With coronavirus (COVID-19) taking a toll on our stress levels, Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub explores how the people of Cumbernauld can make sense of it all and keep mentally well at this time.
In the face of indefinite isolation, contagion, financial uncertainty, and with no return to normality in sight, the strain of what has developed from what perhaps seemed like just another news story a few weeks ago to a national crisis affecting everyone in a very real way now is understandably causing all sorts of fears, worries and emotions amongst ordinary people.
Samaritans, a UK and Irish charity which aims to provide support to those in emotional distress and struggling to cope, has seen a huge rise in their volume of calls since late February, with many concerned for the health of their loved ones and themselves, particularly those with elderly parents or young children.
Along with health concerns, many are worried about their finances, as tens of thousands across the country lose their jobs. Others have to work reduced hours due to additional childcare responsibilities.
It is no wonder that people are feeling panicked and anxious as they grapple with job losses, school closures and social isolation.
So, in these unprecedented times, what can people do to bring themselves a bit of mental relief? Below, Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub provides some tips and support for those feeling overwhelmed and stressed by the situation.
COPING WITH ANXIETY ARISING FROM CORONAVIRUS AND SELF-ISOLATION
Acknowledge Your Anxiety
People deal with anxiety in ways that range from harmless to harmful – from binge-watching television to comfort eating and alcohol. But the commonality is that these are ways of avoiding dealing with it.
One simple but sometimes challenging step that those concerned can take is to acknowledge that they are anxious rather than trying to sweep it under the carpet or pretend otherwise. A way of doing this is to keep in mind that anxiety is a normal human reaction to a perceived danger or threat, and that it is something we all experience at some time or other.
Viewing anxiety as a set of feelings, thoughts and emotions rather than something defining to you or your life can be a helpful approach for many. When feeling anxious or burdened, try to remember that feelings come and go and that they will pass.
It’s a complete untruth to think that acknowledging anxiety is a cause for shame or a sign of weakness in any way. In actual fact, the opposite is true. Recognising and admitting your anxiety is a courageous thing to do and shows real character and strength.
Schedule ‘Worry Time’
If the worry gets overwhelming, one technique that can help is giving yourself set-aside ‘worry time’, where you aim to put worry aside to just a set time of the day. To help with this, pick a time of the day where you are generally calmer and more at ease with things. For example, if you know morning is a bad time for your worry, it might be better to pick a time in the afternoon or evening.
This might seem counterintuitive, but it can actually help reduce worrying. Setting a daily half-hour ‘worry period’ often helps a person to stay in the present moment the rest of the day. During the allotted slot, it is a good idea to distinguish between worries over which you have little or no control, and worries about problems you can influence. Remember that some of the worries relating to coronavirus are ones of which we have little or no control over.
One way of switching off out with your ‘worry period’ can be to use worry strips. This involves getting a pen and paper, and when a worrying thought enters your mind write down what you’re worrying about. Then remind yourself that you don’t need to worry about this now as you have set aside time later or the next day to think about that.
If sleep is a problem, it can be particularly helpful to keep some worry strips on a bedside cabinet at night. If a worrying thought is keeping you awake, write it down and then rest in the knowledge that you have recorded the thought and will deal with it the next day.
Limiting daily news consumption may be also wise. If you’re concerned over what’s happening or you’re unable to concentrate on anything other than the risk of coronavirus, you should probably consider lowering your dose of media to once a day. Reducing your time looking at social media posts can help too.
Reframe the Situation
It can be understandable for many in self-isolation to view the current situation as being ‘stuck inside’. Thinking this way, however true it may seem, can be an unhelpful mindset though and affect your mood.
Instead, how about thinking of this time as an indulgence in a long-awaited opportunity to slow down and focus on yourself and your home? For those who are employed with little holidays and high stress at work, this can be a time to disconnect and recharge your batteries.
Doing one productive thing per day can lead to a more positive attitude. Set your sights on long-avoided tasks, such as reorganising, being creative, meditating, practicing mindfulness or something else worthwhile that you enjoy at home but don’t normally get a chance to do.
Try New Things and Maintain Routine
With all the additional time spent not commuting or getting to places, a period of being home-based could be a time to do something special with new rituals. This could entail a walk first thing in the morning, starting a journal, or speaking to a family member every morning on the phone or FaceTime.
Having something focussed during this time will help you look forward to each new day. Also try to keep some form of positive routine if possible. On work and school days, you may find it purposeful to go to bed and get up at a similar time to when you normally would, for example.
Exercise is a classic anxiety reduction strategy. Self-isolation can be very hard if you are someone who is used to being outdoors, taking part in sports or fitness, going to the gym or something else which gets you moving.
