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Minding your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak - HSE & WHO Advice

Infectious disease outbreaks like coronavirus (COVID-19), can be worrying. This can affect your mental health. But there are many things you can do to mind your mental health during times like this.



How your mental health might be affected


The spread of coronavirus is a new and challenging event. Some people might find it more worrying than others. Try to remember that medical, scientific and public health experts are working hard to contain the virus.

Most people’s lives will change in some way over a period of days, weeks or months. But in time, it will pass.


You may notice some of the following:


  • increased anxiety

  • feeling stressed

  • finding yourself excessively checking for symptoms, in yourself, or others becoming irritable more easily

  • feeling insecure or unsettled

  • fearing that normal aches and pains might be the virus

  • having trouble sleeping

  • feeling helpless or a lack of control

  • having irrational thoughts


How to mind your mental health during this time


Keeping a realistic perspective of the situation based on facts is important. Here are some ways you can do this.


Stay informed but set limits for news and social media


The constant stream of social media updates and news reports about coronavirus could cause you to feel worried. Sometimes it can be difficult to separate facts from rumours. Use trustworthy and reliable sources to get your news.


Read up-to-date, factual information on coronavirus in Ireland here.


On social media, people may talk about their own worries or beliefs. You don’t need to make them your own. Too much time on social media may increase your worry and levels of anxiety. Consider limiting how much time you spend on social media.

If you find the coverage on coronavirus is too intense for you, talk it through with someone close or get support.


Keep up your healthy routines


Your routine may be affected by the coronavirus outbreak in different ways. But during difficult times like this, it’s best if you can keep some structure in your day.

It’s important to pay attention to your needs and feelings, especially during times of stress. You may still be able to do some of the things you enjoy and find relaxing.


For example, you could try to:



Stay connected to others


During times of stress, friends and families can be a good source of support. It is important to keep in touch with them and other people in your life.


If you’re advised to limit your social contact to contain coronavirus, try to stay connected to people in other ways. E-mail, social media, video calls or phone calls can help you to stay social during this time.


Remember that talking things through with someone can help lessen worry or anxiety. You don't have to appear to be strong or to try to cope with things by yourself.


Talking to children and young people


Involving your children in your plans to manage this situation is important. Try to consider how they might be feeling.


Give children and young people the time and space to talk about the outbreak. Share the facts with them in a way that suits their age and temperament, without causing alarm.


Talk to your children about coronavirus but try to limit their exposure to news and social media. This is especially important for older children who may be spending more time online now. It may be causing anxiety.


Try to anticipate distress and support each other


It is understandable to feel vulnerable or overwhelmed reading or hearing news about the outbreak.


Acknowledge these feelings. Remind yourself and others to look after your physical and mental health. If you smoke or drink, try to avoid doing this any more than usual. It won’t help in the long-term.


Don’t make assumptions


Don’t judge people or make assumptions about who is responsible for the spread of the disease. The coronavirus can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, nationality or ethnicity. We are all in this together.


For parents


Children and teens react, in part, on what they see from the adults around them. When parents and caregivers deal with the COVID-19 calmly and confidently, they can provide the best support for their children. Parents can be more reassuring to others around them, especially children, if they are better prepared.


Not all children and teens respond to stress in the same way. Some common changes to watch for include:


  • Excessive crying or irritation in younger children

  • Returning to behaviours they have outgrown (for example, toileting accidents or bedwetting)

  • Excessive worry or sadness

  • Unhealthy eating or sleeping habits

  • Irritability and “acting out” behaviours in teens

  • Poor school performance or avoiding school

  • Difficulty with attention and concentration

  • Avoidance of activities enjoyed in the past

  • Unexplained headaches or body pain

  • Use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

  • There are many things you can do to support your child


Take time to talk with your child or teen about the COVID-19 outbreak. Answer questions and share facts about COVID-19 in a way that your child or teen can understand.


Reassure your child or teen that they are safe. Let them know it is ok if they feel upset. Share with them how you deal with your own stress so that they can learn how to cope from you.


Limit your family’s exposure to news coverage of the event, including social media. Children may misinterpret what they hear and can be frightened about something they do not understand.


Try to keep up with regular routines. If schools are closed, create a schedule for learning activities and relaxing or fun activities.


Be a role model. Take breaks, get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat well. Connect with your friends and family members.


Advice from the HSE & World Health Organisation


Need to Talk To Someone ? Let Talk To Tom be your guide through this difficult time - contact us on (0818) 303061 or via Whats App.  To launch a chat now click here.

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