Experts: ‘avoid vicious cycles of anxiety’

Green fingers: Studies have found gardening can reduce depression and improve attention. © Getty

Do we all have an extra responsibility to look after our mental health? During this eerie quarantine, experts have launched an appeal for us to look after our minds as well as our bodies.

Yesterday, the MailOnline website published 64 coronavirus articles.

Full of overflowing morgues, and nightmare 12-hour shifts at struggling hospitals, this is the daily reading diet of millions living through Europe’s “plague-spring” of 2020.

No wonder many are in a state of near-panic.

Now, a group of globally respected psychologists has issued a powerful warning: we all have a duty to focus on keeping our minds healthy.

Here is the group’s key advice:

Anxiety is normal. Life today is very different to just one month ago. When things change quickly, it is completely normal to be worried. School, important exams, birthday parties, celebrations – all are likely to be cancelled. It is okay to be disappointed.

Avoid vicious cycles. It is very tempting to check the news constantly, to Google the latest virus updates, or to wash your hands every five minutes. But, in the long run, this is likely to make you feel even more worried.

Share your fears. The best way to deal with a fear is to share it with others. If your worries feel overwhelming, then tell someone. Discuss what is making you anxious, why, and where the anxiety came from. However, it is best to avoid talking about your fears just before going to bed.

Limit worry time. It is probably impossible to completely avoid reading about or discussing the coronavirus. Instead, limit your exposure to half an hour of “worry time”, when you can discuss the day’s events with friends or family. Outside of that, find distractions such as going outside.

Remember the good things. Thousands of doctors, nurses, and scientists are working day and night to beat this virus. And, even in lockdown, fun continues. For example, in Italy, one man performed a DJ set for his neighbours from his balcony. Community organisations have sprung up worldwide to support the vulnerable. Families are spending more time together.

Focus on what you can control. There are still many things scientists do not know about the coronavirus – including when the pandemic will end and life can return to normal. So, instead, focus on the things you CAN do to protect others, like washing your hands and offering to buy groceries for people in isolation.

So, is our mental health really our responsibility?

Don’t mind me

Yes, say many. We now know that mental health is just as important as physical health. It is ridiculous to witness hundreds of people in every neighbourhood, jogging and working out in the parks, taking great care of their bodies, and then filling their heads with the intellectual equivalent of a river of mild poison. The human mind is a wonderful thing. We should tend it carefully.

That’s a silly way to think of it, say others. The mind should not be compared to the body, which needs food, rest, and exercise. The mind is more like the lungs. Apart from not smoking, we don’t have to think about our lungs. If we are lucky enough to be normal, they look after themselves. A normal mind is fine without any special regime. It is all this psychological advice that makes one ill.

You Decide

  1. Should under-18s get the news from an adult whom they trust rather than read it themselves?
  2. What would you do if you started to get into a vicious cycle of worry?

Activities

  1. If you are over-16, write a letter to your neighbours offering to help collect their prescriptions or shopping. Ask an adult in your house if you can give their email address as a contact. Remember to leave packages on the doorstep, ring the bell, and keep two metres away.
  2. Put away your phone and your screens. Find a patch of open air outside or by a window. Assemble some paper, paints, pencils, or pens. Set a timer and draw, design, or paint for 90 minutes. Take a photo of the image you’re proudest of and share it on Instagram.

Some People Say...

“Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.”

Marcus Aurelius (121-180 AD), Roman emperor and philosopher

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The science generally agrees on the following points. Firstly, mental health disorders are on the rise amongst children. Since 2004, there has been a significant increase in the number of young people with emotional disorders – especially, anxiety and depression. Secondly, anxiety is contagious – like a virus. A 2014 study found that people feel empathetic stress when watching someone else in distress.
What do we not know?
There is a still a huge question mark over why some people can thrive under stress while others find it unbearable. Personalities, such as Bear Grylls or Winston Churchill, in their different ways, love a crisis. However, they perform notably less well in ordinary life. For others, the duller life is, the better. They want a calm and regular routine. Why is this? Nobody knows.

Word Watch

MailOnline
The website of the right-wing Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday. With over 11 million daily viewers, it is the most visited English language newspaper website in the world.
Morgues
Used for the storage of human corpses awaiting identification, autopsy, burial or cremation.
Psychologists
This advice was given by a group of psychologists, including some from Oxford University, called Emerging Minds. It aims to reduce mental health problems experienced by children and teenagers.
Regime
In this instance, an ordered way of doing things.

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