So how can you exercise when you are at home a lot? Instead of going to a fitness class, what about watching and following a fitness class on YouTube every other day? Or what about doing some work in the garden when it’s dry? If you enjoy dancing, why not practice a little in the living room?!
Even tidying up, doing the housework or having a clear-out can involve quite a bit of movement and exercise without realising it. Keeping moving, even in a lesser way than normal, can undoubtedly release endorphins and help you feel better during times when you are able to go out much.
Small Acts of Altruism and Informal Volunteering
Helping others can give you a sense of purpose and control. Do you have an elderly or sick neighbour you can offer your services to? Maybe someone you know is unable to make it to the shops or to pick up a prescription under current restrictions. Perhaps you could offer to help out if you are physically well and in a position to?
The idea is to get out of the helpless zone if you can. Remember, all the people in your house, street and neighbourhood are in this daunting situation together, so try to be kind and understanding to others. You might not realise it, but by helping someone else in need, you will be helping yourself to feel good and to be able to cope better too.
Remember Physical Distancing is Not Social Distancing
It goes without saying, but loneliness is bad for humans. Self-isolation does not mean cutting yourself off from speaking with or contacting others for long periods at a time.
You might want to call your parents, kids or a friend every day. If you’re more of a techie, the digital age can be highly advantageous in such circumstances. Tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Skype, FaceTime and WhatsApp are all good ways of keeping in touch with others. If you’re not too good with technology, maybe there is a friend or family member you could ask to help you with this.
For example, if church is part of your weekly life, a number of churches in the Cumbernauld area, including Cornerstone Christian Fellowship, are providing regular contact and Sunday services via online streaming.
Access a Free Helpline or Website for Further Help
If you are finding that feelings of stress, anxiety and worry are overwhelming you or someone you know at this time, there are plenty of free telephone and online support services still operating during the coronavirus outbreak which can be accessed by people living in Cumbernauld.
If you are a resident of Cumbernauld and struggling mentally, physically, socially or financially as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, Cornerstone House Centre may be able to help, advise or signpost if you telephone 01236 739220 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Please do not visit the organisation’s premises unless you are specifically asked to.
Some other services available are highlighted below (please note that the opening times of some helplines may be different than usual at this time):
Anxiety UK – Charity providing support if you have been diagnosed with an anxiety condition. Telephone the organisation on 03444 775 774 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5.30pm) or visit their website at www.anxietyuk.org.uk.
Bipolar UK – A charity helping people living with manic depression or bipolar disorder. Visit their website at www.bipolaruk.org.uk.
Men’s Health Forum – This is a 24/7 stress support service for men by text, chat and email. Visit their website at www.menshealthforum.org.uk.
Mental Health Foundation – Provides information and support for anyone with mental health problems or learning disabilities. Their website is www.mentalhealth.org.uk.
No Panic – A charity offering support for sufferers of panic attacks and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Their telephone number is 0844 967 4848 (daily, 10.00am to 10.00pm), and website is www.nopanic.org.uk.
OCD Action – Support for people with OCD. Includes information on treatment and online resources. Their contact number is 0845 390 6232 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5.00pm), and their website is www.ocdaction.org.uk.
OCD UK – A charity run by people with OCD, for people with OCD. Includes facts, news and treatments. The organisation can be contacted on 0845 120 3778 (Monday to Friday, 9.00am to 5.00pm), or online at www.ocduk.org.
PAPYRUS – Young suicide prevention society. The HOPElineUK number is 0800 068 4141 (Monday to Friday, 10.00am to 5.00pm and 7.00pm to 10.00pm, and 2.00pm to 5.00pm on weekends), and their website is www.papyrus-uk.org.
SANE – Emotional support, information and guidance for people affected by mental illness, their families and carers. The SANEline contact number is 0300 304 7000 (daily, 4.30pm to 10.30pm), and a textcare service is also available by visiting www.sane.org.uk/textcare. A peer support form can be accessed at www.sane.org.uk/supportforum.
Well-informed – A mental health service signposting service specifically for the Lanarkshire area. The Well-informed helpline number is 0800 073 0918 and email address is email@example.com. Furthermore, a range of local mental health resources can be accessed by visiting the Elament website at www.elament.org.uk.
YoungMinds – Information on child and adolescent mental health. Services are provided for parents and professionals. The Parents helpline can be contacted on 0808 802 5544 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4.00pm), and the organisation can be visited online at www.youngminds.org.uk.
Young Scot – A specially-created online guide providing free coronavirus advice and support for those aged 11-26 in Scotland has been set up at www.youngscot.org/coronavirus. The website contains articles and tools to help with virus prevention, handwashing tips, NHS advice and mental health support, amongst other areas.