As this period of uncertainty goes on, the need to look after our mental health is becoming more and more important. This information sheet is an opportunity for you to take some time away from your studies and your phone and the news, and to think about your own mental health and how you can continue to stay healthy through this time.
There can be some misconceptions around what is meant by mental health but we hope that everyone at CSG understands that everyone has mental health, just as everyone has physical health, and it is important that we take steps to look after it. This period of time can present challenges for everyone's mental health due to the uncertainty and fear many of us might be feeling. We hope that you will use some of the tips to help promote positive mental health for yourselves and others around you.
Remember to keep in touch with your tutor and your friends and share with them how you are feeling - it is really important that everyone looks out for each other during this time especially. If you are feeling overwhelmed, there are services listed at the bottom that you can access. Don’t forget that you can also talk to your Tutor or your Head of Year.
What is mental health?
Mental health is a type of wellbeing made up of our feelings, emotions, thinking and our moods. This video from the Anna Freud Centre explains what mental health is really clearly.
Why might Coronavirus present a challenge to our mental health?
Coronavirus can present a challenge to our mental health for several reasons. The change in routine may be difficult for some people, some people may be cut off from their support network (friends for example), for others the uncertainty around coronavirus can be upsetting and destabilising and many people might feel scared about what they hear about coronavirus from the media.
What activities might help promote positive mental health?
Talk About How You Feel
We know that talking about how we feel is good for our mental health but when asked how we are we often respond by saying “I’m fine”. This is not a detailed enough adjective to describe how we are feeling but it might feel easier than explaining how you actually feel. When someone asks you how you are, try following these steps:
- Take a moment to think about what emotion you are feeling e.g. nervous
- Think about why you are feeling that way e.g. you have a maths test tomorrow
- Put the words together to form a sentence e.g. “I’m nervous because I have a maths test tomorrow.”
This is just as helpful for discussing when you feel great!
Practise Self Care
Self care means deliberately planning how you will take some time to actively look after yourself. There is no one way to do this, you just need to do whatever makes you feel good. This might include exercise, walking in nature, listening to music, practising a hobby that has no deadline or exam!, talking to friends and family, looking after an animal, etc.
Mindfulness: Ground Yourself in the Present
A lot of the negative feelings we might feel, especially in light of Coronavirus, arise due to focusing on future unknowns and uncertainties, or past things we can’t control. By focusing on the present instead you are able to calm your thoughts and any physical reactions to these thoughts, such as an increased heart rate. You begin to train yourself to manage your worries more effectively and healthily.
The following techniques are great to try, especially before going to bed:
- Count backwards from 100 in 3’s.
- Name 5 things you see, 4 things you hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you smell and 1 thing you taste.
- Take a walk outside, breathe deeply and pay close attention to the things you see
- Breathe in deeply for four, and steadily exhale for a count of 6-8 (dependent on what feels most comfortable)
- Using a meditation app such as ‘Headspace’ or ‘Calm’
The more you practise this when you don’t need it, the better you can use the techniques you are familiar with if you do need them.
Establish or Maintain a Healthy Routine
Following a routine is helpful and what we are used to. Try following your school timetable where possible. You need to make sure your routine is healthy too because a healthy body gives your mind a healthy foundation:
- Make sure you are eating healthily, by limiting your caffeine and sugar and ensuring you are eating lots of fruit and vegetables.
- Get enough sleep - your age group needs 8 - 10 hours each night, going to bed and waking up at the same time each day is best for your health.
- Exercise regularly - this could be indoors, for example following an online video such as Joe Wicks’ PE lessons, or outdoors by going on a run or walk.
Prevent Information Overload
Obviously many of you will want to know more about what is happening at the moment in relation to coronavirus. You may be getting lots of information on social media, in conversation and on the news. A lot of this information is speculation, meaning that people are making guesses about the future. Decide on a limit on how much you check the news e.g. once in the morning and once in the early evening. Ensure that you talk about things other than coronavirus!
Ending each day with thinking about 3 things that you are grateful for that day can really help you feel more positive. Some people keep a gratitude journal and write these things down each day, others may just think about them, or message a friend with them.
When might someone need to ask for help?
- The strategies above are good strategies to use regularly to manage everyday feelings but sometimes people may have overwhelming feelings and benefit from professional support.
- Everyone has mental health and everyday feelings will include a range of pleasant and unpleasant feelings and emotions. Most of the time people are able to manage these feelings, but there can be times feelings might become overwhelming and we may need support.
- Article about the impact coronavirus is having on young people’s mental health
- Video clip of Professor Green and Freddie Flintoff, former captain of the England cricket team share their experiences of mental health and the benefits of speaking openly.
- ITV news clip - how to look after your mental health
- Podcast on coping with the uncertainty of coronavirus
- Anna Freud Centre - Coronavirus