a daily schedule and do your best to mute key words which might be triggering on Twitter and unfollow or mute accounts. Also, mute WhatsApp groups and hide Facebook posts and feeds if you find them too overwhelming.

Stay connected with people

Now, more than ever, increasing numbers will join those already in self-isolation so now is the right time to catch up with your acquaintances and really connect with your close friends and family, who also need your support now. Our Communications Officer Emily finds it soothing to speak to her family and friends during this time of need. 

"When the government began to take measures in Belgium and closing borders, my parents' concern was heightened: we have always been very close so knowing that it will not be possible to travel if one of us gets sick was distressing for them. Now that lockdown is established, they know I'm indoors and safe so things are better. We're in touch on average once a day and it's usually a call."

We recommend that if you're self-isolating, try to strike a balance between having a routine and making sure each day has some variety. It’s a great opportunity to catch up with those you have lost touch with and show you some potential opportunities for the future. 

Avoid burnout & get active

With weeks and months of the coronavirus pandemic ahead, it is important to have down time and stay active. Our Grants and Office Coordinator Ruth likes to break a sweat alongside her young daughter.

“During the lockdown I’ve been doing regular workouts at home to stay focused and feel good. Sometimes my three year old old daughter joins in too so I get to kill two birds with one stone. It’s the perfect way to clear the mind.

EPF recommends continuing to access nature and sunlight wherever possible. This may become increasingly difficult but do your best to stretch, move around and break a bit of a sweat. A diet chock full of nutrients and vitamins are strongly recommended. While it may be easy to order delivery instead of risking the supermarket, a healthy and balanced diet works wonders for your immune system and mental state. Plenty of water helps too.

Maintain Positivity

Last but not least, it is quite easy to lose hope amidst the negativity but Isabelle, our Vaccination Projects Coordinator, manages to stay positive in the uncertainty.

“It is these times alone locked in confinement that maybe people can also come to realization that everything is temporary, that we need to be humble, to be kind and empathetic to one another as everyone has their own burden to carry, the need of having hope and keeping faith in a better future, and appreciating those in our lives and what we have, is what will brings us together through the time of darkness.”

We recommend you celebrate the small wins and continue to see beauty in the world. These are trying times, but this too shall pass and thus it is paramount to carry on and continue your daily life.

While these tips are geared towards the lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic, these should be followed in your everyday, regular life. Mental health affects everyone thus it is important to talk through your issues and seek help where need be. Social distancing is stressed during this time to prevent contagion but this does not mean you should stop socialising and talking. It’s the best way to feel connected and maintain positive mental health.