Staying mentally healthy during covid

Living with MS comes with a multitude of challenges, but one that may not immediately spring to mind is the effect on your mental health. The majority of people living with MS will experience psychological effects at some point, with up to half of the MS community facing depression1. Now more than ever, it is important to stay on top of your mental health and tap into the support that’s available. 

It’s now been a few months since COVID-19 transformed normal life for so many, and it’s likely that most people have – even if reluctantly – developed new routines to help them survive lockdown. But as the world begins to open up again and lockdowns globally eases, it still remains a worrying time for the MS community. We wanted to take this opportunity to share some mental health advice for helping everyone with MS as the pandemic continues to evolve, however it chooses to do so.

It’s ok to feel whatever it is you are feeling. 

Whether you are excited at the prospect of increased freedom, or nervous about going outside again, whatever you are feeling is completely normal. Take everything at your own pace and don’t do anything that you do not feel comfortable doing. 

Stay connected2, 3 

Regularly connecting with others is important for everyone, especially people with conditions like MS. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 lockdown and the inability to meet people in-person has undoubtedly caused some to feel more isolated. Luckily, technology has given us lots of different ways to stay connected to those outside of your household, and as you start getting outside more, enjoy conversations with neighbors and local shop workers. Speaking regularly with loved ones is important for mental health, and, surprisingly, so is talking to strangers4! One unexpected benefit for many over lockdown has been catching up virtually with friends that you haven’t connected with for a while. As lockdown eases and our normal ways of communication get back to normal, keep picking up the phone, sending texts or even writing letters to all your loved ones.

Start to see your loved ones in person, socially distanced of course

As restrictions begin to ease, the opportunity to see loved ones who you do not live with is becoming more feasible. It’s still important to keep your distance and meet outside but seeing and speaking to family and friends is good for the spirits. And, when finally allowed, give your loved ones a big squeeze – hugging has a number of benefits, from making you happier to stress reduction5.

Keep exercising

Exercise comes with so many benefits that it’s hard to think of many things better, especially when it can help to ease MS symptoms too3. More flexibility with lockdown means a wider range of opportunities to return to a more normal-looking exercise routine. Make sure to remember any advice from your doctor about which forms of exercise may be best for you. 

Make rest and relaxation a priority3

Suddenly being able to do things you’ve not been able to do for a while can be overwhelming, so it’s important to not push yourself too far. Remember that your body knows best, so listen to it and rest when needed. And try and get plenty of sleep at night too where possible. If you are finding getting to sleep at night a struggle, then allow yourself to nap during the day. 

Stay away from the news6

If you are finding the news to be especially worrying, then try to limit your access to it. If you want to know what the latest updates are, then maybe tune in just once a day, or ask a loved one to share the top-level information with you. It’s also important to only visit trustworthy news sources so that you know the information you are absorbing is true.  

We hope that you are able to take some benefit from these pieces of advice for helping to stay mentally healthy with MS during COVID-19. Let us know your advice over on our Facebook page

 

References: 

  1. MS Society. Depression. Available at: https://www.mssociety.org.uk/about-ms/signs-and-symptoms/mental-health/depression. Accessed July 2020
  2. MS Trust. How to stay calm and carry on during the coronavirus crisis when you have MS. Available at: https://www.mstrust.org.uk/news/views-and-comments/how-stay-calm-and-carry-during-coronavirus-crisis-when-you-have-ms. Accessed July 2020.
  3. WebMD. MS and Depression: Tips for Mental Fitness. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/multiple-sclerosis/mental-fitness-tips#:~:text=But%20when%20you%20have%20MS,network%20is%20important%20for%20everyone. Accessed July 2020.
  4. BBC. The surprising benefits of talking to strangers. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-48459940. Accessed July 2020.
  5. Erica Cirino. What Are the Benefits of Hugging? Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/hugging-benefits#1. Accessed July 2020.
  6. NHS. Mental wellbeing while staying at home. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/coronavirus-covid-19-staying-at-home-tips/. Accessed July 2020.
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