With the number of cases of Coronavirus escalating in the UK and around the world, it’s impossible to browse on your phone or pick up a paper without being reminded of the grip it is taking across the globe. And these constant reminders of the pandemic can take a toll on people’s mental health.
In hospitality, the worry can be particularly acute. Will a sharp decline in inbound tourists lead to redundancies at the hotel I work in? If people stop eating out in crowded environments, will I have to close my restaurant? If I cater within a busy workplace, am I more exposed than many to catching the virus? If many of my colleagues phone in sick, will I have to put in more shifts and work longer? And if I have to self-isolate, will I still be paid?
These and other questions and worries can place unwanted pressures on an individual. And, when pressure turns to stress, mental health can suffer. To help, we’ve put together advice from Hospitality Action and the Mental Health Foundation, to help people suffering from mental health during these times.
1 Seek out reliable information
Seek information from trusted information sources and avoid rumour and speculation. We’re all bombarded with media speculation about the virus’s potential threat. And the media loves to talk up a crisis. Don’t allow the scaremongers to frighten you: you’ll find the latest information on the NHS website including symptoms of Coronavirus and measures you can take to avoid it.
2 Try to manage how you follow the outbreak in the media
There is extensive news coverage about the outbreak. If you find that the news is causing you huge stress, it’s important to find a balance. It’s best that you don’t avoid all news and that you keep informing and educating yourself, but limit your news intake if it is bothering you.
3 Talk to your children
The world can be a scary place for kids, sometimes. Talk to them regularly to make sure playground gossip isn’t filling their minds with grisly images of what the future holds. Explain the facts to them, to ensure their imaginations don’t run riot.
4 Don’t let self-isolation affect your mental health
If you need to stay away from work because you have or think you might have the virus, don’t let yourself become isolated. Keep in touch with the outside world through phone calls, emails or social media. And establish a daily routine that keeps worry and stress at bay: watch that box set you’ve always meant to watch, do some exercise, read a book.
5 Don’t worry alone
Talking to others helps keep a perspective on current events. So speak to family, friends and colleagues, and don’t let worry fester into anxiety. And use the outbreak as a chance to check in with friends and colleagues to make sure their mental health isn’t suffering. If you are worried please call us 24/7 on 0808 802 2111 if you are a member of our EAP or otherwise call our helpline on 0808 802 0282
6 Stay in touch with friends on social media
But remember to regularly assess your social media activity. Tune in with yourself and ask if they need to be adjusted. Are there particular accounts or people that are increasing your worry or anxiety? Consider muting or unfollowing accounts or hashtags that cause you to feel anxious.
7 Try to anticipate distress
It is OK to feel vulnerable and overwhelmed as we read news about the outbreak, especially if you have experienced trauma or a mental health problem in the past, or if you have a long-term physical health condition that makes you more vulnerable to the effects of the Coronavirus. It’s important to acknowledge these feelings and remind each other to look after our physical and mental health. We should also be aware of and avoid increasing habits that may not be helpful in the long term, like smoking and drinking. Try and reassure people you know who may be worried and check in with people who you know are living alone.
8 Plan your day
We are all adjusting to a new, rather strange, way of life. This can be a risk to our mental wellbeing. As tempting as it might be to stay in pyjamas all day, regular routines are essential for our identity, self-confidence and purpose. Try to start your day at roughly the same time you usually would and aim to set aside time each day for movement, relaxation, connection and reflection.
9 Move more every day
Being active reduces stress, increases energy levels, can make us more alert and help us sleep better. Explore different ways of adding physical movement and activity to your day and find some that work best for you. Even at home, there will be lots of ways to exercise and keep your body moving. Read our guide on keeping active and visit Every Mind Matters for some ideas to get you started.
10 Try a relaxation technique
Relaxing and focusing on the present can help improve your mental health and lighten negative feelings. Try some different meditation or breathing exercises to see what helps. For example, sometimes we can be so tense that we do not even remember what being relaxed feels like. Progressive muscle relaxation teaches you to recognise when you are starting to get tense and how to relax.
11 Take time to reflect and practice self-compassion
Make time every day to reflect on what went well. It’s important to recognise your successes and the things you are grateful for, no matter how small. Consider keeping a gratitude journal each day where you could write two or three of these things every night before you go to bed. Mindfulness techniques may also help you focus on the present rather than dwelling on unhelpful thoughts (though they may not be helpful for those experiencing more severe depression).
12 Improve your sleep
Feelings of uncertainty and changes to daily life may mean you have more difficulty sleeping. There is a lot you can do to improve your sleep. Aim to go to bed and get up at the same time each day, even at the weekend if you can, and try to get some natural sunlight (by opening your curtains and windows) where possible. This helps to regulate your body clock which can help you sleep better. Wind down before bed by avoiding using your phone, tablet, computer or TV for an hour before bedtime.