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Feeling anxious or low about coronavirus

With everything going on and the changes to day-to-day life many of us may feel anxious and worried. Everything can feel a little overwhelming. It's natural to feel this way. However, there are things you can do to help look after yourself mentally and there's support available to you.

Lockdown and your mental health

With stricter lockdown measures in place, it's more important than ever to look after yourself mentally. It can be a particularly challenging time, but the suggestions and expert insight on this page can help you cope when things get difficult.

Is it normal to feel like this?

Over the last few months, everyone has been worried about their physical health and that of those they care about most. But staying at home, feeling lonely or isolated, the anxiety of either catching or spreading the virus and the worry of looking after yourself and those you care about can have an impact on how we feel mentally too. And that's perfectly natural. 

You're not alone if you feel this way – 1 in 3 older people are feeling more anxious.

For many of us 2020 has been a long and hard year. We may be feeling exhausted with the restrictions and unsure if we can go through it all again. With it being cold and dark outside, and the unknowing of whether we’ll be able to spend the festive season with loved ones the restrictions may be taking more of a toll on us.

Although this winter will be different and hard for many of us, there are things you can do to look after your mental health.

Who can I talk to about how I'm feeling?

If you're feeling anxious, out of sorts or you're just not feeling yourself then it's important to talk to your GP. 

While some people will feel comfortable talking to their GP, we know that for others it may be a very daunting experience. So much so, you might put off going or end up not going all together. 

But talking to a professional is often the best thing you can do to start feeling better.

If you prefer, you can also refer yourself to talking therapy, without going through your GP. Talking therapies are free NHS services and involve talking to someone who is specially trained to help you manage your thoughts and feelings. You can search for local talking therapies and refer yourself through the NHS website

A GP explains why talking is important

We understand you might be hesitant to talk to the GP, especially at the moment with everything going on. So we spoke to Dr Carolyn Chew-Graham, a GP in central Manchester and Professor of General Practice Research focusing on mental health care in older adults.

Dr Chew-Graham helps us explain what happens when GPs talk to older people about their mental health and why these conversations are so important, especially at the moment. 

Can I talk to my GP about how I'm feeling at the moment?

Yes, you can. People may consider their problems or how they feel not important enough to call the GP about at the moment. With all the coverage in the media about the burdens on the NHS, people are ignoring non-coronavirus problems. But you shouldn't. Whatever your health concern, physical or mental, coronavirus-related or not, your GP is there for you. 

You may also be put off by going into your GP practice or the hospital because you're worried about catching coronavirus. Again, this is natural, but you don't have to worry. Lots of consultations are being done over the phone at the moment. But, if you are asked to come in for a face-to-face appointment, it will be only if it's felt it's necessary to do so and you'll be asked to follow certain safety measures. GP surgeries will also have their own processes in place to make sure you're kept safe at all times. 

For some people the thought of contacting their GP over the phone may put them off. This could be because discussing mental health concerns over the phone can seem awkward and you might be worried about being overheard by people in their house. However, your GP is there to listen and wants to help. To make sure you get the most out of the conversation you should try and find a space that you feel comfortable in and write a list of the things you want to say to the GP so you don't forget anything. However, if this isn't possible, or you still don't feel comfortable talking over the phone, let your GP know at the start of any conversation to see if a face-to-face appointment may be more suitable. 

It's about seeking help if you've got health problems. If you've got worries, then the Health Service is open for you. 

Dr Carolyn Chew-Graham

What can I expect when I talk to the GP?

While talking about how you're feeling might seem daunting and you may feel like the only person with these feelings, the reality is that GPs are used to having these conversations with people. 

Knowing what you might expect can help you prepare for these conversations and make you feel more at ease. 

You can expect to be asked questions such as:

  • How do you feel?
  • What's your mood been like?
  • How have you been sleeping?
  • Do you feel worried, stressed or irritable?
  • Have others noticed a change in your mood?
  • Do you have thoughts of harming yourself?

Questions about self-harm or suicide can be upsetting, but they're important questions to ask as many people do feel this way, you may feel this way, especially following a period of lockdown which has been incredibly challenging.

This initial conversation may take place over the phone or in person. Following this conversation, you may have further conversations on the phone, be sent materials in the post or links for online resources or you may be asked to come in for a face-to-face appointment. 

It's trying to talk to people about their worry... Let's just think about how we can help you with it, how we can manage it, what treatment you might need or what you think would help you. 

Dr Carolyn Chew-Graham

Why is it important to talk to my GP?

It's important to talk to your GP because there can be a reluctance to talk about mental health, especially among older adults. It's either seen as not as important as your physical health, or people don't quite know how to talk about it because it's something they didn't grow up discussing. 

Maybe you don't quite know how you feel or why you feel it. You might feel irritable, sad and upset or anxious. Maybe it's a feeling you haven't been able to shift for some time. The symptoms may even be physical, and often what someone thinks is a physical health problem can in fact be signs of a mental health concern. 

But the GP is there to help you figure that bit out. Starting the conversation, talking about how you feel, can help the GP work with you to find out what the matter is and the best way to start making you feel better. 

People often feel better for just having a conversation about how they're feeling. I often hear "I now understand why I feel like I do, and it's definitely helped."

Dr Carolyn Chew-Graham

Our mental health as things change

The rules we have to follow and what we can and can't do is changing – from easing of lockdown to future lockdowns and stricter measures. These transitions can affect how we feel.

Who you can contact

As well as your GP, there are other options for you if you want to talk to someone about how you're feeling or want more information.

  • Local Minds have adapted their services and many now have helplines and are doing over the phone consultations. Contact your local Mind to see what they're doing. 
  • Anxiety UK has a helpline and lots of information on their website, including webinars to help you learn some tools for dealing with your mental health.
  • Mental Health UK has an online form called Clic where you can connect with others, share how you're feeling and support one another. 

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Last updated: Apr 20 2021

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