15th April 2020
I have caught myself saying to people multiple times these past weeks that “Feelings of anxiety, fear, uncertainty helplessness and frustration are shared normal responses to an abnormal situation”. COVID-19 poses a serious threat to our physical safety, however it is important that we ensure our mental health is not neglected as we take measures to respond to the current crisis.
So why it is important to prioritise your mental health during a crisis?
Your mental health IS ALWAYS important
The World Health Organisation states “without mental health, there is no health”. Mental health concerns and mental illness are common, with nearly half of all Australian’s developing a mental illness at some point in their lives. There is now a vast body of evidence and various professional advocates outlining that our mental health is just as important as our physical health. There are also clear connections between mental health and physical health symptoms: Poor physical health can lead to increased risk of mental health concerns, and poor mental health can have a negative impact or result in a decline in physical health.
The reality is that if you don’t attend to your mental health and care for your well being the outcome is that your emotional needs go unmet; and your quality life, work, relationships and physical health suffers. “After all, you spend most of your life in your head, make sure it’s a nice place to be” (quote from social media).
Your mental health may decline during a crisis
A crisis can exacerbate pre-existing mental health symptoms such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, panic, compulsive behaviour and more. The uncertainty that arises during a crisis might also exacerbate uncertainty that has been present about other aspects of our lives, or remind us of past times when we didn’t feel safe and the immediate future was uncertain, such as a past experience of trauma.
In stressful times, people with poor mental health can experience increased suffering. For those of us who already struggle with our mental wellness, we might feel more depressed or less motivated to carry out our daily activities, leading to a decline in our overall functioning. It is therefore increasingly important that if you or someone you care for has ongoing mental health concerns that you remain connected with your healthcare professionals (GP, psychologist, psychiatrist) during times of crisis, uncertainty, and increased stress.
How to take care of your mental health during a crisis
Stick to your usual routine
Maintain your usual routine as much as possible (even if you’re in isolation). Consider elements of your routine such as sleep, diet, exercise, and your regular daily tasks. It might be a case of amending your usual routine and creating a “new-normal”. However try be aware of “free floaty time”. While it might feel good to switch on Netflix during the middle of a workday, this can actually be a reminder that things are not normal at all, resulting in a decline in your mood or an increase in stress and anxiety.
Take a break from the news
It can be helpful to limit the time you spend watching the news. For example, set a timer, give yourself 10 minutes and focus just on the main points that may be important for you. Constant news and information can lead to feelings of overwhelm and increase distress. When you are ready for some more news, go to trusted sources such as WHO (World Health Organisation), Department of Health, and Smart Traveller. And don’t forget to share some good news! People are recovering, people are working hard on vaccines, communities are coming together and supporting one another, and it is important to balance our news intake with positive, uplifting information.
Physical Isolation, Social Connection!
Yes we need to follow some pretty big restrictions regarding physically isolating ourselves in order to ensure the health and safety of all, however you can still be social and stay connected to your family, friends and work colleagues. Why not try something different and have some fun with a virtual dinner, coffee, games night or exercise routine, or even by watching a movie together!
This is an important time for all of us to look after each other. It is also a very important time for you to care for yourself too! Think about what self-care means to YOU? What do you do to feel relaxed? What is it that you enjoy doing for yourself that gives you a sense of peace and comfort, and that helps you feel refreshed, reset and refocused? Increase these activities as much as possible and where needed think creatively to find new ways to engage with these activities as this is an important time to be increasing and prioritising your self-care.
Check in with yourself
Monitoring your mood and self-talk during this time is helpful to ensure you are not neglecting your mental health care. If you have a psychologist, make an appointment to check in. Or maybe this is your first time thinking about engaging with a mental health care professional. Take that next step to talk to someone, you deserve to have a healthy mind, and support is available for you, now in an even greater variety of ways than before and it’s easier than ever to get connected with online and phone counselling options becoming more widely accessible.
During a crisis, experiencing increased feelings of anxiety, fear, uncertainty, frustration, helplessness and similar can be a normal response to an abnormal situation. However it is important to check in with yourself and ensure you are not letting your mental health fall by the wayside. This is particularly important for those with pre-existing mental health concerns. A crisis such as the current world pandemic can trigger or exacerbate mental health symptoms and lead to a decline in mental well being. It is therefore very important to prioritise your mental health care during this time.
If you or someone you know is needing support and you would like to explore how face to face or online therapy can assist you to achieve your mental health goals, give us a call on 02 8814 5703.
If you or anyone you know needs immediate help you can contact the below numbers:
- Lifeline on 13 11 14
- Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
- 1800RESPECT (Domestic & Family Violence) 1800 737 732
- MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978
- Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
- Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636
- Headspace on 1800 650 890
- ReachOut at au.reachout.com
- The Butterfly Foundation 1800 33 4673
- Care Leavers Australasia Network (CLAN) on 1800 008 774
Want to read more?
If you liked this post and want to read more, please check out this other post “How to look after your anxiety during covid19″ online here: https://thetalbotcentre.com.au/anxiety-covid19/