Looking after your emotional health & well-being

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It is normal to feel concerned about COVID-19. Being asked to avoid and reduce human contact, to socially distance ourselves and to self-isolate goes against human nature. It is the opposite of what humans want to do in a crisis. This can affect your mental and physical health. However, there are many things you can do to mind your mental health and it is important to stay positive and focus on what can you do rather than what you cannot.

Firstly, being aware of your own emotions addressing how you think and feel, will help you in coping. Over the coming days, weeks and months people’s lives will change, but it is important to keep things in perspective as this will pass.

You may notice feeling

  • 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

People with cardiovascular disease

People who have cardiovascular disease or who have experienced a stroke may be more likely to experience anxiety or stress in relation to the outbreak of COVID-19 virus. There are many reasons for this, such as the fact that you are in the at risk group for COVID-19 virus. You are at no greater risk of developing COVID-19 than anyone else. However, if you do contract the virus you have a higher chance of developing complications. 

Although the link between stress and the risk of heart disease and stroke is not well understood, we do know that stress can increase your blood pressure, impact on the blood clotting mechanism and result in people leading an unhealthy lifestyle. For example as a coping mechanism people are more likely to increase their caffeine intake, smoke, drink more alcohol and be less active when they are stressed.

If you have heart disease, being anxious or stressed may bring on symptoms like angina (chest pains).  If you do experience chest pains, please do not delay in calling 999 or 112. The emergency departments are still open for business as are all hospitals.

It isn’t possible to avoid stress completely but we can change the way we cope with it, particularly with of the outbreak of COVID-19 and the imposed control measures. 

Our top 5 recommendations for reducing stress and anxiety:

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1. Stay connected

Social support is proven to be an important factor in protecting our mental health against negative feelings. Stay in touch with friends and family using mobile technology such as WhatsApp, Skype and video calls. Telephone, text and email. Check in on elderly and vulnerable neighbours. Remember you don’t have to appear strong and try to cope with things on your own. Speaking to others and talking things through can reduce anxiety and worry.

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2. Limit your exposure to media

The constant stream of updates and news about COVID-19 can be overwhelming and cause increased anxiety. It can be difficult to separate facts from fiction. Use only trustworthy and reliable sources such the HSE and the Department of Health. Try to limit social media usage, set yourself times during the day to check for updates. If you are finding the COVID-19 coverage upsetting or too intense talk it through with a friend or family member. Remember much of the information online is driven by people’s personal opinion’s, beliefs and agendas and it may not be helpful for you to take these on as your own right now.

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3. Get a good night’s sleep

Sleep is closely linked to our mood and mental health, sleep disruption and poor quality sleep can negatively impact on your mood. Try to maintain regular sleep patterns it can be unhealthy to fall into bad habits such as going to bed later and getting up later. Changes to your sleep pattern now could impact on your mood in the weeks, months ahead. Try to maintain a routine scheduling daily activities throughout the day such as exercise and relaxing activities. If worrying feelings or thoughts are preventing you from achieving good quality sleep, try talking them through with someone.

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4. Maintain a healthy routine

Your normal daily routine may be affected by COVID-19, but trying to keep some structure will help. Pay attention to your needs and feelings during this time especially during times of stress. You may still be able to do some of the things you enjoy and find relaxing. For example this may include regular exercise, practicing relaxation techniques or reading a book. Try Chair Yoga with our incredible instructor, Vicky Harkin!

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5. Practice self-care

In times like this with the outbreak of COVID-19 we have a responsibility to ourselves to practice self-care. If we don’t practice self-care we will be of less use to ourselves and to others. Examples of self-care include:

  • cooking healthy nourishing meals
  • allowing yourself time to engage in the things you enjoy
  • taking time to relax
  • setting boundaries – such as saying no to visitors and reducing demands on yourself to prevent burn out
  • Practice mindfulness, meditation, walking or baking- small changes that you will be able to continue with post COVID-19

Try to keep things in perspective, things will get better.

Prioritise COVID-19 testing for patients with underlying conditions

The Irish Platform for Patients, Science and Industry (IPPOSI) calls on the HSE and GPs to prioritise COVID-19 testing for patients with underlying conditions and urges the public not to flood new testing centres unnecessarily.

Last week the HSE announced that it will be rolling out large scale Covid-19 testing throughout Ireland from Monday 16th March. The Irish Platform for Patients, Science and Industry (IPPOSI) says patients with underlying conditions want the HSE and GPs to prioritise testing for them, their families and carers. IPPOSI also calls on the public to act responsibly and not to flood new testing centres and GP surgeries unnecessarily with requests for testing.

Patients with chronic conditions are at particular risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19. It is essential that these people are diagnosed quickly and treated immediately and early testing for this community is essential.

Derick Mitchell, CEO of IPPOSI, urges the public to heed government advice on identifying the symptoms of COVID-19, namely having a cough and high temperature, and not to unnecessarily flood GPs and testing centres with requests for testing. “Our patient organisations tell us that their members our increasingly worried about accessing testing with many people self-isolating from family members already while they wait for access to testing.”

IPPOSI says that patients need advice that is targeted at the high risk and vulnerable groups rather than generic help line information currently available. Not only are high risk groups worried about contracting COVID-19 but they are also concerned about the impact on their regular treatments and medicines.  IPPOSI is calling for the following:

  • More streamlined and standardised communication process between the HSE, CHOs and Service Provider organisations as the situation escalates and regular services are impacted.
  • Dedicated contact points be identified within the Department of Health and HSE to ensure effective flow of information with patient organisations and to answer their concerns

IPPOSI also highlights the fact that information overload and false information is causing unnecessary worry and confusion amongst the High Risk Covid community. It urges members of the High Risk Covid community to follow the following guidelines:

  • The patient organisation for your specific disease should be your main information point. Patient organisations are open and are providing timely information updates for their communities regarding COVID-19.
  • Patient organisations are working with their respective clinical programmes and medical advisors in relation to condition-specific information of relevance to their members.
  • If you are worried about prescription medicines supply, please contact your local pharmacist for information. They are the experts in relation to supply of medicines.
  • IPPOSI as a partnership of patient organisations, science and industry is in an unique position to provide updated and reliable information through our Twitter account (@ipposi) & website ipposi.ie and we encourage people to follow these channels.

IPPOSI Chairperson, Ava Battles of MS Ireland added:

“We welcome the work of the National Public Health Emergency Team on COVID-19, in particular the engagement with patient groups and the subgroup for vulnerable people.  It is critical that these engagements provide leadership bringing clarity to the specific issues faced by both patient organisations and vulnerable groups and supports the roll-out of critical responses.

Croí is a proud member of IPPOSI.