MS-UK Counsellor Kerry Trevethick offers her advice
With COVID-19 continuing to spread, the Government has started to implement social distancing. This means increasing our distance from others including avoiding social places such as pubs, theatres and gatherings, avoiding unnecessary travelling and working from home where possible. For people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) and some groups of people, the advice is that they should self-isolate and stay at home for up to 12 weeks.
Whilst these measures are supposed to protect the most vulnerable in our society and slow down the spread of the virus, they can have a detrimental impact on our mental and emotional wellbeing. Below are some tips that may help you manage your mental health during this difficult time.
Try to spend some time in nature. The advice is, you are currently able to go for a walk if you keep a safe distance from other people. If you are unable to do this then try to get outside – spending time in the garden or on a balcony can be helpful. If this isn’t possible try sitting by an open window and watching the birds and trees.
Mindful activities such as colouring in, guided meditation and puzzles, for example, can help you manage anxiety. There are several apps that can help with this such as subscription apps like Calm and Headspace along with some free apps such as Elefriends and What’s Up? All can be found on the app store on your phone or tablet device.
Limit the amount of time you are reading or watching the news. You may also need to limit your use of social media, as there are lots of negative stories at the moment which may make you feel more anxious.
Keep to a routine. It may be tempting to sit in your pyjamas all day if you are not going out, but a routine can be important for our mental health. This includes regular meal times, setting up a structure for working and getting up and going to bed at healthy times to ensure you are getting enough sleep, along with finding some time for leisure. It is important that you also do enough in the day to stimulate yourself rather than using the time to lie in bed or sleep.
It may be tempting to spend more time in front of a screen, be that the computer, TV, phone or tablet. Make sure you are doing other things such as reading, listening to podcasts, arts and crafts, baking, or doing your favourite hobby.
Keep connected. Just because you are self-isolating, this doesn’t mean that you have to cut yourself off from everybody. Keep connected with your friends and family via phone, email, video call or social media.
Talk about your feelings, anxieties, worries or concerns with friends or family members. If this isn’t possible then try using a helpline such as the Samaritans on 116 123. If you have any worries about how this may impact your MS then call the MS-UK Helpline free on 0800 783 0518 or think about accessing the counselling service.
Lots of people in communities are offering help at the moment, be that going to the shop for you, or for a friendly phone call – if you need the support, please use it, you are not a burden.
Try to maintain a healthy diet and keep as physically active as possible.
Remember that these measures are just temporary, they will pass, and it is important to look after yourself both physically and emotionally at this time.