Help quieten your anxious mind with expert tips from Sara Vaughan, Marie Claire's purpose and sustainability advisor
According to a poll published this week by Redfield & Wilton, 43 per cent of us Brits are saying that the current coronavirus crisis is damaging our mental health. From being trapped indoors to reduced physical contact and economic worries, it’s hardly surprising. However, it is possible to help your mental health and keep resilient, and with the help of the experts, I’ve put together my top tips for how to keep your head during this uncertain time.
1. Manage your money
If money is a worry, avoid the desire to be an ostrich and address your finances head on. Martin Lewis is a really good guy. I used to sit next to him at work. His website Money Saving Expert and weekly emails are worth their weight in gold. He and his team cut through the jargon to give up to the minute, clear, simple guidance on what to do if you are struggling – such as how to get a payment holiday on your mortgage, what your rights are as a renter and how to get help with credit cards and household bills.
2. Eat well
However tempting it is to mainline chocolate and alcohol, reach for immune and mood boosting foods instead. Elizabeth Peyton-Jones, the dietician and naturopath, is author of First Aid Kitchen Remedies (£6.00 & p&p) an A-Z of first-aid remedies using simple kitchen ingredients, which has a very handy section on what to do if you get flu or a virus.
Additionally, inspirational herbalist Charlotte Pulver, has started NHS Immune Support – a free service (funded by donations) for NHS workers providing the best immune supportive products for those on the frontline in conjunction with Pukka, Altrient and Ainsworth Pharmacy. She recommends that we all take Liposomal C, Vitamin D and Zinc. I’m taking these religiously every morning in addition to drinking freshly sliced ginger in hot water.
‘If exercise were a pill, it would be one of the most cost-effective drugs ever invented,’ writes Nick Cavill on the NHS website. Not only do people who exercise have a lower risk of developing many long-term chronic conditions such as heart disease or type 2 diabetes, research also shows that physical exercise can also boost self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy as well as reducing your risk of stress and depression.
We’re allowed to do one form of outside exercise a day local to our homes – either on our own or with our household to walk, run or cycle. So embrace that. For me, it’s the highlight of my day. But do remember to keep 2m away from others and to wash your hands when you get home. If heading outdoors isn’t your bag then there’s also a plethora of online classes you can take indoors with some of my favourite teachers – from yoga with Triyoga to Indian Classical Dance and Bellydancing with Isha and team at The Hamsa Studio in Ojai, California to pilates with James D’ Silva and team at The Garuda Studio and ballet with Kathryn Morgan a soloist with Miami City Ballet.
4. Hang out intentionally
Whether you are self-isolating alone, with house mates or your family, it’s good to hang out with others and go beyond your four walls. An amazing organisation called Good of the Whole has started The Connection Field – a global service project to provide online community, support and connection because no one should feel isolated, alone or disconnected in these times.
Additionally as part of their Global Coherence Initiative, The Heartmath Institute hosts a Global Care Room to help humanity and the planet by exploring the power of connected hearts and minds to rewrite our future. They have also designed a free 1‑hour online mini-course that teaches critical HeartMath techniques to help responders build resilience, protect against burnout, and help themselves and others during these intensely challenging events.
Unify are hosting global synchronised meditations and actions for world peace and renowned global healer Louise Mita, founder of Integrative Quantum Medicine™ is offering incredibly uplifting & joyful weekly healing meditations from her home in Hawaii. For more information and to register, visit taoenergy.com.
5. Choose your beliefs wisely
Global apocalypse or global opportunity? Our beliefs are very powerful. We experience what we believe. So let’s choose ours wisely. Dr Joe Dispenza is a world famous lecturer and educator who believes that each of us has the potential for greatness and unlimited abilities and that we can rewire our brains and recondition our bodies to make lasting changes. He offers a powerful and downloadable Changing Beliefs and Perception Meditation for $25 (approximately £20) which you can find here: drjoedispenza.com.
6. Be grateful
His Holiness the Dalai Lama says that the most reliable approach to achieving contentment is to want and feel grateful for what you already possess. Scientific studies also show that if you express gratitude, it raises your happiness by 25 per cent. You can do this by sitting down daily and thinking of 5-10 things you are grateful for, or you can keep a gratitude journal or alternatively you can call someone you are thankful for and express your gratitude. According to Soul Pancake, a group that works to discover the science of happiness, happiness jump by 15 per cent when you do that.
