Looking after your mental health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic

Following shielding measures or strict COVID-19 restrictions means that most myeloma patients have had their lives disrupted and they are staying at home more than usual.

This can make it more difficult to look after your mental health and can cause feelings of boredom, loneliness and anxiety.

However, staying at home shouldn’t mean you have nothing to do and that you need to stop making plans and doing the things you enjoy. Hobbies, people and spirituality can make a big difference to your wellbeing.

There are several things you can do to support your mental health and wellbeing during this time.

Establish a routine

Giving yourself a simple routine can help make sure you are continuing to do the things you need to do for your health and happiness.
A good routine should help you:

  • Keep busy
    Try to give yourself at least one task to do each day. This can be anything from writing a letter or email to a friend to tidying your sock drawer. This can help you work through your to do list and give you a feeling of accomplishment.
  • Keep your mind occupied
    Include some time for you to keep up your hobbies or learn something new. You can do some knitting, complete a puzzle or crossword, read a book, listen to a podcast, do some gardening or learn a language. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it is something you enjoy.
  • Keep you connected with others
    Make some time to talk to others, especially if this is something you did a lot of before you started shielding. This can be spending time with the people in your household or by using technology to connect with family and friends.
  • Stay healthy
    Getting some exercise, eating well and staying hydrated are important for your mental health and wellbeing, however, they are often the things that slip when our routines are disrupted. When defining your new routine make sure you plan in regular mealtimes and some exercise. You can find out about exercises you can do at home in our Exercises for myeloma patients Infosheet and for tips on how to maintain a healthy diet you can read our Spotlight on Diet which was featured in the Autumn/Winter 2019 edition of Myeloma Matters.

Make your surroundings work for you

Having to spend more time at home might start to feel restrictive and claustrophobic. Therefore, it is important to spend some time making your surroundings comfortable and relaxing.

  • Make time to tidy
    Your surroundings don’t need to be immaculate, but making time each day to keep your surroundings tidy and organised can help you feel more in control and minimise stress. Clutter on surfaces can add to the feeling of confinement and struggling to find things can increase feelings of frustration, anxiety and uncontrol.
  • Don’t spend all your time in the same place
    Sitting in the same position or room all day can increase the feelings of boredom and confinement so try to switch things up and spend some time in different areas of your room or house where you can. Getting fresh air can also help so try to open your windows or get out in your garden if you have one.
  • Surround yourself with nice things
    Some people find that having nice things around them that make them smile helps boost their mood and make their time inside more enjoyable. This can be flowers, a plant or a picture of family and friends.

Be kind to yourself

Adapting to any change is hard, especially when you don’t know how long it will last and how it will affect your future, so try not to feel bad about having a bad day.

  • Don’t put too much pressure on yourself
    Try to set realistic, achievable goals for the day. Being too ambitious can affect your motivation and increase feelings of sadness. Also, try not to compare yourself with others. It can be easy to think others are doing more than you especially when looking at social media (e.g. Facebook), however, everyone is different so focus on what makes you happy.
  • Focus on things you can control
    It is difficult but try to focus on the things you can control or change and work towards accepting the things you can’t. Try not to worry too much about possibilities and what ifs and focus on the facts and what you know to be true. You can control your routine, surroundings and the type of news you read, and small changes to these can make a big difference.

For extra tips about looking after your mental health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic you can read online resources developed by Mind.

If you are struggling with stress, anxiety, low mood or loneliness remember that our Myeloma Information Specialists are here to listen to you and to offer some reassurance, support and advice if you need it. You can get in touch by calling the Myeloma Infoline (0800 980 3332, UK or 1800 937 773, Ireland).