How the Coronavirus pandemic is affecting our mental health – Your stories

These are strange and stressful times. Our daily lives are deeply affected - no matter where you are living on this planet. I've asked my online followers how this pandemic is affecting their lives and mental health. Here are their stories plus advice on how to look after your mental health during this outbreak.
coronavirus mental health
The Coronavirus pandemic is undoubtedly affecting our mental health. There is a lot of stress, fear, panic, and worry around as well as a sense of doom-and-gloom for many of us. In many ways, the current situation feels a bit like a dystopian novel playing out in real life… It’s not an easy time. With this blog post I am hoping to tell your stories. Over on my Instagram account and in my facebook group, I’ve asked you to share how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting your lives and mental health. (Answers collected around mid March) It is my hope that hearing each other’s stories is comforting and supportive. The one thing that is clear to so many of us during this crisis is this: We’re all in this together. Wherever you live, whatever your situation. Our sense of deep connection to one another is what will help us get through this as best as we can.

How the coronavirus pandemic is affecting our lives and mental health - your stories

The majority of these thoughts and experiences come from people in the UK, but there are also some from the USA and a slightly longer one coming from Milan in Italy.

"The constant talking about it in the news just reinforces the feelings of panic"

“It’s a tricky one because on one hand I’m not worried (even with a son at home with symptoms – we are isolating him for now) but on the other hand finding the extra work in looking after him exhausting and am feeling discouraged that I once again seem to be surviving hour by hour. Not having much energy to do anything but ‘cope’. 

I’m finding the overall doom and gloom feelings hard to process as well and the constant talking about it in the news just reinforces the feelings of panic – even though there is a lot of balanced info out there telling us to ‘stay calm’.”

Leslie, UK.

"Not seeing the events I've worked on for years come to life is heartbreaking"

“I’m an event planner, and all of my corporate work through to June has been cancelled. The financial implications of that is one thing, but also for me not seeing the events I’ve worked on for years come to life is heartbreaking.

Weddings are just starting to take a hit, and it’s so difficult to find the right balance of awareness and trying to keep a stressed bride calm.
It’s a lot of pressure on top of all the anxiety etc which is already about, but it’s the nurses and doctors I feel for most.”

Rebecca, UK.

"It's 3.30am and I'm awake, if that tells you where my mind is."

“It’s 3.30am and I’m awake, if that tells you where my mind is. Things are changing. Businesses and schools are closing but it seems to me, too many people think it won’t happen to them. I fear we have acted too late.”

Kelly, USA.

"I go to bed thinking about it, I wake up thinking about it."

“I’m worried, really worried. Having a compromised immune system due to autoimmune disease, diabetes and having been in hospital twice in the last three years for acute exasperation of asthma, I’m worried!

I worry for our elderly members of our community, my mom and dad, our cancer warriors and our young babies. I worry for our friends already struggling with the thought of potentially being holed up alone for 2 (maybe more) weeks. I worry for our community!

So yeah, I’m worrying, I go to bed thinking about it, I wake up thinking about it and all the while trying to be positive and not mention it TOO much at home for my 15 year old with additional needs!”

Karen, UK.

"I didn't get this far to be taken out by this virus"

“It’s just so concerning for everyone, isn’t it? On a personal level, my cancer treatment will start again in a week’s time which will obviously leave me more vulnerable than usual.

Obviously I worry about elderly family members and those in our community. I’m the kind of person that would normally offer help to those but this time I can’t given my own circumstances-  which really doesn’t make me feel good.

Looking after my mental health with all this going on is going to be a challenge – but I didn’t get this far to be taken out by this virus.”

Lou, UK.

"Right now, my head is in an odd place. I’m trying my best to stay positive and think of how things can and will get better"

“Although we have no reported cases in Ketchikan (Alaska, USA) yet, and one so far in the state, that doesn’t mean we are not being affected by COVID-19.
 
Some of you may not know, but Southeast Alaska thrives in the summers because of the cruise ship season. With 2 ships pulling out (so far) for the next 60 days that affects many companies both big and small. It’s terrifying. All the businesses here typically go into hibernation mode and freeze spending in the winter because there’s no income coming in. All this chaos is really affecting our community.
As of right now, we are trying our best to stay positive and hope that this doesn’t mean low sales and that our employees will still show up next month for training. We hope that things will get better fast.
 
