There is no doubt that it is a very difficult time for lots of people so I wanted to do a blog post to try to help those in our community who might be struggling. The Government is providing guidance on how to take care of our physical health; however, it is really important that we also take care of our mental health in these challenging times.

You may be someone who has experienced anxiety and/or depression before, or it may have been triggered recently with the news on COVID-19. We know that people with alopecia are more likely to experience anxiety and/or depression. To be anxious or low is an awful feeling, and it can often seem like there is no end to it. However, I want you to know you are not alone. Even in these difficult times where you may be worried about being isolated there are things you can do, and ways of reaching out so you feel supported.

You might have noticed an increase in worry about your health. We have had a lot of queries about whether having an autoimmune condition means you are more likely to catch COVID-19 (see here for our response), or that you might be more affected than others. General worries could be concerns about self-isolating, worry about being off work and losing money. The list of worries might feel endless. Here we have outlined some tips on things that might help you if you feel worried:

  • As difficult as it is we need to try and maintain perspective. We have been assured by the leading Health Authorities that the best thing we can do is to follow the Government's advice. If you are feeling worried and upset when you hear the news you might want to:
    • Limit watching/reading the news. It is important to stay informed but that can easily be done by watching the news either in the morning or in the evening. Focusing on the news all day long is likely to only lead to further worry and upset.
    • Limit online searching for symptoms. Are you finding yourself Googling COVID-19 symptoms frequently? This is not helpful and will only serve to increase anxiety. Information may change but not this fast; stay informed and leave it at that.
    • If you find yourself wanting to Google search symptoms, why not instead look at some information online to help manage your mental health.
    • If you find yourself worrying, try and find a different focus. Do something active whether this is going for a walk, cleaning up, or watching a good TV boxset.

  • If you are worried about your health you might find yourself focusing on your body more, checking for any changes or potential symptoms. If you are feeling anxious, try to focus on taking some deep breaths in and out. Try counting to five (slowly) while breathing in and counting to five again while letting the breath out. Try and stay calm and tell yourself gently that everything is alright and it will pass. Be kind to yourself. You can find more information on anxiety and how to manage the symptoms here

  • If you are struggling to sleep don’t lay in bed thinking. Get out of bed and do the most boring job you can think of (not the hoovering!). When you feel ready for sleep, go back to bed. Follow good sleep practices (e.g. no mobiles in bed, no caffeine near bed time) and even if you are struggling with sleep do try and get up at the same time. Making up for sleep in the morning will push your bedtime back and throw your routine out. You can find more information on sleeping with anxiety here

  • There are lots of things we can do to improve our mental health and wellbeing. Things that seem simple but can make huge changes to how we feel. These include making sure we exercise, eating a balanced diet and having a regular routine. For more advice on steps to positive wellbeing see here. At the same time, limit anything that can have a negative impact on wellbeing, for example alcohol can increase anxiety and depression. If you are finding things difficult at the moment you may want to limit or cut out alcohol.

For more information on looking after your mental health you can follow the links below.

How to stop overthinking

How to stop worry

Self-help guides for anxiety and depression

NHS health and wellbeing (including audio guides)

COVID 19 and your wellbeing

Money worries - Money Saving Expert advice

There are also some helplines if you are finding things difficult and would like to speak to someone. You can find a list here

It really is a difficult time for everyone and it is important to take care of yourselves and each other.

On behalf of the team at Alopecia UK, I send love and support to all in the Alopecia Community.