Looking after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak

 

The Mental Health Foundation is part of the national mental health response during the coronavirus outbreak. Government advice designed to keep us safe is under constant review and will be different depending on where you live: more details and up to date information here.
Infectious disease outbreaks, like the current coronavirus (COVID-19), can be scary and can affect our mental health. While it is important to stay informed, there are also many things we can do to support and manage our wellbeing during such times.

Here are some tips we hope will help you, your friends and your family to look after your mental health at a time when there is much discussion of potential threats to our physical health.

Looking after your mental health as lockdown eases

Across the nations of the UK, lockdown is easing in different ways and at different times. As we begin to come out of lockdown many of us are faced with both challenges and opportunities.

Within social distancing guidelines, we may be able to see friends and family in person, play sport or return to work.

However, many of us may find even these longed-for changes difficult for our mental health. The idea of coming out of lockdown when the scientific debate is ongoing may also be worrying for those of us who are more at risk from the virus or living with mental health problems.

If this is something you are struggling with, read our tips on dealing with fear and anxiety as lockdown eases and coping with uncertainty.

People who are shielding – asked to still stay at home

For people who are shielding not much has changed. Lockdown still applies, with some ability to increase exercise, and to get outside with social distancing. For these groups in particular it might be difficult to see their lives returning to anything like ‘normal’ for a much longer time. As other people come out of lockdown the impact of lockdown on those who are shielding may become even greater.

As different at risk and shielding groups are told they are able to resume activities, people will need to make assessments of how safe things feel for them, and how they balance the risk to their wellbeing of remaining locked down against the risk of getting the virus if they resume activities.

Looking after your mental health while you have to stay at home

More of us will be spending a lot of time at home and many of our regular social activities will no longer be available to us.

It will help to try and see it as a different period in your life, and not necessarily a bad one, even if you didn’t choose it.

It will mean a different rhythm of life, a chance to be in touch with others in different ways than usual. Be in touch with other people regularly on social media, e-mail or on the phone, as they are still good ways of being close to the people who matter to you.

Create a new daily routine that prioritises looking after yourself. You could try reading more or watching movies, having an exercise routine, trying new relaxation techniques, or finding new knowledge on the internet. Try and rest and view this as a new if unusual experience, that might have its benefits.

Make sure your wider health needs are being looked after such as having enough prescription medicines available to you.

Try to avoid speculation and look up reputable sources on the outbreak

Rumour and speculation can fuel anxiety. Having access to good quality information about the virus can help you feel more in control.

Follow hygiene advice such as washing your hands more often than usual, for 20 seconds with soap and hot water (sing ‘happy birthday’ to yourself twice to make sure you do this for 20 seconds). You should do this whenever you get home or into work, blow your nose, sneeze or cough, eat or handle food. If you can’t wash your hands straightaway, use hand sanitiser and then wash them at the next opportunity.

You should also use tissues if you sneeze and make sure you dispose of them quickly; and stay at home if you are feeling unwell.

Try to stay connected

The way we are able to connect to others is changing, but this is happening at a different pace depending on who you are and where you live. Advice is significantly different if you are shielding, and you still need to take extra care if you have a long-term physical health condition, are pregnant or aged over 70.

There is a summary of how you can connect here

At times of stress, we work better in company and with support. Try and keep in touch with your friends and family, by telephone, email or social media, or contact a helpline for emotional support.

You may like to focus on the things you can do if you feel able to:

  • stress management
  • keep active
  • eat a balanced diet

Stay in touch with friends on social media but try not to sensationalise things. If you are sharing content, use this from trusted sources, and remember that your friends might be worried too.

Also remember to regularly assess your social media activity. Tune in with yourself and ask if they need to be adjusted. Are there particular accounts or people that are increasing your worry or anxiety? Consider muting or unfollowing accounts or hashtags that cause you to feel anxious.

Talk to your children

Involving our family and children in our plans for good health is essential. We need be alert to and ask children what they have heard about the outbreak and support them, without causing them alarm.

We need to minimise the negative impact it has on our children and explain the facts to them. Discuss the news with them but try and avoid over-exposure to coverage of the virus. Be as truthful as possible.

Let’s not avoid the ‘scary topic’ but engage in a way that is appropriate for them. We have more advice on talking with your children about the coronavirus outbreak.

