Hey there, Spark Family.

Times are particularly tough at the moment on everyone – but I think that those of us with mental health problems are possibly having a particularly rough time with things, in general.

I know for me personally, it’s almost impossible to get hold of a mental health professional – let alone SEE one, and my DBT group has been postponed until further notice. I’ve also been furloughed at work – so bang goes my routine!

We’re bombarded constantly by people who have suddenly turned into public health experts crossed with the Police, telling unknown groups of people that they should be inside, that the only way to beat this is to stay inside, stay inside STAY INSIDE OMG STAY INSIDE — WE GET IT!! Let alone the news with the grim update on death tolls, numbers of people infected, and this perverse insistence of our news outlets that the NHS is not ready, and it’s all going to crumble.

Don’t get me wrong – what’s happening is genuinely scary, and we’re absolutely right to feel some level of anxiety towards it. Those of us that are suffering from any form of anxiety disorder may feel it more than others – but please remember that it’s absolutely okay to feel like this. What’s happening now is something that’s not happened in living memory. I mean, looking at the history, the last pandemic of this scale would most likely be the Spanish Flu (1918 – 1920). The NHS itself wasn’t founded until 1948 either – so what’s happening is completely new to everyone.

What is really important for us all at this time, is that we take stock of our coping mechanisms, and make sure that we put our mental health first. Yep, that’s easier said than done. But hear me out…

1. Turn the bloody news OFF!
We’ve got 24/7 rolling news everywhere we look. And it’s not exactly pleasant viewing at the moment. It pings up on your phone, tablet, laptop, it’s all over Facebook and Twitter. But, we should always remember that we’re in control of what we see. It’s absolutely fine to not watch the news, not watch the 5pm press briefings. Take the news apps off your phone, or turn notifications off. Be in control of what you’re viewing – and remember, there is NOTHING wrong with deciding to not be “up to date”!

2. Use your outside time.
Unless you have been specifically told to stay indoors, we’re all allowed to go outside once a day for exercise. It is so important to use this if you’re able to. Even if you just go for a walk around the block, being out in the fresh air and outside the 4 walls of your house/flat can work absolute wonders. And if anyone starts bitching at the fact you’re not inside, feel free to flick them an offensive digit or two!

3. Know that it’s okay to laugh about things if you want to
There’s power in laughter. Laughter can make us release stress and releases endorphins too. I was listening to a briefing by NHS England’s Head of Trauma, and he said that one thing he absolutely loves when he’s had a rough day at work is to come and look at some of the COVID-19 memes that have been made, and they really make him laugh! It’s an unbelievably tough situation at the moment – but always remember that if you want to laugh about it, and make fun of it? You go right ahead.

4. If you’re enjoying the lockdown? That’s okay too.
I may have just divided the audience there – but I know there are some of us who are enjoying the fact that this lockdown is forcing people to stay at home and interact. Some of us may be enjoying not having to come up with excuses about why they can’t make it. And that is absolutely fine! There are no rules about how you’re supposed to feel at the moment – and whilst it may not be the view that the majority take – it’s still more than valid.

I don’t know about anyone else, but at the moment, what I truly crave is some form of a sense of normality. Bustling streets, waiting for the bus to work in the morning, getting my cuppa from my local coffee shop, and then getting the train down to work. It’s amazing, that the things that we groaned about doing before are the very things that we’re missing now – or at least, that’s how I feel!

It’s been said a million times. But I feel that I have a responsibility to say it too…
Stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives!

Please look after yourselves – mentally and physically.