Looking after your mental and emotional wellbeing

We know that this is a time when it will be common to experience some symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other common mental health difficulties. Some of you will also have previous mental health difficulties that have been increased by the current Coronavirus situation. 

On this page you will find information and quick tips on managing a range of common mental health difficulties. These have been tailored for your needs as staff members at this time. For more general information on promoting emotional wellbeing you can also visit the Derbyshire County Council microsite

Common symptoms of mental health problems

You may know you need help, or you or others may think you need help. This section should help you understand more about some of the symptoms that you might be experiencing.

Some commons signs that you may benefit from some support with your mental health are:

  • Feeling emotionally disconnected
  • Feeling constantly on edge, irritability or angry
  • Feeling hopeless and lacking in energy
  • Difficulty focusing, remembering or concentrating
  • Becoming teary 
  • Withdrawing from (remote) social contact
  • Thoughts or plans of suicide, or self-harming 
  • Excessive drinking or drug use
  • Emotional or physical exhaustion, lack of self-care (eating, sleeping, washing).

Mind’s website has helpful information on a range of mental health problems (such as anxiety, panic attacks, OCD and depression) and some of their common symptoms.

The NHS has a brief mood self-assessment (18 questions) which can be a useful way to understand whether you are experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, and to what severity.

Managing symptoms of anxiety and worry

Managing symptoms of anxiety and worry (including health anxiety and OCD)

This section will provide you with a range of resources and tips to help you manage any anxiety that you might be feeling at this time. Many of the techniques you can start right now. 

We have put together advice and information on the following topics:

  • Anxiety/worry
  • Health anxiety
  • Obsessional compulsive disorder (OCD).

Anxiety and worry

Anxiety is a normal hard-wired human response to threat and danger; so, it’s no surprise that anxiety levels may be significantly heightened during this period. It can be scary to experience anxiety and panic. Anxiety can also make it very hard to function at times as it can significantly impact on things such as our concentration and memory.

I’ve got five minutes...

Grounding is a simple and easy technique, particularly useful for times of high stress. It’s about paying attention to the physical sensations of your body being physically connected to the ground. You can do it anywhere (whether you are at a desk or in an armchair) - and it’s easy to learn.

  • Have a go now (this is a version for when you are sitting on a chair)
  • Feel your feet firmly on the ground
  • Notice the weight of your body in the chair
  • Bring your attention to your back against the chair 
  • Explore the sensations of your elbows on the arms of the chair
  • As you do this, you will notice your attention wander, gently bring it back to the physical sensations of being connected to the ground
  • You can perhaps even imagine roots growing from your feet. Reaching into the ground, firmly anchoring you to the earth.

Brief mindfulness: when you come home, thoughts of the day that’s been – or of the days or weeks to come – may feel like they have your attention and that they are your reality. Mindfulness exercises, such as mindfulness of sounds or breath, can be helpful as you find ways to look after yourself.  

Mindfulness of sounds clip (2 mins)

YouTube: exercise: Mindfulness of Sound

Try having a go at this mindful breathing exercise (three minutes)

YouTube: Three-minute mindful breathing meditation (relieve stress)

Many people find great benefit from everyday mindfulness. This means focusing on and noticing your senses as you do everyday tasks; for example, noticing the sensations you experience while showering, or while walking, or mindful eating of a snack, or perhaps looking out of the window while you wait for food to cook. 

I can find 10-20 minutes...

Anxiety UK offer online chats, a helpline and a series of webinars focussed on anxiety during the current situation. 

For support on managing anxiety and panic attacks, visit Mind’s website. You can learn about the symptoms of anxiety, and breathing exercises to manage anxiety.

For support managing worry, also have a look at the document below. This includes advice about how to learn to separate your worries as well as evidence-based techniques for managing worry more effectively.

Living with worry and anxiety among global uncertainty

Health anxiety

Individuals who have health anxiety have an obsessional preoccupation with the notion of having, or developing, a physical health condition. It is common at this time to have increased thoughts of illness; however, some may find that these thoughts can become all-consuming and are getting in the way of day-to-day life.

