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We are currently experiencing turbulent events, the likes of which are unprecedented. I’m a chronic overthinker. I find myself scrolling through hashtags and news articles, refreshing my newsfeeds like a reflex, waiting for everything to start making sense.
If I’m experiencing this, I’m sure many more people will be too. So I thought I’d share some research I’ve done into protecting your mental health at the moment, along with good practices to help keep your anxieties under control. If your anxiety is very bad, it’s important to speak to someone and get the right support. Anxiety UK has a website page providing support for people experiencing anxiety due to coronavirus (called #coronanxiety).
I also thought I’d run through some other things that I’ve found beneficial, and I’ve included some extra links to mental health charity pages and online resources at the end. Please make use of them if you’d like, or share official links you’ve found helpful in the comments.
Relax with books
Books are a brilliant way to escape from the noise of the internet, and we recommend that you support your local bookstore in the coming weeks, however you can. Tackle your TBR (to be read) list, pick up that book you never find time to start and, if you can, consider buying a gift voucher for your local independent bookstore so you can treat yourself or a loved one when things start to return to some semblance of normality.
There’s a lot of scaremongering or fake news out there at the moment, and it’s easy to become overwhelmed. To give myself a break from the news, I’ve realised this is an ideal time to share book love and experience the warmth of the book community.
The book community on social media is coming together (at a safe distance and in their own homes) to support authors and local bookshops. So here’s a chance to direct your social media consumption to something positive because there will always be books and reading will never be cancelled. Follow LoveReading on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Find your favourite authors and publishers on these platforms too and tell them how much you love their books.
On social media, the whole LoveReading Team will be focusing on positive support of the book community and offering book recommendations as usual to provide some escapism and respite. So tweet to us, comment on our posts, tag us and tell us what you’re reading.
If you find you’re falling like Alice down the rabbit hole into a sea of scaremongering news, opinions and worries, take a break. It's OK to feel overwhelmed by all of this, so be kind to yourself. Consider muting any triggering or distressing content, words and phrases and accounts, or turn your screen off altogether. And always follow up-to-date advice from the official sources of information, such as the Government and NHS.
Talk to People
Message or call your parents or grandparents, siblings, aunts or uncles, friends and colleagues … If you’re able to get out of the house, pop a note through a neighbour’s door to check they’re OK. This may help you to feel pro-active, having done whatever you can to remain connected to family and friends. The Mental Health Foundation has some ideas for ‘random acts of kindness’ – being kind to others not only benefits their mental health but it can benefit yours too.
Horatio Clare’s memoir, The Light in the Dark, is an account of one winter with SAD. The sense of preparation, isolation and hope from the smallest positives seems poignant at the moment.
Make a To-Do List
The number of people staying at home to social distance, and protecting themselves (and others) by self-isolating, is increasing. If you’re one of them, think about what you could do around the house, or in the garden if you’re able to.
It goes without saying that if you’re feeling unwell, rest is a priority. But otherwise, maybe it’s time to re-organise your wardrobe or put up that bookshelf you've been meaning to for the past few weeks. Our Home and Garden category has some brilliant book recommendations!
This could be a good opportunity to try being creative too – doodle, knit, try to remember how to play the piano, and more! We have a selection of brilliant books in our Creativity section! Craftfulness by Rosemary Davidson, Arzu Tahsin is a great suggestion.
Keeping active can benefit your physical and mental health, even if you’re stuck at home. It may sound a bit cliché, but when I’m stressed my favourite way to relax is to do yoga. Research at the University of Sheffield in 2013, with the British Wheel of Yoga, found that yoga can help to ease stress. Mindfulness can also help you relax. The NHS website recommends this video from Every Mind Matters if you want to try it.
I can’t always shut my mind off and practise mindfulness successfully. But I do find that playing around with a handful of yoga moves or stretches, trying not to fall over and finding new sequences is enough of a distraction and helps me to relax.
Check out Tai Chi by Birinder Tember – its clear instructions and illustrations are perfect for beginners. Ruby Wax’s How to be Human includes a number of helpful mindfulness exercises. The Flexible Body is a great exercise book, with workouts split into 10-minute sessions.
Get Some Help
Remember to be kind to yourself and aim to stay as happy and as healthy as you can. Here are some links I've found to articles that focus on managing your mental health in response to the coronavirus, as well as the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s guidelines for protecting mental health.
· Mental Health Foundation: Looking after your mental health during the Coronavirus outbreak
· Student Minds: Resources
· Mind: Coronavirus and your wellbeing
· World Health Organisation: Mental Health and Psychological Considerations During COVID-19
· Anxiety UK: #Coronanxiety Support & Resources