Empty shelves in supermarkets are a sign of a global freak out at the COVID-19 pandemic. In this article I’m going to look at the national mental health pandemic and suggest how you can use it to not only survive but to grow. 

A little background on why I qualify to write this

For the last 20 odd years I have been fighting acute mental illness and alcoholism. For around seven of those years I was a leading mental health journalist and columnist. 

After losing my family and being forced to sell my home due to a three year long slip on booze, I found a positive psychology based alcohol recovery group called One Year No Beer. While losing everything of value to me using the local NHS rehab group I managed the odd week of sobriety. Today I’m close to 90 days dry with just five nights drinking in that period. 

One Year No Beer has given me some tools that may well enable me to be the dad my five year old daughter needs in her world.

The world loses its mind

The bread, paracetamol and milk shortages show a collective panic among the middle classes. I hear stories of people deliberately coughing and sneezing on strangers in Dorchester. There’s a selfishness in society I find intolerable in the extreme. It however can be pathologised as a collective freak out – a mental health pandemic – at the pandemic that is about to hit the UK like nothing since we were at war with Germany. 

As time and again we have collectively chosen short term social gain over long term societal gain in terms of socialising and partying over the risks of COVID-19 exploding in our midst, so our rebelling has significantly increased the risks of spread. I’m no saint. I’m no bacchanalian sinner either. I visit people, though a deliberately small number. I shop – everyone needs to! 


The response to this lack of self-discipline among society is that the government has had to tighten our liberties. Pubs, cafes and all indoor social gathering spaces are now closed as we wouldn’t listen. We will soon face even tighter restrictions unless the mobs of children are stopped from hanging out in numbers or people go on day trips to Weymouth and other resorts. 

For many as individuals, whether young or old the encroaching lockdown is scaring people ever more. Unless we look at taking some actions to protect our inner worlds then we could lose our minds and potentially have serious relationship issues. While there will be thousands of new pregnancies in the coming months, there will also be domestic abuse as people take out their frustrations in deeper connection or violence.

The next few sections are going to be some suggestions as to how to have a mentally healthy lockdown without causing an unplanned pregnancy or relationship breakdown, or if like me you are very alone as a means of giving somewhere for your mind to go.


The first thing to consider is mindfulness meditation. You can take just 15 minutes of the day out to disconnect and to centre yourself. It’s not ‘hippy shit’ – the NHS actively encourages the practice in a variety of scenarios from cancer to crises. 

There are two world leading apps on mindfulness right now – check out Calm and Headspace. I chose one over the other having tried both. 

Today my mindfulness course took me thorough a concept called ‘non-reactivity’ – how perfect for the world we are in just now!


Most mornings after my morning caffeine jolt I do 20 minutes of exercise, and after around 50 days I am seeing a change in my physique. It doesn’t matter what you do but you should aim at a big event every couple of weeks (mine is a 15 mile hike) and to be breathing hard for around 15 of those daily 20 minutes. 


Read! Bugger Facebook and the news! You’ve a massive opportunity here to improve yourself. Set aside half an hour to an hour a day to read. In my 6am routine I spend 20 minutes reading a self-help book and in the afternoon, am reading one on English land ownership as well as another on improving my writing career. 

Online courses?

You will find that dozens of online courses and groups are making big-time special offers on their products. I saved more than £100 on a course for continued professional development. Yoga apps are making offers (not for everyone!) but seek and ye shall find out there!

Could you challenge yourself to go sober for 90 days? It’ll make bringing an otherwise unplanned child about more fun and could save your relationship while you’re locked in your house with them all day!!! What about kicking the smoking?


This shouldn’t be forgotten. Society needs everyone to come together. Get out there and support community cohesion!

So there we have it

The world will be changed forever after this mental health pandemic. Limit your Facebook and news intake and focus on making you better and you may well be among the few who grow from this. You don’t get good roses without manure! 

Rich Shrubb

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