Dealing with anxiety and stress due to COVID-19
The media has been saturated with information about the coronavirus. Whilst there is copious amounts of information about isolation, COVID-19 symptoms, contagion and financial uncertainty – information on looking after your mental health is harder to find.
Many people may be experiencing anxiety or stress in relation to the coronavirus. There are many ways to look after your mental health. To assist in this challenging time, we have listed some important factors below.
Limit your exposure to media coverage
Exposing yourself to a constant stream of negative information can take a large psychological toll. It is good to stay informed but be conscious of how much you are reading and watching. If you or your family members are feeling upset or anxious, it may be useful to cut down on your media intake.
To ensure you are receiving correct and up to date information, seek information from reputable sources, such as the World Health Organisation and the Australian Government, Department of Health. Limit your consumption of social media discussions that are sensationalist and not always factual.
Routine can be helpful when it comes to managing our mental health. The predictability of routine can offer some comfort in an otherwise unpredictable world.
Where possible continue your usual daily routine. Get up at the same time, have a shower and prepare for the day as you normally would. If you are working from home be at your computer at the same time you would in the office. Allocate time throughout your day. Work the normal hours you would in the office. If you are working from home complete household chores at the times you would normally do them (after work or weekends). Sticking to a routine gives a feeling of normalcy and it makes it easier to accomplish everything because it becomes habit.
Exercise can boost our mood and is a classic anxiety reduction strategy. If you exercise regularly continue to do so. If your usual form of exercise is not available, try something new. If your gym has temporarily closed, try a walk instead of a gym workout or try a new fitness app. You never know you may discover a new form of exercise to enjoy!
Stay in touch with your networks
Stay connected and check in regularly with your family and friends. If you are in quarantine or self-isolating stay in touch via email, social media, teleconferencing and by phone.
Don’t forget the children
Children are like sponges and absorb information from social media, news, students and adult discussions. Be open and honest with children. Try to relate the facts without causing alarm. Answer any questions they may have. Give your children extra attention and assurance.
10 tips on working from home
For many people, coming to work and being part of community groups is a way of managing mental health issues. Being isolated can be very damaging for them. People who also suffer from anxiety can be particularly triggered at a time like this. Tips to assist when working from home include:
- Keep your normal routine – get up at the same time and get ready for work as usual. Be at your computer by the same time you normally would if you were in the office. You might even want to go for a quick walk around the block and then when you re-enter your home – start your work day!
- Don’t let household chores distract you. Complete them at times you would normally do them;
- Ensure you spend some time out in the fresh air. We are still permitted to exercise. Take a break and go for a walk at lunch time or have a walk at the start or end of your day;
- Working remotely may feel isolating, especially if you live alone. Regularly check in with teammates via team meetings, regular messaging, Skype calls etc. Sometimes, rather than an email, take the time to call your colleague via Skype. You will both get a lift from the face to face contact;
- At the start of the day, set out what you want to achieve by the end of the day. This will keep you focused and ticking off your list so at the end of the day you can feel accomplished;
- Don’t forget ergonomics – take breaks, get up and move and stretch regularly;
- If it’s possible, have a defined or dedicated work space, ideally somewhere you can shut the door to when you finish for the day. Try to make this work-space as “office like” as possible. Include personal items such as a pot plant or photo. When you finish for the day, turn your computer off for the night. Have a set finish time. Once done for the day, consider your work day over;
- Try to reduce distractions. This can be difficult especially if you have young kids at home. Try to schedule some activities that will keep kids busy for a while and let you get on with your work. Limiting screen time will also give you some much needed work time. TV is another distraction for you. It can be tempting to have the TV on in the background but it will take you away from your work. Keep the TV off (unless you are using it to keep the kids occupied).
- Now that you’re not commuting, make the most of your extra time – fit in some exercise, a hobby, extra time with the family or finally watch that Netflix show on your to watch list!
- Don’t forget healthy eating! It’s very tempting being at home with a stocked pantry to continually graze all day. Try to stick to your regular snack and meal times and make healthy choices (chocolate, of course, is an exception. I don’t understand why people are stockpiling baked beans, noodles etc. but NOT chocolate but I’m glad that they’re not!)
Where to go for information and support.
It is important to seek out help if you feel you need it. The links below may assist:
- Australian Government – Department of Health website
- World Health Organisation website
- Smart Traveller website
- Beyond Blue website