Coronavirus: Mental health advice for those with virus anxiety

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Woman in surgical mask looking out of a windowImage source, Getty Images
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"Covid-19 anxiety" is being felt by many with new lockdown routines

Mental health experts are offering advice to help adults and children cope with "Covid-19 anxiety".

A Cardiff trauma psychotherapist says many people are experiencing feelings of fear and uncertainty.

This includes NHS staff, who are said to be at risk of high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, without the right support.

Specialist Colette Hart said the virus "ticks all the boxes" to trigger a distress response.

She said being forced to adapt to new routines, such as social distancing, self-isolation, home schooling or compulsory interaction with family added to the issues.

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Colette Hart said many people report feeling overwhelmed

Worries about finances, health concerns and loved ones can lead to "a natural response to life's events", said Ms Hart.

"Is it any wonder with little control over our lives many of us report feeling overwhelmed by a sense of heightened anxiety, hyper vigilance, fear and loss of meaning?" she added.

But the psychotherapist said there are ways to cope - and to help prevent future mental health issues developing.

"There's no doubt that, going forward, another 'normal' will take the place of this one, and some of us may seek professional help to try and make sense of our world and re-set our buttons," said Ms Hart.

"And some may not. It's important to understand we can't control what happens with the coronavirus or the economy, but we can control how we respond to it."

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Dr Pippa Mundy said keeping a routine for children was important

The impact of coronavirus upon children and young people will be greatly influenced by those they live with, especially their parents or guardians, according to consultant clinical psychologist Dr Pippa Mundy.

"Keeping a routine is helpful for children in good times and is especially important in difficult times. Routines give order and predictability when we feel the world is changing around us," she said.

Such routines could include having regular family meals together, providing opportunities to check-in with each other, playing games, dancing, exercising and listening to music together to give a sense of solidarity, she said.

Be safe and stay connected - Self-isolation doesn't mean cutting off all communication, in fact, it's more important than ever to talk and listen, share stories and advice, and stay in touch with the people who matter to you.

Take notice of things that make you feel good - Eating healthy food, keeping moving by going out for walks or exercising can help us to feel good. Notice the beauty outside your window or on a walk around the block, taking time to acknowledge people you see.

Go on an information mini-break - the endless updates from news outlets and people on social media can be completely overwhelming. Pick one trusted source of information and visit it once a day only.

Share how you're feeling - Talk to loved ones and friends. Talking has the effect of lifting our mood and really helps us to begin to feel more positive if we're having a tough time.

Keep moving - Find ways to move your body and your mood every day. It's OK to go for a walk, run or ride your bike, as long as you avoid other people.

Stick to a routine - This sounds dull but it will help you get through each day. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time, eat regularly, shower, change your clothes, get some fresh air, book in video-chats with colleagues or friends, do your chores. Make time for fun!

Find ways to relax and distract - Finding things that help you breathe deeply, consciously setting your worries aside or focusing on the moment to recharge can be helpful. Distracting yourself by watching films or TV programmes, reading or listening to music will help you to set things in context and provide relief from anxious feelings.

Source: Sarah Kendrick, psychotherapist for Shout, the Crisis Text Support line

If you need support or help - you can also find resources on the BBC Action Line website.