I’ve got five minutes...

If you are unsure as to whether you are experiencing symptoms of health anxiety, you can visit Anxiety UK which outlines some of the common symptoms. These include constant examination of our health, and preoccupation which negatively impacts on many different aspects of life.

If you have concerns about your levels of health anxiety at present, Get Self-help have produced a four-minute video which helps us understand health anxiety, and how to break the cycle that maintains it.

Get Self-help have also described a cognitive behavioural approach for addressing health anxiety using the STOPP technique:

  • STOP! - just pause for a moment
  • Take a breath - one slow deep breath
  • Observe - there's that health worry again. My body and mind is reacting to that body sensation and I feel anxious
  • Pull back - this is just the health anxiety - my thoughts are reacting to the super scanner. Don't believe everything you think! Let's stick with the facts - these thoughts are just opinions. I don't have to react right now. There's another explanation for this... (normal body sensation, anxiety sensation). What's the bigger picture?
  • Practise / proceed - what can I do right now? I don't need to check or seek reassurance. I could practice my mindful breathing, or other things that help me.

I can find 10-20 minutes...

Anxiety UK offer online chats, a helpline and a series of webinars focussed on anxiety during the current situation. 

The Centre for Clinical Interventions in Western Australia has produced a free and comprehensive module on managing health anxiety, which includes how to re-evaluate unhelpful thinking, reduce checking, and developing a self-management plan.

OCD

For those of you who live with and manage OCD this is likely to be a difficult time. You may have learnt to manage your condition well, but may be finding it increasingly hard to do so given your current work situation as well as well as what you might be hearing and reading in the news.

I’ve got five minutes...

OCD UK have developed a set of survival tips for managing during this period. They include:

  • Washing your hands for 20 seconds and not a second longer
  • Be kind to yourself when things don’t go as planned (there may be times when 20 seconds becomes 30 seconds or a minute)
  • Limit your time on social media and be prepared to mute, unfollow or block
  • Remember what you can still do – not what you can’t – try making a list

Visit the OCD UK website for a full list of survival tips.

I can find 10-20 minutes

OCD Action are the UK’s largest OCD charity and are running Skype and phone support groups for those whose OCD has been exacerbated by the current situation.

Mood Juice have also developed a self-help guide for managing symptoms of OCD effectively. The guide helps you understand what keeps obsessional thoughts going and how to overcome them.

Support for low mood and depression

Support for low mood and depression

Symptoms of depression are common. However, they can be scary to experience and it can often feel hard to see how they will improve. There are lots of approaches that can help you effectively manage many symptoms of depression. 

In this section you will find information on managing thoughts of suicide and self-harm and also some tips on managing depression and low mood. As with the rest of the content on this site, we have some resources/links for if you have five minutes, and some if you can find a bit more time, 10-20 minutes.

Coping with suicidal thoughts

You might be feeling so upset, angry, bewildered, scared and in pain that you believe that these feelings will never end. But it's important to remember that they cannot and will not last. Like all feelings, unpleasant and distressing as these are they will pass.

There are steps you can take right now to stop yourself from acting on your suicidal thoughts. Everyone is different, so it's about finding what works best for you. Here are some practical tips that other people have found helpful when they've felt suicidal:

Get through the next five minutes. Taking things minute by minute can help make things more bearable. Reward yourself for each five minutes that pass. 

Remove anything you could use to harm yourself or ask someone else to remove these for you. If you're in an unsafe location, move away.

Tell someone how you're feeling

Whether it's a friend, family member or even a pet, telling someone else how you are feeling can help you to feel less alone and more in control. There's no right or wrong way to talk about suicidal feelings – starting the conversation is what's important.

