The restrictions imposed on everyday life as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak has impacted everyone in one way or another. For those suffering with mental health problems, this time can be very stressful. Not only are people with existing mental illness suffering, but the lockdown has triggered a new wave of symptoms of mental health problems from people who have never experienced it in the past.
A survey by Open Evidence revealed that 57% of people in the UK aged 18-75 reported that they had felt down, depressed or hopeless about the future at some stage during this period. Almost a quarter of adults in the UK have reported that they feel lonely during lockdown, and those aged 18-24 seemed to be impacted the worst as those reporting feelings of loneliness rose from 16% before the lockdown to 44% just two weeks into the lockdown, claiming that the restrictions on their movement were the greatest factor in damaging their mental wellness.
Mental health problems are often triggered by significant stress, job loss, illness and bereavement. With this pandemic creating all of those situations in much higher frequencies, it’s no wonder psychiatrists such as those at The Royal College of Psychiatrists have reported a “tsunami of mental illness” since the start of the lockdown with people experiencing depression, mania, psychotic episodes and heighten anxiety. Unfortunately, this has also led to an increase of suicides.
Not only can an event such as this trigger mental health problems, but it can also trigger addictions. Links between traumatic stress and harmful addictions have been well established. Those with existing addictions who are seeking recovery have found this period particularly hard due to the reduced support available. Experts have predicted a surge in relapses during this time as a result of low mental health, stress, boredom and a lack of routine.
Lockdown restrictions have meant supply lines for illicit drugs are drying up, which could lead to dealers cutting their substances more harshly in order to make them go further. This could potentially be fatal. For example, if heroin is cut with fentanyl, a drug with similar effects, this could result in accidental overdose due to the potency of fentanyl being 50 times stronger than heroin. Furthermore, if a user cannot get hold of their regular drug of choice, they may use an alternative.
Spice is a synthetic alternative to cannabis that frequently causes dangerous side effects and is much more difficult for users to tolerate and regulate. If users do manage to get hold of their drug of choice, they may stockpile and accidentally overdose as a result of temptation to take more than their usual amount. All of these circumstances can have extremely devastating harmful or fatal outcomes.
Alcohol addictions are also on the rise and relapses are likely to happen due to the feeling of needing to fill the void that lockdown presents as well as the stress of self-isolation, unemployment, boredom and poor family dynamics. Failure to attend regular support meetings can lead to a false sense of recovery, giving the impression of “I’m ok now, one drink won’t affect me.”
Unexpected addictions have also been on the rise such as addictions to exercise as people have more time off due to the lockdown to focus on getting fit. This can lead to obsessive behaviours and even fuel eating disorders which are detrimental to both physical and mental health.
How Can I Improve and Maintain My Mental Health During the Coronavirus Lockdown?
1. Stick To Your Usual Routine
Although we can no longer do some of our regular activities such as going to work or seeing friends as normal, prioritising your daily tasks can help to keep a sense of normality, familiarity and discipline in your life.
- Getting up at the same time every day
- Brushing your teeth
- Getting dressed in everyday clothes (as tempting as staying in your pyjamas may be)
- Having regular meals including breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- Taking the dog for a walk
- Going to bed at the same time each night
2. Stay Social
Humans are very social beings and it has been proven that socialising tends to make us live longer, boost feelings of well-being, decrease depression and may even lower the risk of dementia.
Whilst it might not be possible to meet your friends and family just yet, the internet and mobile phones provide us with lots of opportunities to stay in touch with them. Apps and websites such as Zoom, Skype, Whatsapp and Messenger allow you to message, call and video chat your contacts.
Many people are hosting online quiz nights which is a fun way to socialise as a group. Staying in touch with peers who are also in recovery can also be helpful to you if you are suffering. They can provide support and empathy with a shared understanding of what you’re going through.
3. Schedule Your Days
Boredom is a large trigger of low mental health and addiction. By planning out your day with activities, social and family time as well as the menial tasks such as washing up, doing the ironing etc… can help to stop the niggling boredom than many are feeling during lockdown.
Pinterest has lots of great ideas for activities to keep yourself and your family occupied. You could even use this time to take up a hobby that you’ve always wanted to try or even improve your skills in the kitchen.
Reading is also a fantastic way to transport yourself from your own world to another as well as improving your memory, fluency and concentration. Becoming engrossed in a book allows you to forget what’s happening around you and provides a great distraction when the day becomes boring.
4. Be Realistic About Your Triggers
As much as any parent loves their children, spending 24/7 cooped up in the house with them can be draining and lead to feelings of irritability. If you live with a partner, try taking turns in looking after the kids whilst the other takes a break.
If you and your partner are working from home, try to create two ‘office’ spaces in different rooms to prevent becoming frustrated with each other throughout the day. You can then make time later to catch up on the day and keep things pleasant.
If you find yourself becoming stressed or irritated by a situation, do your best to remove yourself from it instead of fuelling the fire and pointing the finger of blame at your loved ones which can lead to further complications.
5. Talk About Your Emotions
If lockdown is getting to you and you are worried about your mental health then talk to someone about it. Getting your emotions off your chest can not only help you but can also help others to understand why you may be behaving differently. Here at Acquiesce, we are still open and available to provide you with the support you need during this time.
6. Remember what You’re Thankful For
Although the COVID-19 outbreak has caused many negatives in our lives, remembering what you’re thankful for is a great reminder of all the good things in your life. You could even do something nice for the people you’re thankful to have in your life, such as baking cakes or sending a kind letter.
Looking to the future can also help you to remain positive throughout the lockdown. Is there anything you’re looking forward to doing once this is over? Why not try planning these out? For example, if you’re looking forward to going on holiday, writing lists of things to take and discussing plans with those you’re going with can make it all the more exciting.
However you’re choosing to spend your time in lockdown, Acquiesce are open and here to help if you need it. To protect both patients and staff, consultations will be done via telephone. Residential rehab services are still available and we are following strict government guidelines on minimising the spread of Coronavirus.
For further information, visit:
https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus for updates on COVID-19.
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/ for further information and how to protect yourself from the virus.