Protect your mental health during the COVID-19 lockdown
Posted on 27 March 2020
In the weeks of social distancing and self-isolation during the COVID-19 lockdown, pay attention to your mental health.
As the Coronavirus pandemic worsens, South Africans are facing weeks of being cooped up at home – without life’s normal distractions and routines. Limit the degree of anxiety, panic or depression during these trying times with these interventions.
Take a break from news
Avoid watching, reading and listening to news stories on social media platforms and TV 24/7. Constantly hearing about the pandemic will spike your anxiety and concern, so set aside only a limited amount of time to check for updates. Consult only trusted and official sources for news to avoid unnecessary panic and misinformation.
Reframe your thoughts
Instead of thinking ‘I’m cooped up inside and the world is ending’, try ‘I have a few weeks to focus on myself’. To counteract feelings of powerlessness, create an extensive list of things you CAN do during lockdown. This can include reading books you haven’t been able to get to for months, keeping a gratitude journal, clearing out that spare cupboard that you’ve been putting off for years, trying to learn the guitar or cooking a few new recipes. These practical, achievable tasks will keep your mind off the pandemic and give you a semblance of control.
Try deep breathing
This helps you relax and lowers the harmful effects of the stress hormone cortisol on your body. It also lowers your heart rate and can help lower your blood pressure. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth in a steady rhythm. Try to breathe out for twice as long as you breathe in, making room in your lungs for fresh, oxygen-rich air. To ensure you’re using your diaphragm (lower chest muscle) to breathe, make sure your stomach (not your chest) rises and falls.
Use technology to stay in touch. If you have a smartphone or computer, use the video capabilities – seeing someone’s facial expressions can help increase connection. Contact your neighbourhood groups to see if you can volunteer or help more vulnerable members in your community. This will give you focus and a sense of purpose. Approximately 16% of South Africans live with a common mental health condition such as depression, anxiety or substance abuse. Social isolation during lockdown can exacerbate these conditions. If you are in therapy, speak to your counsellor about alternative or online sessions.
Eat good food regularly, stay hydrated by drinking eight glasses of water a day and steer clear of alcohol and drugs. During this quieter time make every effort to get enough quality sleep.
HELP IS AT HAND
When you need a listening ear…
Chat online with a counsellor 7 days a week from 9am – 4pm via the Cipla WhatsApp Chat Line 076 882 2775
SMS 31393 or 32312 and a counsellor will call you back – available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day
SADAG Helplines provide free telephonic counselling, information, referrals and resources 7 days a week, 24 hours a day – call 0800 21 22 23, 0800 70 80 90 or 0800 456 789
Other telephone helplines:
Suicide Crisis Line: 080 056 7567
Lifeline: 086 132 2322
Domestic violence helpline: 080 015 0150
Childline: 080 005 5555