Topics for this month:
Coronavirus – How to protect your mental health and wellbeing
Coronavirus is dominating headlines around the world. While the media focus is on the impact on people’s physical health and what’s being done to prevent the spread of the disease; anxiety about the virus can be overlooked and can also have an impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing.
Think about access to media and social media
Some people can be quite paralysed by this anxiety and may want to completely stop interacting with the news. But for others this can be quite difficult, they want to know what’s going on- not knowing makes it worse. You may want to think about where you are getting your information from. Are the reports sensationalising the situation and scaremongering? Or do you feel they are reporting responsibly and with balance?
- Don’t ignore your anxiety: It is very normal to feel scared about something like this. Acknowledge that you feel this way and don’t ignore these feelings, as exploring why you feel this way can help – a counsellor can help you do this.
- Do something you can control: It can help to express this anxiety in a way that you can control. That could be writing down what you feel, or keeping a journal.
- Let it go: Once you’ve written it down, try and let it go. Allow yourself to worry, put it down in writing in a notebook, and then put that away.
- Bring it back to the present: With anxiety, it’s often like you feel you are 10 steps ahead, so bring things back to the present.
- Think about your thought process: Be really aware of what you’re thinking. Sometimes we are catastrophising, we are focusing on all these ‘what ifs?’ Bring things back to what you actually know. Reassure yourself, calm yourself.
- Wellbeing check: Make sure you are looking after yourself, doing what you can to help get a good night’s sleep, eating well and doing exercise as it can help make us more robust against anxiety.
- Self-management: It is important to make sure you are doing the usual self-management of your condition. Anxiety and the release of stress hormones can exacerbate physical symptoms. Anxiety links our brain and body. Make sure you are doing what you can to look after your physical health.
- Breathing techniques and mindfulness: It is recommended to practice mindfulness or using breathing techniques to help you relax as these can be helpful in managing anxiety.
Coronavirus – Further ways to manage anxiety and stress
The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) may be stressful for people. Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Coping with stress will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger.
Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations:
People who may respond more strongly to the stress of a crisis can include:
- Older people and people with chronic diseases who are at higher risk for COVID-19
- Children and teens
- People who are helping with the response to COVID-19, like doctors and other health care providers, or first responders
- People who have mental health conditions including problems with substance use
If you, or someone you care about, are feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, or anxiety, or feel like you want to harm yourself or others call
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Helpline: 0800-985-5990 or text Talk With Us to 66746. (0800-846-8517)
Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include:
- Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
- Changes in sleep or eating patterns
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- Worsening of chronic health problems
- Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
People with pre-existing mental health conditions should continue with their treatment and be aware of new or worsening symptoms.
Taking care of yourself, your friends, and your family can help you cope with stress. Helping others cope with their stress can also make your community stronger.
Mind Charity recommends continuing to access nature/sunlight wherever possible. Exercise, eat well and stay hydrated. Anxiety UK suggests practising the “Apple” technique to deal with anxiety and worries:
- Acknowledge: Notice and acknowledge the uncertainty as it comes to mind.
- Pause: Don’t react as you normally do. Don’t react at all. Pause and breathe.
- Pull back: Tell yourself this is just the worry talking, and this apparent need for certainty is not helpful and not necessary. It is only a thought or feeling. Don’t believe everything you think. Thoughts are not statements or facts.
- Let go: Let go of the thought or feeling. It will pass. You don’t have to respond to them. You might imagine them floating away in a bubble or cloud.
- Explore: Explore the present moment, because right now, in this moment, all is well. Notice your breathing and the sensations of your breathing. Notice the ground beneath you. Look around and notice what you see, what you hear, what you can touch, what you can smell. Right now. Then shift your focus of attention to something else – on what you need to do, on what you were doing before you noticed the worry, or do something else – mindfully with your full attention.
Call your healthcare provider if stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row.
Reduce stress in yourself and others. Sharing the facts about COVID-19 and understanding the actual risk to yourself and people you care about can make an outbreak less stressful. When you share accurate information about COVID-19 you can help make people feel less stressed and anxious and allow you to connect with them.
Resources for learners, teachers and parents/carers
Khan Academy’s mission is to provide a free, world class education for anyone, anywhere. Khan Academy offers practice exercises, instructional videos, and a personalised learning dashboard that empower learners to study at their own pace in and outside of the classroom. They tackle mathematics, science, computer programming, history, art history, economics, and more.
