As COVID-19 continues to impact our everyday lives, and many of us remain in lockdown, there is growing concern about how prolonged and changing restrictions are affecting our mental health.
First of all, it’s okay to feel like you’re not okay.
Many of us have high expectations of ourselves which can make it more difficult to accept the reality of challenging situations. It’s important to remember that it’s okay to feel negative emotions – isolated, lonely, drained or even angry. It’s normal to have these reactions when there is so much uncertainty that surrounds us, particularly when you are also trying to find a way to live with a cancer diagnosis during a global pandemic.
Some tips on how you can cope with negative feelings include:
Acknowledge your emotions and don’t be ashamed to sit in your feelings.
This recognition can help you move past negative thoughts as you are consciously addressing them. However, it’s important to continue to check in with yourself during this process and if you find you are still finding it difficult to cope, acknowledge this and seek help.
Avoid comparing yourself to others.
Every person has their own struggles. It’s helpful to remember this and to know that while it can be beneficial to empathise, this doesn’t mean your own feelings are any less valid.
Give yourself a break.
The COVID-19 pandemic is penetrating what feels like every facet of our lives – it is widely publicised across news outlets, a popular topic on social media, and a frequent discussion point amongst colleagues and loved ones. While keeping up-to-date is important, we need to monitor how this information can make us feel. If you are finding it difficult to cope, or if you feel the information is just too much to digest today, give yourself a break. It’s amazing what refocusing your attention on another topic or activity can do to re-energise you.
Research shows that one to two hours of exercise a week reduces the risk of certain cancers, heart disease, dementia, and mental illness. Getting some exercise and staying active not only improves your physical health but helps lift your mood.
Enjoy the outdoors.
Similar to exercise, getting out in the sun can help with maintaining your mental health. The vitamin D and fresh air can make a real difference to your mood and improve your quality of sleep.
Maintain a routine.
Routine can be compromised when you’re stuck at home, but making an effort to maintain a routine can help you keep goal-oriented which can, in turn, make you feel more positive.
Watch what you eat and drink.
Eating well can have a significant impact on the way you feel physically and mentally. Try to avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol as these drinks can increase feelings of anxiety and depression, and try to stick to healthy meals and snacks to boost your mood. But also, don’t be too hard on yourself if you decide to indulge in some sweets or takeaway every once in a while!
Connect with others.
While an important part of protecting our community from the spread of COVID-19 is distancing yourself from others, this does not mean you have to limit contact. Continuing to connect with loved ones is important to combat feelings of isolation and to ensure we all still feel supported, especially during the pandemic. You can set up regular video or phone calls with friends and family, try apps and websites which allow you to play online games together like trivia, get creative with how you tell loved ones you’re thinking of them – perhaps send them a surprise gift delivery, or simply check in. If you notice someone struggling, remind them that there is help available.