Taking care of yourself
Whatever your current role or situation, it’s important to take time to notice how you’re doing and make sure you have the support you need.
You might find it helpful to give yourself a colour based on how you’re feeling.
I feel calm and optimistic. Things are going well.
Continue as usual, keep checking in with yourself regularly.
I feel tired, irritable, tearful or cynical. I’m not sure how much more I can take on.
Pause and figure out what you need to do to avoid getting to red. Take a break, draw on resources you have already, think about what else you might need. Talk to others about how you’re feeling. Hand over some of what you’re doing to someone else. Don’t take on anything new!
I feel numb, panicky or overwhelmed. It’s all too much.
Stop, breathe, reach out to someone you trust. Tell others you’re going to take a break – be specific about how long you need (an hour, a day, a week, or longer) – and ask them to put measures in place to allow you to do so. Once you feel calmer, re-evaluate how much you’re taking on and what support you need.
When to take a break
What are the signs that you need to take a break? These are different for everyone but might include:
Forgetting to eat or stay hydrated
Craving more sugar, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol than usual
Feeling grumpy, resentful, snapping at other people
A sense of apathy or futility: ‘what’s the point’
Physical pain: headaches, backache, stomach-ache
Feeling numb, detached or disconnected
Feeling panicked or overwhelmed
Difficulty getting to sleep, staying asleep, or waking up
Feeling overly responsible, self-critical or inadequate
New or lingering feelings of rage, sadness, fear, cynicism, despair
All of these are very normal ways to respond to what’s happening but it’s worth noticing if they suddenly appear, increase or feel overwhelming.
What resources do you have? What keeps you afloat when things feel difficult? What’s going well right now?
Make a list or a daily plan and put it where you can see it: on the fridge, on the toilet door, next to your computer. See our Wellbeing Planner for ideas about activities and resources you can incorporate into your day.
Take at least 5 minutes every hour to stand up, walk away from all of your screens, and notice what’s going on for you – ask yourself, how am I feeling? Where am I feeling it in my body? What do I need right now?
Get outside every day – if you’re self-isolating, open a window and stick your head out to feel the breeze, rain, sun. If you’ve got a garden, take your shoes off and stand on the grass for a few minutes.
Limit the time you spend checking news, social media and WhatsApp.
Daily or weekly
Use the wellbeing planner we’ve created to come up with a routine that works for you. Decide how much time you have to commit to community organising / activism each day or week and stick to it. Tell others when you are and aren’t available so they can help you stick to your plan. Mute alerts, set an out of office auto reply, or temporarily delete apps.
Talk to the people you’re living with about the virus and your involvement with this mutual aid group. Discuss questions like: How would you cope if one of you fell ill? How would you best like to be cared for when you’re feeling low or in a bad mood? What level of isolation are you comfortable with your cohabitee participating in at this time?
Take time for yourself
For many of us, organising or caring for others can be a way of coping with our own anxiety, fear, grief or isolation. That’s not a bad thing, but it can mean that the more we feel anxious, afraid, sad or lonely, the more we throw ourselves into organising or caring, which can leave us feeling worn out.
This is why it’s so important to take time out for yourself, notice what’s going on, talk about how you’re feeling, and ask for help – we are all vulnerable in different ways and at different times, and we all need care.
Self-isolation daily planner
If you are self-isolating (staying at home and not going out at all because you or a member of your household has symptoms of coronavirus) you can use this daily planner to help you keep yourself physically and mentally well.
General advice about coronavirus and mental health
Therapy and counselling
Samaritans website or free call 116 123
UK Crisis service: text “SHOUT” to 85258
Activities for health and wellbeing