I’m going start by appreciating and giving thanks for my loved ones, plants (I’ve started growing vegetables on my window sill – click here for top tips on how to do it), animals, flowers, insects, sunshine, running water, trees, clean air. The sound of birdsong. The things I have taken for granted. Also, for this time and its challenges because right now, however hard it is, we are saving lives by staying home. And stopping climate change whilst we do it. Collectively. And that’s incredible.
7. Exercise kindness and compassion
Even for those that seemingly just don’t get it. None of us, nor our bosses, parents and leaders have experienced anything like this before. Most are in shock and many are frightened. People are losing their jobs, their businesses, their loved ones and their lives. So in the midst of this, let’s be kind to ourselves and to those around us especially when we are not able to get out of our homes as we would like to. Avatar® has a beautiful Compassion Exercise which can be done at home or whilst waiting in the queue at the supermarket or chemist – click here for the details.
8. Help others
Do it and not only will we have a healthier world, we will also have a happier one. Personally, I find it brings me more energy, more excitement and more joy than anything else in life. It seems that the science concurs, as Martin Seligman from University of Pennsylvania has found that volunteering is the single most reliable way to momentarily increase your well-being. A whopping 750,000 Britons have so far signed up to become NHS Volunteer Responders and recruitment for this scheme is temporarily paused whilst those initial applications are being processed.
Meanwhile most local councils are actively looking for volunteers to do things like pick up prescriptions and essential supplies for vulnerable, self-isolating residents, to pack PPE kit to go to local hospitals, provide childcare for key workers (note you will need a valid DBS Certificate to do this) and to make surgical gowns. To find out how you can help, check your local council website.
For those living in London, Under One Sky is looking for volunteers and drivers to help feed the many homeless who have not yet been put up in hotels and who are quite literally starving on the streets as most of the shelters/soup kitchens and restaurants that normally cater for them are closed. Note strict physical distancing is observed and PPE kit is provided. If interested please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If that’s not your bag, or if you, yourself are a vulnerable person, there’s still lots of things you can do – like combating loneliness for an older person by adopting a grandparent or by calling friends and family who are struggling with the lockdown. The important thing I find, is to decide what you want to do. And then do it!
9. Control your reactions
Remembering that whilst I can’t control what is happening, I can challenge myself to control how I react to it. As Dolly Parton once said, ‘we cannot control the wind, but we can adjust the sails.’ If however the wind feels uncontrollable for you or for one of your loved ones, there are tools out there to help you including Every Mind Matters, The NHS Single Point of Access Line – 0800 0234 650 which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and can be called if you are in a crisis. The Samaritans 0330 094 5717 or freephone 116 123 – open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Or if you or someone you know experience a life-threatening medical or mental health emergency call 999. This is also a difficult time for children and young people. Some may react right away whilst others may show signs of difficulty later on. For more information about how to support your child’s mental health click here.
Consider buying and/or donating the cost of a Sophie Says book (£5 & p&p) by author & activist Esther Marshall who has had over 2,000 requests for books from schools and children’s charities. All proceeds from the book go to sTandTall who aim to help children who have been bullied build their self-esteem and achieve their full potential. Alternatively children can call ChildLine on 0800 1111 any time for free which provides a confidential telephone counselling service for any child with a problem. It comforts, advises and protects.
Finally, if you or someone you know are experiencing or are at risk of domestic abuse, support is available. Click here to find all the help that is available to you or someone you may be concerned about.
10. Have fun…Online
Whilst we are physically distanced, we can still be socially connected. Have Zoom lunches or dinner with family & friends, break out the glitter and dance-it out with Morning Gloryville on Saturday mornings from 10am-1pm.
Visit outer space and have one of the NASA astronauts read you a bedtime story, or head to Namibia to learn more about cheetahs, the world’s most endangered big cat from the experts at Cheetah Conservation Fund.
The online world is literally our oyster.
All that’s left for me to say is we’re all in this together. However lonely it may feel at times, no one is alone. Stay connected. Laugh a lot. Stay resilient. And please, if you want to share your experiences or are finding life tough and need an ear, do email me at email@example.com.