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10 tips to help if you are worried about COVID-19

The impact that the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is still having on our lives may cause us to feel anxious, stressed, worried, sad, bored, lonely or frustrated.

Everyone feels different sometimes. It's important to remember it is OK to feel this way and that everyone reacts differently – for most of us, these difficult feelings will pass.

There are simple things we can do to help take care of our mental health and wellbeing during times of uncertainty. Doing so will help us think clearly, and make sure we can look after ourselves and those we care about.

These tips can help improve your mental health and wellbeing if you are worried about the COVID-19 outbreak. You can also read our advice on maintaining your mental wellbeing if you are staying at home.

It is important to always follow the latest official guidance on social distancing to keep everyone safe.

1. Stay connected with people

Maintaining healthy relationships with people we trust is important for our mental wellbeing.

There are lots of different ways to stay in touch with friends and family when you cannot meet in person. You could schedule time each week to speak over the phone or make time for regular video calls.

Social media is another good way to stay connected, but make sure you take breaks from your digital devices and switch off before bed.

We all need to feel connected still, so keep in touch – whether it's with people you normally saw often or reconnecting with old friends.

2. Talk about your worries

It's normal to feel worried, scared or helpless about the current situation. Remember: it's OK to share your concerns with others you trust – and doing so may help them too.

If you cannot speak to someone you know or if doing so has not helped, there are plenty of helplines you can try instead.

3. Support and help others

Helping someone else can benefit you as well as them, so try to be a little more understanding of other people's concerns, worries or behaviours at this time.

Try to think of things you can do to help those around you. Is there a friend or family member nearby you could meet outdoors? If you cannot meet up, you could phone or message them.

Are there any community groups you could join to support others locally?

If you do go out to offer support or help to others, always follow social distancing guidelines when you are outside your home.

4. Feel prepared

As the outbreak continues, it can help to work through what changes to government guidelines mean for you so you feel more prepared and less concerned.

It can help to think through a typical week: how will you continue to be affected and what will you need to do to solve any problems?

If you have not already, you might want to talk with your employer. Find out about government support for businesses and self-employed people and understanding your sick pay and benefits rights.

5. Look after your body

Our physical health has a big impact on how we feel. At times like these, it can be easy to fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour that end up making you feel worse.

Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, drink enough water and exercise regularly. Avoid smoking or drugs, and try not to drink too much alcohol.

Going for a walk, run or bike ride can really help lift your mood and clear your mind – just remember to follow social distancing guidelines. Or you could try an easy 10-minute home workout.

6. Stick to the facts

Find a credible source you can trust – such as GOV.UK or the NHS website – and fact-check information you get from newsfeeds, social media or other people.

Think about how possibly inaccurate information could affect others too. Try not to share information without fact-checking against credible sources.

You might also want to consider limiting the time you spend watching, reading or listening to coverage of the outbreak, including on social media, and think about turning off breaking-news alerts on your phone.

You could set yourself a specific time to read updates or limit yourself to a couple of checks a day.

7. Stay on top of difficult feelings

Concern about the COVID-19 outbreak is normal. However, some people may experience intense anxiety that can affect their daily life.

Try to focus on the things you can control, such as your behaviour, who you speak to, and where and how often you get information.

It's fine to acknowledge that some things are outside of your control, but if constant thoughts about COVID-19 are making you feel anxious or overwhelmed, try some ideas to help manage your anxiety or listening to an audio guide.

8. Do things you enjoy

Feeling worried, anxious or low might stop us doing things we usually enjoy. Focusing on your favourite hobby, relaxing or connecting with others can help with anxious thoughts and feelings.

If you are not able to do the things you usually enjoy because of the current guidelines, it might be possible to continue with your favourite hobbies online, alone or with members of your household.

You could also think about trying something new. There are lots of free tutorials and courses online, or try online pub quizzes and music concerts.

Video: Keep learning

Setting goals and learning new skills can be a great way to meet people, build your self-esteem and feel a sense of achievement. Watch our video for tips to get started.

9. Focus on the present

Focusing on the present, rather than worrying about the future, can help with difficult emotions and improve our wellbeing.

Relaxation techniques can also help some people deal with feelings of anxiety, or you could try our mindful breathing video.

Video: Mindful breathing

Mindfulness and meditation help you to be in the present. Try our mindful breathing video. It can help you feel more calm.

10. Look after your sleep

Good-quality sleep makes a big difference to how we feel mentally and physically, so it's important to get enough.

Try to maintain regular sleeping patterns and keep up good sleep hygiene practices – like avoiding screens before bed, cutting back on caffeine and creating a restful environment. See our sleep page for more advice.

Further support and advice

There are plenty of things you can do and more help and support is available if you're struggling with your mental health. Our pages on stress, anxiety, sleep and low mood have lots more tips and specific advice. If you're a parent or caregiver for a child or young person, Young Minds has guidance on talking to your child about coronavirus.

The NHS mental health and wellbeing advice pages also have a self-assessment, as well as audio guides and other tools you can use.

We also have guidance and information to help others if someone you know is struggling with their mental health.

Remember, it's quite common to experience short-lived physical symptoms when you are feeling low or anxious. Some of these, like feeling hot or short of breath, could be confused with symptoms of COVID-19.

If this happens, try to distract yourself. When you feel less anxious, see if you still have the symptoms that worried you. If you're still concerned, visit the NHS website.

If you do not live in England

Additional country-specific COVID-19 guidance is available for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.