Coping in the time of COVID-19

Coping during COVID-19

It goes without saying, we’re living in unprecedented times at the moment – as the reality of life during COVID-19 becomes apparent, we’re all facing huge pressures and struggling with overwhelm. 

Daily freedoms we took for granted – popping to a cafe for coffee, visiting friends and going to the gym – have been taken away from us.

New words and phrases have become part of our daily vernacular – things like self-isolation and flattening the curve – as we adjust to our conversations happening by phone or video chat, instead of face to face.

And the rules and regulations around what we can and can’t do seem to change daily. 

Right now, the world is feeling collectively uncertain. Uncertain about the devastation this pandemic will cause, uncertain about how long our ‘new normal’ will last, and uncertain about what life beyond COVID-19 will look like.

No-one has a crystal ball – we’re all in this together, even though we can feel very alone while keeping our distance and missing time with our nearest and dearest.

Even if you’ve never struggled with your mental health and wellbeing before, the reality of living with the threat of COVID-19 and adjusting to new limitations on daily life can lead to feelings of anxiety, stress and depression. 

Many within our community are also dealing with the sudden loss of jobs and normal income, and the reality of now being confined to home with partners and children, while also coming to terms with unemployment or juggling working from home and home schooling. 

During this time, we believe it is more important than ever to ensure people have access to quality mental health care and support. Our clinic remains open, and we are abiding by strict infection control procedures, and we are also offering telehealth appointments – giving our clients the option of video conferencing or telephone counselling, from the safety of their own home.

We have appointments available for both new and existing clients, and are offering appointments to those in financial hardship with no gap fees during COVID-19, to ensure our services are affordable and accessible for the people who need them most. 

Feeling unsure about making an appointment?

If you’ve never seen a psychologist before, taking the step to make your first appointment can feel daunting. You might worry about what to say, or feel nervous about what other people might think. Even admitting you might need professional help can be hard, especially if you’re used to feeling quite mentally resilient. 

It’s normal for us to battle with our mental health at points throughout our lives. Many have said the reaction to COVID-19 can feel similar to dealing with grief – we’re grieving the loss of normalcy, and we’re coping with the anticipatory grief of further future loss. 

If you feel like you’re struggling as a result of COVID-19, reaching out and seeking professional help now can help you put the tools in place to help cope during this crisis, and lay solid foundations for getting through this uncertain time. 

Looking for strategies to cope?

With so much information out there on COVID-19 and its impact on our society, it can feel pretty overwhelming. Here are some simple strategies to help you cope with daily life during this time. 

Look after your health: Although this sounds obvious, when we’re stuck at home it’s easy to fall into bad habits. Eating junk food, drinking too much and not sleeping well can all take their toll on your health, and make it harder for you to feel positive and in control. Try to eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, drink plenty of water, and stick to your usual bedtime routine. This also applies to children, who need good food and the stability of routine now more than ever. 

Routines can help: If you’re now stuck at home and commuting from bed to kitchen table for work, it can be tempting to break with your usual routine. Without the usual pressures of work and school start times, the temptation is to stay in bed, wear pyjamas all day and eat whenever you feel like it. The reality is you’ll feel better if you get up the usual time (or close enough to it), and follow your normal morning routines, eating patterns and daily interactions. If you can’t see people in person, arrange to speak on the phone or via video conferencing such as Zoom or Skype. Get dressed properly. Wash your hair. These little things can make a big difference. 

Give yourself a break: If you’re someone who is used to having a busy schedule and productive life, you might be trying to continue to do it all – working as hard as ever, keeping the kids focused on a formal schedule of study from home, setting goals and targets for the days and weeks. However, now is the time to be gentle with yourself. Don’t be too harsh on your own daily achievements, and don’t put too much pressure on those around you. Take moments out of your day to do something for yourself, or if you have kids at home, spend some time with them playing and connecting, rather than trying to be the perfect teacher. Lower your expectations of yourself, and of others. 

Practice mindfulness: Even if you’ve never actively practised mindfulness or meditation before, now is a good time to start. There are plenty of free and low-cost meditation apps available, offering guided meditations to help you cope with stress and anxiety, and to help you relax and sleep better. If meditation isn’t for you, then other mindful activities can also help you feel grounded – focusing on a task such as cooking, colouring or craft can give you an escape from the stresses of the situation. Even following a complex dance routine from a YouTube dance class or going for a walk while listening to your favourite music can help. Try to keep perspective, and take each day as it comes, remembering what we can and can’t control. 

Limit media exposure: Rather than mindlessly scrolling through social media or trawling news sites for the latest updates, set yourself a limit to the amount of news and COVID-19 chat you’re going to have each day. You might decide to only check the news twice a day, and to only look at certain trusted outlets. It can be easy to get caught up in a spiral of overwhelm if all you are seeing and reading every day is about the pandemic. It’s important to minimise media exposure to children as well, to stop them from worrying. There are some great videos and resources on the internet when it comes to explaining COVID-19 to kids in a way which is helpful and easy to understand.

Take a step in the right direction.

If you’re living with an ongoing mental health condition, it’s essential to continue your treatment plan with your psychologist or therapist, as this uncertain time will amplify any existing issues you might have. 

If you don’t usually see a psychologist, it’s still OK to start seeking help now – they can help you to cope, and can empower you to feel better during COVID-19.

Either way, making an appointment with a psychologist is a step in the right direction. Call our team today to find out more about how we can help. 

Written by Olga Lavalle

Olga is registered as a Clinical Psychologist with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. She provides psychological services under Medicare, is an Employee Assistance Program provider and an approved WorkCover NSW provider. Additionally, Olga consults to workplace and community sporting organisations.

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