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Minding your mental health

Infectious disease pandemics like COVID-19 (coronavirus), can be worrying. This can affect your mental health. But there are many things you can do to mind your mental health during times like this.

How it might affect your mental health

The COVID-19 pandemic is a challenging event. Some people might find it more worrying than others. Medical, scientific and public health experts are working hard to contain the virus. Try to remember this when you feel worried.

It has affected all our lives in some ways. But in time, it will pass.

You may notice some of the following:

  • increased anxiety
  • feeling stressed
  • finding yourself excessively checking for symptoms, in yourself, or others
  • becoming irritable more easily
  • feeling insecure or unsettled
  • fearing that normal aches and pains might be the virus
  • having trouble sleeping
  • feeling helpless or a lack of control
  • having irrational thoughts

How to mind your mental health during this time

Keeping a realistic perspective of the situation based on facts is important. Here are some ways you can do this.

We also have guides on:

Stay informed but set limits for news and social media

The constant stream of information about COVID-19 can be overwhelming. It can also make you feel unnecessarily worried. If it does, find ways to moderate what information you choose to take in, and when.

For example, you could set aside a short time slot every day or two, to look out for important updates.

It can also be difficult to separate facts from misinformation. Always make sure to get your information from trustworthy and reliable sources.

Read up-to-date, factual information on COVID-19 in Ireland here

On social media, people often talk about their own worries or beliefs about COVID-19. This could increase your own worry and levels of anxiety. It is important to choose carefully who you engage with on social media, and for how long.

If you find the coverage on COVID-19 is too intense for you, talk it through with someone close or get support.

Keep up your healthy routines

Your routine may be affected by the COVID-19 outbreak in different ways. But during difficult times like this, it’s best if you can keep some structure in your day.

It’s important to pay attention to your needs and feelings, especially during times of stress. You may still be able to do some of the things you enjoy and find relaxing.

For example, you could try to:

Stay connected to others

During times of stress, friends and families can be a good source of support. It is important to keep in touch with them and other people in your life.

If you need to restrict your movements or self-isolate, try to stay connected to people in other ways, for example:

  • e-mail
  • social media
  • video calls
  • phone calls
  • text messages

Many video calling apps allow you to have video calls with multiple people at the same time.

Remember that talking things through with someone can help lessen worry or anxiety. You don't have to appear to be strong or to try to cope with things by yourself.

Try to anticipate distress and support each other

It is understandable to feel vulnerable or overwhelmed reading or hearing news about the pandemic.

Acknowledge these feelings. Remind yourself and others to look after your physical and mental health.

Smoking, drinking and eating for comfort

If you smoke or drink, try to avoid doing this any more than usual. It won’t help in the long-term.

Eating habits can often be linked to your emotions. You may turn to food for comfort during this pandemic. Long-term comfort eating can lead to weight gain and affect your health. It’s important to be able to recognise and separate out your emotions from your eating.

Read more about how to eat well

Don’t make assumptions

Don’t judge people or make assumptions about who is responsible for the spread of the disease. COVID-19 can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, nationality or ethnicity. We are all in this together.

Online and phone supports

Face-to-face services might be limited at the moment because of COVID-19. But some services are providing online and phone services.

Find mental health supports and services that can help during the COVID-19 pandemic

If you are using mental health services for an existing mental health condition

If things get difficult, it can be helpful to have a plan to help you get through.

Things you can do:

  • have a list of numbers of mental health service and relatives or friends you can call if you need support
  • keep taking any medication and continue to fill your prescription with support from your GP or psychiatrist
  • continue with any counselling or psychotherapy session you have
  • limit your news intake and only use trusted sources of information
  • practice relaxation techniques and breathing exercises

If your condition gets worse, contact your mental health team or GP.

If you have an intellectual disability

If you have an intellectual disability, you may feel more worried or sad because of COVID-19. You could also be worried about your family or those close to you.

It is important to take care of yourself. Try to keep a routine, shower every day and eat healthy food

Keep in touch over the phone or in person with people you trust, while following social distancing guidelines.

Read advice about supporting someone with special needs during the COVID-19 pandemic

For more advice on minding your mental health visit

OCD and COVID-19

If you have OCD, you may develop an intense fear of:

  • catching COVID-19
  • causing harm to others
  • things not being in order

Fear of being infected may mean you become obsessed with hand hygiene and cleanliness. You may avoid certain situations, such as using public transport.

Washing your hands

The compulsion to wash your hands or clean may get stronger. If you have recovered from this type of compulsion in the past, it may return.

Follow the advice above. Wash your hands properly and often, but you do not need to do more than recommended.

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms, treatment and getting help

Related topic

Advice and tips from the Department of Health on looking after your mental wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic

Last updated: 22 October at 12.01am

page last reviewed: 17/04/2020
next review due: 17/04/2023

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