Don’t feed the fear: Good mental health during coronavirus


Even for those of us who don’t generally struggle with anxiety, this is an anxious time. But there is so much we can do to support our mental health while also following social distancing and isolating guidelines.

Fear, worry & anxiety often cause unproductive cycles of thought that spiral out of control. It has physical as well as mental impacts on our health. It can upset our digestive systems or ruin our appetite; it can disrupt our sleeping patterns. But it can be defeated!

One of the best things we can do is not feed fear. Here are our top 3 worry-feeders and how to defeat them:

  • Too much information: the news and media are full of coronavirus hype and panic. These things usually don’t inform us more but they do make us more worried. When seeking information, visit government and medical websites, which will present you with facts and up-to-date advice. Choose when you’re going to seek this information and don’t look at any other time.
  • Coronavirus “gossip”: if all our conversations are about coronavirus, it will be the only thing our mind has to think about, especially when we go to bed. Limit your conversations about coronavirus – have coronavirus-free mealtimes, declare coronavirus-free spaces in the workplace and deliberately ask people about things other than coronavirus and its impact.
  • Social media: while social media is a great way of staying in touch with people, especially when we’re avoiding physical social gatherings, it also can a place where the politics, predictions and paranoia about coronavirus are given centre stage. Be mindful of your body when browsing social media. Notice the physical symptoms of worry: feeling hot and clammy, a headache or a churning stomach, for example. When you notice those symptoms, it’s time to do something else. Hop over to a messaging service for a coronavirus-free chat, or call someone, or go for a run instead.

It’s amazing what a few simple changes can do to improve our sense of mental wellbeing.

We aren’t seeing clients in person at the moment, but you can get in touch with us and book a phone or webchat consultation. We are here for you. Just ring 01604 634400.

Advice & Tips For Your Relationships During Coronavirus

Impact on relationships:
The coronavirus outbreak is leading to big changes in the way we live our everyday lives. Our relationships will be hugely important for getting us through self-isolation, social distancing and other concerns may also place them under added pressure.

Our counsellors have put together some tips for looking after your relationships with partners, family, children, friends, colleagues and yourself during this challenging time.

Staying connected
If you are self-isolating at home you may feel disconnected from others. Make use of social media, text, instant messaging, phone and video messaging as ways of keeping connected – even in the same house!

Get creative about how you connect online. You could arrange to video message your friends for a cuppa, play online games together or share amusing memes on social media.

Depending on where you work, meetings may still be able to happen via video or telephone conferencing. Try to pick up the phone and check in on how your team are doing throughout your time working from home.

If you have neighbours who are self-isolating, you might offer to go to the supermarket for them or drop off some books.

Starting a community WhatsApp group or Facebook group for helping each other out during this time will encourage people to ask for help when they need it. You can also post notes through people’s door with your contact details on, letting them know you’re free to help.

While it’s not advised to shake hands or hug, you could greet people with the Indian greeting of Namaste which involves holding your palms in a prayer position or bowing slightly. You could even have fun making up your own virus-proof greetings.

Help your children to video message friends and family if they are too young to do this themselves.

Supporting your kids
All children are different based on their experiences, upbringing, age and personality. Bear this in mind when thinking about how to talk to them.
You may both be parenting children with lots of questions and concerns. Try to be united in what you tell them. It can be a confusing time for them and this can be made worse if they are getting conflicting information from parents.

Stick to facts and communicate them calmly, consciously and responsibly, using simple language.

Dispel any myths to help reassure them. Depending on their age you could look up the true facts together from a reliable source such as the government website.

Talk to them about coronavirus during the day rather than close to bedtime so they can get a good night’s sleep.

Let them know they can come and talk to you if they are worried about things they have seen or heard from friends or on social media.

Continue to check in on how your kids are feeling. Things are changing and so may their feelings.

Get your kids outside in the garden or park to let off some steam but do follow government advice.

If you feel yourself getting irritated with your children, don’t be too hard on yourself. This is a challenging time for everyone.

Try to structure your day into manageable chunks. This will help to create a routine and reduce boredom.

Maintaining your relationship with your partner
Your routines and roles may change if one or both of you are working from home. This could be a challenge or an opportunity so try to make it work for you by checking in regularly about how this is working.

If you tend to argue or bicker then accept that you may transfer that onto what you each think about the virus. You may want to take a closer look at our tips on how to deal with arguments and apply these to the situation.

You may want to know as much as possible about the situation whereas your partner may prefer to take each day as it comes. Remember that there are many different ways of coping in stressful situations and your way isn’t the only way.

Something you usually find irritating about your partner may become useful in a crisis or they may surprise you by how well they are handling things. Let them know how much you appreciate this.