If you or someone else you know is feeling suicidal there are people you can talk to:

  • Speak to a friend, family member or someone you trust
  • Call the Samaritans 24-hour support service on telephone 116 123
  • Use the www.stayingsafe.net website for support, information and making your own safety plan
  • Contact NHS 111, though be aware of delays in accessing this service
  • Make an urgent appointment to see your GP, who may be operating a callback service
  • Ring 999
  • If you require urgent medical intervention go to your nearest emergency department, though be aware that there are increased demands on and transmission risks in emergency departments at this time.

Managing thoughts of self-harm

If you're thinking of harming yourself, find self-harm coping techniques that work for you, such as:

  • Holding an ice cube in your hand until it melts and focus on how cold it feels
  • Tearing something up into hundreds of pieces
  • Take a very cold shower or bath
  • Focus on your senses. Taking time to think about what you can smell, taste, touch, hear and see can help to ground your thoughts
  • Steady your breathing. Take long deep breaths - breathing out for longer than you breathe in can help you to feel calmer
  • Look after your needs. Avoid taking drugs or drinking alcohol as this can make you feel worse. If you can: get a glass of water, eat something if you're hungry, sit somewhere comfortable and write down how you're feeling
  • Get outside. If you are feeling numb, feeling the rain, sun or wind against your skin can help you to feel more connected to your body
  • Reach out. If you can't talk to someone you know, contact a telephone support service or use online peer support.

Managing thoughts of suicide

We have made of list of things that help some people to cope with suicidal thoughts:

  • Just focus on getting through today – try not to think about the future
  • Do something you usually enjoy, such as spending time with a pet
  • Make a deal with yourself that you won't act today and that you will review how you are feeling tomorrow. Sometimes it can help to make a contract to ‘keep yourself safe’ with someone you trust
  • Find your reasons to live. You may feel like the world will be better off without you or there's no point in living, but this is never the case. You could write down what you're looking forward to, whether it's eating your favourite meal, or catching up on the next episode of a TV show. You could make plans to do something you enjoy in the near future. Plans don't have to be big or expensive. You could think about the people you love. No matter how bad you're feeling, it's important to remember that these people would miss you.
  • Be kind to yourself. Talk to yourself as if you were talking to a good friend. Do whatever you think might help you to get past these thoughts. It could be something small like having a bath, wrapping yourself in a blanket and watching your favourite film. These ideas may seem silly but it can be easy to forget to do something nice for yourself
  • Tell yourself you can get through this. At times, we can concentrate on the negatives we tell ourselves and lose hope. Repeating to yourself that you can get past these feelings can help you regain hope and focus on getting through it.

Phone a helpline - these free helplines are there to help when you're feeling down or desperate. Unless it says otherwise, they're open 24 hours a day, every day.

Samaritans – for everyone
Call 116 123
Email jo@samaritans.org

Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) – for men
Call 0800 58 58 58 – 5pm to midnight every day
Visit the webchat page

Papyrus – for people under 35
Call 0800 068 41 41 – Monday to Friday 9am to 10pm, weekends and bank holidays 2pm to 10pm
Text 07860 039967
Email pat@papyrus-uk.org

Childline – for children and young people under 19
Call 0800 1111 – the number will not show up on your phone bill.

I’ve got five minutes...

MIND provide some top tips for managing depression, they include:

  • Talking to someone trusted (that might be a colleague, your manager, a friend or one of the national helplines – see details below)
  • Spending time in nature (that might be the garden if you have one, or looking out the window)
  • Practising self-care (perhaps make a list of things you enjoy)
  • Keep active (including dancing to a favourite tune in the living room!)

This five-minute self-compassion exercise may also be really helpful for you to listen to at this time.

I can find 10-20 minutes...

NHS Inform have produced a self-help guide based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for managing mild to moderate symptoms of depression.

MIND’s website has plenty of information about depression and things that can help you manage it. 

Another helpful resource for managing your mood (and anxiety) during this time has been developed by Russ Harris. The resource is underpinned by an evidence-based approach called acceptance and commitment therapy. The therapy is based on 'valued living' as well as focusing on what is within our control, and taking committed valued-based actions – including when circumstances are difficult. He has produced a workbook to accompany his six-page approach.

