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People in Highlands encouraged to prioritise mental health as lockdown measures ease

By Gregor White

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Easing of lockdown measures can provoke feelings of anxiety for many.
Easing of lockdown measures can provoke feelings of anxiety for many.

The Scottish Government’s principal medical officer has encouraged people to prioritise their mental health, as changes to lockdown measures bring new challenges for many.

Research has shown that although the vast majority of people continue to support a slow and gradual lifting of restrictions at least seven in 10 people in Scotland are feeling anxious or concerned about other people not following guidelines, as restrictions ease.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr John Mitchell said these concerns are normal and shared by everyone to differing degrees.

Offering advice on how to deal with anxiety as the nation adjusts to increased freedoms he suggests: recognising how you’re feeling; talking to others; taking part in regular physical activity; getting a good sleep and being sensible about diet and alcohol and caffeine consumption; limiting the time you allow yourself to worry.

Mentally preparing yourself to do things that you are worried about can also help, he said, rehearsing in your mind the steps you can take to reduce infection risk, such paying contactlessly, staying at a safe two metre distance from others, practising good hand hygiene, and using face coverings in public.

Dr Mitchell said: "As restrictions lift, many of us may be struggling with our feelings and emotions, feeling anxious or frustrated for what seems like no reason.

"We may have gotten used to the restrictions, changing how we live, work and interact, and whilst we might expect everyone will be grateful for increased freedoms, many are really anxious about the next steps.

"It is important that we face our fears and do not avoid them.

"The enjoyment we might get from moving more freely outside, travelling and meeting friends and family is tempered when we are worried about the spread of infection.

"By sticking to the rules during the gradual lifting of restrictions, we can be confident that risk won’t rise. Less virus around us can be matched with less restriction.

"Although there are practical things we can do to help ourselves cope over the coming weeks, remember that help is available if needed.

"We’ve never had to deal with a situation like this before, so be kind to yourself and to others, and reach out if you need to talk to someone. Support is there."

The Clear Your Head website – clearyourhead.scot – provides a range of tips to help people look after their mental health during these times, signposting helplines for those who need to talk to someone, including NHS24, Breathing Space, SAMH and the Samaritans.

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