Supporting yourself (and others) through COVID-19

The novel coronavirus seems to be mentioned more times a day than anything else we’ve experienced in recent years. A study estimated that, in the last few months, COVID-19 has been in the press over a billion times! It’s no wonder then that many people are struggling to manage the increased anxiety, fear, worries and stress that come with this intensive reporting.

We here at Bipolar UK know how hard this has been, and understand that, when coupled with social isolation, this can have a real impact on the wellbeing of people affected by bipolar disorder.

We want to make sure that everyone feels as supported as possible during this period, and we are creating this page for resources, information and support to help you stay well. This page will be fluid and evolving, and we are always happy to look over submissions for tips on this topic- email us at [email protected] and we will get back to you!
Before we begin, it’s important to note that, should you need medical advice or information about the virus, you check the UK Government and NHS pages about this, available here and here.

Anxiety can be really overwhelming when you are already feeling stressed. We’ve put some tips below that may help you manage these feelings, whether you are continuing to spend time outside or self-isolating.

Stay connected!

Anxiety can be really tough when you have no one to vent to. It can be common to feel that, when anxious, you cannot escape the feeling. This can be particularly true if your anxiety causes repetitive or intrusive thoughts or compulsive behaviours. Finding someone to talk to and to let these feelings out to can be such a relief. Talk to a friend, a family member, or a support service such as those offered by Bipolar UK.

Staying connected can also help reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness. Whether you’re isolating alone at home or working in a near-empty space, staying in touch with people who can provide a listening ear and a space to de-stress can help reduce feelings of loneliness. You can think about calling a friend, or having a video chat on Skype with someone you love. You may just want to share an experience with someone- you can think about watching a movie with someone on the phone, starting it at the same time, or playing games with someone over the phone or internet.

Some people may want to think about starting new things with their friends such as book clubs or online painting classes, to help them share an activity they all enjoy.

Learn something new!

Learning something new, or more about a topic you love, can be a really good way to fill time when the days feel just a little too long. Some people think about learning a new language, teaching themselves more about a period of history or a genre of literature that they enjoy, or picking up an instrument they’ve wanted to learn for years but have never had the time to.

Some people also find that learning a new dance is of help. There are mobility limitations to this which are important to consider, but many dances can be adapted to suit people with limited mobility. Dancing is something that comes naturally to many of us- you can have two left feet and still want to move to music! It also provides people with an excellent source of exercise, which releases mood lifting endorphins and helps quell mild anxiety and low mood. You can learn anything from classic Salsa to Doja Cat’s ‘Say So’ moves. You can listen to music you love and move your body as much as you feel comfortable doing so; win-win!

Distract yourself!

Distractions from current or ongoing events can often be seen in a negative light- people may feel like they’re not doing something they should be, or losing vigilance in something important.

However, this kind of feeling can often push you to feel that you should be engaged all the time, which can lead to increased anxiety and worry, and for some people can veer into obsessions and compulsive research and reading.

Listening to or watching something that you love and makes you happy can be an excellent source of relief and comfort. There might be a series you’ve always wanted to watch, or a movie your friends or colleagues have been talking about, but you’ve always had other things to think about. Now might be the time!

With distractions, it’s important too that you’re selective. Now might not be the best time to watch The Day After Tomorrow or Pandemic, but judge what works well for you. If something makes you feel anxious when watching the trailer, or the first episode, it might not be the best thing right now, but you can always put it on the back burner and come back to it when you’re feeling less anxious.

Stay active!

It’s so easy when in a state of panic, or when confined to your home to remain stationary for long periods, or to pace anxiously without purpose. As mentioned earlier in this piece, movement can be really important for both mental and physical health.

You can find guided videos on YouTube that instruct you through everything from bodyweight workouts to Yoga. Alternatively, try at home exercise like skipping, hula hopping or using dumbbells or weighted objects like tins of beans!

Eat!

During the last few weeks, panic buying has really reached its peak and everyone is incredibly on edge about where food may come from as the situation changes. However, there are some things you can do that might help you if you are experiencing some of this anxiety.

Something that many people find helps with both the anxiety they may be experiencing now, and as a support if their mood becomes low, is batch cooking. It can be a really soothing process to cook a meal for yourself, and batch cooking enables you to do this in large amounts, which can also help reassure you that, should it become more difficult for you to pop to the shops, you have food available. Anxiety can reduce appetite and make it difficult to eat, but keeping a store of food in the house and making sure you try and eat little bits can help keep you physically well.

It will also help if your mood becomes low, as you won’t have to cook.

Select and Reduce!

Although using the internet and social media can be a good way of keeping up to date with current affairs and people, it can also be very overwhelming due to the volumes of information being presented. This can sometimes have the negative affect of causing, or contributing to, high levels of anxiety and uncertainty, which in turn can make people spiral, particularly if they have an existing mental health problem. Therefore, ensure that you limit the amount of time that you spend accessing the internet or social media to maybe a couple of hours a day, or once or twice in a day. Be selective regarding information and news; there is a lot of information out there to choose from in regards to getting your updates and keeping in the loop, however not all of it is legitimate or comes from a verified and official source. Be selective with what you access and read, it is always best to stick to official sources if you are concerned about coronavirus and its spread. To ensure the information you receive is as reliable as possible, use official website such as GOV.UK and NHS.

Keep a routine!

Regular routine is often very soothing. Trying things like getting up at the same time, eating at the same time and going to bed at the same time can help ensure that you have structure, get things done and don’t feel that you are spending all day worrying. Some people find that to-do lists are helpful in times like this, but it’s important to consider setting yourself goals, as they need to be achievable and realistic. Some people find that to-do lists make them feel more anxious, and that having goals increases pressure on them to do things every day when they may not feel up for it, so it’s important to consider what works for you.

Sleep well!

This leads on well from the point above, as sleep routine is an important part of sleep hygiene. Sleep, or lack thereof, can also be a trigger for people with bipolar disorder. As we all know, sleeping too much when you’re low or not sleeping when you’re high can be a big part of being unwell, but it’s important that you try and manage your sleeping pattern, particularly when you’re spending large amounts of time in the same space, and the temptation to climb into bed to help the day pass faster can feel irresistible.

Lack of sleep can also increase feelings of anxiety and make you feel tearful or irritable, neither of which are feelings that make you feel good during a period of isolation.

 

The above self-management tips are just part of an ongoing series of tips to help you stay well during this uncertain period. Stay tuned for our next update, going live tomorrow.

Find our list of other tips here:

Staying connected during COVID-19

 


Your donation will help provide a range of services offering the support people need, when they need it. You can make sure there's someone at the end of the phone to listen, a nearby group to share experiences, a 24-hour peer forum and more.

together, we can support the person behind the diagnosis of bipolar.