COVID-19 has been having a big impact on the wellbeing of LGBTI people for many months causing many of us to feel anxious, stressed, worried, sad, bored, lonely or frustrated.

It is especially important, now we’ve reached winter when it’s darker and colder, that we don’t forget that it’s OK to feel this way. Remember that everyone feels different sometimes, everyone will react differently – and for most of us, these difficult feelings will pass.

There are simple things we can do to help take care of our mental health and wellbeing during times of uncertainty. Doing so will help us think clearly, and make sure we can look after ourselves and those we care about.

1. Stay Connected

Maintaining healthy relationships with people we trust is important for our mental wellbeing.

If you can, visit or meet up with friends and family in person, but remember follow the latest government guidance when you do. You should not currently meet people from another household in your own home.

If you cannot meet up in person, because you are self-isolating or another reason, stay in touch by phone, video calls or by using social media.

We all need to feel connected still, so keep in touch – whether it’s with people you normally saw often or reconnecting with old friends. Many LGBTI groups around Scotland have also been running online events, book groups, quizzes etc to help people stay connected. You can take a look at some of whats on offer on the LGBT Health & Wellbeing Facebook page.

2. Look after your physical wellbeing

Your physical health has a big impact on how you are feeling emotionally and mentally. At times like these, it can be easy to fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour which, in turn, can make you feel worse, especially if you are staying at home.

Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals and drink enough water. One You has a lot of advice and ideas for healthy meals you can cook at home.

Where possible, exercise at home and/or outside as often as you wish. If you can’t exercise outside, you can find free, easy 10-minute workouts on the NHS website, Paths For All also has good tips for keeping active at home.

If you are able to go outside, there are lots of easy ways to get moving like walking, cycling or gardening.

3. Talk about your worries and stay on top of difficult feelings

It’s perfectly normal to feel worried, scared or helpless about COVID or the situation it leaves us all in. Remember: It’s OK to share your concerns with others you trust – and doing so may help them too.

If you cannot speak to someone you know or if doing so has not helped, there are lots of helplines you can try instead – take a look on our support page.

Some people may experience anxiety that can impact on their daily life.

Try to focus on the things you can control, such as your behaviour, who you speak to, and where and how often you get information.

It’s fine to acknowledge that some things are outside of your control, but if constant thoughts about coronavirus are making you feel anxious or overwhelmed, try some ideas to help manage your anxiety, there are also some audio guides on the NHS website which can help you through feelings of anxiety or a low mood.

4. Do things you enjoy

Feeling worried about COVID or being anxious and/or low might stop us doing things we usually enjoy.

By focusing on your favourite hobby, relaxing or connecting with others, it can help with anxious thoughts and feelings.

If some of the things you enjoy doing involve meeting up with others, are there ways you can now do these that follow social distancing guidelines? For instance, playing badminton or football?

If you cannot do the things you normally enjoy, perhaps because you are staying home, think about how you could adapt them, or try something new. There are lots of free tutorials and courses online, or try online pub quizzes and even online Pride events!

5. Look after your sleep

Good-quality sleep makes a big difference to how we feel mentally and physically, so it is important to get enough sleep.

Try to maintain regular sleeping patterns and keep up good sleep hygiene practices – like avoiding screens before bed, cutting back on caffeine and creating a restful environment before bed. If you have to work from home look for ways to separate your sleeping space from your work space. You can check out the NHS advice on How to sleep better here.

The Scottish Government have created a website with some more great tips and advice to help you get through these difficult times.