Daniel Morgan is a journalist and writer who has benefited from James’ Place’s intervention in 2019. He shares some thoughts on how to cope with the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent isolation while taking a particular care for his mental health. 

It’s hard to believe that three weeks ago, the term “social distancing” didn’t exist to the vast majority of us. It was a phrase which didn’t render applicable in an ever evolving society that had socialising as its bedrock.

Many of us have inadvertently practiced social distancing at individual points in our lives as a result of mental and physical health struggles which have restricted our movement and ability to interact with the world outside.

But the current health pandemic — as a result of the coronavirus outbreak — means that we are all now coming to terms with the reality of being at home and isolated in some way. That can be very difficult to accept and adapt to, along with exacerbating worries many are additionally having about jobs and income.

I’m no different in currently sharing such worries and adapting to this new normal. As someone who lives alone and has restricted their social movements as a result of suffering poor mental health over recent years, I have been shocked by my own struggle in adaptation to the current measures.

This is because I hadn’t factored how many of my daily routines provide me with mental and social stimulation. Work, exercise and commuting can provide us with a subconscious sense of community and belonging we often dismiss as necessity, yet they are cornerstones to our daily growth and development.

What the current situation takes away is the opportunity for balance in our lives, to meet a friend for coffee or go to our favourite restaurant with loved ones. That imbalance will provide strain, but it is vital not to become imprisoned in our homes and minds for the time these measures remain in place.

For me to remain mentally healthy and to adapt, I’ve had to safely alter my outside routines and find ways to release the anxieties that build. Engineering mind-space to allow for stimulation and creativity is key — so writing, cooking and meditation have all helped massively.

Unfortunately, I’m still feeling that tightening sensation of anxiety quite often, most times from the moment I wake. It has been crucial for me at this time to recall my intervention with James’ Place at the end of 2019, and the self-coping mechanisms adopted through the work I did.

James’ Place offered a pathway forward at a time in my life other junctions around seemed to be continuously closing. It provided me with a sense of structure and direction and reminded me that avenues of help that were available to me, and that I wasn’t alone.

That connection I made ensured I was able to reconnect with others around me in time, and most importantly, with myself. For those who are suffering at this time as a result of the enforced yet necessary changes to our lives, maintaining those connections with those you love is so important. I have found video-calling a much more reassuring method of communication as opposed to voice and audio, for example.

I know others who have set up interactive movie nights, in which they will watch a film together and stay connected while social distancing from home. The same is now being applied to the fitness industry to encourage more communal stimulation online.

If you’re a man in the Liverpool area and you find yourself experiencing suicidal thoughts, then please reach out to James’ Place, who can still offer help and advice.There are additional avenues, such as Samaritans, if you feel your mental health is deteriorating rapidly as a result of the changes to our lives.

Social distancing may have been something we never anticipated or prepared for, but it is something we’re all now having to temporarily realign our lives to fit. Ensuring we take the measures we need to look after ourselves during this period is vital, as is maintaining a form of contact with those we hold dear in all of our lives.