Workbook and emotional wellbeing during Covid-19

Sleeping better

Sleeping better

It is common for sleep to be disrupted at times such as these, even if you are more exhausted than usual. The top tips below have been selected for you at this time, as we know how important sleep is to your wellbeing and health. 

I’ve got five minutes...

10 top tips for better sleep (from Resolve):

  1. Think about what works for you now, going to bed at the same time (if you can) or waiting until you are sleepy. 
  2. If you can’t get to sleep in 20/30 minutes, get out of bed and do something relaxing (avoid your phone or the TV).  Wait until you are feeling sleepy to try again.
  3. Find a (new) bedtime routine, if you haven’t got as long to unwind, think about what you can still fit in – a cup of chamomile, or five minutes of relaxing music.
  4. If you are having no option but to exercise later in the day, try more relaxing exercise like pilates or yoga. 
  5. Try and have a gap between eating and bed, two hours if possible – if you can, juggle the order of tasks you are doing when you get home to give yourself a gap.
  6. Keep the bedroom as dark as possible, particularly if you are sleeping in the day and especially if you are not used to doing this.
  7. Even if routines and living arrangements have changed, where possible protect your bedroom for sleep and relaxing reading (not the news/social media). 
  8. If you find your mind is full of worries before bed, that is understandable – experiment with a notepad at the side of your bed and write down your worries for five minutes before bed 
  9. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes even if they may feel necessary to you right now. Perhaps experiment without them one night before bed and see what difference it makes to your sleep (and possibly your stress levels).
  10. Think about the foods you eat before bed – try to avoid sweet and starchy foods, even though they may be the ones you are craving for comfort or ease. See if you can have foods rich in tryptophan such as bananas, fish or turkey).

There are also a range of relaxation techniques in our section on anxiety that you may wish to add into your ‘new’ bedtime routine.

I can find 10-20 minutes...

If you want to learn more about how to improve your sleep Resolve have produced a great document with information on sleeping positions, yogic eye exercises, and emotional freedom techniques for insomnia.

Good Night's Sleep with Resolve (opens document)

If you are looking to develop your relaxation skills, try this relaxing video – with music and visuals – that will help you feel more relaxed over a cup of tea. All you have to do is breathe whilst you watch it.

Stress, wellbeing and relaxation

Stress, wellbeing and relaxation

Stress in itself is part of normal life, and it is normal to feel stressed during times of crisis. However, you may be feeling that your stress levels are becoming problematic, and getting in the way of day-to-day life and relationships. Although stress itself is not a mental health problem, it is closely linked to many common mental health problems. 

You may be finding it hard to relax, and it may even be that some of the ways you used to relax no longer feel possible. We have provided a range of effective techniques for you to try, and test out for yourself.

I’ve got five minutes... 

To find out more about what we mean by stress, and how to manage it visit the MIND website.

We know that being able to take some control where you can, and slow life down just for a moment, can boost your wellbeing and help you through this period. Practice taking a pause moment, with our one-minute stress buster (opens document)

Grounding is really simple and easy technique, particularly useful for times of high stress. In essence, it’s about paying attention to the physical sensations of your body being physically connected to the ground. You can do it anywhere (whether you are at a desk or in an armchair for example) - and it’s easy to learn.

Have a go now (this is a version for when you are sitting on a chair):

  • Feel your feet firmly on the ground
  • Notice the weight of your body in the chair
  • Bring your attention to your back against the chair 
  • Explore the sensations of your elbows on the arms of the chair
  • As you do this, you will notice your attention wander, gently bring it back to the physical sensations of being connected to the ground
  • You can perhaps even imagine roots growing from your feet. Reaching into the ground, firmly anchoring you to the earth.

The five ways to wellbeing are an evidence-based way of improving your mental wellbeing, including managing your stress levels.

Guy's and St Thomas' (a hospital trust in London) has developed a great top tips guide (opens document) for sustaining your wellbeing at this time – well worth a read. Tips include remembering your managers will equip you for this work and support you, to remind yourself of the knowledge and skills you have, and that you are human, and working in even more exceptional circumstances than usual.

