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How The Covid-19 Outbreak Is Devastating The UK’s Already Poor Mental Health

By David Saunders | UPDATED: 11:28, 06 April 2020

Mental health treatment specialists Smart TMS today release new research which reveals that 30% of people in Britain feel that their mental health is significantly worse than it was five years ago.

The research was carried out in January of 2020, meaning that a huge proportion of people in Britain were facing severe mental health challenges, even before the outbreak of Covid-19.

April 1st marked the start of Stress Awareness Month, which has come at what is undoubtedly the most stressful time in the lives of millions of people across the UK.

The outbreak of Coronavirus has triggered the greatest public health intervention since WWII, and has led to the country experiencing a state of lockdown, as millions of people across the UK are set to lose their jobs, and livelihoods.

Smart TMS’ research reveals that 20% of people in the UK were in the worst financial position of their lives and experienced considerable mental health challenges as a result – with the added impact of Coronavirus on British businesses, this is only set to increase dramatically.

Furthermore, 36% of Brits say that their mental health has continued to decline unchecked for many years; this comes at a time when the public are confronted with a rapidly rising death toll and daily briefings increasing the intensity of the lockdown.

The indefinite nature of social distancing and self-isolation policies, especially for young people and the elderly, has the potential to leave millions of Britons battling with severe mental health consequences as a result of loneliness and lack of support, as the health of friends and family members declines around them.

According to the Mental health Foundation 74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. Millions of people across the UK are now experiencing high levels of stress, which is one of the most powerful drivers of mental health problems including anxiety and depression.

It is also linked to a host of physical health problems, and also plays a significant role in the weakening of the immune system, which is a serious point of concern as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Gerard Barnes, CEO of mental health treatment specialists Smart TMS, discusses the impact of Covid-19 on the nation’s stress levels, the importance and value of Stress Awareness Month in raising awareness, and provides tips on how to manage your mental health during such a difficult time:

“Stress Awareness Month arguably could not have come at a more appropriate time this year. Millions of people across the UK are currently dealing with the effects of severe stress brought about by extended periods of lockdown, loneliness, and the prospect of losing their jobs and livelihoods, not to mention the potential of losing close friends and family to Covid-19.

With this in mind, Stress Awareness Month represents an opportunity for the country to focus on the importance of maintaining our mental wellbeing and observing stress-reducing practices, to ensure that we are able to cope with the fallout of Coronavirus and the resulting mental health impact.

At Smart TMS, we are taking this opportunity to communicate to all of our patients and those close to us to enter into open conversations around our mental health at this time, discussing the triggers and difficulties we are facing, and taking the time to reflect upon our mental wellbeing. Here are some tips from Smart TMS mental health treatment practitioners, which will help you to identify and follow the necessary precautions to protect one’s mental and physical wellbeing given the circumstances surrounding the spread of COVID-19:

Embrace technology to stay connected

Staying in touch with your loved ones through social media, video calling or messaging is more valuable than ever. Not being in close proximity to people can have a significantly negative impact on your mood and energy levels, and it is therefore imperative that you maintain regular contact with loved ones to make it easier to deal with these stressful and lonely times. 

Speaking with trusted friends and family members also represents a good time to be open about your mental health struggles and feelings of stress you may be experiencing – being able to share your concerns with those closest to you will help you to confront your feelings and receive the support you need.

Stay Active

While it is tougher than normal to stay active at the moment as a result of the Coronavirus lockdown, remaining active and engaging in regular exercise is vital for reducing stress levels. Whilst it is impossible to go to a gym and inadvisable to exercise in a public space, the government has also announced that outdoor exercise is permissible once a day, given that you maintain appropriate distance from others.

We would also highly recommend engaging in moderate exercise at home, ideally for 30 minutes a day – there are a wide variety of follow-along exercises on platforms such as YouTube and Instagram for those of all fitness levels. Exercise is one of the best ways to fight symptoms of mental health problems, and people who are less physically active are more at risk of anxiety and depression.

Maintain a good routine

Having a solid, reliable routine works wonders for mental wellbeing and stress reduction, as it provides you with a method of identifying goals and tasks you want to complete, and prioritising the things you care about the most. For those in self-isolation and working from home, being unable to engage in regular outdoor activities or even losing your commute to work can really disrupt one’s routine, sleeping patterns and productivity. Making sure you maintain a good sleeping schedule, and writing down tasks you want to accomplish during the day, for example, will keep you feeling productive and satisfied. 

Eat well and stay hydrated

Make sure to think about your diet carefully – this is vital to both your physical and mental health. If your regular routine changes or you are less active than usual, your mood and energy levels are almost certain to be affected. Be sure to eat healthily and drink enough water to ensure your body is in its best condition; this will help you to maintain a healthy immune system, and will also support your cognitive function, helping you to make better decisions, think clearly and feel better.  

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