Try to anticipate distress

It is OK to feel vulnerable and overwhelmed as we read news about the outbreak, especially if you have experienced trauma or a mental health problem in the past, or if you are shielding, have a long-term physical health condition or fall into one of the other groups that makes you more vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus.

It’s important to acknowledge these feelings and remind each other to look after our physical and mental health. We should also be aware of and avoid increasing habits that may not be helpful in the long term, like smoking, drinking and overeating.

Try and reassure people you know who may be worried and check in with people who you know are living alone.

Try not to make assumptions

Don’t judge people and avoid jumping to conclusions about who is responsible for the spread of the disease. The coronavirus can affect anyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity or sex.

Try to manage how you follow the outbreak in the media

There is extensive news coverage about the outbreak. If you find that the news is causing you huge stress, it’s important to find a balance.

It’s best that you don’t avoid all news and that you keep informing and educating yourself, but limit your news intake if it is bothering you.

Source:

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/coronavirus/looking-after-your-mental-health-during-coronavirus-outbreak


Aritificial intelligence used to develop an early warning system for AMD

Researchers at Moorfields Eye Hospital and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology have developed an artificial intelligence (AI) system that can help predict whether people with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) will develop the more serious form of the condition in their ‘good eye’. This is part of our wider, ongoing partnership with DeepMind and Google Health.

AMD involves damage to the macula, the central part of the retina at the back of the eye. AMD causes loss of central vision, affecting the ability to read, drive, watch television, recognise faces, and many other activities of daily living. It is very common that patients develop wet AMD in one eye and start receiving treatment, before later developing it in their other eye.

Macular degeneration mainly affects central vision, causing “blind spots” directly ahead (Macular Society).

 

The AI system developed by Moorfields, researchers from DeepMind, and Google Health, may allow closer monitoring of the “good eye” in patients at high risk, or even guide use of preventative treatments in the future.

Pearse Keane, consultant ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital, said:

“Patients who have lost vision from wet AMD are often particularly worried that their “good eye” will become affected and, as a result, that they will become blind. We hope that this AI system can be used as an early warning system for this condition and thus help preserve sight.”

“We are already beginning to think about how this will let us plan clinical trials of preventative therapies – for example, by treating eyes at high risk earlier.”

“With this work, we haven’t solved AMD, but we believe we have found another big piece of the puzzle.”

Reena Chopra, research optometrist at Moorfields Eye Hospital, said:

“We found that the ophthalmologists and optometrists in our study had some intuition into which eyes will progress to wet AMD. The AI was able to outperform them, indicating there are signals within OCT scans that only the AI can detect. This unlocks new areas of research into a disease where there are still many unanswered questions about how it develops.”

Source:

Read the paper in Nature Medicine.

Read the Google Health blog and DeepMind technical blog.


Eye Health: The Importance of Protecting Your Eyes

UV PROTECTION


UV rays can lead to serious health issues including sunburn of the eyes, cataracts, macular degeneration and cancer.

All Maui Jim lenses block 100% of all harmful UV rays, protecting your eyes from damage and long-term health risks. Sunglasses that do not provide UV protection can actually cause more damage because they shade the eye, allowing for more UV rays to hit the pupil.

 

SKIN CANCER


5% to 10% of skin cancer occurs around the eyes. Always wear quality, protective sunglasses when outdoors—even on overcast days.

Our sunglasses have earned the Skin Cancer Foundation Seal of Recommendation as an effective UV filter for the eyes and surrounding skin. The frames also play a role, so larger frames and wrap styles should be considered for outdoor activities.

 

EYE COMFORT & GLARE


The sun’s brightness and glare interferes with comfortable vision and the ability to see clearly, causes squinting, and your eyes to water. Eyestrain can also lead to headaches.

All Maui Jim sunglasses are polarised and therefore eliminate 99.9% of glare. This also reduces the impact of the sun’s brightness and allows your eyes to stay relaxed. Without the need to squint and strain, you can avoid eye fatigue, excessive wrinkling around the eyes, and even headaches.

 

DARK ADAPTATION

Intense sunlight can hamper the eyes’ ability to adapt quickly to lower light levels. Think about when you’re outside in bright light and not wearing sunglasses, then go indoors where the light is much dimmer; you see spots for a while until your eyes adjust.

