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Keeping Calm During Coronavirus

by Ann-Maree Chadwick

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Still feeling anxious or worried about Coronavirus? Not sure if it’s safe for restrictions to lift or to return to work? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

“We are fighting a war on two fronts. We are fighting the virus, and we are fighting fear. When we act on fears, then we’re in a dangerous place.” - New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Whilst we can all agree that Australia has done a fantastic job of slowing the spread of COVID-19 and as a consequence, our rate of infection and death is considerably lower than in most other countries around the world, there still exists an element of fear and an increase in anxiety for many people at this time.

The introduction of JobKeeper Payments has been a welcome gift for many Australian workers, but there are those people for whom being asked to return to work and even travelling to their workplace, may cause worries around whether they will be able to safe.

The Australian Psychological Society provides a fantastic resource for dealing with coronavirus anxiety at https://www.psychology.org.au/COVID-19-Australians

It addresses the need for managing stress before it becomes severe anxiety and even panic as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Feelings of worry and unease should be expected after a stressful event, such as the recent declaration of a global pandemic and so addressing the following may help;  

Learn the facts

Constant media coverage about the coronavirus can fuel our anxiety.

Take a break from the news if you have to. Turn it off, log off social media and instead seek out factual information from reliable sources such as the Australian Government’s health alert, or other trusted organisations.

Keep things in perspective

When we are stressed, it is common to catastrophise and see things as much worse than they really are.

Rather than imagining the worst-case scenario and increasing your worry, ask yourself:

  • Am I assuming something really bad will happen when I don’t even know the outcome? Remind yourself that the actual number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Australia is extremely low.
  • Am I overestimating how bad the consequences will be? Remember, the medical evidence so far is that illness due to coronavirus infection is usually mild and most people recover.
  • Am I underestimating my ability to cope?

Sometimes thinking about the worst thing that could happen and how you would cope if it did, can help you put things into perspective.

Take reasonable precautions

Following basic hygiene principles can really help to keep your anxiety at bay.

The World Health Organization recommends a number of protective measures against coronavirus, including:

  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Stay at home if you begin to feel unwell until you fully recover
  • Seek medical care early if you have a fever, cough or experience breathing difficulties

Whilst we are all living with restrictions, being asked to stay at home as much as possible and keep social distancing measures in place when we do go out, the following tips can help to maintain positive mental health and keep anxiety at bay:

Remember to Connect with People

Use this time to reconnect with friends via a phone call or video call. Free tools to connect with family and friends include Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp, FaceTime, House Party.

Make sure to check in with people and ask them how they are feeling and also share with others how you are feeling.

Consider scheduling your regular social catch-ups – whether it’s book club, trivia night, family dinners and schedule in virtual after work drinks with your friends and work colleagues.

  • If you don’t feel comfortable speaking with friends and family Beyond Blue is available for a confidential and free chat; 1800 512 348 
  • Beyond Blue also has an online forum; https://www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support/onlineforums/staying-well/coping-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak

Create and Maintain Structure

Structure creates a sense of normality. Creating a plan for each day with set times for each task, can provide stability and comfort at a time of uncertainty. It’s also important to continue to involve yourself in those activities you previously most enjoyed, as much as you can:

  • If you used to go to the gym every morning before work, try to do an at home workout or go outside for some fresh air.
  • If you like going out for lunch, pick up some takeaway or order in and schedule a video call with friends at the same time
  • Try to go to bed at the same time each night to maintain your routine

Look After Your Physical Health

Regular exercise plays a huge role in keeping us mentally well. It releases ‘feel-good’ chemicals like dopamine, endorphins and serotonin, helping to improve mood and reduce stress. Exercising reduces stress and anxiety, keeps you fit and boosts your immune system, so:

  • Make sure to schedule time each day to exercise, whether that’s a walk around the block or a high intensity workout at home
  • For a free at home workout search out the many home workouts available on YouTube
  • Try to maintain a healthy diet, resisting the temptation to binge on junk food or sweet treats           
  • While the occasional serve of comfort food is fine, a diet high in fat, salt and sugar is likely to aggravate anxiety and weaken your immune system

Mindfulness Apps

  • Insight Timer - has over 25,000 free guided meditations, from 1 to 90+ minutes. Try searching by a topic that interests you (e.g. stress, learning to meditate, sleep)
  • Smiling Mind - might be a good option if you don’t want to be overwhelmed by choice. The meditations are organised by structured programs, such as Mindful Foundations, Sleep, Relationships, etc.
  • Headspace - has a series of guided and unguided meditations, and plenty of other relevant content to listen in your own time and at your own pace. It takes ten minutes a day to listen and clear your mind
  • Calm - has some gorgeous backgrounds that are very calming to look at, and a series of meditations that can be completed from 10-20 minutes
  • If meditation isn’t your thing, try doing an everyday activity in a mindful way. Put aside distractions and focus fully on one small task. For example, while you’re having a cup of tea, enjoy the tea, don’t scroll on social media, be in the moment. 

Helpful resources