MENTAL HEALTH & COVID19 ARTICLE
This is an article which I wrote on behalf of an organisation, I have not been part of the SCOPE online community very long, but from what I have seen so far, I think this article will help people. Enjoy reading and feel free to leave any comments - I am happy to talk to people and look forward to getting to know new people👍
As you will be aware, currently in the UK we are in the middle of a crisis, regarding to COVID-19 and it is a stressful time for everyone, especially those who are on the Autistic Spectrum, have mental health issues or any other learning difficulties. However, I hope that after reading my article, you feel less anxious and view the situation in the UK (and worldwide) with a balanced and realistic approach.
Firstly, an introduction to me; I am 22 years old and have an autistic spectrum disorder, Aspergers. I first started working with my advocate when I was 17 years old, who supported me through the transition from college to university. Since then, I have gone through university and over the last year started an IT apprenticeship with the rail industry.
Since the breakout of COVID-19, I am very lucky to be able to continue working from home, something which I never take for granted, as I know some people have lost their jobs or are struggling to create an income through these difficult times. It took me about a week to adapt to working from home, the new routine and other normal challenges I face. If you are finding it tough working from home or being restricted to the house for extended amounts of times, here are some of my top tips and things I have found beneficial so far;
As we all know, those on the spectrum work best with a routine and find it difficult to cope with changes. During this time, there will be with no doubt a change of routine for everyone, but instead of seeing this as a challenge, approach it openly and take the chance to create a new routine, one which will help you cope with day-to-day life at home. I have made sure to start the day with good breakfast, take breaks throughout the day and ensure that I am getting a good amount of sleep. I have discovered that by maintaining this foundation of a routine, it has helped me stay focussed throughout the whole day, enabling me to complete work-related tasks, as well as any other personal tasks I have put in place. Another tip I have, if you are working from home, is to make sure that you have a solid working-space, such as a desk or a study. Calm, clear space results in a calm and clear mind hence maximising your productivity!
Some days may seem longer than others and more tiring but think about all the spare time you have been given. For example, I now save 2 hours from not travelling to and from work every day. This means a longer lie-in in the mornings and extra time in the evenings to spend with my family. I hope that everyone stays safe during these uncertain times and I encourage you to make the most of the days. I understand that being restricted to your home can become difficult at times but, the way I look at the situation is I now have the opportunity to revisit old hobbies, spend time with family (and pets) and progress with ongoing projects; all of which I would not usually have the time to dedicate to during the normal busy day-to-day life. There are endless videos on YouTube which can teach you a new skill (including music, sports, DIY, baking and lots more!), many mobile applications focussing on mental health, as well as the obvious choice of Netflix/ Disney+. Whilst at home try to do things which will benefit your physical health, mental health and well-being – ensuring that you as a whole are looking after yourself. I have used my spare time to re-learn the piano, train my dog, learn new skills via YouTube and apps, watch Netflix series/films and re-organise my belongings.
By no means am I an expert or health professional, but my thoughts about COVID 19 and the impact it is having on the UK are as follows;
The situation which the UK is in currently cannot be ignored and it is what it is. However, the way which society responds to it is vital and will make all the difference, in the long-term. It is during such times where it is more important than ever that we look out for each other and be more kind and considerate towards one another. In my opinion, the only way this country is going to get through the next few months is if we all work together, (remotely – social distancing remember!), and follow the advice of the government, the news and others who are trying to help us. We are very lucky to have the NHS available in the UK and the least we can do is abide by the government guidelines to release pressure off the services, enabling them to deal with those who truly need the medical attention. Over this time, you will constantly hear about COVID19 and the updates on the news channels, internet articles, newspapers and Social Media; this can become very overwhelming at times – I know I have had enough of hearing constantly about it! Be careful about what you read on Social Media and websites as there is no guarantee that the information is 100% accurate, so try not to become paranoid about everything you read/hear. I have observed that through the media they are primarily focussing on the negative statistics regarding COVID19, by all means which should not be ignoring lightly, but remember there are just as many positive outcomes; such as the number of people who have recovered from symptoms or the virus. It is vital that we remember this information too because it will enable society to keep a balanced approach/opinion about this pandemic, as well as providing a light at the end of the tunnel, which at times may seem a long way off.
Looking forward into the future, I hope that the UK and government can get through the worst stages of the pandemic and then continue to support everyone with adapting back to a new normal everyday life. However, I do expect there will be some changes, both minor and major which will help prevent a societal issue like COVID19 from happening again any time soon (hopefully never!). Hopefully during this pandemic, people, the government and UK as a whole have learnt a lot from this experience and will remember how we approached the situation, preparing us better for any future crisis. I do think that, hopefully, people will appreciate what they have more and take more care of the environment and what is around us. For instance, whilst there have been a significant reduced number of vehicles on the road, air pollution in certain parts of the UK has decreased – this is great for the environment! As the weeks pass by, statistics like this will continue to be produced and it will be really interesting to see what else changes environmentally and hopefully when society goes back to normal (as we know it), we can maintain this and think more about the impact which humans are having on earth.
Thank you for taking the time to read my article and I hope it has helped you, answered some of your questions perhaps or in general just reduced your anxiety about everything. It is very easy to become overwhelmed by all the information which the media is providing us with, but if you focus your energy on something positive, this will definitely help you get through the next 12 weeks (and any time after that) – Set yourself some new goals/targets and see what you can achieve in this time frame, you will be pleasantly surprised. I hope everyone stays well and safe during this time and remember together, with the support of family, friends, charities, the NHS and companies such as SCOPE, we WILL get through this! ☮️&❤️