View the three-minute video by MIND on the link between eating and your mood, with tips for improving your mood through your diet. There might be some simple things you can change in your diet that could help how you are feeling.

For further tips on managing your stress at this time visit, there is a section on stress which includes top tips and videos. Some of the key tips are:

  • Splitting up big tasks (where possible)
  • Keeping active (if within the home – perhaps try online exercise classes)
  • Reframing unhelpful thoughts (i.e. ‘I can’t control anything’ could be reframed as ‘I can control my actions’)

Visit the Every Mind Matters website.

NHS Employers has provided a set of tips on managing fatigue in such circumstances. This includes eating small amounts of food that are easy to digest.

I can find 10-20 minutes...

The Free Mindfulness project has links to free practice sessions and online courses, tailored for the current situation.

Coping with traumas and crises

Coping with trauma and crises 

There are times when things can get too much for anyone at all, whoever we are, and whatever the circumstances, we are all human.

It is important to know what reactions would be expected and normal and in what circumstances it could be wise to ask for further help. 

If you’ve got five minutes...

It could be helpful to read about the common psychological responses to a crisis or traumatic event/s below:

  • Disbelief
  • Emotional numbness
  • Nightmares and other sleep disturbances
  • Anger, moodiness and irritability
  • Forgetfulness
  • Denial
  • Guilt
  • Panic
  • Catastrophic thinking
  • A shaky emotional foundation.

Have a look at our top tips for things to do in the middle of a crisis, or in the immediate aftermath. Creating a sense of safety for ourselves is hugely important, we can do this in all sorts of ways:

  • Stick to a routine
  • Take time to breathe and be mindful (focus on your immediate task and surroundings)
  • Have supportive conversations with trusted person/people (psychological debriefing is not recommended, and has been found to be harmful)
  • Exercise (gently)
  • Try not to push negative thoughts away, rather let them come and go
  • Be kind to yourself - speak to yourself in an encouraging and soothing way. Don’t beat yourself up if you are struggling
  • Rest, eat well and laugh at things you enjoy. Focus on hope and the idea that things will improve.

It could be helpful to read the information below about if and when you might be recommended to seek additional support, and what this might be like:

These experiences above can continue for a few weeks following a trauma or crisis, typically once the event has ended. It would be usual to struggle with memories, nightmares, increased worry and hypervigilance for around a month or so. 

Mental health professionals agree that if the common psychological reactions that are listed above continue after around four-to-six weeks after the event/s or the crisis has settled then there could be something more serious going on. At this point it is appropriate to speak to a professional such as your GP about being assessed for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

The reassuring thing is that PTSD is a very common and a very treatable condition. It is possible to make a full recovery from PTSD. Treatment for PTSD mainly involves speaking to a therapist in a safe place to work through the events and the problems that you are left with (nightmares, flashbacks, memories, difficult emotions etc.) in order that you can 'file them away' more neatly in your brain so that they no longer cause you so much distress. 

If you can find 10-20 minutes...

You may want to read more about trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on the MIND website. They have a list of support options if you decide you need some additional support with your symptoms. Please see advice above about when seeking further support might be recommended.

MIND - about trauma

MIND - about PTSD

Dealing with loss

Dealing with loss

The pain of loss can be overwhelming. Grief is a normal response to loss, and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. You may also not have enough time or space right now to grieve, and that can feel very challenging.

In this section we have provided links to a range of charities that provide support with different types of bereavements, and offer telephone and online support services.

We have also provided you with some ideas for looking after yourself at this time, and for grieving for someone if you are not able to have, or attend, a funeral.

If you’ve got five minutes...

