Being Mindful of Your Mental Health During the COVID-19 Outbreak

by James sharp – Vice-Chairman Higham Town Football Club

I was at Rushden lakes yesterday for a quick dip in-and-out of the shops with my kids for mothers day.  We had already given thought as to what we wanted to get so that we did not find outselves browsing and kept interaction to a minimum.   Whilst there I bumped into a fellow coach, not something I am used to at the weekend, to me weekends are football and I expect most of you are the same.

When I got talking to the coach, it made me realise that, at this stange time, it maybe useful to reach out and provide some perspective on the current mental strain this has on people, not just because of the change but the ambigious nature of what will occur over the coming months.   So here goes…

With the government guidence on social distancing meaures, businesses and schools closing, and workplaces asking people to work from home.  We are all forced to face a new reality.

Its no shock that we are social beings.  We like to connect and be close to people, and we’re now having to change our behaviour, which can create a huge feeling of isolation. While it may feel as though life has stopped, there are ways to keep these times in perspective and learn to carry on.

Now I do not confess to being a psychologist, but I have taken some time to read over various guidance from mental health charities in the UK, here is my take on it and I hope it goes some way towards helping.

Focusing on preparedness, staying clam, reaching out to check on the wellbeing of others, and self-care will help you in this challenging moment in our history.  Remind yourself that COVID-19 is a serious but temporary illness, and that life will return to normal in time.

Here are some tips I have collated for making sure you are looking after your mental health during this outbreak when there is no football!

Keep a check of anxiety

Many people are feeling anxious, regardless of whether you are somebody who generally suffers or not.

Anxiety has been described as an acticipated worry or rummination about somthing that might happen in the future.

Because of the lack of resources in the UK and that COVID-19 is a new strain, not enough people are being tested and you dont know who carriers are.  This is making people hypervigilant about others, surfaces that are being touched and places that they are visiting.   In turn, this makes us more anxious because there is real danger, but then uncertainty and a lack of information about the virus.

Witnessing others feeling anxious also heightens the worry. Anxiety is contagious. If you see somebody near you who is panicking and feeling that the world is coming to the end, you may begin to worry yourself because you don’t want to feel like the person who is not worried!

One example I read was about a tribe; If a tribe were out in the field and one member saw a tiger in the distance and began running, the rest of the tribe would follow suit.  We are tribal and social by nature, this causes a domino effect.

Being worried is being human, but we now need to be practical

While the situation is frustraing, give youself time to observe any mood swings or anger, and then move on. Don’t sit on it all day and allow it to echo out into your environment, which at this moment in time may be your family home. Talk to each other, deal with day to day issues and remember you are one big team.

One of the best ways to ground yourself is in science. Stay connected to real facts, like the NHS or COVID-19 .Gov page.  Avoid watching or reading news or social media, where facts can become blurred or even exaggerated.  Remind yourself that infectious disease outbreaks have been part of our history, and this too shall pass.

I have been amazed at how much fake news is out there, my daughter Chelsey was showing me details of all the 1000’s of deaths so far in the UK! I had to quickly show her the real facts and educate her on the difference between snapchat posts and reliable news sources.  She was genuintly worried and at first, she would not back down! Chelsey gets that stubbornness from her mother!

Talking to your children during this outbreak is crucial, they could be very anxious right now and may not be showing it. This could mean they have outbursts of poor behavior or just hideaway. It can demonstrate how very quickly via their own social network they can be fed the wrong information, educate them and/or limit their exposure to the news. Bring in positive ditractions and have them focus on the 10-2-1 skills training we sent out :)

I did read about a very useful technique from a leading school psychologist.  She recommended encouraging children to draw, write or journal so they can express their feelings.  And finally, keep a routine for the kids so their day-to-day feels as normal as possible.

Find ways to connect and keep busy

Try to stick to your normal routine as much as possible. Keep the same bedtime and awake time, especially now schools are closed.  It can be very easy for this routine to fall into late nights, late wake ups leading to more stress. Get dressed in clothes you’d normally go to work in when working from home.  Take a walk outside to get exercise, and see other people. This will help you and your family to feel a sense that everone is in this together. This can all be done with care and whilst still keeping our movements restricted. Please don’t feel as if you are alone, in a house, with your family and that life is not continuing in the world.

Make it part of your daily routine to reach out to other friends and family – virtually! Remember you can call, text, FaceTime, Zoom or Skype daily with others. During these traumatic times, having a sense of connection and a feeling of community is essential for hope and healing.

And because fun, meaningful experience reduces the stress hormone cortisol and raises feel-good hormones like serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin, its recommend to add humor to our day by reading catoonists or watching funny movies and comedy shows.

It can’t be all doom and gloom. Laughing about the situation doesn’t hurt anyone and shows that we’re all in this together, one big football family!

Getting Help

These are uncurtain times, there will also be added financial pressure for some.  Do not suffer in silence nor be embarrssed to reach out.

Below are some useful links to supportive groups;

Mind Charity –
Samaritans –
NHS Every Mind Matters –
Citizens Advice –
Step Change Debt Charity –
Government COVID Central Site –
NHS COVID Central Site –
Higham 10-2-1 Skills Homework – Download PDF Here

You are in our thoughts

We are already feeling the disconnection here at Higham FC, it’s strange to see it so empty up at Lancaster Park and not be out training in the sun!  I know coaches will keep in touch and we are always here for you all.  If you need anything, please just pickup the phone and contact me on 07428 707605.

I work with a fantastic team of individuals, we are working behind the scenes to ensure the club and ground is kept in good shape.  Keeping to routine where possible is good for all of us and we promise to stand alongside you as a club all the way through this.

Keep safe, keep smiling and spread the love!

James Sharp
Vice-Chairman Higham Town Football Club.