The Coronavirus outbreak has understandably taken over the airwaves. All the major media outlets are giving us a minute by minute update of the upheaval the virus is causing for governments, people, offices and the wider society. Add to this,the 24/7 nature of news on our social media feeds and it can start to quickly feel apocalyptic.

While the seriousness of the unfolding situation must not be downplayed, it is also critical that we pay attention to our mental health and protect our minds from the onslaught of bad news. Given that most of us still have to work in this period as well as entertain and care for children who may now be home due to school closures, here are some essential tips to maintain a good mental health in this period:

1. Limit your news consumption: There is no escaping the Coronavirus news. It is currently everywhere but the human mind was not built to be subjected to 24/7 consumption of news either in mainstream media or on social media. If you find yourself getting more anxious or starting to panic as a result of the ongoing situation, consider limiting your consumption of news by either setting fix times to watch the news (e.g. one hour a day), turning off notifications on your social media apps or temporarily deleting and restricting access to your social media apps. This will help you concentrate on family and work and promote a good mental health balance.

2. Meditation: Panic is in the air and seeing and reading about other people’s panic can cause you to panic resulting in a detrimental impact on your mental health. Instead of panicking or spending your time worrying about hunting down loo rolls, why don’t you take up meditating for a set number of minutes/hours each day? This will balance and centre you. There are apps and resources online that can assist you in getting started. If you are religious, you can read positive scriptures or religious texts or just generally recite some positive affirmations and mantras

3. Build and maintain good physical health: In these periods, it is important that you establish or maintain good habits such as exercising, eating nutritious balanced meals and getting enough sleep. There is a direct link between physical and mental wellness and exercise remains one of the most effective treatments for depression and anxiety. If you are self isolating, you can workout at home using some very good online programs on the internet. Gentle walks, cooking and eating fresh food and going to bed early without electronic gadgets will contribute to building and maintaining good mental and physical health

4. Have fun: As grim as the current outlook is, take some time out to relax and have fun albeit in a different way. What are some of the ways you can have fun in this period? Catch up on your favourite shows, host a virtual hangout with your friends, read an entertaining magazine, play some games with your children, read a good book. Schedule some downtime and intentionally relax and forget about the outside world during that time.

5. Practice gratitude & pay it forward: No matter how bleak the outlook currently is, there is still something to be grateful for. Keep a daily gratitude journal and write down one thing you are grateful for. Beyond this, look around you and actively lend help to the people who need it, while keeping yourself safe. It could be an elderly neighbour who can’t get to the shops for grocery shopping or a child who needs babysitting as their parents are working in frontline services. Research suggests that acts of kindness release endorphins and make us feel good about ourselves and these days, this can only be a good thing!

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