COVID-19, Mental Health and the New Normal

“What a year 2020 has been; a pandemic, millions of people furloughed for months on end, the loss of our loved ones, remote working, a recession – it’s no surprise that like many people, I have struggled with a change in my mental health over the past few months. I’d like to explain how I have overcome my mental health (for the most part) during lockdown and how I plan to look after myself over the coming months to ensure I stay in a positive place mentally.

Historically, I have dealt with anxiety and depression for a number of years, it usually comes in waves and I typically suffer more during the winter months (often referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder). I was in quite a positive place at the start of lockdown, I had recently come off some medication that I noted was making my anxiety worse, I had been promoted to a new job role and overall I had high aspirations for 2020.

We were sent home from work on Monday 16 March and within two weeks I noticed the symptoms of my mental health problems resurface. This wouldn’t be the first time and I am glad I noticed them early on enough to get a grasp of them; I spoke to my GP through a video call, I had multiple conversations with my parents and my friends so they knew to virtually check in with my every day and I told my colleagues quite frankly that I was struggling with the sudden change of being locked in my flat alone with no human interaction. Overall, I was lucky – I had and continue to have a wonderful support network around me that check up on me and make me feel safe and looked after.

To continue looking after my mental health over the next few months as we adjust to a new normal, I have compiled the tips below that helped me and continue to help me every day. I figured sharing them will potentially help other people as we phase back into society.

  • Self-care is a must – I woke up every day and made sure to shower and change into some clean, comfy clothes. I made sure to take care of my basic hygiene but didn’t worry about being prim and proper every day. As long as I was clean and comfortable – I was happy.
  • Do what makes you happy – make sure to make time in between working/job hunting/studying to do more of what makes you happy. My happiness is reading, so I ended up speeding through many books during lockdown (fun fact: I currently have 41 books to read on my bookshelf! It’s not an addiction I promise).
  • Sleep is very important – sleep is your best friend when it comes to your mental health. It is common knowledge that a symptom of many common mental health problems is oversleeping or not sleeping enough. Getting between 7-8 hour sleep a night is going to make you feel recharged and refreshed the next day and ready to take on the tasks you have at hand.
  • Diet and physical activity – this was not the easiest for me to change during lockdown. I have a bad history with food and I never really used to move my body much, however, during June 2020 myself and three colleagues walked a combined total of 753 miles and raised £1,275 in the process for York Mind. Not only did I feel good, fundraising money for a cause close to my heart, but I found my quality of sleep was so much better and overall, I felt more alert during the day.
  • Speak up – this may be an obvious one but speak about how you feel. You can say as little or as much as you want but as the old saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved. Speak to your spouse, parents, siblings, GP or mental health charities – whoever you feel most comfortable with.

Be kind to yourself. No one is expecting you to continue as normal during times like the present. We have to adapt and make changes to put ourselves first. If you need to speak to someone, I have listed some useful contacts below – do not worry about speaking up, someone will always listen!”

Key Contacts

  • Specialist mental health services/GP – you should be able to reach these services through your GP or social services/work team
  • Samaritans – the Samaritans offer emotional support 24/7, call 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org
  • MIND Infoline – Mind provide a wealth of information on mental health in your local area, from 9am-6pm, Monday to Friday; call 0300 123 3393 or email info@mind.org.uk

If you or anyone around you is in a crisis and needs urgent medical attention, call your GP, 111 or 999 and seek medical guidance from a professional as soon as you can.