The pandemic has been challenging for most of us, and having to manage an existing mental health difficulty might make things feel even more difficult. These tips may help you to manage your mental health and have as a good an experience of the pandemic as possible.
1. Keep an eye on how you are doing
Whether you have had a mental health difficulty for a long time or it is something more recent, you probably know the tell-tale signs of a flare up in your symptoms. For instance, for you it may be important to keep an eye out for your sleep worsening, changes in appetite, or particular behaviours.
If you spot these changes and they do not improve after a few days, then it might be useful to speak to health professionals involved in your care. This might be your GP or mental health care team.
Otherwise, if possible, it might help to speak to family, friends or people close to you, to see if they have spotted any changes in your symptoms. You could also ask someone to help you monitor this for a few more days or keep a symptom diary or tracker.
2. Prioritise your mental health and wellbeing
It is important to make your mental health and wellbeing a priority. This is important at all times but particularly during the pandemic when we are faced with more challenges that usual.
This might mean:
- putting your mental health above your teaching and learning, by taking breaks when you need them.
- Not always joining group video calls with friends if you are not feeling up to it.
- Taking a break from social media or watching the news if this is making you feel more anxious or worried.
It could be useful to sit and think about what supports your mental health. Write this down and make sure that you prioritise these things as much as possible.
3. Keep in touch with student services
If you have already accessed this support and found it helpful then it might be worth thinking about booking a review appointment. If you haven’t already done this, then you might want to consider registering for an initial appointment.
These teams can usually offer a range of advice and support around mental health and wellbeing and can be a highly valuable source of support. Student Space has details of many university services so check to see if your university is listed.
4. Access NHS Support
Whether you are accessing support from your GP or a mental health care team, it is really important that you continue to attend review appointments and stay on top of any medications that you are taking.
It might be easier during the pandemic to miss review appointments or run out of medication. Whilst this is understandable, it can have a big impact on your mental health, both in the short and long term. Think about using a calendar on your phone or laptop to keep track of appointments, or, if possible, ask family or friends to remind you.
5. Use your support network
Your support network might include a few people or might be wide-ranging. It might include family members, friends, flatmates and health professionals such as your GP. It could also include university support such as personal tutors, mental health mentors or advisers and other university staff.
Talk to them about any worries you have about managing your mental health at the moment. Friends and family in particular might be useful in highlighting to you what has helped you before and support you to do those things.
6. Don’t forget about your physical health
Whilst your mental health is a priority, it is important not to forget about looking after your physical health too. The body and the mind are connected so taking care of one will help the other. Things that might be helpful to bear in mind include:
- Getting some fresh air and sunlight when you can.
- Try to eat regularly and include fruit and vegetables in your diet.
- Include some physical activity every day. There are lots of options you can do in your room without any equipment.
- Keep hydrated – options include water, tea, coffee, squash and fruit juices
- Look after any physical health conditions that you have. This might include taking regular medications.
- Try to have a regular sleep pattern as much as possible.
Looking after your physical health has felt challenging during the pandemic for many of us, so just do what you can. If you don’t manage them every day, don’t be too critical of yourself – just try again the next day.