Maintaining positive mental health and navigating our coping modes during the COVID-19 lockdown

This is a blog post by Dalia Alazzeh and Abeer Hassan (both from University of West of Scotland) on maintaining postiive mental health and coping with current lockdown conditions.

Around the globe, the current pandemic has imposed a new reality that revolves around phrases like: self-isolating, social distancing measures,  Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), flattening the curve and underlying conditions.

An overwhelming new reality has emerged with people asking questions such as: Was I wearing gloves in the supermarket that day? Is this a normal sore throat? Did he/she cough next to me? Have we reached the peak? Is my child coping? Will I lose my job?

We are witnessing a dramatic change in people's behaviour in every aspect of our life. We are facing survival struggle questions that put an enormous amount of pressure on our daily life.

Nevertheless, we are not alone. Everyone is asking similar questions and facing similar challenges such as economic losses, home-schooling, adopting new technologies, anxiety, and stress, fear of the future. Among this chaos, we need to maintain positive mental health. The World Health Organization (WHO) 2005, slogan is now more important than ever, “there can be no health, without mental health”. Two main psychological constituents of positive  mental health are  the individual's perception of the world around him/her and the ability to embrace life as it’s happening (Jahoda, 1958). Whilst we still need to think about how this lock-down will affect the long-term mental health and social development of our communities, until the current restrictions are eased we need to think positively and make the best of our situations. For instance, let's examine the working from home routine under the lockdown.

Below is my personal positive experience that I think gave me a sense of coping and maintaining my balance.

“When the lockdown started, working from home was depressing for me. No coffee and venting with colleagues, no small chats. But I have decided that I need to embrace this change. I have set up a designated workspace, a separate space to work in to be able to focus on tasks without being distracted. I take with me my laptop, my phone, my chargers, my USBs, a notebook, a pen and the most important item, my cup of tea. I am so glad as my two daughters bought me a new huge big mug as Mother’s Day present.

In the first week, I used to wear the same clothes that I used to wear when I come back from work. But after the first week, I decided to get dressed every day like I am going to work. This helped me mentally to switch to productive work mode. It has helped me in distinguishing between ‘homeworking’ and ‘home life’.
I am also keen to wake up early every morning and start at 9:00am and I take regular breaks to top up my cup of tea and make sure to stop for lunch for 30-45 minutes. 

Being involved in virtual meetings, although it has some drawbacks, gives me the chance be clear and concise in what I say. Such meetings give me the feeling that we are all in the same boat and experiencing the same obstacles. As a line manager, I created a WhatsApp group with my staff. I must say that I love this group as some members send jokes, quizzes, songs, share useful links, etc and make sure everyone is safe and healthy. This foster relationship has allowed us to make time for non-work chats as we would in the workplace. I felt that it is necessary to keep a comfort network in this pandemic as part of my positive mental health attitude” (Abeer Hassan).

“For me working during the lockdown was very challenging with two children (2 years old and 6 years old). I also dress up every morning to allow my mind set to swtich to work mode. I found comfort setting up an office in the garden with the kids playing around me. Nevertheless, my working patterns have changed. I had to leave most of the demanding tasks to night-time after the kid’s bedtimes. My Zoom meetings are very short and my 2 year old sometimes invades my online lectures. I have learned to manage my tasks more efficiently and I try to approach things one day at a time to maintain my positivity”. (Dalia Alazzeh)

It is also important to feel that our past routines still exist in the new reality. Hence, at night I follow my routine approach to writing the “to-do-list” that I used to write before the lockdown.  I have realized that in most of the days I have done what I planned to do which is very pleasing. I have also realized that I might have saved some time on other tasks as I have less disruption. Until these restrictions are eased, and to keep our loved one safe, each one of us must find the coping mode that helps them embrace life.

This blog was uploaded in April 2020.


Jahoda, M., 1958. Current concepts of positive mental health.
World Health Organization, 2005. Mental health: facing the challenges, building solutions: report from the WHO European Ministerial Conference. WHO Regional Office Europe.

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