You can sign up as a learner, teacher or parent/carer. There is support for parents when coaching their children. They have designed a step by step guide in order to help parents deal with the COVID-19 to be able to get set up, add their children onto the dashboard and progress with learning and activities.
A free hub of national safeguarding resources to empower children, young people and all adults supporting them.
Closure of educational settings: information for parents and carers (gov.uk)
Live webcams in teaching and learning: Safeguarding issues to consider
- Try to conduct group sessions over 1:1 sessions.
- Please ensure that all sessions are recorded, whether they are group or 1:1 sessions for safeguarding purposes.
- Staff and learners must wear suitable clothing, as should anyone else in the household.
- Any computers used should be in appropriate areas, for example, not in bedrooms; and where possible be against a neutral background.
- Live broadcasts should be kept to a reasonable length of time, or the streaming may prevent the family ‘getting on’ with their day
- Language must be professional and appropriate, including any family members in the background
Online CPD training
Whilst most staff are working remotely, undertaking CPD can be useful during this time in order to continue personal development.
Virtual College offers a range of free resources including:
- Introduction to Prevention Infection and Control
- Understanding Young Minds
- Get Moving and Get Healthy
The Mind Charity has a specific ‘Mental Health for Small Workplaces’ online training which focuses on 3 modules which include:
- Building your awareness
- Looking after yourself
- Supporting each other
5 ways to take back control of your screen time
With the recent changes to working conditions that a lot of people are currently facing, it is likely that screen use is going to be on the rise. This may be due to work-related matters, a desire to keep up to date with the latest news or, as normal activities and routines have been disrupted. simply through boredom.
With the news that schools, colleges and universities are also shutting for most children and young people, an increase in screen use for these groups is also inevitable.
For young people there are positive aspects of screen time, like creating artwork, playing or watching problem solving and educational games/videos. These can all be stimulating for the brain and greatly beneficial for young people and their development.
What are the effects of screen time?
Multiple studies have shown shrinkage in the parts of our brain that are important for executive functions including: planning, processing, organising, completing tasks and impulse control.
The Facts on Screen time According to Ofcom (2019):
- 63% of 12-15-year-olds think they achieve ‘a good balance between screen time and doing other things’
- 71% of older children are allowed to take their phones to bed
- 5-15-year olds now spend 20 mins more online than they do in front of a TV
- 35% of young people are finding it more difficult to moderate their screen time, an increase from 27% last year
Like all things in life, moderation is key when it comes to screen time. Here are five ways you can support yourself and young people in your care to take back control of their screen time:
1. Take regular breaks
2. Keep active during the day
3. Know your time limits
4. Agree to screen free times and places, e.g. at meal times or reading a book instead
5. As an adult, be a role model and demonstrate appropriate screen use to children and young people in your care
Internet image removal service
The NSPCC (Childline) have a new reporting facility available so that under 18’s can report if an image or video of them has been shared online in order for it to be removed from the Internet. The report goes to the IWF (Internet Watch Foundation) and so young people should be made aware of this.
More information can be found here: https://www.childline.org.uk/info-advice/bullying-abuse-safety/online-mobile-safety/sexting/report-nude-image-online/
Reliable sources, helplines and support
There’s a huge amount of misleading information circulating online about coronavirus – from dodgy health tips to speculation about government plans.
The BBC have recently issued a blog about fake news and the impact it can have. They have included 3 questions that you should ask yourself before you share the information:
- Does the source of the information seem vague or seem to be from a friend of a friend you can’t trace? Get to the bottom of where the story came from – or don’t share it. Just because you were sent it by somebody you trust, doesn’t mean they received the information from someone they actually know.
- Does all of the information seem true? When there are long lists, it’s easy to believe everything in them just because one kernel of advice is correct – that might be the case.
- Does the content make you emotional – happy, angry or scared? Misinformation goes viral because it plays on our emotions, so that’s a sign that it might not be true. Again, dig a bit deeper. Scientific breakthroughs, prevention advice or public announcements will come from reputable sources.
See full article here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-trending-51931394
- Bacp: Counselling changing lives: https://www.bacp.co.uk/news/news-from-bacp/2020/28-february-coronavirus-anxiety-how-to-cope-if-you-re-feeling-anxious-about-the-outbreak/#navigation
- World Health Organisation: https://www.who.int/
- The Mind Charity – Looking after your wellbeing (young people): https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/for-children-and-young-people/looking-after-your-wellbeing/
- NHS – Coronavirus https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/