As the COVID-19 crisis develops, it can seem like every conversation, news article and social media post revolves around the subject. It’s hard to escape talk of coronavirus, and while government advice confines most of us to our homes, this can feel overwhelming. But there are things we can do to stay positive, motivated and healthy, whilst supporting those around us.
The importance of staying positive
Banishing negative thoughts and focussing on positivity benefits more than just our mental health. It can also help with:
- Immunity – In a study of influenza and rhinovirus, patients who felt more positive emotions experienced fewer symptoms than those who had more negative thoughts. Also, those who didn’t practise positivity were 2.9 times more likely to develop a respiratory illness.
- Mental ability – Research has shown our problem-solving, judgement and decision-making processes all improve when we regularly feel positive. Our cognitive flexibility and creativity are also boosted. This should help us as we try to manage the difficulties created by COVID-19, such as finding new ways to work from home effectively and keeping children entertained.
15 tips for staying positive and supporting others
Here are our top tips for staying positive during a crisis, dealing with mental stress and being supportive to those around you.
When thinking about how to overcome a crisis, it’s important to consider your mental health. You can take specific steps to protect yourself and boost your wellbeing. Our first eight tips follow this theme.
1. Savour the small things
Often, we’re so busy dashing about our busy lives, we run out of time for the things we’d like to do most. Why not spend the time you would’ve spent commuting or eating lunch in the office catching up on some hobbies? Reading books, watching films, cooking and crafting can all help reduce stress levels.
2. Enjoy quality time with family
Whether you count being stuck at home with your family as a positive or a negative, spending time together should help strengthen family bonds and promote mental wellbeing. You could take advantage of your time at home to have in-depth conversations, play board games or have a movie night. Experts say family time can boost your oxytocin levels, which tells your brain to lower cortisol, the stress hormone.
3. See the good in the world
When we’re rushing around, we often don’t take the time to appreciate the positives in a situation. For example, the COVID-19 crisis is incredibly worrying for most people, but many are taking constructive steps to lessen its effects.
While medical workers are putting in extra hours to support hospital patients, ordinary people are donating money to organisations developing a cure for coronavirus. Neighbours are checking in on elderly residents and taking food and essentials to local homeless people. And there are so many social media posts spreading support and good wishes across the world.
4. Block out negativity
Just as you should seek out the positive, you may want to try to avoid negativity. As Taha Yasseri, a computational social scientist at the Oxford Internet Institute (University of Oxford) says:
"Usually, negative news goes faster, further, and deeper on social networks – so we are much more exposed to negative news than positive news.”
Tamara Russell, a mindfulness expert from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (King's College London) explains how negative news can take over:
Every notification is designed to alert you anyway, even if you're totally calm... and, of course, the content is scary. Choose when you're going to look and pick which sources. And balance that out with engaging with things that are uplifting.
5. Practise mindfulness
Nowadays, most people recognise the importance of fostering mental wellbeing. There is a huge bank of apps designed to support users as they practise mindfulness through activities such as meditation. Just taking 10 minutes a day to yourself should promote relaxation and help you stay positive.
6. Connect with local groups
Whether you get out and about to help in your local community or just join a virtual group, you may find your mental wellbeing improves when you interact more with others. Rosie Weatherley from mental health charity Mind urges anyone who feels they’re struggling to use the resources at their disposal to develop meaningful interactions:
"The internet and social media are keeping us very connected at a time where connectivity is going to be extra important. There are a myriad of local micro volunteer communities springing up and it's possible in your area that there may be things you can participate in digitally."
7. Connect with nature via the internet
Although there’s no substitute for getting out and seeing nature in all its glory, it is possible to enjoy the natural world from the comfort of your own home. Thanks to modern technology, we can still connect with the outside world when we’re confined to our sofa.
For example, live nature webcams let you see what’s going on in numerous locations across the world. The Wildlife Trusts and Explore both have a wide variety of feeds for those who love animals – from watering holes in Africa to kitten sanctuaries in LA.
Depending on the time of year, you can even watch footage live from space, through the Royal Observatory Greenwich website. If there are no astronomical events taking place, you can catch up on previous videos.
8. Reflect on why the changes you’re making are necessary
You’re likely to feel better about your own situation if you think about how you’re helping others. As a government spokesperson has said:
Many people find it helpful to remind themselves why what they are doing is so important. … By staying home, you are protecting the lives of others, as well as making sure the NHS does not get overwhelmed.
During times of crisis, we should all be thinking about how we can help the most vulnerable members of society. These final seven tips should give you some ideas for giving back to the community.
9. Donate to food banks
As supermarket shelves empty amid panic-buying, it’s more important than ever we remember to support those who have very little. Emma Revie, Chief Executive of Trussell Trust appealed for members of the public to give food to their local food bank:
“Time and again over the past decade, foodbanks across the UK – aided by a generous public who have donated time, food and money – have stepped up to protect people on the lowest incomes in our communities.
"But with the spread of coronavirus, we all now face an unprecedented challenge and uncertain future. It is possible that foodbanks will face increased demand as people lose income, at the same time as food donations drop or staff and volunteers are unavailable, due to measures rightly put in place to slow the spread of infection. All of this comes when foodbanks are already dealing with a record level of need for emergency food.”
10. Help the homeless
Spare a thought for those sleeping rough at the moment. By giving them food, drink, warm clothing and antibacterial hand sanitiser, we can help protect them as COVID-19 sweeps the country. Of course, we should support homeless shelters and charities working to eradicate homelessness all the time, but it’s especially important we look out for vulnerable people at times of crisis.
11. Help older people
Elderly people are particularly at risk of COVID-19, so we should do what we can to make sure they have everything they need to stay indoors. This might include dropping off food and medication or running errands on their behalf. If you can, encourage elderly relatives or neighbours to keep moving and continue with any hobbies they have.
12. Give blood
If you don’t normally visit blood donation centres, now may be the time to start. At a time when supplies at hospitals are increasingly stretched, your contribution will be gladly received. A spokesperson for the NHS Blood and Transplant department said:
We need donors to keep donating as normal and to follow the latest health, hygiene and travel advice. … We're putting in place extra safety measures and safety is always our number one priority.
13. Support local businesses
Many independent businesses were struggling before the COVID-19 crisis emerged, but now they need customers more than ever. If you’re venturing out, consider buying your bread from your local bakery as opposed to the supermarket, or browse birthday cards in a nearby giftshop, for example.
14. Check on your neighbours
If you haven’t already built up a good relationship with your neighbours, perhaps now is the time to do so. It’s worth checking in with them to make sure they’ve got everything they need and are keeping their spirits up. Consider joining the Good Neighbours network if it runs in your area.
15. Support local art venues
Art venues like theatres, cinemas and galleries have now been asked to close their doors in the UK, but you can continue supporting them in a number of ways. Why not help them survive these difficult months by purchasing a cinema membership, donating items to your local amateur dramatics society or giving money to your local gallery, for example?
Working through the coronavirus crisis together
For more information on the COVID-19 outbreak and how you can protect yourself and your business, see our other articles:
Alice Tuffery, Point Franchise ©