COVID-19: Taking control - Preventing the downward spiral

Positive mental strength for you and those around you

The current coronavirus lockdown situation can make individuals feel a loss of freedom and control that is normally balanced. Sometimes when placed in situations that take us out of our normal routines, we can react in extreme ways until we find ways of adjusting.

There are actions you can take to prevent this from happening and that will keep your mental state strong, healthy and happy, for you and your loved ones, so you can feel in control, positive and energetic during this challenging time.

In this article we have created a number of suggestions on actions and activities to keep you and your family focussed. You can still be in control of your life in this new way of living and a good way to maintain this is to direct your control to new areas.


What can I do in my new daily life to stay in control and keep my mind, my loved ones and my environment healthy and happy?

How to stay mentally healthy and happy as an INDIVIDUAL:

  • Take regular exercise such as walking, running, cycling or yoga for relaxation and strengthening. If you live with others, make sure everyone gets their window for this daily.
  • Me time. Make sure everyone has their window of ‘me’ time each week.  This is important for everyone to have their mental space.
  • Sign up for some free online training. This can help keep you focused and gives you something to aim for and to achieve for yourself.
  • Work/life balance – this is certainly challenging but work together to work out a plan that works for everyone whether its home schooling, studying at home or quality hours needed to do work.  This takes a little while to adjust to so don’t panic, just allow yourselves to adjust naturally until a plan forms.
  • Any domestic jobs such as painting that have been needing attention and you have the materials for? Some materials can still be purchased online or bought locally.  The feeling of getting jobs done and that you have achieved something at the end of the day is definitely worth it.
  • Gardening: You might have a back or front garden that needs a bit of tidying. This is a great way to get some fresh air and keep the mind focused on a task with great results at the end. If you are in a flat, you could maybe create some window flower boxes or start growing some herbs on your window sill.


How to stay mentally healthy and happy as a FAMILY or a GROUP LIVING TOGETHER:

  • Write a list of the things that you want to achieve together as an individual, couple, family or housemates during lockdown and beyond if you can.
  • Be supportive to each other and be fair to everyone. It is important to work out a routine that works for everyones’ needs. 
  • Take on a step challenge using your garden or street, for example try and reach half a million steps in two weeks and divide the challenge up amongst the family or amongst groups of friends who can each do it in their own gardens or streets. For families this is a great challenge for Mum and Dad and an adventure for the kids and for groups of friends, it keeps everyone focussed on a goal and keeps everyone in regular contact.
  • Divide chores up with family members. This gives everyone a goal and shares responsibilities. Giving rewards can also make it a fun exercise for everyone.
  • Take part in choosing, planning and cooking a meal. Some families have allowed the children to choose and do some of the preparation whilst Mum and Dad sit back and relax! They might surprise you but make sure they are safe in the kitchen and have some supervision. If living with friends/housemates, find a recipe that can involve everyone taking part in the cooking and preparation. Get the music on and merge the cooking time into a kitchen party!


Help others in some way:

  • Whilst you are doing your own garden, could you also extend to helping a neighbour with their garden? Those who cannot get outside and/or unable to carry out gardening tasks would be delighted to look out to a tidy garden.
  • Offer to get someone’s shopping and drop it off at the door.
  • Locally to Oban: By contributing to initiatives such as Tesco’s food collection for Hope Kitchen, you can feel good that you are making a positive difference to those in need.


Connect with others:

  • Keep in touch with extended family and friends by whatever means possible: phone/Skype/Teams/Zoom. Write a letter and send it in the post. Receiving mail in the post from a friend or family member is a great way to make someone’s day and maybe they will write back!
  • Been meaning to contact a friend but have put it to the bottom of the list?  Why don’t you do it now, they would be happy to hear from you.



  • Try online games and quizzes such as Lovatts Puzzles:
  • Organise a street party where everyone participates in their own gardens.
  • A big trend at the moment is to organise an online Quiz night with your friends and family members who are not living with you. Great fun, keeps the mind focussed and keeps you connected. You might learn a few new facts too!


Create an uplifting playlist

Create your own playlist of songs to lift your spirits. Create your own or we’ve created a suggested list to get you started:


Hole in My Soul - Kaiser Chiefs

Chains of Love - Erasure

Dancing in the Dark - Bruce Springstein

Johnny Come Home - Fine Young Cannibals

Stupid Love - Lady Gaga

Atomic - Blondie

Everywhere - Fleetwood Mac

Suspicious Minds - Fine Young Cannibals

Somewhere - RunRig

Human - The Killers

Dear Darlin - Olly Murs

Not Fair - Lily Allen

Can Can - Bad Manners

Dancing on my Own - Robyn

Acceptable in the 80s - Calvin Harris

Wings of a Dove - Madness

The Last Song of your Life - Pink

My Girl Lollipop - Bad Manners

Young Hearts Run Free - Candi Staton

Crocodile Rock - Elton John

Up - Ollie Murs and Demi Lovatto



For fun at home cooking the BBC website has some great recipes. Staff tried and tested: the homemade coffee ice cream with a salted caramel sponge and the ice cream  is apparently delicious and really easy to make! There are also a number of budget recipes. Have a look over at


During lockdown, avoid:

  • Arguments or areas for discussion
  • Alcohol or limit consumption
  • Limit what you read in the newspapers/media about Coronavirus


Other advice

AnxietyUK suggests practising the "Apple" technique to deal with anxiety and worries.

  • Acknowledge: Notice and acknowledge the uncertainty as it comes to mind.
  • Pause:Don't react as you normally do. Don't react at all. Pause and breathe.
  • Pull back:Tell yourself this is just the worry talking, and this apparent need for certainty is not helpful and not necessary. It is only a thought or feeling. Don't believe everything you think. Thoughts are not statements or facts.
  • Let go:Let go of the thought or feeling. It will pass. You don't have to respond to them. You might imagine them floating away in a bubble or cloud.
  • Explore: Explore the present moment, because right now, in this moment, all is well. Notice your breathing and the sensations of your breathing. Notice the ground beneath you. Look around and notice what you see, what you hear, what you can touch, what you can smell. Right now. Then shift your focus of attention to something else - on what you need to do, on what you were doing before you noticed the worry, or do something else - mindfully with your full attention.



Watch Babylon Health’s video on how to deal with anxiety and mental health during a pandemic


If you need to talk to someone, help is available:

We have internal support available for SAMS students and staff and also information and advice on a range of external support organisations who can help those suffering from mental health and domestic abuse.