Bereavement, grief and loss can cause many different symptoms and they affect people in different ways. There's no right or wrong way to feel. It can be helpful to know some of the common symptoms, we have listed them below:

  • Shock and numbness – this is usually the first reaction to loss, and people often talk about 'being in a daze'
  • Overwhelming sadness, with lots of crying
  • Tiredness or exhaustion
  • Anger – towards the person you've lost or the reason for your loss
  • Guilt – for example, guilt about feeling angry, about something you said or did not say, or not being able to stop your loved one dying

These feelings may not be there all the time and powerful feelings may appear unexpectedly.

It's not always easy to recognise when bereavement, grief or loss are the reason you're acting or feeling differently.

There are things you can try to do to help you cope with bereavement, grief and loss. We have compiled a list below:

  • You can try talking about your feelings over the phone or the internet to a friend, family member, health professional or counsellor – you could also contact a support organisation such as Cruse Bereavement Care  
  • You can try simple lifestyle changes to help you feel more in control and able to cope, a little exercise (home-based, or outside following Government guidance), a regular bed time routine, limiting alcohol, maintaining contact with relatives and friends as best you can using the phone or the internet. Try not to use alcohol, cigarettes, gambling or drugs to relieve grief
  • You can find out about how to improve your sleep - see the sleep section of this webpage
  • You can look into relaxation and mindfulness on our website - see the stress, wellbeing and relaxation section of this webpage
  • You can set small targets that you can easily achieve – don’t try and do everything at once
  • You can try focusing your time and energy into helping yourself feel better – not the things you can’t change
  • Practice being kind to yourself… it’s ok not to be ok.

If you’ve got 10-20 minutes...

For information on bereavement visit Mind’s website, which has information about experiences of grief and support and self-care.

For support if you are a survivor of bereavement by suicide, you can call the (Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide) helpline on 0300 111 5065. You can also find advice at the SOBS website

Cruse also offers advice for survivors of bereavement by suicide. You can call their helpline on 0808 808 1677.

The Help is at Hand guide is produced by Public Health England and the National Suicide Prevention Alliance. It includes information about common feelings at this time, and talking to colleagues.

Support after Suicide Partnership is an organisation that has produced a range of resources with tips on things that may help, and things that may not help. 

If you or someone else you know is feeling suicidal there are people you can talk to: 

  • Speak to a friend, family member or someone you trust
  • Call the Samaritans 24-hour support service on telephone 116 123
  • Use the www.stayingsafe.net website for support, information and making your own safety plan
  • Contact NHS 111, though be aware of delays in accessing this service
  • Make an urgent appointment to see your GP, who may be operating a callback service
  • Ring 999
  • If you require urgent medical intervention go to your nearest emergency department, though be aware that there are increased demands on and transmission risks in emergency departments at this time.

How to cope when you are unable to attend a funeral and/or if the deceased had no funeral

Grief rituals are central to any mourning process and they help us to grieve for the person we have lost. However, sometimes in unprecedented situations a funeral, wake or memorial service may not be possible. This is undoubtedly a difficult time and as such we may need to find other ways to acknowledge the loss that has happened in ways that feel meaningful for us. 

You may want to have a look at our list of ideas that may enable you to start to grieve the person that you have lost. 

  • Light a candle in their memory
  • Make a quilt out of their old clothes
  • Finish any projects they were working on
  • Cook their favourite meal
  • Reach out remotely initially to family and friends who are also grieving and share stories about the departed
  • Plant a flower or vegetable in your garden and put in a decoration that reminds you of them
  • Wear their favourite perfume or cologne
  • Sing their favourite song
  • Frame something they've written, like a poem or a recipe
  • Live your life in a way that would make them proud
  • You can also remember them by naming a star after them, or look into some of online memorial spaces that have been set up
  • In time, hold a memorial service or candlelight vigil.

Support for 999 staff

Resources for 999 staff

There are a number of organisations that have designed wellbeing support and resources for 999 staff. The links are below.

Head First is a tool especially designed for ambulance staff.

Mind has information specifically designed for supporting the wellbeing of ambulance staff.

Mind has produced a collection of webinars with tips on looking after your mental health if you are a 999 worker, including ones that are tailored for ambulance, police and fire service staff.