How can COVID-19 (coronavirus) affect your mental health?
Looking after your mental health has never been more important. We’ve got tips to help you take good care of your mental wellbeing in these uncertain times
The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has taken its toll in lots of ways, and our physical health is only half the story. From home schooling to worrying about our jobs and missing our friends and family, we’ve all been through a lot.
Whether you’ve had COVID-19 and are experiencing Long COVID symptoms, or you just feel completely drained by the past few months (us too), it’s time to check in on your mental wellbeing. Uncertain times could well continue for the foreseeable future, so let’s make sure we’re in the best position to cope with any ups and downs that come along.
COVID-19 & mental health
Even if you’ve not been personally touched by a case of COVID-19, the coronavirus pandemic has probably impacted your mental health in some way. We’ve all had to cope with and adapt to new situations and worries, and it’s not been an easy ride.
Research shows that the number of adults experiencing some form of depression has almost doubled during the coronavirus pandemic, from around one in 10 to almost one in five. It’s important to look after yourself and your mental health, now more than ever. If you’ve felt (or currently feel) lonely, overwhelmed, worried, anxious, angry or just plain tired and fed up, you’re not alone.
Paying attention to how you’re feeling and taking time to look after yourself can help with difficult emotions, worries and improve your wellbeing. Relaxation techniques from the NHS can also help deal with feelings of anxiety. Remember, it’s OK to not be OK. It’s important to never suffer in silence if you’re feeling low. Talk to a friend or family member (chances are they’ve felt exactly the same at some point) or get in touch with a charity – such as Mind or AnxietyUK – who’ll be able to listen and offer advice.
What is Long COVID?
Long COVID (also known as ‘Post-COVID Syndrome’), is where a person contracts the virus and then struggles to shake off the effects of the virus. These symptoms vary, and could last for 12 weeks or more.
As well as the physical symptoms, it’s likely that Long COVID could impact mental health. So if you or someone you know is currently experiencing symptoms of Long COVID, it’s important to keep this in mind.
According to the NHS, there are currently around 60,000 people in the UK experiencing symptoms of Long COVID, with the number expected to increase as coronavirus infection rates rise.
We’re still learning lots about the effects of the virus. Current research suggests around one in five people who test positive for COVID-19 could have symptoms for five weeks or more. It’s currently thought that for around one in 10 people, symptoms could last for 12 weeks or more.
What are the symptoms of Long COVID?
Symptoms of Long COVID can vary, but usually include:
• Joint or muscle pain
• Chest pain
• Anxiety and depression
• Struggling to remember or concentrate on things (‘brain fog’)
If you think you’ve got Long COVID, or you’re feeling overwhelmed by your symptoms, speak to your GP or healthcare professional for advice.
As well as living with the physical side effects of Long COVID, you might be feeling anxious, low or stressed. That’s completely understandable.
Recovery from Long COVID can be slow, with a mix of good and bad days along the way. Therefore it’s important to remember not to push yourself too hard or put too much pressure on yourself. Reach out to a friend, family member or healthcare professional when you need to.
Why do some people take longer to recover from COVID-19?
It’s currently unclear why the symptoms of coronavirus linger so long in some people. It doesn’t seem to matter whether you’ve had a mild case or needed hospital treatment. It can also affect people who are otherwise young, fit and healthy.
Experts continue to work hard to find out who is more likely to get Long COVID, and how best to ease the symptoms.
What Long COVID support is available?
Long COVID clinics are currently being rolled out across England. These clinics will help people cope with ongoing symptoms. Speak to your GP or healthcare professional to find out more about Long COVID clinics and whether you’re eligible to be referred.
How to cope with Long COVID
If you have Long COVID, remember to take things one day at a time. You might feel frustrated at not being able to do things you used to be able to, or finding things more of a struggle.
It’s important that you’re kind to yourself, and accept that some days will be easier than others. Life may need to happen at a slower pace for a while, in order to give yourself time to fully recover.
Here are some tips to help in your recovery from Long COVID:
Create a routine
During this time it’s a good idea to stick to a daily routine. If you find your usual routine is too much, make a new one for the time being.
Keep active, and try to gradually build on what you do. For example, go for a short walk each day, and slowly increase your pace or distance. Don’t push yourself too much – take your time.
Do things that make you happy
Mix your daily exercise with some other mood-boosting activities like phoning a friend for a chat, writing a gratitude journal or doing some crafts. If you can’t do your usual hobbies, take up something new like knitting or reading.
Share your experiences
Make your loved ones a part of your recovery process. Share your good and bad days, or ask them to join you for walks if tier restrictions allow. You may also find comfort in talking to people who understand what you’re going through, so think about looking for a support group. You could even set one up!
However the pandemic has affected you, remember to reach out if you’re feeling low, anxious or overwhelmed. Life’s strange and uncertain right now, but you never need to feel alone. We’re all in this together.
Information correct at time of publication (12.01am 14/01/2021)