How to look after your mental health in uncertain times

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Written By Emma Jukic

As the spread of the coronavirus and accompanying self-isolation measures progresses, how do we stay well, both physically and mentally? Here are five suggestions, from the experts.

Stay connected

Scientists have shown that loneliness damages our immune systems. While we follow social distancing practices, it’s more important than ever to find ways to stay connected to each other. People are finding new ways to be in touch – virtual house parties, Zoom dance classes, VR art openings, gigs live-streamed from your favourite band’s spare room, Skype drinks. And it doesn’t have to be digital. People in Italy and the UK have been making use of their balconies to play music and catch up at a distance, and one Australian family was reported to have replaced part of their Colourbond fence with see-through plastic panelling. If you are going digital, steer more towards platforms that include video or voice – a lot of nonverbal communication is missed in text-based chatting. At a time of so much upheaval, hearing someone’s voice or seeing their face is more important than ever. And we can all ask each other: “how are you doing, really?


Get outside

Even at the highest level of lockdown, government authorities have permitted people to go outside to exercise (as long as you comply with social distancing). Fresh air and nature is good for us – take it from this NASA astronaut:

One of the things I missed most while living in space was being able to go outside and experience nature … I appreciate that in our current predicament, I can step outside any time I want for a walk or a hike – no spacesuit needed. Research has shown that spending time in nature is beneficial for our mental and physical health, as is exercise.

Create some structure

We know that routines can help us. They help us settle, they give us something to do, they give us a plan, they reduce the number of decisions we have to make in a day. It doesn’t matter what your routine is – work, exercise, chores, catching up with people, relaxing – start small if it feels overwhelming right now and play with how it might work best.


Do things that feel good

Whatever that is for you. It can be anything at all – notice what you’re feeling as you go about your daily business. If something feels nice, slow down and notice that. Let yourself really enjoy it, spend some extra time if you can, and come back to it another time.


Watch your media consumption

As well as doing more of the things you notice make you feel good – do less of things that don’t. For example – checking the news. It’s easy to get pulled in to constantly checking the news, but it often doesn’t do good things for our nervous systems or mental health. Research has shown that negative TV news can significantly affect our mood, and the moods it tends to produce are stress and anxiety. Here’s what the WHO recommends:

Minimise watching, reading or listening to news that causes you to feel anxious or distressed; seek information only from trusted sources and mainly to take practical steps to prepare your plans and protect yourself and loved ones. Seek information updates at specific times during the day, once or twice.