The outbreak of COVID-19 has impacted us all in some way. It is understandable that during this uncertain period, you may be feeling afraid, worried, anxious, helpless and / or overwhelmed.
This information has been prepared to provide you with some mental health and wellbeing tips and strategies to look after yourself and others during this difficult time.
Who may feel the impact more?
- suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19
- perceived or real financial impacts
- pre-existing mental health conditions
What to look out for in yourself and others
- Fear and anxiety about your health or the future
- Worry about obtaining food and personal supplies
- Panic leading to impulsive behaviours
- Trouble sleeping or focusing on daily tasks
- Increased fatigue due to chronic impact of stress
- Distress and anxiety due to interruption to daily routine
- Anger, frustration or irritability due to loss of freedom and situations outside of your control
- Anger or resentment toward others – those who have issued isolation orders, exposure to COVID-19, change in working arrangements
What to do – self managing your mental health
- Stay healthy – be proactive in taking all reasonable precautions to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. The Australian Department of Health has recommended important actions we can all take to prevent the virus from spreading including practicing good hygiene, frequent cleaning of surfaces and objects and social (physical) distancing.
- Actively manage your wellbeing – now is the time to go back to basics:
- Eat healthy meals and keeping up your water intake
- Rest regularly (both mental and physical breaks)
- Exercise often and get some fresh air (e.g., walking, stretching, running, cycling)
- Get quality sleep
- Maintain social connections and communicate openly with family and friends.
- Keep your sense of humour
- Continuing to do things you enjoy
- Maintain structure in your day
- Avoid the use drugs and alcohol to cope with stress
- You may also find it valuable to engage in a calm ritual throughout the day (e.g. every time you wash hands for 20 seconds, count 5 calming breaths)
- Practice relaxation and mindfulness to settle the body and readjust to a calm state. There are great Apps available to download such as Calm, headspace, Smiling Minds, Total Brain.
- Keep things in perspective – while it is reasonable to feel concerned during this time, when stressed, we can sometimes overestimate how bad the consequences will be and underestimate our ability to cope. Below are a few tips:
- Shift your attention to something else when you may be catastrophising (blowing things out of proportion)
- Shift your attention to something else when you may be personalising the situation (blaming yourself for things outside your control)
- Focus on what you can do (hand hygiene) and accept the things you can’t change (government responses)
- Focus on facts – illness due to COVID-19 infection is usually mild and most people recover without needing specialised treatment. Impacts of COVID-19 are time limited
- Find a healthy balance in relation to media coverage – being exposed to constant media coverage can heighten feelings of fear and anxiety. While it’s important to stay informed, you may find it useful to limit your media intake and seek out only factual information from reliable sources such as the Australian Government’s health alert.
- Show compassion and kindness to one another – these times of fear, isolation (both physical and social) and uncertainty are when it’s most important that we remain connected and support each other. Remind ourselves that we can manage this much better together in solidarity. Show extra consideration, remember to laugh and if people to get snappy, cut them a bit of slack. If there is someone you think may struggle through isolation, actively reach out to them and let them know you care:
- Call them to check on their welfare
- Send a text or email
- Leave a note under their door
Helping children cope through COVID-19
This is an uncertain time for everyone, and children may be impacted by fear and anxiety. Here are some tips on how to ensure your children are supported;
- Give your children extra attention and reassurance.
- Minimise their exposure to media and social media that may heighten anxiety
- Acknowledge your own feelings about the situation and let children know it’s okay to share their own feelings
- Include your children in plans and activities around the house
Where to go for support
If you or someone you know is struggling during this time, we encourage you to seek professional support early. For those of you who are already managing mental health issues, continue with your treatment plan and monitor for any new symptoms. For others, the following support is available:
Lifeline: This service is available via multiple channels
- Phone: 13 11 14, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
- Text: 0477 13 11 14, 6pm – midnight, 7 nights a week
- Webchat, https://www.lifeline.org.au/crisis-chat – 7pm – midnight, 7 nights a week
Your GP: Your GP is a medical professional who can conduct screening and assessment and refer you to a mental health provider. Medicare apply rebates under the Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists and General Practitioners through the MBS (Better Access) initiative. You may receive up to 10 individual and up to 10 group allied mental health services per year. There may be a gap payment you need to cover.
Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636, https://beyondblue.org.au