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Coronavirus: latest psychological advice for patients and families

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Coronavirus: latest psychological advice for patients and families with mitochondrial disease (31st March 2020)

In our latest psychological wellbeing update, the Newcastle Mitochondrial service wanted to offer some practical advice on coping with loneliness, isolation and changes to routine during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Please check previous updates for advice on continuing to live well during this period of social distancing, and how to manage feelings of uncertainty, anxiety and worry.

It is important to note that this information is relevant to those living with mito, those supporting someone with mito and for the wider mito community, including professionals, researchers and other people affected by social distancing.

You might be worried about coronavirus and how it could affect your life. This may include stating at home and having to avoid other people. There are lots of things you can try that can help your wellbeing as suggested by the charity Mind (UK). This is summarised below:

Hand washing and anxiety

Some mental health problems can cause difficult feelings or behaviours to do with washing or hygiene. If you experience this, you might find it hard to hear advice about washing your hands.

If this is making you feel stressed or anxious, here are some things you could try:

· Don’t keep re-reading the same advice if this is unhelpful for you.

· Let other people know you’re struggling. For example, you could ask them not to remind you to wash your hands.

· Breathing exercises can help you cope and feel more in control

· Set limits, like washing your hands for the recommended 20 seconds.

· Plan something to do after washing your hands. This could help distract you and change your focus.

 

Connect with people

Keep in touch digitally

· Make plans to video chat with people or groups you’d normally see in person.

· You can also arrange phone calls or send instant messages or texts.

· If you’re worried that you might run out of stuff to talk about, make a plan with someone to watch a show or read a book separately so that you can discuss it when you contact each other.

· Think of other ways to keep in contact with people while meeting in person is not possible. For example, you could check your phone numbers are up to date, or that you have current email addresses for friends you’ve not seen for a while.

Connect with others in similar situations

· Speak with someone you trust. If you are feeling anxious about coronavirus or staying at home more than usual, you may find it helpful to talk about these worries with someone you trust, especially if they are in a similar situation.

· If you’re going online more than usual or seeking peer support on the internet, it’s important to look after your online wellbeing. Mind have produced a helpful guide on how to keep online wellbeing safe which can be found here – https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/online-mental-health/about-online-mental-health/

If you’re worried about loneliness

· Think about things you can do to connect with people. For example, putting extra pictures up of the people you care about might be a nice reminder of the people in your life.

· Listen to a chatty radio station or podcast if your home feels too quiet.

 

Routine

· Plan how you’ll spend your time. It might help to write this down on paper and put it on the wall. If you prefer to use technology, add this to your online diary.

· Try to follow your ordinary routine as much as possible. Get up at the same time as normal, follow your usual morning routines, and go to bed at your usual time. Set alarms to remind you of your new schedule if that helps.

· If you aren’t happy with your usual routine, this might be a chance to do things differently. For example, you could go to bed earlier, spend more time cooking or do other things you don’t usually have time for.

· Think about how you’ll spend time by yourself at home. For example, plan activities to do on different days or habits you want to start or keep up.

If you live with other people, it may help to do the following:

· Agree on a household routine. Try to give everyone you live with a say in this agreement.

· Try to respect each other’s privacy and give each other space. For example, some people might want to discuss everything they’re doing while others won’t.

 

Try to keep active

Build physical activity into your daily routine, if possible. Most of us don’t have exercise equipment like treadmills where we live, but there are still activities you can do. Exercising at home can be simple and there are options for most ages and abilities, such as:

· cleaning your home

· dancing to music

· going up and down stairs · seated exercises suggested by the NHS – https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/sitting-exercises/

· online exercise workouts that you can follow

· sitting less – if you notice you’ve been sitting down for an hour, just getting up or changing position can help.

 

Nature, sunlight and fresh air

Bringing nature into your everyday life can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing. It can improve your mood, reduce feelings of stress or anger, and make you feel more relaxed.

It is possible to get the positive effects of nature while staying indoors at home. You could try the following:

· Spend time with the windows open to let in fresh air.

· Arrange a comfortable space to sit, for example by a window where you can look out over a view of trees or the sky, or watch birds and other animals.

· Look at photos of your favourite places in nature. Use them as the background on your mobile phone or computer screen, or print and put them up on your walls.

· Listen to natural sounds, like recordings or apps that play birdsong, ocean waves or rainfall. Get as much natural light as you can. Spend time in your garden if you have one, or open your front or back door and sit on the doorstep.

· If you have safe access to green space like a garden, you could bring some natural materials in to decorate your living space, or use them in art projects. This could include leaves, flowers, feathers, tree bark or seeds.

· You may be able to buy seeds, flowers or plants online for delivery, to grow and keep indoors. If you order items for delivery, ask to have them left at your doorstep, to avoid face-to-face contact.

 

Thinking creatively with your time

· Try having a clear out. You could sort through your possessions and put them away tidily, or have a spring clean.

· You could also have a digital clear out. Delete any old files and apps you don’t use, upgrade your software, update all your passwords or clear out your inboxes.

· Write letters or emails, or make phone calls with people you’ve been meaning to catch up with.

There are lots of different ways that you can relax, take notice of the present moment and use your creative side. These include:

· arts and crafts, such as drawing, painting, collage, sewing, craft kits or upcycling

· DIY

· colouring

· mindfulness

· playing musical instruments, singing or listening to music

· writing

· yoga

· meditation

 

Keep your mind stimulated

· Keep your brain occupied and challenged. Set aside time in your routine for this. Read books, magazines and articles. Listen to podcasts, watch films and do puzzles.

· Although high street library branches are closed, some libraries have apps you can use online. These allow you to borrow ebooks, audiobooks or magazines from home for free, if you’re a library member.

· FutureLearn and OpenLearn have free online courses you could try.

· There are lots of apps that can help you learn things, such as a foreign language or other new skills.

 

Take care with news, social media and other sources of information

· Stay connected with current events, but be careful where you get news and health information from.

· For up-to-date advice in English, see the NHS coronavirus webpage and gov.uk coronavirus webpages.

· For up-to-date advice in Welsh, see the NHS Wales coronavirus webpage and llyw.cymru coronavirus webpage.

· If news stories make you feel anxious or confused, think about switching off or limiting what you look at for a while.

· Social media could help you stay in touch with people, but might also make you feel anxious including if people are sharing news stories or posting about their worries. Consider taking a break or limiting how you use social media. You might decide to view particular groups or pages but not scroll through timelines or newsfeeds.

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