Staying Calm and Kind about COVID-19
Feeling worried during a stressful event such as the current global pandemic is normal, and healthy levels of stress actually help make helpful and healthy choices. We can take steps to recognise and manage our stress to refocus on the positive things in life and prevent escalating into more severe anxiety or even panic. Even though some things have been restricted, there is still so much we CAN do.
Find the facts and minimize media
Unfortunately, most media tends to focus on extreme scenarios and portray graphic and distressing images which evoke a heightened state of anxiety and fear. Similarly, when we see our supermarkets bare and others frightened, the fear becomes every bit as contagious as the virus itself. Try to limit your exposure to related media including social media sites that ‘feed’ on the sense of panic. Instead, find factual information from reliable sources eg. the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Australian Government’s Health Alert (www.health.gov.au), both easily found online. Alternatively, you can phone the Australian Government’s National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080. Keep your focus on fun too.
Follow sensible precautions
Following basic hygiene principles minimizes risk (yours and others) and helps us feel safe. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends washing your hands thoroughly and frequently, avoid touching your face, stay at home if you feel unwell until you recover, and seek medical care if you have a fever, cough, or breathing difficulties.
Be kind to your body
Make sure you do something active every day. Go for a walk, run, ride (within government restrictions), or enjoy time in the garden. If you’re indoors, dance to a great soundtrack or find a fun exercise program online. Practice relaxation, breathing, meditation and mindfulness to allow your body to settle and your mind to calm. Boost your immune system with fresh and healthy fruit and vegetables. And if you are home for an extended period, keep regular sleep patterns, maintain healthy habits including showers and meal times, and minimize use of alcohol, caffeine and other substances.
Be kind to others
Sharing is caring… you may be able to cook extra for any friends or other community members who are unwell and deliver to their doorstep. Try to only buy what you need from the grocery store. Share resources, ideas, and encouragement with each other. Find fun and keep your sense of humour. And be sensitive to the needs of those who may be vulnerable to not only the physical impact of the illness, but also the financial, emotional, and relational impact. After all, we’re all in this together.
Isolate but don’t be isolated
Reach out to friends or others you know in ways other than social gatherings or events – phone, text, Skype, send an email, or write a letter. Less physical contact means other forms of contact and connection become even more important and treasured. Support local small businesses wherever you can. This is a great time to try out different meals or other local services that can safely deliver or let you pick up from their door. And most services and healthcare are offering alternatives to face to face service – check with your doctor or allied health professional about online or phone consults, order delivery of food and other items, take classes online etc. You might even like to learn a new skill like craft, yoga, or another language. Think outside the square.
Tune in to the good stuff
Right now there are beautiful shades of autumn colour all around and the weather is milder. We now have opportunity to do those things we often tell ourselves we’ll do when we get time – read a good book, play board games, enjoy our gardens and back yards, dust off the table tennis table, clean out a cupboard, go for a scenic drive, chat to friends, or catch up on favourite movies and TV shows. Snuggle up to your four-legged furry friends. Use your 5 senses to refocus on the unique beauty of what you can see, touch, hear, taste and smell.
Wishing doesn’t work
We may wish COVID-19 didn’t exist, or wish others behaved differently, or even wish we could still go to sporting events, concerts or church. But wishing doesn’t make it so. When we accept that this situation is how it is, we may feel like we’re giving up. And yet by accepting it, we then free ourselves to be at peace and to focus on making helpful and healthy choices. When we focus on what we can control, we worry less and can surprise ourselves with how much we can achieve. If you notice yourself starting to worry, check and see whether it is something you can do something about. If so, you have something helpful to do. If not, let that worry go. It just clouds otherwise useful thinking space, consumes energy unnecessarily and takes up valuable time. Focus on the possibilities rather than the problems.
Set boundaries, be brave and buoyant
These past weeks, almost every conversation, news post and report have been about the coronavirus. It is ok, and actually very healthy, to reduce our discussions on the illness and increase our discussions on all the other aspects of our daily lives. If a colleague or friend continues to speak about coronavirus all day at work or when you’re together, it can increase our anxiety. It will be healthy for both of you if you say something like, “I would rather not talk about this anymore. It’s making me feel anxious.” Or you may prefer to be proactive in initiating healthy conversations like, “How are your kids enjoying their new toys?” or “Have you enjoyed any new books this week?”
Stress, and media hype, make things seem worse than they are. Instead of catastrophizing and imagining worst-case scenarios, bring your attention back to the here and now. Remember:
The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Australia is very low
Large numbers of people have already recovered from the illness
Current restrictions and advice are intended to slow the spread of the illness so we can all access healthcare appropriately; illness due to coronavirus is mostly mild and most of us will recover without needing any specialised treatment. We are simply protecting one another by keeping safe distances.
Some things have changed but lots is still the same. Focus on what you CAN do rather than what you CAN’T do, and keep simple routines in place where possible.
There are many times in your life where you’ve felt overwhelmed. And you’ve made it through them all! Enjoy uplifting films or books that highlight the strength and power of the human spirit – Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning, Forrest Gump, or a cheery singalong like The Sound of Music or Mamma Mia all remind us of ways to find joy, love and happiness in challenging circumstances.
Ask for help if you’re feeling overwhelmed
Friends, family and health professionals can offer support if you need it. Contact your GP if you feel overwhelmed – they may suggest appropriate supports including psychologists, nutritionists, physiotherapists, exercise physiologists and counsellors. There is also practical financial support available through community agencies like Lutheran Community Care and Centrelink. For excellent relaxation and mindfulness exercises, download apps like Smiling Mind, Calm and Headspace. These apps also have great activities to help you get to sleep. You can phone Lifeline on 131114 or BeyondBlue on 1300 224 636 if you are feeling depressed or worried.
Remember you have survived everything in your life so far. The chances are very good you will cope with this too.
Be observant of any changes in Government Policy.
Written by Kirsty Moore