When outbreaks, new studies and guidelines make headlines, it can be easy to get caught up in the panic. We share five tips on how you can stay calm, keep grounded, and keep putting your mental health first
Headlines are designed to grab our attention. A successful one will make us stop and take notice. Yet sometimes, condensing down the latest big news (whether that’s about an outbreak or a study that contradicts conventional wisdom) into just a few short words can make it seem bigger or scarier than we might otherwise see it.
We’re not trying to trivialise or minimise real concerns you may have about your health. But, when you are exposed to messaging that is designed to invoke an emotional reaction, worry – and panic – can start to set in.
The Mental Health Foundation, a leading charity seeking to help people better understand, protect, and look after their mental health, have shared their tips on how you can best look after your mental health and wellbeing.
Dr Antonis Kousoulis, Director of the Mental Health Foundation, commented: “Infectious disease outbreaks, like the current Coronavirus, can be scary. While it is important to stay informed, there are many things we can do to manage our wellbeing. We have issued these tips because the virus is getting massive news coverage and there are things that people can do to look after their mental health.”
If you are worried the headlines are causing you to feel worried, anxious, nervous or stressed, there are a number of different things you can do that may help. Try and:
Avoid speculation. Use reputable sources for your information
“Rumour and speculation can fuel anxiety,” Mental Health Foundation explains. “Having access to good quality information can help you feel more in control.”
For the latest up-to-date information that is most likely to be accurate, try and stick to reputable websites. The NHS website, Gov.uk, Health Protection Scotland, and Public Health Wales should all have regular updates during times when a virus, outbreak, or new research are making a big impact in the news.
Standard health and hygiene advice can often be applied. This can include washing your hands after using public transport or being in public spaces, using tissues when you cough or sneeze (and disposing of them properly), and even staying home if you are feeling unwell.
Stay calm and connected
The Mental Health Foundation recommends keeping in contact with loved ones and trying to remain calm. “At times of stress, we work better in company and with support. Try and keep in touch with your friends and family, or contact a helpline for emotional support.”
Keeping to your regular routine can help you to feel calmer and in control. If you find yourself feeling unusually worried or stressed, try some new stress management and relaxation tips. Keeping active, and ensuring you are eating a healthy, balanced diet can act as natural mood boosters, supporting both your physical and mental wellbeing.
Be kind to yourself and others
In times of stress and uncertainty, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed, vulnerable, or uncertain – especially if you have experienced past mental ill-health.
“It’s important to acknowledge these feelings and remind each other to look after our physical and mental health. We should also be aware of and avoid increasing habits that may not be helpful in the long term, like smoking and drinking. Try and reassure people you know who may be worried.”
During periods of stress, it can be easy to develop or fall back on unhealthy coping mechanisms. These could include overworking to try and ignore other worries, or trying to ‘self-medicate’ with alcohol, over or under eating, smoking, sex, or any other number of habits.
If you’re worried that you may rely on unhealthy ways of coping with stress and uncertainty, it could be worth speaking with a counsellor. By working with a therapist, you can learn how to identify signs and behaviours that may not be good for your wellbeing in the long-run.
Be mindful of social media
With so much coverage, big issues can spill into our feeds. Before you know it, you’ve lost time scrolling through article after article that speculates on recent updates. The Mental Health Foundation recommends you manage how you are following the news (and outside of) the media.
“If you find that the news is stressing you out, it’s important to find a balance. It’s best that you don’t avoid all news. Keep informing and educating yourself, but limit your news intake if it’s bothering you.”
Taking a break from social media, being more mindful of how you access news, and making a conscious effort to only read reputable news sources can all help you to minimise the stress and worry you may be feeling.
Talk with your children
Children and teens can be more perceptive than we might think. If we are feeling overwhelmed, chances are our children may pick up on the signs.
With such easy access to online content, your child may also encounter posts or articles about the latest news that may cause them to feel worried or nervous. It’s important to speak with them about what they have heard, to gain a better understanding of how they are feeling, and to discuss their understanding of events.
It may be easier to avoid big, scary topics, but doing so can risk making them feel like they can’t come to you to talk about things that may make them feel nervous or scared. Find out more about how you can talk to your children about scary world news, or learn more about how you can teach children to spot misleading headlines and ‘fake news’.
To learn healthier coping mechanisms and discover how you can best deal with stress, visit Counselling Directory.