Our World has changed
First, Australia had ‘unprecedented’ wild fires and now Australia is affected by this: A Global Pandemic. The Virus, known as Coronavirus, Novel Coronavirus, or by its official name COVID-19, produces a range of physical symptoms, ranging from deadly to mild or even no symptoms at all (known as being asymptomatic).
If you show physical symptoms of COVID-19
If you believe you have any physical Coronavirus symptoms, such as a dry cough, sore throat, fever or breathing difficulties please go to a test centre near you or a respiratory clinic right away and follow the self-isolation instructions. If you have any questions regarding the virus, you can also call the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080
Mental health problems associated with COVID-19
For many of us, worries and fears about the pandemic can lead us to take action that may help us feel more in control and more able to cope with what may come. Many people are deciding to:
- Wear a face covering
- Use hand sanitiser
- Wash hands regularly
- Practice social distancing
Other more comprehensive measures that we can take, such as social distancing or self isolating, however, can lead to social isolation and there are numerous mental health problems that can be caused directly or indirectly by this such as:
- Anxiety, including social anxiety
- Financial stress
These can be caused by contracting Coronavirus itself, by social distancing, by loss of income, or by the exacerbation of existing conditions, just to name a few. It is estimated that 25% – 33% of us have experienced high levels of worry and anxiety during similar pandemics. Worse still, people with pre-existing conditions are likely to be at increased risk which means that they may need to take stronger precautions.
We will look at ways you can help to combat these problems and improve our overall happiness, whatever the virus may bring.
Bringing your mental health ‘A-game’
Igniting your mental health ‘A-game’ is about recognising these feelings, accepting that they are often normal (see below) and taking some actions, no matter how large or how small, to offset the negativity created by those feelings.
Mental health improves overall happiness
Bringing your mental health ‘A game’ to any situation is vital for happiness and increased success. In fact, one study by the London School of Economics found that mental health and emotional outcomes can heavily influence overall life satisfaction.
The study found that eliminating mental health concerns like depression or anxiety could improve happiness by 20%, compared to a 5% increase by eliminating poverty. What this means is that, whether or not you contract Coronavirus, you can help yourself come through it by exercising positive mental health techniques.
10 Ways to a mental health ‘A’ Game
With all this in mind, here are 10 ways to fight the mental health fight against The Pandemic.
- Get Tested
Getting tested, no matter the result, is a key aspect of the fight against Coronavirus. If you show any symptoms, go to your nearest test centre as soon as you can.
Test Centres Near You:
2. Listen to your body
If you have the virus, the physical symptoms of COVID-19 can lead us into a negative physical and mental space due to the toll they can take on our bodies, but the advice given for a healthy body can also be given for a healthy mind:
Be sure to rest so that your body can use its energy to recover and your mind can use the time to cope with the situation, especially if you also have depression or anxiety, because there are some overlapping factors between the two, according to a study on ‘The relationship between fatigue and psychiatric disorders’
This is a key fact in bringing your mental health ‘A-game’ because healthy eating will give you more energy, help you improve your concentration (for that new hobby you want to try during a lock down…) and will help you sleep better.
Eating healthily is important at any time of life, but being at home more often, coupled with the possibility of eating out of boredom, adding in services like Deliveroo, or Uber Eats, creates much more opportunity for comfort eating, boredom eating or ordering junk food instead of cooking.
Get more sleep
According to the Sleep Health Foundation, sleep is a ‘built in biological source of resilience. Similarly, according to Mind, an Australian mental help service, sleep and mental health are linked, especially when it comes to insomnia, for example.
Drink plenty of water.
Staying hydrated is very important, especially if vomiting is one of your symptoms, as a lot of vomiting can cause dehydration, but most importantly for this article, drinking plain water is associated with ‘decreased risk of depression’.
Get some exercise
This tip only applies if you are not currently experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
Exercise makes us happier by releasing endorphins into the brain…the ultimate way to feel better and increase your happiness.
3. Combat Isolation
Isolation is an action we take, but it is also an emotion, and a powerful one, too. Some of the precautions listed earlier prevent us from human interaction and this can have a detrimental effect on mental health.
One clinical study showed that social interaction is an essential contributing factor to overall happiness. Another study even described a possible link between diminished social/ community ties and death. So, how can we have social interactions during isolation or COVID-19 measures?
Keep in contact with friends and family
This can be done in times of isolation in several ways. A phone call or a video chat are great ways to maintain connection, but how about trying other ways too, like sending a letter, or a card, or even giving a gift? You might even drop something to their door.
Video link parties, board games or trivia have become staples on a Friday night during lock down.
R U OK?
