Sheffield lecturer reveals how to look after your mental health during coronavirus lockdown

Britain is less than a week in to the coronavirus lockdown but for many of us the strain is already starting to show.

Monday, 30th March 2020, 2:37 pm
Updated Monday, 30th March 2020, 2:37 pm

We spoke to Dr Jilly Gibson, lecturer in health psychology at the University of Sheffield, about how the restrictions could affect people’s mental health and the best way to get through this difficult period.

She is conducting a study with colleagues at the university looking at the short-term and long-term psychological impacts of being quarantined.

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“There haven’t been many studies like this before because this is such an unprecedented event, but we know it has a massive impact on people’s mental health,” she said.

“It ranges from things like boredom and frustration at one end of the scale to feelings of trauma and depression at the other.”

The study will look at how to identify those at greatest risk of long term mental health problems due to the isolation and how best to aid their recovery.

Dr Gibson says there are a few simple things we can all do to look after our mental health while we’re stuck at home unable to meet up with friends and family.

“It’s crucial to maintain social contact and to build that social capital where you live by keeping in touch with neighbours so you all know what’s happening in your community and you’re able to help one another,” she said.

“It’s important that you still exercise and continue to get fresh air, while observing the restrictions, and it helps to maintain a routine as much as possible.

“It’s also helpful to keep talking about the benefits, not just for your own health but that of the wider community and for the NHS, to remind yourself and others why we’re doing this.

“There will be real differences in what people can do to help themselves, depending on their circumstances, and there’s no doubt it will be a difficult thing for people to be doing.”

Dr Gibson is not surprised that it took some people a while to follow advice to stay at home and practice social distancing, given this is such a huge shift in human behaviour, the communication has not always been the clearest and we all have a ‘positive bias’ meaning we think we are healthier and less likely to fall ill than is really the case.

But she says the response from the vast majority of people has been truly ‘heartwarming’ as communities pull together to help each other and especially the most vulnerable.

“I’ve heard so many heartwarming stories of basic altruism. It’s amazing,” she said.

“You only need to look at the amazing work of the NHS, where nurses, doctors and consultants are all carrying on despite the risk.

“In many places this is actually bringing neighbours closer together and strengthening the sense of community, which is something we need right now.”