Georgia Evans and Zaynab Motala

Taking a break from everyday life is something we all crave from time to time, but with the pandemic bringing the whole world to a halt, how are we coping? For some, life has come to a total standstill, for others, work is busier and more stressful than ever. Either way, we are all trying our best to adapt to the new normal and it is important that we keep ourselves healthy, both physically and mentally.


The COVID-19 epidemic has been difficult for us all. Whether it’s missing the physical contact with loved ones, struggling to cope financially or dealing with the loss of somebody close, there are many personal and unique emotional challenges that have been brought on by this pandemic. With detachment from loved ones, limited freedoms, loss of routine and purpose, it is likely that many of us are feeling anxious, low, frustrated or lonely. Our clinical lead at Be Free, Dr Kiron Griffin, told us that these changes could potentially lead to significant mental health issues. If bonds with immediate family are disrupted, even for a short time, it can result in anxiety and depression. Dr Griffin also explains how disruption from a normal routine can be damaging to our mental health, it can be common for individuals to experience feelings of loss. It is important that we take advantage of the advice available to look after our mental wellbeing. Those with pre-existing mental health conditions could be more sensitive to the changes and emotional stress brought on by the pandemic. With reduced and more limited access to psychiatric services, this could result in the worsening of or even a relapse of an already existing mental health condition. A study done by the University of York showed that 53% of mental health NHS patients relapse within a year after recovery - the majority of these being within the first 6 months. It is a good idea to check up on those around you and make sure you ask for help if you need it.



It is easy to stay in our own little bubble at a time which seems so uncertain. Living through such a strange and isolated time has its own difficulties. But the part we must remember is: we are all in the same position. As humans we are communal creatures and long to connect with each other, we can utilise technology to do this. A video call, a text message or even sending memes to someone you care about is a good way of maintaining a connection with those you love. Or why not enjoy gaming apps, or watch a movie together over Netflix Party? There are many ways to stay connected and it’s important that we take advantage of what’s at our fingertips.


Sometimes it can be helpful to share your worries. You are not alone and the listener is bound to have worries of their own. A problem shared is a problem halved, we’ve all heard that saying. In such an unprecedented time, it’s easy to feel uneasy and many choose to bottle their feelings. In a situation where every person has been affected some way, there is no better time to talk about how we are coping. Turning to family and friends is a great option but for some, support is easier found online. You can speak to qualified professionals through NHS recommended helplines as well as through your GP.


As we know, physical health directly impacts on mental health and vice versa. It’s a natural response to want to use the seemingly abundant time for an extra few hours in bed or to catch up on much-loved TV shows, but remember to keep a balance. Endorphins are released during exercise and they help us to feel happier and more relaxed. Just 15 minutes of daily exercise can help alleviate low moods and improve efficiency.


More time indoors means more boredom. What is the go-to cure for boredom nowadays? The smartphone. Constant news alerts on death rates, economic impacts as well as worrying articles about the world after COVID-19: complete anxiety inducers. What we expose ourselves to can affect how we feel, so practice some self-care by controlling the amount of news you expose yourself to in the day. Consider having set times where you check in with the news to keep yourself informed and make sure that you utilise good sources – don’t rely on Twitter or Facebook, try the BBC or ITV.


What better way to utilise this time than by starting something new? A sense of stimulation can alleviate feelings of anxiety. Picking up a new hobby helps to keep the mind occupied. How about trying an online course? Take up knitting! Brush up on your art skills! Express yourself through poetry! There are lots of things we can do and learn, so let’s get creative!


It is very easy to get caught up on thinking about the future, especially when the news is all about how we are going to return to normality. The constant strain and pressure to get back to normality can increase our anxiety. Why not try practising mindfulness techniques? This can help us to stay present and focused on what we can achieve in the present day. How can we make today more productive and be easier on ourselves? There are plenty of guided meditation videos on YouTube, check them out and don’t give up. Practice makes perfect!


Such huge amounts of spare time lead us to believe we can do whatever we like whenever we like, right? Who created time constraints anyway? Well, insufficient sleep can exacerbate a bad state of mind, so it is important to develop good sleeping habits. Try to keep yourself busy throughout the day so that you feel more sleepy at night – if you’re still struggling, consider trying a sleep app to help you fall asleep. Screen time and caffeine intake are also factors that can affect your sleep, so limit these as much as possible, especially before bed. Adapting to all the extra time can be daunting but try to develop a routine that you can stick to. This can really help with maintaining your mood.


In a time where we are all feeling a little helpless, helping others could be just what we need. It can give us a sense of belonging and boost morale. Volunteering or being part of an online social group can give us a sense of community. There are lots of things we can do in line with the restrictions and with more free time, what better way than to get involved with something that means a lot to you?

What is the government doing to help?

The Government have issued guidance and suggestions on how we can look after our mental health and well-being during the pandemic, all of which is available at £9.2 million has been given out by the Government to support mental health charities during the Coronavirus crisis. Of this figure, £4.2 million has gone directly to support charities such as;

  • - Samaritans
  • - Young Minds
  • - Bipolar UK

The other £5 million has been administered by Mind, part of the Mental Health Consortia. Mind has awarded these funds to a wide range of charities that are providing much needed mental health support, including local community projects, some of which being;

- a Leicester-based centre supporting women from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities

- a national charity offering online peer sessions to young autistic people to protect their emotional wellbeing

- a Coventry-based support service offering therapy to the families of children affected by cancer across Warwickshire

- an LGBT Talking Therapies Programme in the Greater Manchester area


We are of course, living in an unusual time in which unfortunately, many have lost either family members, friends or colleagues as a result. If none of those apply, waking up to a new death toll undoubtedly has its effects on us all.

It is normal to experience grief after the passing of a loved one. This emotional stress can last between 6 - 12 months and slowly improves over time. This stress can be intense and can lead to depressive moods and anxiety. As a result, it can affect your sleeping and eating habits. Although there is no one set way to grieve, there are three important parts of the grieving process; accepting your loss, allowing yourself to grieve and adjusting to a new reality without your loved one. Complicated grief is when you are unable to move through these stages after 12 months. Therapy and counselling services have worked to help many to work through their grief. For complicated grief, there are other options to help such as Complicated Grief Therapy or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. CBT works to restructure the thought processes which prevent us from picking ourselves back up, emotions are worked through to create healthier thinking habits and develop new coping mechanisms. To read more about these therapies, visit the NHS website or contact your local GP’s. If you feel more comfortable speaking with family due to familiarity, then don't be afraid to open up and allow them to have an insight into your emotions.

The current circumstances make it difficult to partake in usual grieving activities such as send-offs and escape. However, it is imperative that we retain some structure in our days, holding onto hobbies and daily routines. But remember that giving yourself time to reflect, feel and release your emotions is equally as important. Remember, you're not alone and time is your friend!


Remission and relapse in a longitudinal cohort study, Department of Health Sciences and Centre for Health Economics, University of York, UK 2017 Doering BK, Eisma MC. Treatment for complicated grief: state of the science and ways forward. Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2016