Remembering those friends that you haven’t heard from in a while will not only increase their happiness, but also yours, and could boost your self-image too. Simply asking them ‘RU OK?’ can literally be a life saver.
4. Combat Boredom
There is a difference between having spare time or down time and having ‘idle time’. Having some spare time can be handy for developing hobbies but Idle time can lead to over thinking or over analysing, a trait common to those who suffer from Anxiety. Boredom can be detrimental to your mental health.
Some ideas to combat boredom:
- Do some exercises or stretches
- Start (and finish) a creative project, such as a collage, drawing, painting
- Play with puzzles
- Fill in a word search, crossword, Sudoku, or logic puzzle
- Cook a meal from scratch or bake something delicious
- Grow some plants or some food
- Have some screen time, on your phone, TV, computer or tablet but remember: Too much screen time is detrimental to your mental health, according to several surveys from China, Canada and the USA
5. Know that Worry, fear and even a little anxiety or panic are normal
Learning about COVID-19 may cause some worry, fear, or even panic attacks and anxiety. These reactions are natural, because our survival instincts teach us to concentrate on potential threats to our safety, but worry is not a cause for more worry, according to ‘The Happiness Trap’, an online course in happiness using a form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy called A.C.T. The Happiness Trap teaches us to accept and normalise all our inner feelings in order to dis-empower them.
Yes, worry is a perfectly normal reaction to any new situation or encounter with something unknown. If this worry or anxiety begins to affect your daily life, however, then seeing a trained psychologist or counsellor can be a huge help.
If you are looking for a human to talk to, ConnectAbility, are based in Newcastle and the Central Coast, offer family counselling sessions for a range of situations, including mental health issues.
6. Perspective, perspective, perspective
Here are some things to think about if you begin to panic about COVID-19 that might help you reclaim a balanced view of the pandemic.
Did you know
- Coronavirus is the name given to a group of Influenza diseases.
- Coronaviruses have been around for over 500 years, with peaks happening around every 40 years or so.
- Between 40% and 80% of all COVID-19 cases show mild symptoms or no symptoms at all
Statistics can help
Any life affected by this virus is a concern and a potential tragedy, but one way we can keep a handle on our feelings about this is to consider some statistics, researched on 1 October 2020. Australia is showing much less infection rate than other countries:
- Worldwide infections
Infection rate: 0.42%.
- USA infections
Infection rate per population: 2.2%.
- UK infections
Infection rate: 0.67%.
- Australian infections
Infection rate: 0.1%
7. Bring home a new pet
This idea comes with a caveat: Check your home, family and lifestyle are suitable for a new pet. Having said that, pets are great for exercise, a sense of responsibility, exercise, and most of all, to love them (you never know, you may even feel that they love you too!)
8. Think positively
“The only constant in life is change”-Heraclitus.
This period of Pandemic will eventually end. We will eventually have a vaccine (based on historical vaccines for deadly diseases such as Measles, Yellow Fever, Flu and others). At this time, there are currently 7 vaccines in production and life will eventually be able to return to some kind of normality.
9. Alternative techniques
If mainstream help is not your bag, there is a world of alternate therapy, self-help and Mind, Body, Spirit approaches one can take during these times.
- Breathing techniques
- Visualisation techniques can be very relaxing and empowering
- Herbal help – try placing some lavendar under your pillow for a more relaxing bedtime
- Crystals – yes, crystals…try carrying a small piece of Rose Quartz with you and record the change in your happiness.
10. When it gets more serious
There may be times when self-help techniques or proactive action aren’t enough. You may already be suffering from a condition that is being made worse by the side effects of Coronavirus or you may not even be able to try the techniques, either mentally or physically.
If this is the case, then a really powerful thing you can do is to reach out. You can reach out to a trusted friend or family member, but remember this: You may feel silly, or embarrassed, or shy about talking through these problems, but the person you talk to will not be feeling the same way. In fact, they will likely feel a sense of gratitude or a feeling of empowerment, just because you tried to talk to them.
If this is your situation, or you have nobody to reach out, you can contact a handful of trusted organisations listed below:
- Coronavirus Mental Well being Support Service online or 1800 512 348.
- Beyond Blue provide support and information regarding improving your mentl health
- The NSW government have some COVID-19 information which may help alleviate worry
- R U OK? Is a mental health and suicide awareness program designed to get us all in touch with each other – a conversation can save a life
- ConnectAbility can offer counselling services in the Newcastle and Central Coast areas of NSW. For more information call the friendly team of experts at ConnectAbility today for a chat to get you headed in the right direction.
- ConnectAbility have two experienced, professional Family counsellors available to see young people aged 9-18 years and their family members. Our Family counsellors will work with you or your children to identify the issues that are causing distress or disharmony and we will work with you on developing solutions to improve your life.