Mental health tips for coping with the coronavirus outbreak - from a psychotherapist

As fears grow over the spread of coronavirus, many people’s mental health may be suffering.

Earlier this week the World Health Organisation issued guidelines for protecting mental health during the outbreak.

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Noel McDermott, a psychotherapist with more than 25 years’ experience, said: "Many people are being affected by fear and anxiety at this time and this can make us more ill and less effective at making good decisions.

“Stress is linked to ill health and reduction in immune functioning,” he added, “so being able to manage your stress responses will have direct health benefits.”

Here are some of Noel’s tips for protecting your mental wellbeing during the outbreak:

Stay positive and keep being kind

“Helping others helps you,” Noel said, “it’s well evidenced that acts of kindness and altruism reduce physical and mental illness.

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“Aggression, fear, anger all produces stress hormones making you more likely to be ill. Be aware of the words you use and how you can promote positive stories on your Facebook or Instagram for example.

“Try not to obsessively follow the news if it makes you anxious,” he added, “remember the things you enjoy doing and do them.”

Keep communicating

“If you need to isolate for quarantine purposes remember we live in the digital age,” Noel said.

Emphasising the importance of staying in touch with people, Noel urged people to “reach out to a friend, colleague or loved one” if they contract the virus.

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“The most stressful thing we can do to any human is to cut them off from social contact,” he added.

Managing your children’s concerns about Covid-19

Noel said children can become “clingier” at times of increased anxiety.

“This is normal and it’s ok to meet these needs,” he said, “in fact be proactive and give them even more hugs than usual. Let them communicate their difficult feelings in a non-judgemental way.

“Remember kids take more from what we do than what we tell them to do. Managing your own anxiety will help them manage theirs.”