Caring for your wellbeing during stressful times
We are currently facing an unprecedented health crisis across the globe. It has impacted upon our cities, our workplaces and our homes.
When humans face a crisis, feelings of fear and worry are inevitable. These are natural responses to uncertainty, and it is normal to worry about your wellbeing and safety, as well as the wellbeing of people you love. While these are natural responses, it is helpful to consider what we can do to reduce the impact anxiety and fear can have on our mental health.
It is important to remain informed on this crisis’ developments and to focus on what actions you need to take to maintain your wellbeing. However, continual exposure to the media can heighten anxiety and bring about a fearful response (such as panic buying). Instead you should seek out factual information from reliable sources such as the Australian Government Department of Health or the World Health Organisation website.
Experts have recommended good hygiene, frequent handwashing, social distancing and maintaining a daily routine during this time. When self-isolating, don’t give up on activities that improve your mood, including daily physical exercise, social contact and healthy eating. These activities can positively impact upon your wellbeing and mental outlook. It is important to respect the precautionary measures of self-isolation, which means adapting these activities to remain safe amid the COVID-19 crisis. For example, you can set up a time to call or Facetime a friend and have a virtual lunch together. This can provide you with much needed social interaction, in a safe setting.
If you have children, it’s important to talk to them about COVID-19 in a calm manner. Explain the importance of good hygiene and handwashing so they can feel an element of control, reassure them that coronavirus is less common in children compared to adults, and allow them regular contact (phone, Facetime) with people they worry about (such as grandparents) to reassure them that they are doing ok. Children can respond to stress in a variety of ways including becoming more clingy, anxious, angry, withdrawing or recommencing bedwetting. Don’t overwhelm children with unnecessary information as this can increase anxiety (such as statistics) and turn off the news when they are around.
It is important to model calmness to children and encourage them to talk about how they are feeling. Explain it is normal to feel worried about getting sick in this current crisis. Children look to their parents for cues on how to respond so its important to manage your own anxiety before talking to them about what is going on. Children can need increased attention and love during this difficult time.
Even doing the best you can, there may be times when you feel overwhelmed and your mental wellbeing is affected by these current challenges. Sometimes the stress of dealing with a crisis of such scale is beyond our ability to cope.
At these times, it is okay to reach out to family and friends, and share your feelings with them. You can also connect to specialist mental health services like Lifeline, Beyond Blue and your local mental health centre for additional care. You can also connect with a local psychologist for ongoing support through telehealth. Some numbers you might find helpful include:
- Lifeline Australia (24 hour support): 13 11 14
- Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636
- Next Step Counselling Support: (02) 6287 8066
- CatholicCare Psychological Services: (02) 6162 6100
- Canberra Health Services: 1800 629 354 or 6205 1065
Helpful websites may also include:
- 1800 RESPECT https://www.1800respect.org.au/
- Psychology Australia https://www.psychology.org.au/
- World Health Organisation https://www.who.int/
- Kids Helpline https://www.kidshelpline.com.au/
- Relationships Australia http://www.relationships.org.au/
Maintaining your mental health and wellbeing is essential. If you notice your mental health being compromised, try these actions to minimise the impact of these worldwide events. When your plans fail, know that you are not alone and there are services available to support you and your family.