Mental Health in a Time of Mass Hysteria

I’m going to start this post by announcing some content warnings; please do not read ahead if you are vulnerable to talks of self-harm. Originally, this was going to be a post about coping with self-harm, but with the current climate and the ever-evolving information about Covid-19, it seemed best to tweak the subject matter somewhat.

I have no issues with transparency; self-harm is something I have always struggled with, and most likely, always will. Even as a child I would bang my head against walls because I didn’t understand how to properly communicate my issues or know how to outlet my emotions in a safe manner. I was in year 8 when I first consciously hurt myself, and I still have the scars on my stomach, still remember that I didn’t have a razor or a blade and so unscrewed an old pencil sharpener- sorry, mum. I’ve struggled on and off ever since, have been to therapy, and have been on antidepressants since I was 16. I’m probably going to be on them for a while longer, but that’s okay. I’m actively working on my mental health, and I encourage you all to do the same.

Despite all this, I’m lucky. I’m lucky that my tendencies are, for the majority, under control. I’m lucky that any suicidal thoughts or worse have never been serious to me. I’m lucky for my family, for my mum in particular, and for my friends for being so understanding and encouraging in seeking help. And I’m lucky that I get to be able to speak about my experiences so candidly.  You see, self harm isn’t just cutting; self harm is holding your hand under the hot water tap just to see how long you can stomach it; self harm is holding your hand over an open flame; self harm is pushing yourself to, and often past, the point of exhaustion; putting yourself in dangerous situations, taking reckless endeavours. Self harm is both conscious, and unconscious, and it sucks.

And I’m lucky that, despite my depression, I do not have anxiety. Sure, I’ll be worried about doing new activities and experiences, and I can be indecisive, but never to a debilitating level, and never enough that I cannot overcome the anxiety or not make the choice. So I’m lucky; because I’ve witnessed severe anxiety in friends and I know how bad they suffer, and how people can even suffer worse. I couldn’t fathom suffering in that way for almost every aspect of my life.

And I especially could not fathom having extreme, mild, or any form of anxiety in the current situation that the UK and the rest of the world is facing. I’m not worried about catching coronavirus. I’m worried of being a carrier, an asymptomatic one, and passing it on to those with a weakened immune system. But I’m not anxious. I am unlucky in this respect; self isolation will wreak havoc on my mental health. I do not cope well without face to face interactions, and for this reason I am fortunate enough that my one housemate hasn’t up and left just yet- and fingers crossed she won’t, so long as there’s no government lock down.

I’m not telling you that you shouldn’t be anxious; everyone deals with things differently, and has their own coping mechanisms. But I would like to tell you about a few things that you can do, if you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed, that might help in these times.

Download the Headspace App
–  Whilst I have not personally used this app, I know a lot of my friends find it very, very useful.

Turn off the news.
– Listen out for important updates, but limit what you read, especially on social media and newspapers. There is a lot of false information spreading, and spreading fast, so protect yourself and your sanity from it as much as you can.

Get crafty
– This is a great time to get to grips with a new skill, especially if you’ve got little ones about! Knitting, calligraphy, painting/sketching, these are just a few things you can do at relatively low cost and at home. Learn chess, poker, card games- even card tricks.

Get Outdoors
– We’re not on lock down (yet)! You can still get out and about; National trust gardens are staying open and free for the public. Being outdoors is so important for mental and physical well being, and this is even better if you have a dog – or, perhaps this is the perfect opportunity to test the ‘BorrowMyDoggy’ app! Please also consider reaching out to your local dogs shelter; these dogs need walking too and staff may need volunteers more than ever now.
– Cycling is another great activity!

Exercise
– If you’re working/studying from home, chances are you will go stir crazy. This would be a great opportunity to work up a home or garden exercise plan to keep your spirits up.

(Early) Spring Clean out!
– Clear out your old junk. This could be especially useful if you’re in the process of setting up a home office for yourself or a home-school for your kids.

Video call with friends and family that you can’t see right now. No matter what you decide to do, it’s super important that whilst you may be self-isolating, you don’t cut off communications with the people in your life. Talk about how you’re feeling; if the situation is making you spiral, let people know, and let them help you- or try to at lease.

Do you have any tips yourself on how to deal with the upcoming isolation period? Please share below!

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