Staying on top of your mental health: tips for coping during COVID-19
Tips and ideas to help you reduce stress and cope with the changes and uncertainty you may be experiencing.
With major changes happening on a near daily basis during the COVID-19 outbreak it’s little wonder many of us are feeling worried, anxious, scared, stressed, and maybe a little bit on edge. But while we all make changes to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, it’s just as important to look after our mental and emotional wellbeing, too.
Here are some tips and ideas to help you reduce stress and cope with the changes and uncertainty you may be experiencing.
Go on a news diet
It’s important to stay informed and act, but there’s a lot of misinformation out there, so stick to trusted sources. The World Health Organization and The Department of Health are two good ones where you’ll find reliable information and practical actions you can take. And even with these it’s worth setting some limits — for example, try not to check more than once or twice a day.
Make an effort to keep things in perspective. If you’re finding social distancing, social isolation or quarantine tough, remind yourself why you’re doing it: to help keep yourself, your loved ones and your community safe by preventing the virus from spreading.
This can also help to reframe negative thoughts. For example, you could think of the experience as a unique moment in history that you get to be a part of, and look for ways to make the most of the experience.
Cooling the conflict
Having everyone at home more than usual, in a confined space, along with increasing stress levels, can be fuel for conflict and arguments. Here are some ways you can be proactive and reduce potential tension.
- Make a plan to divide housework up fairly. You can have a chat about who is doing what and create a roster or checklist.
- Book in time to exercise. It can help lift your mood, reduce stress and keep you healthy.
- Give yourself space — if you feel tension rising, take some time out to calm down. A 15 to 20 minute break can be enough to reduce pressure and help you think more clearly.
- Make an effort to communicate assertively. This means being clear about what you want, need, feel or think, but expressing it in a way that is respectful of the other person. Communicating assertively is the middle ground between passively accepting something and reacting aggressively.
- Keep fun and laughter flowing. Don’t underestimate the power of a good meme or joke to diffuse tension, and look for fun things you can do together, even if you’re physically apart, like watching a film.
Keep yourself occupied
If you find yourself with more time on your hands, look for opportunities. Is there a skill or hobby you’ve been wanting to add to your life? This is a great time to learn something new, pick up painting or a new craft, dust off that guitar, download a language learning app, get going on that writing project, or start devising the business plan you’ve been talking about for ages.
If you’re feeling tense or anxious, it can help to learn some strategies to help you relax and reduce stress. These include controlled breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness or meditation, among others. Try downloading Smiling Mind or a similar app for mindfulness tips. And don’t forget to stay active, make sleep a priority and eat as well as you can.
Soak up some sun, anyway you can
Sunlight, fresh air and nature can have a big impact on your overall wellbeing. If you’re not able to get outside in a backyard or garden, you can open your curtains or blinds and sit by the window, let some fresh air in if it’s not too cold, bring some pot plants or flowers inside, and try to catch the sunrise or sunset if you can.
Try to keep a schedule
Create a daily routine and slot in time for meals, physical activity, things you enjoy, and regular work hours if you’re employed. These can all help you keep a sense of normalcy and give your days a sense of purpose.
Stay connected and check in on others
Ring or message friends and neighbours, especially those who live alone or might be particularly impacted. Video chats, phone calls, group message chats and good old-fashioned emails and letters can help you feel more in touch and supported. You can also turn real-life get togethers into virtual ones and still have opportunities to network, commiserate, have a laugh, share ideas or catch up. Or create “watch parties” for movies or TV shows and message-chat as you view. Lifeline suggests creating a “Gratitude tree” where each person in the group writes something they’re grateful for each day. Brainstorm ideas with friends to come up with fun ways to stay connected and support each other.
Reach out for support
Don’t be afraid to reach out for more support from a mental health professional if you’re feeling distressed, anxious, down or lonely. This is a challenging time and they’re there to help, like our Mental Health Phone Support if you’re a member – see below. For more about how to stay mentally well, check out this resource from Beyond Blue.
24/7 Medibank Mental Health Phone Support If you’re a Medibank member with hospital cover* you can call 1800 644 325 to speak to a mental health professional for confidential support, advice or information. We are increasing the number of health experts to keep up with higher demand, but please be patient if wait times are a little longer than expected.
*OSHC members should call the Student Health & Support Line on 1800 887 283.
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