Updated: Apr 23, 2020
Infectious disease outbreaks like coronavirus (COVID-19), can be worrying. This can affect your mental health. But there are many things you can do to mind your mental health during times like this.
How your mental health might be affected
The spread of coronavirus is a new and challenging event. Some people might find it more worrying than others. Try to remember that medical, scientific and public health experts are working hard to contain the virus.
Most people’s lives will change in some way over a period of days, weeks or months. But in time, it will pass.
You may notice some of the following:
finding yourself excessively checking for symptoms, in yourself, or others becoming irritable more easily
feeling insecure or unsettled
fearing that normal aches and pains might be the virus
having trouble sleeping
feeling helpless or a lack of control
having irrational thoughts
How to mind your mental health during this time
Keeping a realistic perspective of the situation based on facts is important. Here are some ways you can do this.
Stay informed but set limits for news and social media
The constant stream of social media updates and news reports about coronavirus could cause you to feel worried. Sometimes it can be difficult to separate facts from rumours. Use trustworthy and reliable sources to get your news.
Read up-to-date, factual information on coronavirus in Ireland here.
On social media, people may talk about their own worries or beliefs. You don’t need to make them your own. Too much time on social media may increase your worry and levels of anxiety. Consider limiting how much time you spend on social media.
If you find the coverage on coronavirus is too intense for you, talk it through with someone close or get support.
Keep up your healthy routines
Your routine may be affected by the coronavirus outbreak in different ways. But during difficult times like this, it’s best if you can keep some structure in your day.
It’s important to pay attention to your needs and feelings, especially during times of stress. You may still be able to do some of the things you enjoy and find relaxing.
For example, you could try to:
exercise regularly, especially walking - you can do this even if you need to self-quarantine keep regular sleep routines
maintain a healthy, balanced diet
avoid excess alcohol
practice relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises read a book
Stay connected to others
During times of stress, friends and families can be a good source of support. It is important to keep in touch with them and other people in your life.
If you’re advised to limit your social contact to contain coronavirus, try to stay connected to people in other ways. E-mail, social media, video calls or phone calls can help you to stay social during this time.
Remember that talking things through with someone can help lessen worry or anxiety. You don't have to appear to be strong or to try to cope with things by yourself.
Talking to children and young people
Involving your children in your plans to manage this situation is important. Try to consider how they might be feeling.
Give children and young people the time and space to talk about the outbreak. Share the facts with them in a way that suits their age and temperament, without causing alarm.
Talk to your children about coronavirus but try to limit their exposure to news and social media. This is especially important for older children who may be spending more time online now. It may be causing anxiety.
Try to anticipate distress and support each other
It is understandable to feel vulnerable or overwhelmed reading or hearing news about the outbreak.
Acknowledge these feelings. Remind yourself and others to look after your physical and mental health. If you smoke or drink, try to avoid doing this any more than usual. It won’t help in the long-term.
Don’t make assumptions
Don’t judge people or make assumptions about who is responsible for the spread of the disease. The coronavirus can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, nationality or ethnicity. We are all in this together.
Children and teens react, in part, on what they see from the adults around them. When parents and caregivers deal with the COVID-19 calmly and confidently, they can provide the best support for their children. Parents can be more reassuring to others around them, especially children, if they are better prepared.
Not all children and teens respond to stress in the same way. Some common changes to watch for include:
Excessive crying or irritation in younger children
Returning to behaviours they have outgrown (for example, toileting accidents or bedwetting)
Excessive worry or sadness
Unhealthy eating or sleeping habits
Irritability and “acting out” behaviours in teens
Poor school performance or avoiding school
Difficulty with attention and concentration
Avoidance of activities enjoyed in the past
Unexplained headaches or body pain
Use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
There are many things you can do to support your child
Take time to talk with your child or teen about the COVID-19 outbreak. Answer questions and share facts about COVID-19 in a way that your child or teen can understand.
Reassure your child or teen that they are safe. Let them know it is ok if they feel upset. Share with them how you deal with your own stress so that they can learn how to cope from you.
Limit your family’s exposure to news coverage of the event, including social media. Children may misinterpret what they hear and can be frightened about something they do not understand.
Try to keep up with regular routines. If schools are closed, create a schedule for learning activities and relaxing or fun activities.
Be a role model. Take breaks, get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat well. Connect with your friends and family members.
*Advice from the HSE & World Health Organisation
Other services you where you can reach someone to talk to:
Samaritans offers a 24 hour listening service over text message, text 'Hello' to 087 260 9090 to get started (standard text messaging rates apply) or call 116 123 to talk to someone over the phone.
Childline text and instant messaging services are available from 10am - 4am every day to young people under 18, text 'Talk' to 50101 to talk to a trained counsellor by text message or call 1800 66 66 66.
Visit Your GP:
We always recommend that you visit your GP if you have suicidal feelings. Don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed. Your doctor is a professional health care provider and will be familiar with how you are feeling. You mental health is just that - your health. You would visit your GP if you had been feeling physically unwell right ? Your emotional health is just as important as your physical well-being - in fact the two go hand in hand. If you don’t have a current GP you can find a list of services in your area here. You can also contact the CareDoc service on 1850 334 999
Contact the Emergency Services:
If you are an immediate danger to yourself and are going through a suicidal crisis please contact the emergency services by dialling 999 or visit your nearest Emergency Department.