By shielding your eyes from intense sunlight with our lenses, your eyes have a chance to gain faster adaptations when going from one extreme light condition to the next.

 

BLUE LIGHT PROTECTION


High-Energy Visible Radiation (HEV), also known as blue light, has lower energy rays than UV. However, recent research suggests they can penetrate the eye, and this has been associated with AMD (age-related macular degeneration).

Our patented PolarizedPlus2® lens technology reduces HEV without removing the beautiful visible blues colours from the world around you.

Source: Maui Jim Eye Health (https://www.mauijim.com/GB/en_GB/eyehealth)


How Does the Eye Work?

The human eye is a wonder of engineering. It consists of many different parts that work together to provide visual information to the brain, which then translates it into information that is useful to the body.

Parts of the eye

1. The cornea

The first step in this complex process occurs when light passes through the clear slightly convex cornea at the very front of the eye. This is the transparent part of the eyeball.

A thick white sheath called the sclera surrounds the rest of the eyeball. The cornea refracts light slightly. The narrow, liquid-filled space behind the cornea is called the aqueous humor. This drains through spaces at the medial corner of the eye, and is constantly renewed.

2. The iris

The iris is a colored diaphragm of thin circular and longitudinal muscle fibers just behind the cornea. It has an aperture in the center. This can expand or contract to let in more or less light, respectively, depending on the light in the surroundings.

This opening is called the pupil. Light passing through the cornea and the pupil falls on the anterior surface of the lens. The aqueous humor keeps the iris from sticking to the lens behind and the cornea in front.

3. The lens

The lens is a clear crystalline globe which almost touches the posterior surface of the pupillary opening. The ciliary muscles are attached to the surface of the lens. The help the lens to change shape in order to focus.

As they contract, they cause the lens to become more round or long, so that the rays bend more or less, according to need. If the object focused on is far away, the lens needs to bend the light rays from it more sharply, to make them fall on the center of the retina, where vision is sharpest. For objects close-up, the lens becomes elongated so that light rays are bent less.

4. The posterior chamber

The refracted rays now pass through the jelly-like tissue that fills out the eyeball behind the lens. This part is called the posterior chamber. At the back, the eyeball is bounded by the choroid, a network of capillaries which nourishes all the structures of the eye.

In front of it lies the retinal pigment epithelium, a layer of melanin-rich cells which supplies special nutrition to the sensory layer of the eye. The retina is nourished and renewed by the pigment epithelial cells.

5. The retina

The retina is a multilayer membrane comprising a sensory photoreceptor array, a few layers of connecting neurons and an inner ganglion cell layer. The axons from the ganglion cells travel backward to pierce the retina and leave the eye through the optic nerve. There is a blind spot in the retina where the ganglion cells pass through.

Rods and cones

The photoreceptors in the eye consist of rod and cone cells. The rods are found mostly in the peripheral part of the retina and are responsible for perception of light and dark, including shades of gray. They are more numerous than cones, and are very sensitive to light.

The cone cells are responsible for visual acuity and color vision, and millions of them are closely assembled in the central part of the retina, also called the macula. At the fovea, which is the central point of the macula, only cones are present, and normal vision uses this point to achieve sharp vision at maximum resolution.

The pathway of vision
As the light rays fall on the photoreceptor cells, changes occur in the pigments they contain. This leads to bleaching of the pigments, and electrical impulses are generated. These are transmitted through a chain of neurons to the ganglion cells which carry the impulses to the visual cortex of the brain. There they are processed and the object is seen.

Each eye receives information from half of the visual field. Thus the middle parts of both fields overlap, and this leads to binocular vision. However, the difference in the peripheral parts of the left and right fields of vision lead to depth perception or three-dimensional vision. It helps in gauging distances accurately and estimating the depths and dimensions of objects.

Sources:

The Structure and Function of the Eyes, www.merckmanuals.com/…/structure-and-function-of-the-eyes
Healthy Eyes Facts, https://nei.nih.gov/health/healthyeyes
Eye and its Function, http://www.pages.drexel.edu/~dh329/bmes212/eyeFunction.html
Last Updated: Feb 26, 2019

Written by Dr. Liji Thomas