This virus is making me stress out more than I need to in my work life and in my personal life. Next month I was planning on taking a trip back home to Hawaii to celebrate a special someone’s first birthday, which is a big deal in Hawaii. Whenever I go back home there I always stay with my great-grandparents, but because of this virus I canceled my trip last night.
I may be healthy and not be showing any symptoms, but I still worry about the safety of my family. Both of my great-grandparents fall into the high-risk category, and I would feel nothing but horrible if I knew that I was the one to give this virus to them.
 
So right now, my head is in an odd place. I’m trying my best to stay positive and think of how things can and will get better. To me this starts with knowing that I’m doing the right thing for my family.”

Anonymous, Alaska, USA.

"In these chaotic few weeks I have realised more than ever the importance of my mental health"

“The first word that comes to my mind when I think about the current situation since the coronavirus outbreak is “surreal”. I wake up every morning and it takes me a few seconds to remember what is going on and that I’m not allowed to leave my house. (Flavia lives in Milan, Italy.)

Until a few weeks ago life was “normal”, you’d hear about this coronavirus that was spreading around China and you’d really underestimate its power. The reality is that most people and countries don’t make changes or start worrying until they see the problem affecting them or someone close to them. I was one of these people. I didn’t really see this as a problem until the Government started closing schools, shops, restaurants etc.

I have been living in Milan for 5 months and all my family and most of my friends live in Rome. So when the Government announced the closure of Lombardy last week (the region where Milan is), I really started to panic and the only thing I wanted to do was to jump on a train and go to my family… How wrong I was!! A lot of others must have felt the same because thousands of people then traveled South. That was such a terrible idea that contributed to spreading the virus across the country!

In these chaotic few weeks I have realised more than ever the importance of my mental health. Being “stuck” in a 30 m2 flat by myself has definitely put me to the test, but now I am feeling much much better and I am trying to make the most of this time at home.

Here are some things that keep me going:
Knowing that this could be worse. My grandparents were asked to go to war to save lives… I’m only being asked to stay at home for a few weeks! Choosing quality over quantity when I spend time on social media. Not obsessively keeping track of the news, and only checking them in the morning and before dinner. Working out in my house to release some stress and continue training for the half marathon I was going to run. Acknowledging that whilst this lockdown allows me to try new activities, I’m not forcing myself to suddenly become a different person. 

At the end of the day, I know that I am very fortunate to be able to stay at home whilst keeping my job. I don’t have children so every minute I spend at home can be just for myself. Most importantly, all the people close to me are safe and well.
When I felt down before the outbreak, I just wanted to stay at home and be away from everyone . I almost wished everyone would do the same so I wouldn’t feel so left out and lonely. But now that everyone is forced to do that, for the first time I have realised that we actually are “social animals”.

My lesson is definitely that I will never take the moments and people in my life for granted. I am sure we will all be a bit more grateful for what we have after this.”

Flavia, Milan, Italy.

Each one of us will have a story and their experience to share. And I know this pandemic is affecting some of us more than other people. 

Personally, I of course worry about the most vulnerable people and their safety. But I also worry about the financial implications this lockdown is going to have for all the people so dependant on the tourist trade where I live (Isles of Scilly) and elsewhere. It’s really frightening. 

I can only hope that we can work out solutions together, and help each other get through this okay. As one of the women above has expressed, we are social animals. We have evolved in tribes and we live best when we do things together. Help, encourage and support one another. 

But also very important to mention of course is how so many of you are noticing the good things that people are doing already. The creative solutions and the community focus. It’s very humbling!

To finish off this post, I have created the slides below with practical tips on how to look after your mental health during this time.

If you’d like to share your own experience of how the Coronavirus pandemic is affecting mental health and life, please feel free to leave a comment below.

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I’m Claudia Smith and I help women get to better mental health naturally. Having overcome depression once myself, I am now a qualified nutritionist and positive psychology coach.

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