10 Tips for staying mentally well during Covid-19 - A guest blog by Dave Phillips

Dave Philips is a Support Worker with the Tresleigh team, who support four adults with autism and learning disabilities near Truro. He is a Volunteer Facilitator for the men’s mental health support group ‘Man Down’.

Four years ago, I would have laughed at you if you had said to me you will suffer with your mental health. But you would have been right. I did suffer.  It was the worst period of my life.  I could not see an end to it. 

Just to give you the context of my slide into this dark period and you will notice how normal it is and then suddenly, boom. I was there.

In a period of less than a year I did three eulogies. One was a very close friend. Then my father. Followed closely by my partner. Sprinkled in between this was the loss of several other friends. These events unlocked and started to unload my mind with many things that had laid dormant in my memory. Things I had not dealt with. Mainly feelings of guilt which manifested into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I will not bore you with the symptoms, but let’s say before I knew it, I was standing on a cliff edge knowing that the pain could be over very soon. With a step. I am not ashamed to make this public knowledge, as it was also the turning point in my life. I heard my late partner say clearly; don’t be an idiot! Well, not the exact words used!

I walked away and set about changing my life. PTSD, anxiety and depression are what I had to deal with. The road to recovery was a long one but it started with me talking about it.

Now I have introduced myself, I’ll talk about why I am writing this. February was scary as Covid-19 started to raise its head. Then March arrived with the escalation in people succumbing to the virus. This started to reignite some of the past fears and feelings. I want to share with you some of the coping mechanisms I have in place to deal with the isolation and rising anxiety surrounding the virus.

I have broken the stigma and talked. I’m a bloke of a certain age who was told to keep everything to himself. To ‘get a grip’.  However, from the moment I talked about my problems I felt a release that has allowed me to start to feel well and has given me the strength to carry on.

So here are my 10 tips for you.

Tip one.  Talk.
Talk to family, friends, colleagues and the many support groups out there who are only too willing to listen to you.  Find an outlet that is confidential, where you can be listened to impartially, without being judged, and where you can be signposted to the help you need.  

Tip twoBe honest.
If you are feeling pants and a friend says, “hey, how are you?” Tell them you feel pants. Don’t bury the feelings.  If they care about you, they will ask “what’s wrong?” It’s probably the hardest thing to say. To admit you are struggling, but don’t be frightened. The recipient may be more taken aback than you.

Tip three.  Exercise and eat well.
And by that I don’t mean run a marathon or change your diet totally.  A little will help.  During the lockdown I have walked a lot.  I love running but feel guilty about being out longer than the prescribed hour-long exercise.  I have changed what I eat.  I’ve cut out a lot of the bad things. I do love take away and a beer but limit myself to a takeaway once every two weeks and a beer or two at the end of the week.
Dave's journal & pen

Tip fourKeep a journal. 
This one is not for everyone, but I keep a journal. I make it a special event. I brought a good quality journal and a real nice pen.  For me I find it very calming to jot down the good and bad times of the day.  The moment it all made sense was when I slipped back slightly.  I read what I’d written and recognised some of the triggers.  I could put a halt to them before they became an issue. Try it.

Tip fourBreathe. 
When I start to feel stressed I take a deep breath.  I let my shoulders sag.  It’s a very simple technique that works.

Tip five.  Yoga.
Again not for everyone, but I find yoga helpful.  There are many yogi’s doing online lessons now so it’s a good time to give it a go.  Along with this goes the meditation which helps me clear my mind.  It allows me to refocus and bring calm to a busy mind.  I’d recommend Limehouse Yoga  who give private lessons to members of my support group.

Tip six.  Love yourself first. 
This was the hardest one for me to get grips with.  Being selfish?!  In the past I was totally focused on making sure that I looked after everyone else before I looked after myself.  Now I give myself some priority.  I understand that when you have a family it changes the focus slightly. But this is the time to have open and honest conversations and find that little bit of “me time”.

Tip sevenLook ahead
Have something to look forward to. For me it will be something simple and easy to achieve.  Like having a special meal, or when the world restarts; a game of golf.  These are some of these things that are getting me through lock down and which I have built up some self-discipline in doing.  They are very important for my well being. 

Tip eight.  Make a Plan. 
Take an Every Mind Matters ‘Mind Plan Quiz’ on the Every Mind Matters website this creates a plan for you based on your responses, with helpful tips, information and suggestions that can help you with your specific situation.


Tip nine.   Relax. 
Life is hard enough and without time to recharge your batteries it will become harder. I often feel guilty putting my feet up but there is nothing wrong with doing so. Pick a book up. Watch a film. Try a podcast (my new passion)  Just try and disengage the mind and heal a tired body.

Tip ten.  Find purpose
I find that I have a desire to give something back to a meaningful cause.  As well as my job, I do this by being a qualified volunteer Watch Keeper for Coast Watch and being a facilitator for Man Down, the men’s mental health support group.  My group is based in Perranporth.  Man Down runs online sessions open to everyone on Mondays at 7pm.  Through this group I have become Mental Health First Aid and ASIST, suicide intervention trained.  Interestingly, 75% of people following and contacting Man Down are women concerned about their husbands, partners or sons.

Thank you for reading and remember you are never alone.  Have a look at the links mentioned and check out Man Down for support and information available below.

Stay safe and stay strong


Dave Phillips
Support Worker

“Man down is a Cornwall based group offering a safe space to meet the current emotional and mental health needs of men who are struggling to cope with the everyday pressures facing them in our modern society.”  

Website: mandown-cornwall.co.uk Facebook page facebook.com/ManDownCornwall/ 

Promo video here https://youtu.be/geSV_pb479U 

Comments

  1. Brilliant read , thanks Dave.

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  2. Thank you Dave, this a wonderful and heartfelt piece. Full of useful tips too :)

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