Looking after your mental health during coronavirus

Almost everyone has faced increased anxiety or stress during the coronavirus pandemic. Many have felt low or lonely – if this is you, then you’re not alone.

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Dementia itself often brings daily challenges and many people affected by it struggle with their mental health at times. We have lots of advice and tips below to keep you both mentally well.  These might help you feel more confident to begin to connect with your local community again.

If you’re still struggling with stress or anxiety, or feeling very low, then contact your GP for help. Or if you’re feeling lonely and would welcome a chat, call our support line to arrange a companion call.

Try to stay positive

It’s hard, but try to keep positive during the pandemic – it can help to remember that measures such as social distancing won’t last for ever.

Try to recall challenges you have already overcome and focus on the strength that you found then. Think about the positive aspects of your life and things you both value. You could start a life story book with the person, or reminisce over holiday photos.

As a carer, be kind to yourself. You continue to make a massive difference to the person you are supporting. Read our general advice for carers on looking after yourself.

Stress and anxiety

Worrying about the coronavirus pandemic

The pandemic and our response to it are going to be in the news for a while, whether the number of people with coronavirus each week goes up or down. Things we once took for granted also seem much less certain now. All this may make you worry - that’s normal.

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If you are feeling anxious or afraid, try to catch the news once a day. This way, you will still have the latest advice and information, without getting distracted by smaller updates and breaking news. Getting the latest updates throughout the day and evening might make you more anxious. Limiting how often you check the news will allow you both to focus on other things and take your mind off the pandemic. It will give you a chance to relax.

It’s important to get the right balance of information, so don’t switch off completely from the news. You still need to know what the latest advice is. There are also some genuinely inspiring stories of how people are coming together to help us all get through this.

If you use the internet for news, be very careful about false guidance or claims online. Use the NHS website for the most up-to-date information. Look for practical steps you can take to protect yourself and the person you care for. Try not to dwell on information that doesn’t help you to stay safe or look after your wellbeing.

Tips to help you relax

When you’re with the person you’re supporting, try to stay as patient, calm and matter-of-fact as you can. This may not be easy, but they will pick up any feelings of stress or frustration.

We have advice on social distancing if following the government guidelines is a cause of stress and anxiety.

Keeping active and talking together about your feelings will help with stress and anxiety. There are also some exercises that either or both of you can try to help you relax and be less anxious. They include:

  • breathing exercises – the NHS website has simple steps
  • relaxation – use music, silence, nature or prayer. Whatever works for you
  • mindfulness – this means focusing in the moment on your thoughts and feelings. Visit the NHS website for general advice.

The NHS ‘Every Mind Matters’ website has more information and tips for coping with stress and anxiety while at home. Our general advice on anxiety may also be helpful.

Loneliness

Ways to stay connected

One of the hardest things about staying at home for so long is feeling alone. We all need to connect with other people to make us feel safe and secure.

To keep you safe and well, you should limit visitors to the home. A professional – for example, a nurse or paid carer – is allowed, as is a friend or family member who provides care, such as help with showering or getting dressed, even if they don’t live with you. If you live alone and are part of a support bubble, then you can meet indoors with fewer restrictions.

You can still chat to neighbours or a small number of friends from your front or back door or garden, through an open window, or over the fence. You just need to make sure you’re at least two metres (three steps) away from them.

Staying in touch with friends and family who can’t visit is important for your mental health and will help you to stay positive.

Connect with the people who matter to you by phone, post, text, email or have a video call. Use whichever method is most comfortable for you and the person with dementia. Apps and social media platforms that allow you to use video calling such as Skype, WhatsApp and Zoom might be worth a try. Seeing someone’s face as well as hearing their voice can make you feel closer.

You could arrange a regular time of day to catch up, to give you a routine and something to look forward to.

Online communities or forums can be a useful source of support, and there will be lots of other people who are going through similar things.

Alzheimer’s Society’s online community Talking Point is a good place to start. There are different areas for meeting people in similar situations to you including a new area for conversations, queries and discussions about coronavirus.

You can also subscribe to our magazine, Dementia together, to read more about how we’re helping each other through this.

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Visit our online community to get advice, share experiences, connect.
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