Overwhelmed by Covid-19 worries? Here’s how to support your mental health

Mar 24, 2020
If you're feeling lonely, reach out for support. Source: Getty

We are facing increasingly uncertain times. The outbreak of coronavirus is impacting millions of people across the globe in many different ways, and in times of uncertainty, it’s understandable to feel scared, anxious, stressed and even overwhelmed by the changes.

And while we’ve all been encouraged to practice social distancing and self-isolate in our homes to help flatten the curve and reduce the spread of Covid-19, it comes with a cost. In particular, for those that live alone, it could contribute to feelings of loneliness.

If you’re feeling stressed or anxious or find yourself dealing with depressive thoughts, it’s important to remember that help is available. We’re all in this together and now more than ever, it’s time for Aussies to band together and to check in with friends, family and neighbours. While we may not be able to see them physically, there are many ways to connect and gain that social connection we all crave during times of loneliness. Pick up the phone, make a FaceTime call to your grandkids or arrange a Skype date to enjoy a virtual coffee with your friends.

As former prime minister Julia Gillard said recently: “We all have a role to play in ensuring that our communities are as safe and healthy as they can be and that everyone has access to the support and provisions they need”.

Isolation is something that Gillard is familiar with, recently having to endure a period of quarantine after her friend Sophie Trudeau, the wife of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, tested positive for coronavirus. Writing for the Herald Sun recently, Gillard – who’s chair of Beyond Blue, the mental health organisation – spoke about how we can take care of our mental health when facing these uncertain times.

“It’s perfectly normal to feel a level of anxiety about events unfolding here and overseas and question how they will impact on you and your family and friends,” she said. “Uncertainty about what will happen next and disruption to our usual routines can make it difficult to stay grounded and can increase feelings of helplessness.

“But we are not helpless. Just as there are practical steps we can take to reduce our risk of catching or spreading the virus, there are many things we can do to minimise distress and strengthen our emotional wellbeing.”

For those who are feeling anxious or distressed during these uncertain times, Beyond Blue suggests the following:

  • Remind yourself that this is a temporary period of isolation to slow the spread of the virus
  • Remember that your effort is helping others in the community avoid contracting the virus
  • Stay connected with friends, family and colleagues via email, social media, video conferencing or telephone
  • Connect with others via online forums
  • Engage in healthy activities that you enjoy and find relaxing
  • Keep regular sleep routines and eat healthy foods
  • Try to maintain physical activity
  • Establish routines as best possible and try to view this period as a new experience that can bring health benefits
  • For those working from home, try to maintain a healthy balance by allocating specific work hours, taking regular breaks and, if possible, establishing a dedicated workspace
  • Avoid news and social media if you find it distressing.

Meanwhile, Lifeline has some great suggestions for how to stay connected to your loved ones and your community even when you can’t see people in person. Lifeline’s suggestions include:

  • Setting up a ‘gratitude tree’ by creating a group using text, email or a messaging app such as WhatsApp, then have all the group members post a message or send a text to other members to share something they are grateful for. Do it every day to keep your spirits up.
  • Set challenges with a friend or group of friends that you’re in digital contact with (a new, healthy habit, hobby or simply something a bit silly like daring each other to wear something you haven’t pulled out of the closet in years), then check in daily with each other to ensure you stay motivated. Now’s the time to try learning a new language and testing it out on each other!
  • Make a date to watch the same TV show or movies with someone and message each other your thoughts along the way… like Goggle Box but on separate couches.
  • Join your local community’s social media group to keep up to date with what’s going on directly around you. This might give you an opportunity to help someone nearby who needs a hand, which is certain to take your mind off your current situation.

Head to Health, an Australian government initiative to support mental wellbeing, points out that trying to keep things in perspective, even when your mind might want to blow them out of proportion, can really help.

It reminds readers that events like infectious diseases often follow a predictable course and that this isn’t the first time we’ve faced such a threat over the past 50 years. Remember tuberculosis, SARS, Ebola, HIV, hepatitis and measles, to name a few?

“Initially, there is often skepticism, followed by attention, followed by panic, followed by reality, followed by a return to normality,” the Head to Health site says. “Stock markets and supermarket shelves are good indicators of where we are in the course. Reminding yourself of these patterns can help you to understand the course and plan for the future.”

You can find other calming, fact-based thoughts about the current crisis on the Head to Health site here. They may well help set your mind to rest on something that’s worrying you.

There are also online and telephone-based support services if you need to talk to someone.

Mental health support

Beyond Blue

If you’re feeling anxious or depressed, Beyond Blue has a wide range of resources available, including online forums where you can talk to people who are experiencing similar things.  To speak to someone directly, phone 1300 22 4636, or visit the Beyond Blue website to chat to a professional online.

Lifeline

If you need someone to talk to, but don’t have friends and family who you can reach out to, Lifeline is available 24/7. You can phone their hotline and speak to a compassionate support worker on 13 11 14. If you’d prefer not to talk directly, Lifeline Text gives you the option to text with a support worker from 6pm – 12pm, or you can use the Crisis Support Chat feature on the website to speak to someone from 7pm – 12pm seven days a week.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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Are you struggling with feelings of anxiety? How do you manage your concerns?

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