Coronavirus: Looking after your mental health

19 March 2020

Situations like the current coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak can be scary and affect our mental health. Here are some ways to stay informed but also manage your mental health and wellbeing.

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Coronavirus has brought much uncertainty, and constant news updates online can feel relentless. It’s important to keep up to date and to find balance to ensure good mental health, wellbeing and reduce stress.

Here are some ways you can look after your mental health during the current outbreak.

Limit the news you read

While it’s great to keep on top of all the latest facts and figures, spending lots of time doing so can often lead us to negative thoughts and feelings.

There is also lots of misinformation being hosted online, so it’s important to stick to trusted news source such as the government, NHS and Public Health England sites.

To minimise stress and anxiety with all the updates, you could decide on a specific time to check in on the news and only take this from a couple of trusted resources. If you have a news app on your phone, you can normally filter the news sources this is drawn from or switch off notifications.

Take a break from social media

It’s important to remember that social media gives a voice to everyone, regardless of whether they are an expert on the subject matter or not.

Closing browsers and exiting apps will help you stay in control of what you read. Following trends, hashtags and random people online may lead you down a rabbit hole of unverified conspiracies and fake news about the outbreak.

Be careful about what accounts and hashtags you tune in to and try to have some time away from social media by watching TV, reading a book, exercising or doing something else you enjoy.

To filter what you see on social media, you could mute key words on Twitter, as well as unfollowing and muting accounts. On Instagram you can also mute account posts and stories. WhatsApp allows you to mute and archive groups, and you can hide certain Facebook posts and feeds.

Stay in touch

With increasing numbers of people self-isolating or working/studying from home, it might be a good time to check you have correct contact details for friends and family.

Keeping in touch with people you know will help to keep spirits up during this time. You could agree a time to check-in with different people and try to keep the topic of conversation about other things, such as hobbies.

If you’re studying remotely, you could set up virtual coffee-catchups with friends, revision sessions or even grab some popcorn and have your own movie night using the 'Netflix Party' extension on Chrome.

For more ideas about keeping in touch, read our article 'Long distance: There with you'. 

Stick to a routine

It’s only normal that aspects of your routine may have become disrupted, but keeping structure to your day will be important.

During times of stress, we often need to pay more attention to our needs and feelings, whilst also finding time to do things that help us relax and that we enjoy.

You could write a list each evening of things to do the next day and perhaps even assign some times to these. You might want to think about regular sleeping patterns, exercise, a healthy and balanced diet, meditation, reading and time for hobbies.

Further reading

If you would like to talk to somebody about how you’re feeling if you're experiencing mental health or wellbeing difficulties, our Disability, Mental Health and Wellbeing Advisers are available via askUCL.