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Covid-19 Series. WWTW Mental Health Live Twitter Q+A w/ Emma McDonald and Contact

Emma McDonald offers her top tips and advice to help your mental health during the easing of lockdown restrictions


Last week, WWTW hosted our first live Q+A with Contact Armed Forces. WWTW mental health therapist, Emma McDonald answered questions on a range of topics including, how the easing of lockdown restrictions could impact someone’s mental health, how to reassure anxious children about going back to school and how to start conversations with a friend if you’re concerned about their mental health. 

Q. During lockdown boredom, drinking alcohol for some is becoming an increasing issue. What would you suggest to do so that mental and physical health is not affected? 

A. First of all, I would suggest brainstorming some ideas of activities. Once you’ve brainstormed a list, create a diary/schedule to help fill your day to prevent boredom. Here is an example of a weekly activity diary you can use via this link 

If you are drinking as a result of struggling to relax, brainstorm alternative ways to relax e.g. taking a bath, gardening, breathing techniques.

Q. How should we reassure kids who are worried about the easing of the lockdown rules? Some kids are a bit anxious.

A. Reassure children that statistically the likelihood of catching Covid-19 is low. Remind them of the progress we’ve made as a country. Reassure them that they do have some control around their exposure to the virus. Explain that they can reduce their chance of exposure with social distancing and good hand-washing.

With younger children you can create a story book with characters they can relate to e.g. ‘The Coronavirus Superhero’, get the character to say lots of reassuring statements and remind them of distancing and handwashing. You could even role play situations for practice.

Q. What would you say to those parents who have been isolating their whole family for 10 weeks to keep them safe?

A. I would say keep in mind the country’s falling statistics. Remember we have control over our exposure through distancing and handwashing. Also, recognise that irrational thoughts are expected but such thoughts are just thoughts rather than facts.

I would also recommend practicing breathing techniques to manage anxiety, breathe in through the nose for 4, hold for 2, breathe out through the mouth for the count of 6 or more.

Q. Do you have any tips to help people with mental health as we come out of lockdown? After weeks being in isolation, some might find it overwhelming.

A. I would recommend that we stay mindful of our irrational thoughts e.g. I will catch it and die. Here’s a video to help us recognise our thoughts are thoughts, as opposed to facts: 


Q. If someone has been shielding and they are now allowed to venture out but are struggling to leave the house due to anxiety, what would you suggest are the best steps to take?

A. I understand how difficult it is for the shielded, being in this category myself, so let’s look at how we can reduce the anxiety for those clinically vulnerable.

Take your time, small steps. Create a hierarchy (a list of situations) take a gradual approach e.g. walk across the street, next day walk 2 streets. We know that habituation occurs over time, we get used to situations the more regularly we enter them. Start small and regularly.

In addition, be mindful of your thoughts, we often assume they are facts, when at that moment they are not. 

Q. The relaxation of the lockdown rules can be quite confusing and add to people's anxiety. How can we make this simpler for those struggling with poor mental health?

A. I would suggest staying away from non-verified sources. The Government briefing is not always outlined clearly. The BBC, who air the briefing, tend to summarise the rules quite well. 

Q. Are there any useful resources to help start conversations around mental health if you are concerned about a friend?

A. This is super important, we know talking is crucial to healing. This is what I was taught once in my clinical supervision. You can find the useful resource here.

To help someone open up firstly we need to create a safe environment, then we need to model this behaviour ourselves by opening up about something. This encourages the same behaviour from the other person. Once the person opens up, reinforce (praise the behaviour to encourage them to continue opening up) e.g. you might say 'thank you for sharing that it makes me feel closer to you', or 'I appreciate you talking to me, its been nice to speak about whats worrying you'.

Q. I want to support veterans, how can I get involved in volunteering during lockdown?

A. I love volunteering too. There are great benefits for our mental health. I’m sure you have lots to offer. You could visit WWTW's volunteer page here or contact: info@wwtw.org.uk