When the coronavirus lockdown started, I know my wife and family were worried about whether I’d come through it okay.
As someone who’s suffered from depression and anxiety for most of my 54 years, they knew I was vulnerable at the best of times. And the coronavirus pandemic is, arguably, the worst crisis that the world has experienced in more than a century.
Physically, I’m fine. But how would I cope with social isolation, money worries, and the constant swirl of bad news around the pandemic? What would I do without my main crutch – exercise – if the Government tightened the lockdown?
And sadly – as we get ready for at least another three weeks in isolation – it seems I’m not alone in feeling anxious.
Writing in Lancet Psychiatry, a group of leading mental health professionals has announced that coronavirus is already straining the psychological health of the UK – and warned that suicidal thoughts, self-harm and other mental health problems could increase because of it.
Having carried out surveys late in March, the scientists discovered that Britons were more worried about secondary effects of the pandemic – such as depression and financial difficulties – than they were about catching coronavirus itself.
Meanwhile, those like me – “with a lived experience of a mental health issue” – feared that their symptoms would become worse, and that they might not be able to access support.
Amongst the factors the report said were “amplifying” mental health problems, was “media-fuelled distress”, caused by excessive consumption of bad news on both traditional and social media.
The nation’s sudden switch to home working was also problematic, because it reduced our ability to socialise. Losing important freedoms and safety nets because of lockdown could prove especially difficult for vulnerable people.
It may be some time before the Lancet report can make a positive difference to our mental health but, on the bright side, there’s already plenty of good advice available about getting through the pandemic as calmly as possible.
Mental health charity Mind has stressed the importance of maintaining social contacts and some kind of daily routine, even if your personal circumstances have been transformed.
The World Health Organisation, meanwhile, recommends regular exercise, as well as limiting your exposure to bad news by scheduling media time and only using trusted outlets.
Personally, I get much jumpier if I’m constantly reading the news. My heart rate and my breathing both get faster, and so I’ve been trying to wean myself off the Internet for large parts of the day.
When there’s bad news that I can’t personally do anything about, I just try and shrug.
For example, what can any of us do about the three per cent contraction in the global economy right now? The constant gloomy headlines about work and finance have started to feel like meaningless numbers. So I try to remember that growth can go up, as well as down, and get on with my day.
I heard a radio DJ recently, saying she was coping by just living in the moment, which I thought was sound advice. But, personally, I seem to be coping with the present crisis by retreating to the past.
Since March, I’ve had my nose buried in books about Tudor England, 1980s America, and Australian cricket in the 1970s, which all give me a break from worrying about now.
And, because sport was always such a big part of my week, I’m making a regular date with a podcast that watches vintage football matches on YouTube at the weekends, then discusses them the following Monday.
Meanwhile, the BBC’s Replay radio series – archive commentaries from many of the great sports events of the last century, could have almost been made with lockdown in mind.
At the moment, I’m being careful to follow mental health guidelines as closely as the ones about hand washing and self-isolation, and I’m reaping the benefits.
I’ve also tried to be grateful for the upsides to lockdown, like the fact that I’ve started running with my son for the first time ever, during our permitted exercise times.
On Mondays, I have a laugh doing Quiz Night with my wife and daughter – part of the sudden passion across the country for online general knowledge tests.
Given how worried people were about me, it could have been worse.