Tips for maintaining mental health through COVID-19 (Part 2)

The escalating COVID-19 virus situation is leading to natural increases in stress, worry and anxiety in many people. The uncertainty associated with COVID-19, the disruption to usual routines, the need for working from home or self-isolating can have significant impacts on your wellbeing and mental health. If you or people close to you fall into a high-risk category, then your anxiety and mental health may be particularly impacted.

The Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences has provided some basic tips on managing your mental health and wellbeing during this difficult time and how to manage working from home or self-isolation.

Managing anxiety

  • Anxiety often involves having catastrophic worry thoughts about what will happen and focusing on uncertainty – try to notice these thoughts and step back from them, remind yourself you may be thinking of the worst-case scenario or of things you can’t control, focus on what you can control in the immediate and reorient to the present
  • Practice breathing relaxation as soon as you notice yourself feeling anxious
  • Practice letting go of the emotions, recognise they will peak and then ebb
  • Practice breathing relaxation, yoga or meditation each day, using apps or online resources
  • Connect with others and discuss your fears – speak to supportive people around you via phone or social media
  • Don’t ignore your anxiety or blame yourself for it – recognise it, accept it as a natural reaction to what is happening, but try not to feed it, distract yourself with a nurturing activity
  • Avoid media saturation about COVID-19 – keep informed (once or twice a day), but avoid the 24-hour media cycle
  • Avoid trawling for health advice and checking for health symptoms on the internet
  • Get your information from reputable sources and avoid social media groups sensationalising information, or armchair doctors or epidemiologists
  • If these strategies aren’t working, seek online therapy resources or telehealth counselling from psychologists

Managing isolation

  • Make time each day to connect with others
  • Schedule times for fun activities to do together with the people you are living with (kids, partner, housemates) try movies or boardgames and make time for relaxing together
  • Make sure you stop and leave space and time to connect and share feelings
  • Unless they are sick, hug your people and your fur people
  • Set up social media times with friends you would normally see regularly – Zoom cocktail hours, Zoom book clubs, self-isolation groups, play online games together
  • Use the phone and call people
  • Listen to podcasts or radio chat shows to help maintain feelings of connection

Managing feeling cooped up

  • Open windows and get fresh air
  • Stretch and breathe
  • Get outside and walk – while practising safe physical distancing
  • Exercise outside if you can
  • Get out in the garden or nature

Managing sleeping problems

  • If you are struggling to sleep due to worry, or an overactive mind, try writing the thoughts down in a journal a few hours before sleep – remind yourself you have already considered these things and can’t do anything about them now
  • Try not to watch the clock, turn the clock face against the wall
  • If you can’t sleep after 20 mins, get up and move to another room and wait for the next ‘wave’ of tiredness and do something boring while waiting
  • Don’t lie in bed tossing and turning – get up – associate bed with sleep
  • Avoid caffeine or alcohol after 5pm
  • Avoid exercising late at night
  • Have a wind-down sleep routine involving relaxation, meditation, calming essential oils

Useful Online Tools

Mindfulness: Insight Timer App
Depression/anxiety: Mind Gym, Beyond Blue
Crisis: Lifeline, SANE Australia
Kids anxiety: BRAVE Online
Domestic violence: RESPECT helpline

Telehealth consults with GPs and psychologists are now available.

As always, for the latest COVID-19 news from the University, visit www.unimelb.edu.au/coronavirus.

Part 1

Part 3