Strategies to manage stress and anxiety during COVID-19
News about the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Australia has triggered a lot of anxiety and fear in the community. In light of these unprecedented circumstances, we can all benefit from adaptations to a new way of doing things in order to cope with major changes in our lives. We can expect our mental health to be affected as it is easy to get anxious or stressed out about the virus and the societal, economic and personal consequences associated with it. As such, we believe it is essential to look after ourselves and those around us.
Here are a few things you can do to look after your mental health.
Establish a routine.
A daily routine is part of our normal lives. We all had some sort of structure in our lives which involved activities like going to work or school, regular exercise, social activity and eating out. All of these simple actions provided a sense of order and consistency within our lives. With the social distancing norms, work from home conditions and other restrictions currently in place, disruptions to this routine can affect us in many ways. It can be hard to adapt to a new way of doing things. Therefore, it is helpful to set up a new routine in light of the changes to our usual routine.
Common ways of establishing a new routine are to have set times for activities like exercise, socialising, work periods, or even something as simple as waking up. Having a routine or a plan for the day helps structure the day, which provides a sense of normality. We can still use friends, family or coworkers to help us create routines by establishing regular check-in points or setting mutual tasks or activities to complete and report back on (e.g., two friends learning a dance routine together and sharing their practice throughout the week).
Nothing can replace the comfort of a hug, or a night out with friends or family. In these strange times, it can become difficult to keep up with our social practises. However, it is extremely important to stay connected with friends and family. Whether it is through phone calls, online messaging or video calls, staying in touch with people will help reduce the feeling of loneliness and isolation. Although current restrictions limit the number of people we can meet, there are always other ways to stay in touch. There are plenty of apps which can facilitate this. It can be a simple conversation, games night, a work call, or just checking up on an older person or someone living alone. Although we may have to physically distance ourselves from people, we do not need to cease socialising.
With the closure of gyms, parks and with the new work from home rules, there are reduced opportunities for people to get out for a breath of fresh air and get some exercise into their daily routines. It can be tempting to sit in one place and work or settle on the couch for a day of Netflix. However, it’s best to steer clear of these habits.
According to studies, as little as one hour of exercise per week can go a long way in helping fight against depression. If you are someone who regularly works out, then you will be aware of the positive rush of emotion that exercising provides. It causes a release of "feel good" chemicals in our body like dopamine and endorphins that improve your mood. It is a simple but important fact the movement and exercise are associated with positive reports of happiness.
As long as we maintain social distancing rules, going for a run or even a walk outside is a good idea. For people who are used to going to the gym, they can switch it up with a jog or some outdoor exercises. For people who prefer staying at home, there are plenty of home exercise options, such as Yoga With Adrianne on Youtube. There are also several apps which offer general exercises and personalised plans for varying fitness levels.
Embrace the uncertainty
These are uncertain times. It is normal to feel worried and anxious about current events. We can get lost in all the possible things that can go wrong and lose sight of the bigger picture. However, it is extremely helpful to accept that many changes and difficulties are beyond our ability to control. While it is helpful to stay up to date with the latest numbers and developments regarding the virus, too much attention and time spent on monitoring the developments may be detrimental. Constantly checking the news will likely increase our anxiety and worry, while leaving us to feel unable to change the situation. Better use of time would be to focus on the things that are in our control, like looking after ourselves and those close to us. Take each day as it comes, focus on filling our days with meaningful tasks and remember that the current state is only temporary, as well as the disruption the virus has caused in our lives.
These are a few things we can do to improve our mental health. However, if you feel like you need some extra help, you can seek help from one of our psychologists.