Mental wellbeing during COVID-19
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has disrupted the way Queenslanders live, work and socialise. It’s natural and understandable to feel worried, stressed or anxious during this time of uncertainty.
The way we normally look after our mental wellbeing may have changed and it might feel harder to make time for you. But it’s more important, now than ever. Positive mental wellbeing can help you function well and cope better during times of change, and when things aren’t going well.
Here are some simple things you can do to build your resilience (your ability to bounce back), and maintain a sense of control over your life to help you live in a positive and meaningful way:
Create a new routine
Finding the motivation to not laze around all day can be hard, especially when we’re spending more time at home and have better access to on-demand entertainment.
Setting a new daily routine can help restore a sense of purpose and control over your daily life. Start by getting dressed each morning to get in the right headspace to start your day. Next, structure other activities around meal times and bedtime to help you keep your schedule and ensure you get enough food and sleep
Plan your day’s activities, such as cooking and checking in with friends or family. Make sure you include some fun activities to give yourself a bit of ‘me time’ (these could be reading, watching movies, exercising, hobbies, etc.).
If you’re working from home, set boundaries to make sure your work time is separate from your leisure time. Start and finish work at set times and remember to take regular breaks.
If you’ve got kids at home, establish a ‘new normal’ as soon as you can. Regular schedules and familiar rituals provide reassurance and comfort, which can help them respond better to change.
While our physical distance has increased, staying socially and emotionally connected to others is still important. Positive social support can improve our ability to cope with stress and helps reduce feelings of loneliness.
- Spend time connecting with people you are living with – play board games, cook together, or talk about how you’re feeling.
- If you have access, use technology to stay in touch with family and friends. Schedule a regular time to catch up virtually – seeing someone’s facial expressions can help increase connection.
- If you’re working from home, make time to connect with your colleagues over the phone or via video conferencing.
Staying active not only improves your physical health, it can also help protect your mental health and improve your wellbeing. Exercise is a quick and effective way to distract yourself from negative thoughts and help manage emotions like anxiety and depression.
Try going for a walk, run or bike ride around your neighbourhood, or get busy gardening. Being active outdoors has added benefits of fresh air and vitamin D from the sun, plus it improves your self-esteem and lifts your mood.
There are also plenty of ways to keep active indoors too. Whether you’re doing a virtual yoga class from your lounge room, having a dance party in your kitchen, or just walking around while you’re on the phone; every little bit of activity counts. Find more ideas to keep active on our activities page.
Take care with news and information
In a crisis, the endless stream of information on the news and social media can feel overwhelming. While there are benefits to staying up-to-date with the news, too much can take a toll on your mental wellbeing. Try some of these tips to help find balance and manage your news and information intake:
- Read trustworthy news sources – during health emergencies, Queensland Health, the Australian Government Department of Health and the World Health Organization are best placed to provide you with the facts,
- Find time each day to switch off and disconnect from technology altogether,
- Have conversations about things other than the crisis – remember it’s okay to not want to talk about current events all the time – just make sure you’re not bottling up your feelings or concerns and that you seek support if you need it,
- Read good news stories too – this will not only help you achieve a sense of balance but can also have positive effects on your mood, attitude and happiness levels.
Look after others
In times of crisis, it’s important we support one another and show compassion to those around us. Showing kindness to others will help them and increase your sense of purpose and value, improving your own mental wellbeing.
Show kindness by:
- checking in with friends, family and colleagues and making sure they are doing ok,
- reaching out to essential workers such as frontline health workers, teachers, cleaners and grocery store workers and showing your gratitude for the work they are doing,
- helping people who may be more vulnerable during the crisis, including those without internet access, anyone who is self-isolating or who cannot easily go shopping or connect with others,
- spreading #ViralKindness in your community by printing these self-quarantine assistance cards and placing them in the letterbox of your neighbours so they can reach out if they need help.
Set a positive example for children
Just like adults, it’s natural for kids and young adults to experience a range of emotional responses to a crisis – even if they don’t fully understand the information. While you might be able to keep them away from the news and adult conversations, there are a number of significant changes in their lives which they’re bound to be curious about and maybe even anxious.
Children and young people cope better if they are provided with accurate, age-appropriate information and are given opportunities to talk and discuss what is happening.
Set an example for kids and young adults, by looking after your mental wellbeing as well. Healthy lifestyle choices such as eating healthily, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep are great ways for people of all ages to look after their mental wellbeing.
Keep things in perspective
While it is reasonable to be concerned about the outbreak of COVID-19, remember that experts around the world are working hard to contain the virus, treat those affected and develop a vaccine as quickly as possible.
Life is a little different right now. But this is only a temporary situation – the pandemic will end and this unique time will pass.
Remember there are many wonderful things still happening in the world each day.
Be aware of changes in your behaviour
The restrictions and changes in place around COVID-19 will mean some of your behaviours will change. It’s important to be aware of these changes and the impacts they may be having on your mental health and wellbeing.
Changes such as physical distancing, working or exercising from home, and connecting with people over the phone or video chat more frequently, are changes you are consciously making and will have positive effects on your health and mental wellbeing.
Other changes in behaviour may not be as healthy or as positive. Things such as increased drug and alcohol use, consumption of fast food and take away, and more timing sitting can have negative impacts on your health and mental wellbeing.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed…
Most people will feel some distress during a crisis – this is normal and usually resolves naturally within a matter of days or weeks.
If you’ve taken steps to support better mental wellbeing but are still feeling stressed, overwhelmed, worried, or just not like your normal self, tell someone. This might be a close family member, friend or colleague. You can also talk to your GP or a mental health professional. Our Support page can help you find someone to contact.