Big and difficult conversations may need to be put on hold while you deal with the current situation – this is especially true if one of you is ill or thinks they may have symptoms.

If you’ve been arguing with your partner over a particular issue, consider calling a truce during this period to make living under one roof more bearable.

You may have elderly parents or other family members with health problems and you may have particular worries about these people. Try to understand if your partner needs to prioritise these people at the moment.

You may need to get creative with the space if you are both working from home. Take turns to share the most comfortable spot.

You can leave your house once a day to exercise so try a short walk/run or walking the dog, to give yourself some space and help reduce any tensions. Do continue to follow government guidance and practice social distancing.

If you’re not in the same house, get creative about how you stay in touch. For example you could arrange a date night via video messaging where you both eat dinner together, have a glass of wine and chat.

If you were having relationship problems already, understand that being together in the same house may bring these to the surface. You may want to consider relationship counselling via webcam to help you work through things.

Avoiding fall-outs
Treat each other with kindness especially when the outside world can feel threatening.

If you are self-isolating you are likely to have a lot more time on your hands. Think about how you can use this time in a way that will help the family / you as a couple in the longer term.

If you’re getting frustrated with others in the house, it might be an idea to share how you’re feeling by getting in touch with a trusted friend.

If somebody says or does something to upset you try counting to ten and taking some deep breaths. It may be you no longer feel the need to ‘react’.

Choose your battles and weigh up if they are worth it at this time.

Remember that children will learn from how you deal with conflict. Keep this in mind when you are all under one roof together.

Understand that with the best will in the world, rows are quite likely in these circumstances. It’s how you deal with them that counts.

If you’re being abused or think you could be, make sure you get access to support to stay safe. More on this here.

Reducing anxiety
You might choose to start each day with a quick wellbeing check-in so everyone knows how others are doing and can be considerate. It will also help you to address any concerns so you can then focus on other things.

When somebody expresses a concern about coronavirus, or any other issue, listen to them and try to understand how they’re feeling. Avoid accusing them of over-reacting.

If somebody is ill or is anxious about coronavirus, avoid bringing up other tricky issues unless really necessary.

Take control of what you can control – your own behaviour and encouraging family and friends to follow the government advice.

Try to avoid using catastrophising language. Brushing things under the carpet can also increase anxiety so aim to strike a balance.

If somebody is worried, listen to their specific concerns and research the facts together.

Remember that self-isolating isn’t forever. You’re doing it to keep everyone healthy so give yourselves a pat on the back.

Think of ways you can unleash your creativity. You might want to get started on some books you’ve been meaning to read for ages, try drawing, or a spot of DIY.

If you’re not unwell exercise is a good way of relieving stress and staying healthy both mentally and physically. Whether it’s an online yoga class or a short, daily walk, it’s likely to do your mental health and your relationships some good.

Meditation can be a great way of de-stressing and focusing on the present moment. Headspace is a great app for getting started.

If you feel like you have too much going on in your head, keeping a journal about how you are feeling can help you to make sense of it all.

Make sure you drink enough water, eat regular, healthy meals and get enough sleep.
If you are working from home, try to be disciplined about keeping to office hours and be sure to take plenty of breaks.

Getting support
Many of Relate’s services including relationship counselling, family counselling, individual counselling, young person’s counselling and sex therapy are now available via webcam.

Call 01604 634400 to book an appointment. You can also access telephone counselling via the same number.

Gransnet is an online community for older people to connect during self-isolaton.

Mind have put together some useful tips on coronavirus and your wellbeing.

The National Domestic Abuse helpline is available for all women, concerned friends and professionals. Call 0808 2000 247 freephone 24 hours a day.

Are you having doubts?

Doubts about getting married are fairly common.

You may be worrying that you and your partner aren’t compatible enough.

Perhaps there are parts of your relationship that don’t work so well – and you think they could become more of a problem further down the line.

Maybe you’ve got the feeling there could be someone else out there for you.

So, what are your expectations? What does marriage mean to you?

Does it mean spending your life in eternal harmony with the one person who completes you? Or is it a commitment made while appreciating all the challenges that it might bring?

Marriage often comes with all kinds of pre-conceived ideas. Many of these may put pressure on you, both individually and as a couple. But it can be useful to think of marriage as the beginning of a journey.

Every marriage comes with its challenges. Even the most well-suited couples are likely to face difficulties. Even if the way they feel about each other doesn’t change, the circumstances around them may well do so. People get new jobs. Children may be born. You may face unexpected financial pressures…

Going into marriage expecting some hardship – ok, it’s a less idealistic and romantic way of looking at marriage – can help you be more realistic about what might happen.

That doesn’t mean feeling any less excited about getting married – but it does mean thinking about how you might adapt to change when it comes along; how you and your partner might, as a team, learn to negotiate around difficulty and work towards agreed solutions.

