NHS GP and TV presenter, Dr Dawn Harper tells us how to look after our minds amid uncertain times
There is an understandable amount of stress and anxiety today as we face uncertainty about how the coronavirus pandemic will progress. Our lifestyles have changed unrecognisably in a very short period of time and I know that the guidelines on social distancing and self-isolation have left many feeling frightened and alone. Most surgeries, like mine, are closing the doors to routine appointments, but that doesn’t mean they are closing the doors on you. Almost all of my appointments in surgery this morning were conducted on the telephone and a disproportionate number of them were involving mental health issues, so I thought it might be useful to give you my top tips on how best to look after your emotional health during these testing times.
Use social media
While the country is in lockdown, we can put social media to the good use it was intended. Try to speak to someone every day using whatever social media platform you like – I prefer the ones that allow users to see each other. We all have friends and colleagues with whom we’ve lost touch as a result of our busy lives. Perhaps now is the time to reconnect. Go through your contacts list and touch base with someone you haven’t spoken to in a while.
Maintain your exercise
Exercise is good for our physical and mental health. As I am writing this, the government is saying we can go out once a day to exercise and while that is still the case, make sure you do it – even just half an hour walking out in the fresh air will boost your mood. And if you are staying inside, try using one of the many online resources to work out at home. It could be yoga or Zumba. You can even find YouTube channels offering exercise classes from your chair.
Limit your exposure to news
We have 24-hour access to news nowadays, but that can mean a bombardment of frightening headlines. Try to identify one channel and one time each day that you will check in for updates and steer away from other news channels at other times.
Keep your mind active
The days can be long if you are self-isolating, so use the spare time to brush up on old skills, like relearning a language using an app like Duolingo or Babbel Read those books you never had the time to read, clear out your cupboards or try something new like knitting or painting. And don’t sit in silence; watch TV you may have missed on catch up or play your favourite music tracks.
But please remember, your doctor is there for you on a phone if you need them. The mental health charity MIND (mind.org.uk) is full of advice and support, including information about services local to you. The Samaritans are on the end of a phone 24 hours a day.
Please stay well – we will get through this.
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