COVID-19 has exacerbated many people’s stressors, and the restrictions, including social distancing, may make it more difficult for some people to regulate their emotions and anxieties.

If you’re finding it difficult to cope in the pandemic, there are a number of ways you can get help, and numerous ways to help make your situation easier.

First, give yourself some credit and remember the circumstances. You’re bound to feel a little more anxious, since there is a risk to you and your loved ones of getting COVID-19, and because your usual support system has been affected by social distancing measures. But keeping on top of how you’re feeling can help to avoid things getting worse.

For this reason, it’s advisable to pay attention to how you’re feeling – including your mood, appetite, energy levels and concentration levels – so you know if and when you might need to ask for help or step up your self-care.

One good indicator of your wellbeing is the quality of your sleep.

If you are waking during the night because something is worrying you, for example, you could try writing down your worries and allocating another time where you will address them.

If it feels too hard to tackle these worries on your own, perhaps you could allocate a person to talk about them with.

If you can’t talk to a loved one or friend, you should talk to a professional involved in your care or your GP. Likewise, if you’ve noticed you are more fatigued than normal during the day or have significant concerns about your sleep you should also seek professional advice.

You may have noticed changes to your mood, which could be associated with concerns about catching COVID-19 and the impact the virus is having on your life and your ability to see loved ones.

You may also be concerned about the relaxing of social distancing measures  that might increase anxiety or confusion about what is now ‘safe’ and still be missing the activities you enjoy.

It is natural to have these concerns but if your mood or worries really are troubling you, it may be helpful to speak to someone you trust, including a professional working with you or your GP. The information you find most reassuring or helpful can be written down and left somewhere where you can find it again easily when you’re feeling worried.

If you’re feeling unsafe or a risk to yourself, however, you should go to A&E or call 999. There are also a number of helplines – including the Samaritans (on  116123) which is open 24 hours a day.

This is one of five blogs in a series on living in the new ‘normal’ with a brain injury, based on a webinar produced for ABI London (ABIL). See below for links to other articles in the series. Dr Keith G Jenkins is consultant clinical neuropsychologist at St Andrew’s Healthcare and chair of Headway East Northants. Dr Jenny Brooks is a consultant clinical psychologist working independently and a director of The ABI Team. For any questions about this topic email update@standrew.co.uk.

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