What do you expect of your partner?

Likewise, the same mindset may help when you think about compatibility.

Getting on well with your partner is, of course, really important. But no one is perfect for someone else. Even if this doesn’t become apparent right away, it’s quite likely there will be things about your partner you’ll find challenging or confusing.

As long as you feel you can be yourself around your partner, and there’s opportunity to negotiate around these differences, they don’t have to be a big problem. It’s about learning to work together – discussing together what you both find troublesome.

Besides, a bit of difference in a relationship can be a really good thing! It can allow you to challenge each other and to help one another see things from a different viewpoint.

Learn to deal with difference. It can be much better to develop this ability early in your relationship. Developing open and empathetic communication can be a big advantage.

So… talk together about the future. Have some idea of each other’s expectations – an understanding about each other’s thoughts on children, jobs, where you’d like to live… Explore your life goals together.

And if you still feel apprehensive about marriage…

… but you’re tempted to give it a try, cohabiting may help.

Living together enables you to get to know each other more closely. It can show you what it would be like to see your partner every day – and may allow you to build a shared space together.

However, be mindful that sometimes couples have different ideas about where such an arrangement may lead. It’s not unusual for one person to have assumed that getting married would be the automatic outcome of cohabiting. It’s important to keep communication open so you remain on the same page.

Ultimately, there are limits to how certain you can be. In the end, we can only act on what we know now. We can make preparations, but we can never fully control what will happen in the future.

Sometimes, we need to make a decision based on what we already know – not on what we wish we could know.

If you’d like to talk about all this with one of our counsellors, why not give our friendly appointments team a call on 01604 634400.

Gone off sex?

It’s common for a relationship to go through phases where one or both partners lose interest in sex.

Sexual interest tends to ebb and flow over time – and partners may have different sex drives at different stages in a relationship.

Losing interest can also be related to specific issues in the relationship, or external pressures from outside it.

Why might you or your partner have gone off sex? (more…)

Dating: the pleasures and pitfalls

Dating can be a great way of meeting and getting to know a potential partner.

Online dating has made it possible to meet more new people than ever – and more easily too.

And while that’s allowed us to have more control over the types of people we meet, and to think in more detail about the sort of partner who might work for us, it has also come with a few challenges and pitfalls. (more…)

Alternatives to ‘ghosting’

Social media has brought a whole new range of opportunities and insecurities to relationships.

On the ‘down side’, those who date and have grown up with social media face the likes of ‘ghosting’.

For those lucky enough to not have experienced it, ‘ghosting’ is when someone you’ve been seeing suddenly cuts off all contact, seemingly vanishing off the face of the earth without explanation.

Has the other person stopped replying because you just said something weird? Have they met someone new? Do they not actually like you?

It’s enough to make you feel paranoid. (more…)

Breaking up is hard to do

You’ve decided to put an end to all the arguing, all the tension, all the indecision – and tell your partner: ‘It’s over.’

All you’ve got to do is actually do it!

It sounds straightforward enough. But it’s not always easy.

Maybe you’re worried about hurting your partner. Perhaps you know they don’t want to break up, and that doing so will leave them in a bad state. (more…)

Effects of your arguments on children

Many of us will remember what it was like to listen to our parents arguing. The feelings of helplessness, panic and sadness. A desire to block it out or run away.

Yet it can be easy to forget this as a parent later in life. We can get so mixed up in arguments with our partner that we don’t see things from the perspective of our children – who may be going through something very similar to what we once felt.

It’s no secret that parental arguments can have a negative effect on children. The different ways in which this can occur, though, aren’t always as obvious. And it can be easy to fail to appreciate how long-lasting these effects can be – sometimes carrying on for years as children become adults themselves. (more…)

Why do my children argue so much?

Arguments between children can be upsetting for a parent. You may worry about your relationship with your children – especially if the arguments have been going on regularly for a while. You may feel a responsibility to stop the arguing, or may be upset that the arguments are causing disharmony in your family.

While some arguing between children is common – and indeed, might be expected – what can make a difference is the regularity and intensity of arguments. If your children are constantly at odds, or arguments are becoming really aggressive, or even physical, this can create real problems. (more…)

When a new baby isn’t entirely that bundle of joy you’d expected

We’re sometimes reluctant to talk about what it’s really like to bring a new baby into a family – apart from the acceptance that we’re likely to get a lot less sleep.

Expectations run high and anything that contradicts them can be difficult to process.

As a new parent, you’re letting go of one life and discovering another. This process can take time.

It’s a period of intense change for you, your partner, and your new baby. You learn together what that new ‘normal’ looks like but, meanwhile, it’s important not to judge yourself, nor your partner, if things feel uncomfortable. Be gentle with each other. (more…)