What to do when you’re feeling down: tips for looking after your mental health

07 Oct 2020

Taking care of your mental health is just as important as keeping your physical health in check. It requires careful attention and action. This is becoming increasingly difficult today, with the additional pressure of adjusting to the uncertainties brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Your normal coping strategies are not as available as before,” says MSF psychiatrist Dr Jairam Ramakrishnan. “It’s not all doom and gloom, we’re working out new ways of connecting with people. But it takes people time to figure these things out.”

“Before COVID-19, if we wanted to get out of the house, go for a walk—we could. But now we’re often cooped up in a familiar, restrained environment for large amounts of time,” adds Dr Ramakrishnan. “We’re having to spend more time than normal with the people we live with, which puts pressure on relationships. Lack of respite from that space has an impact.” 

During these unprecedented and stressful times, it's important to monitor our mental health just like we monitor physical health. These tips from MSF psychologists will help you to create a healthier environment and give you tools to assess whether there are steps your can take to improve your overall wellbeing. 


A Médecins Sans Frontières mental health worker provides a consultation for a patient at a health post in the Dadaab refugee camps, Kenya. © Robin Hammond/Panos Pictures

How can I tell if my mental health is suffering?

How much disruption are my emotions causing to my daily routine?

If the negative feelings you’re experiencing are leaving you unable to function the way you normally would, this can be a sign of poor mental health. When you aren’t able to socialise or work as you normally would due to recurring negative thoughts or emotions, your mental health needs some attention.

How long have I been experiencing mental distress?

Everyone has bad days from time to time. But when a bad day becomes a bad week, or a bad month, it’s crucial to look into what is causing you that distress. If you aren’t able to bounce back after a bad day or those negative feelings hang around more than usual, it’s time to seek advice from a mental health professional to help you feel better.

Some common symptoms of poor mental health are:

  • Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Loss of energy
  • Changes in appetite
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Memory issues
  • Lingering feelings of sadness or emptiness
  • Pessimistic views of the future

Tips for improving your mental wellbeing

Creating an environment that helps support your mental health is crucial to overall wellbeing. MSF mental health professionals Dr Jairam Ramakrishnan and Dr Trudy Rosenwald spoke to us about simple things to incorporate into daily life that can make a big difference:

If this has raised any issues for you, get support. Talk it through with a mental health professional, or call a mental health hotline for 24/7 support like Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 (AU) or Lifeline on 0800 543 354 (NZ).