Maintaining Mental Health during COVID-19

Well what an extraordinary time the world has been through in the last few months! The economic, social and psychological impacts of lockdown due to the Covid-19 Pandemic have been immense.

We are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel now, with restrictions easing and life slowly returning to normal, or a ‘new normal’. Making certain we get connected again is critical according to RU OK? CEO Kathleen Newton.

“Those who are feeling well can make it their daily routine to reach out to connect with someone who might be struggling.”

MindSpot have published on their website mindspot.org.au this list of 10 very sound psychological tips for coping with Covid-19:

  1. Get informed with the right information
    We are ‘hard-wired’ to react to possible threats to ourselves, our families, and our communities. But at times, our reactions may also be excessive and unhelpful, and may cause significant stress and worry.
    Relying on news from mainstream media or social media, which may sensationalise or exaggerate issues, can further increase our stress and anxiety. Consider only accessing trusted sources of information (e.g., ABC Radio, Australian Government Department of Health website, World Health Organisation website, etc).
  1. Understand history
    Events like infectious diseases often follow a predictable course. In the past 50 years there have been multiple national and international episodes of concern around conditions such as tuberculosis, SARS, Ebola, HIV, hepatitis, measles, to name a few. Initially, there is often scepticism, followed by attention, followed by panic, followed by reality, followed by a return to normality.
    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.
  1. Get organised
    A good antidote to stress and worry is to get active and organised. If you are worried about something, then do something. Make plans and write your list of what you need to buy, organise, or set-up, and get on with doing it. Tick off each item and turn your ‘To Do’ list into a ‘Ta-Da’ list.
    Whenever you recognise you are getting stressed, ask yourself, ‘What do I need to do to help manage this situation?’
  1. Balance your thoughts
    When we get stressed about our health or risks of infection our thoughts can become dark, brooding, and pessimistic. Thoughts like, “How will I cope if I get sick?” Negative and dark brooding thoughts will stop you doing things that can help.
    Remember, our thoughts are not always true or helpful. Challenge your negative thoughts by balancing them with more realistic thoughts.
  1. Shut down the noise
    Stress is infectious, and often unhelpful. People tend to talk about things they are worried about, which creates lots of ‘noise’, which can create even more stress.
    Give yourself permission to switch off the ‘noise’ such as social media, news, or even radio for most of each day. Also give yourself permission to excuse yourself from people who are creating stress. Replace the ‘noise’ with things that can help you, and are enjoyable.
  1. Remember who you are
    Most people are good, kind, and sensible. They care for others and the environment and want to make the world a better place. These reflect important ‘values’.
    Stressful times can make it challenging to act in the way that is aligned with our values. But, even when feeling stressed, remember who you are, and what you believe in. Remember to be gentle, kind, and respectful to yourself and to others; other people are probably as stressed and worried as you are.
  1. Keep healthy routines
    We all have routines in our daily lives. Major events naturally create changes in routines, particularly if we can’t do some of our usual activities. Try to maintain a routine, even if a little altered, that includes eating nutritiously, engaging in good sleep, hygiene and exercising.
  1. Stay engaged
    Another key strategy for keeping good mental wellbeing is to stay connected and engaged with people and activities that are meaningful. Reflect on what these are for you and schedule time in your routine to keep doing them.
    You might have to modify how you stay connected, for example, using Skype or Facetime or Whatsapp instead of face-to-face visits.
  1. Do the things that you enjoy and that are good for you
    When we are stressed, we tend to avoid doing things that we normally do, including things that are good for our mental health. Even if we can’t do those things in exactly the same way due to quarantine or isolation, it is essential that we make the time and effort to do things that we find valuable and meaningful and fun.
  1. Keep looking forward
    Remember the famous saying, ‘this too shall pass’. It may not feel like it, but things will return to normal. In the meantime, it is important to have confidence that things will improve, that people will recover, and things will get back to normal.
    In addition to maintaining your long-term goals, also think about things that you will do each day and week, which you can and will enjoy. Again, try and bring others into your plans; they might also benefit from thinking about the future.

Yours in Mental Health,

Suzanne Norman