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  • Lemuel Tan

Looking After Your Mental Health During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak

Updated: Mar 23, 2020

Like it or not the coronavirus (COVID-19) has arrived on Australian shores. This unprecedented situation has caught many of us off-guard, created unwelcome changes in our daily comforts and put a spanner in our daily life. We have been used to the many freedoms we have, such as: going to the shops, buying a coffee, going to work, walking the dog, etc., that the idea of COVID-19 negatively impacting our normal way of life is just unbelievable. Here are some general mental health well-being tips during this period:


ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR FEELINGS: Being human is to experience emotions and when faced with uncertainty, all sorts of emotions may arise. The current COVID-19 situation may give rise to heightened feelings of anxiety, fear, distress, concern, etc. These are very normal emotions. These emotions help bring awareness that you need to do something. However, being controlled by strong emotions can be quite unhealthy and unhelpful. Pushing those emotions away and suppressing them is equally unhealthy as it may pop up somewhere you may least expect. As cliché as it sounds, acknowledging them is indeed the first step to fixing anything. It is important to take time and validate those feelings and understand that those feelings have a purpose.


PAUSE AND NOT REACT: It is normal to want to act out on those emotions. Do take a pause and not react. Just pause and wait for those strong emotions to subside. Remember that no matter how true the facts are, those facts can be swayed by strong emotions. To truly respond appropriately, we need to let those emotions cool down and allow ourselves to think. For example, it is hard to think when you are very angry and this is the same for when you are very anxious or in distress.


HEALTHY MEDIA COVERAGE: The larger the exposure of negative information, the more heightened the negative feelings become. As much as it is important to stay informed, setting healthy limits and boundaries to information is equally important to your health. Being controlled by strong negative feelings will not help you or/and your family.


DO NOT MAKE ASSUMPTIONS: COVID-19 impacts everyone regardless of race, religion, gender, background, social status, etc. To be successful as a nation, we will need to be united as one. Do not judge when a person coughs or sneezes in public, they may be perfectly fine and may have already felt quite bad about it. Making assumptions about another person’s ethnicity, religion, gender, etc. does not help the individual nor yourself. They do not need more shame from the public. Making assumptions become a breeding ground for contempt and mistrust. Do not blame a race or nationality for the outbreak. Instead be kind, compassionate and empathetic towards those who are affected.


REDUCE STIGMA: Do not stigmatise those who have COVID-19. They are as normal a person as you and me. They are trying to recover and get on with their normal lives. Be mindful of your language and do not call them “victims”, “cases” or “patients”. Instead, refer to them as “people who are recovering from CVOID-10”.


STAY CONNECTED WITH PEOPLE: Human beings are made for relationships and even though there is an increasing number of people in self-isolation or have voluntarily self-isolated, it is important to keep those relationships alive. This is where modern day technology (mobile phones) can be helpful in connecting with each other. Check in with your friends, neighbours, family members, etc. Help those who might need extra assistance. We need to be united in this together.


SETTING GOALS AT HOME:

If you are self-isolating or are required to stay at home for the next 2 weeks, remember to set routines, daily goals and weekly goals. Being isolated may lead to boredom, lower your mood and lower your sense of self. The brain likes predictability and setting routines in place, for example: watering the garden in the evening, exercising when you wake up, practice grounding/mindfulness right after lunch, etc., will give your brain some level of normality. Setting goals and achieving goals help keep your mind active and it gives you a sense of achievement when you reach those goals. Remember to ensure the goals are achievable. Learning how to fly a plane in two weeks when you have never flown one before is not achievable!


WALKING AWAY FROM UNHELPFUL TALKS: People will talk and you may be drawn into conversations that you least expect. If you notice yourself being triggered, remember that it is okay to excuse yourself and walk away. Your mental health is important too. Acknowledging and responding to your emotional needs and safety is equally as important as your physical needs.


BASIC NEEDS: We can forget our basic needs when the brain is stressed out. Remember to:

  • Have enough sleep.

  • Maintain proper nutrition/healthy diet.

  • Exercise regularly.

  • Drink enough water.


CONVERSATIONS WITH CHILDREN: Children are highly perceptive towards emotions. It is important that we be honest with them in an age appropriate way, rather than shield them from observing the emotional state of others. It is crucial that we listen to their thoughts & feelings and allow them to ask as many questions as they want. Let them know that they are safe and it is normal to feel anxious, concerned, or worried. Validation of feelings is a huge antidote to fear and anxiety.


ACCESS GOOD QUALITY INFORMATION: Obtain information from accurate and credible sources such as those listed below.

MENTAL HEALTH VIDEO CONFERENCE (UPDATED AS OF 23/03/2020):

On 11 March 2020, the Prime Minister, the Hon. Scott Morrison MP, announced a $2.4 Billion health plan to fight COVID-19 to protect all Australians, including vulnerable groups such as the elderly, those with chronic conditions and Indigenous communities, from the COVID-19.


Medicare has defined “vulnerable/isolated” as those where at least one of the following applies: A) the person has been diagnosed with COVID-19 virus but who is not a patient of a hospital; or B) the person has been required to self-isolate or is in quarantine in accordance with home isolation guidance issued by Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC); or C) the person is considered more susceptible to the COVID-19 virus being a person who is:

(i) at least 70 years old; or (ii) at least 50 years old and is of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent; or (iii) is pregnant; or (iv) is a parent of a child under 12 months; or (v) immune compromised; or (vi) have a chronic medical condition that results in increased risk from coronavirus infection.

AURE: Psychology, Counselling & Therapy now provides a new Medicare Item number 91170 for those who meet the above criteria and require psychological input but are unable to attend in person. You can now ring us and we can start or continue our current sessions via video conference.



Disclaimer: The material on this blog is not to be used by any commercial or personal entity without expressed written consent of the blog's author. The article above is an opinion of an individual clinician and should not be taken as full clinical advice. The statements on this blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any mental health or mental illnesses. Always consult your doctor for medical advice or seek professional therapy.

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