Cardiff psychiatry lecturer gives his top tips on staying sane during self-quarantine
Sane and self-quarantine in the same sentence? Who’d have thought?
With no more lectures, no more YOLO and not a bag of pasta in sight, it’s clear our uni experience is over this year thanks to COVID-19. Scroll through any social media platform and you could be convinced the apocalypse has hit. With so much information circulating, and constant updates on what we should and shouldn’t be doing to keep ourselves and others safe, it’s only natural that people are feeling anxious and uncertain.
This is the perfect time to remember that keeping ourselves mentally healthy is just as important as our physical health. The Tab Cardiff spoke to Cardiff uni’s Psychiatry lecturer, Dr Athanasios Hassoulas, to find out what we can all do to keep calm during the pandemic.
Should we be keeping up with news updates regularly?
“We might feel the urge to keep as up to date as possible with any new developments and changes at this time to provide us with a sense of control over the situation. In most cases, however, following the news frequently throughout the day will probably just overwhelm us and not equip us with any specific information that will be of any particular immediate use. Try to limit watching the news to just once a day, to catch up on the day’s developments.”
COVID- 19 is everywhere on social media right now. Is it sensible to stay on social media?
“As with excessively following news developments, COVID19-related social media bombardment can lead to information overload and anxiety. If accessing your social media accounts is making you feel more anxious then consider taking some time out. For those who wish to remain on social media during this time, remember that this is a time for us all to act responsibly and support one another. Share information that is of use without resorting to the use of fear tactics or provide positive updates about the wonderful things that people are doing to help each other.”
We know the physical precautions we need to take, like hand washing regularly and social distancing, but what precautions should we take for our mental wellbeing?
“It is often easy to overlook our mental wellbeing at a time when everyone is focused on their physical health but the two really do go hand-in-hand. Don’t neglect any changes in mood, appetite or sleep patterns. It is understandable that there will be disruption to our daily lives over the next few months but where such changes are persistent for more than two weeks, let someone know. For some people with existing anxiety disorders and other mental health conditions, this can be a particularly challenging time. It is important to identify stressors in the environment and any potential triggers that may increase the level of distress experienced during this time. Many students may also be feeling anxious over the impact that these recent developments will have on their studies. This is understandable but rest assured, these are issues that can be overcome.” You can also visit mind.org.uk for more mental health information and support.
What sorts of things can we do to stay occupied whilst isolating?
“Despite being locked up in the comfort of our own homes, it is still important that we get enough exercise to remain physically and mentally fit. From star jumps in the kitchen to push-ups in the bedroom, it’s important to remain as active as possible. Along with exercise, perhaps read that book that you just haven’t got around to opening or prepare that dish that you haven’t had the opportunity to try. Be prepared to spend significantly more time at home over the next few months, so make your home environment as enjoyable and stress-free as possible.”
How should we deal with being isolated from family and friends?
“Long periods of social isolation can have a considerable impact on our mental health. It is therefore imperative that channels of communication remain open with loved ones and friends during this time. Whilst we may not be able to visit people, especially the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, technology can be used to provide a virtual presence. From a simple phone call to FaceTime, keeping in touch and asking others if they need anything will be crucial. Assisting those in our communities who also need supplies to be delivered to them is important, we can help in so many different ways. By working together, we will get through this sooner rather than later.
So in short, stay indoors when you can, wash your hands and make sure you’re keeping yourself and others as safe as possible. We can smell the beer gardens and dark fruits from here!
Have you been directly affected by coronavirus? Email tips to [email protected]
If you suspect you have coronavirus, you should phone NHS Direct Wales on 0845 46 47 or 111 for advice.