People anxious about the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and the strain of being isolated from others are being urged to turn the tables and become ‘COVID warriors’.

Dorset HealthCare, the provider of all NHS mental health services in the county, is urging people to stay home, stay positive and be creative in order to maintain emotional wellbeing during the current outbreak.

Meherzin Das, the Trust’s lead for Psychology and Psychological Therapies, said:

“We are being bombarded with COVID-19 news and information wherever we turn, and are facing restrictions on our lives to help limit the spread of the virus. So it’s not surprising most of us are feeling very anxious.

“However, there are simple steps we can all take to help us manage this anxiety.”

  1. Take back control – and be armed with the right facts

Focus on the things you can control in your life – how you manage your free time, your links with friends and family, and ways you can protect yourself from the virus. For example, washing your hands for 20 seconds every 20 minutes in the year 2020 – do a 2020 in 2020.

Feel free to seek help and advice, but be careful where you look for information. There is a lot being circulated out there – stay informed by sticking to trusted sources such as Public Health England and the NHS website to make sure you get your facts right.

If you use social media, don’t believe everything you read, and take regular breaks from it. You might even have a ‘C-Free hour’ – a periodic COVID news-free hour where you might choose to read/listen to information about other things, which make you feel rejuvenated and relaxed.

  1. Focus on positive things that you know will help you

Think about some activities that generally help when you are feeling overwhelmed, like breathing techniques, mindfulness, drawing, playing music or talking to a friend. If you have learned techniques in the past which have helped your mental health, use them again.

Keep your spirits up by doing things that you enjoy. Often things that distract you will help ease feelings of anxiety, but try to avoid turning to stimulants like cigarettes or alcohol which can leave you feeling worse.

  1. Try to stay active – and stick to a routine

As per the Government’s advice, try to get out once a day for some exercise but stay at least two metres (three steps) away from others. Use your time creatively – if there’s something you have always wanted to study or learn, look for an online resource to help you do it. However, do try to stick to a routine. Try to get up in the morning, dress, have meals and go to bed at the same times as normal.

  1. Connect with people

Social isolation does not mean social aloneness. Virtual is the new real. Keep in touch with friends, family and work colleagues online – via Skype or FaceTime – or even through a simple phone call. Have a virtual coffee morning in front of your PC or laptop, with a coffee in one hand and a cake in the other.

Meherzin added: “Looking after yourself is vital at the present time. The impacts of the virus are hard on everyone, so we all need to listen to scientific and Government advice, stay home and control the elements we can. I would urge everyone to get out of bed each and every morning and think: ‘I am a COVID warrior.’” You can watch a short video of Meherzin talking about these tips at https://bit.ly/2wDmDER

Online mental health advice and support is available at:

www.steps2wellbeing.co.uk

www.mind.org.uk

www.samaritans.org

If you require urgent mental health support call Connection, a 24-hour helpline, on 0300 123 5440.