How to stay mentally well in a pandemic

Sheridan Pengelly Uncategorized Leave a Comment

As I write, we are a couple of days away from entering the second lock down. What will it be like this time? Will it be easier because we know what to expect…or harder – because we know what to expect? Will the shops run short of flour or loo rolls? When will we be able to, not only see, but hug our families again? We have access to lots of information and yet it often feels like we can’t find the answer to the particular question we have. (I’m currently trying to find out if opticians will be open and the website helpfully says…don’t know).

So much uncertainty can make us feel very tired – even if we seem to be doing less. Sometimes, I’ll wonder why the battery on my phone is running out so quickly and realise that I have lots of different apps and pages open. They are all running in the background using up battery power. In a similar way, the fact that I’m living through a pandemic isn’t always in my awareness but it’s there in the background, draining my battery, making me tired.

Is there anything we can do that might help ease the tension of lock down?

Care for your self

I wonder how you responded when you heard the lock down announcement? Perhaps you felt irritated that it might delay Strictly Come Dancing, or perhaps you felt confused, frightened, sad, anxious, depressed, hopeless or _______ (left blank to fill in your own feeling). Maybe you felt all of those feelings at once. Maybe you felt numb, unable to really have any feelings about it at all. ALL of these responses are OK. In fact any feeling you have during this time is OK. Because each of us is fighting the pandemic our way. If a friend told you that they were feeling angry– you would probably say something gentle and kind to them, so why not talk to yourself the same way? Drop the ‘shoulds’. Try not to compare your experience with someone else’s. Treat your self – it doesn’t have to be extravagant; take a bubble bath, watch an episode of your favourite TV programme or, like me stock up on choc ices in the freezer.


Being imprisoned isn’t something I’ve experienced but listening to people who have such as Anne Frank or Nelson Mandela there are common themes among them about coping in confinement. Terry Waite spent 1763 days as a hostage in Beirut. For most of the time, he was in solitary confinement, blindfolded and chained to a radiator. In the last few days of his captivity he became ill and was moved to be with other hostages. ‘At night, when I was fighting to get my breath, the American journalist Terry Anderson stretched as far as his chains would allow and simply placed his hand over mine. Just to know that he cared brought me tremendous comfort.

We may not be able to touch hands but we can show that we care. Making a phone call, sending an email, offering to do some shopping, smiling at the person behind the supermarket checkout are all ways of showing we care. Not only does it lift the spirits of the person being helped – it can help lift yours too.


OK – I’m not pretending this one isn’t HARD (probably the PHD of well being) but it can make a big difference to your lock down experience.

Viktor Frankl was a psychiatrist and survivor of the holocaust. Following his experience of a concentration camp he wrote ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ and he talks about the importance of choice. Frankl speaks of being in the concentration camps and having everything taken away except one thing:“the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. And there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom….”

Simply put, we cannot choose what happens to us but we can choose how we will respond. Well, that’s easier said than done I know. But do you think you could choose to find something to be grateful for each day? Looking for the little things that have lifted our spirits each day can help to shift our minds towards a positive attitude.

Take CARE of yourself – CONNECT with others – CHOOSE your attitude

Above all, be GENTLE with yourself – your doing the best you can.

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