Coping with Covid-19

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If you’re feeling a bit lost at the moment, it’s OK – and you’re not alone. Oamaru counsellor Amanda Acheson offers some tips to help manage your wellbeing in lockdown.

A global pandemic impacting both health and wealth.

Who would have ever thought the majority of the Western world would be at home wanting to see another human being? That going for another walk would become the best excitement we could get?

We have no roadmap for this, so it’s OK to feel lost!

This is the first truly global pandemic for generations. It’s unknown territory and many of us could be feeling a little bit lost.

So, it’s OK to not be sure about where the journey is taking us.

This is when the feeling of anxiety can set in. Anxiety about financial security, family, health, loved ones, jobs, relationships and a multitude of associated issues.

So what is anxiety?

According to Wikipedia, anxiety is a feeling “closely related to fear which is a response to a real or perceived threat”.

Feelings can be hard to process.

Name what you are feeling and share that with a trusted person if you can.

There is truth to “a problem shared is a problem halved” – that is why the #MeToo movement swept the world. People recognised how liberated they felt when someone else identified with their pain

Recognise what the feeling is telling you about yourself.

Perhaps you care about someone and need to phone them, or you are angry about a situation because you have wronged someone and need to apologise. Is it telling you to take action? If so, is it something within your control?

If it is, great! See if you can do something to ease the anxiety.

If it is solving world peace or the global financial crisis, it’s probably best to acknowledge you can’t control this one and let it go.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when trying to manage anxieties:

CHECK IN WITH YOURSELF

Be mindful about what is going on in your body with your own stress hormones. Are you experiencing physical symptoms – tense shoulders, aching back, tension headaches, clenched jaw? Our neurology isn’t wired to discern between real and potential threats (e.g. a real life burglar in the house or a potential virus). Whether stress and resultant anxiety are generated by a real or potential threat, our neurology will react to the feeling. We can relieve this stress with regular spot checks.

Self-care is important. Take a moment and ask yourself how you are feeling. Take a few deep breaths, exercise, walk around the block, drink water, eat healthy nutrient-rich food, turn off social media.

BE CREATIVE

Music, singing, art, dance, exercise, cooking, laughter – find ways to incorporate these into your day. It’s difficult to keep dwelling on what’s troubling you when you are focused on something else.

Try drawing what you feel, putting what your anxiety is (real or imagined) in an abstract form on paper. This can help express feelings you find hard to put into words.

KEEP A ROUTINE

Knowing there is a set structure to the day can ease the fear that generates anxiety. Having a routine that incorporates the simple things such as waking up, showering, mealtimes, exercise, bedtime, will set an order that is easy to work around when the rest of life appears quite mundane.

STAY CONNECTED

Oxytocin gets released from skin contact – hugs, handholds, touch (it is sometimes known as the “cuddle hormone”).

Make sure to take time out to connect to those you care for and care for you. It’s important it is reciprocated and you feel loved and cared for, too.

Writing letters, emails, texts or finding other creative ways to reach out and stay connected to others, and thinking of those who may be lonely or isolated, helps us think outside our own needs. This has a beautiful way of reminding us how rich and meaningful these parts of our lives are.

PRACTISE GRATITUDE

Learning to develop an attitude of gratitude helps us look outside our own needs. We can get so overwhelmed by our own situation we can forget to look up and look out at the beauty that’s around us. In this situation, most of us have a little time to invest in people in a way we have never had before.

If you have tried some of these suggestions and still find your anxiety leads to an inability to function, sleep, eat, a sense of being overwhelmed, or problematic or self-harming behaviours, please find a medical professional to talk to.

Where to get help

  • Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor.
  • Depression Helpline, phone 800111-757 to talk to a trained counsellor.
  • Healthline, phone 0800 611-116, if you feel unwell or sick, or need advice.
  • Samaritans, phone 0800 726-666, if you need confidential emotional support 24/7.
  • Youthline, phone 0800 376-633, free text 234, or email talk@youthline.co.nz.
  • What’s Up, phone 0800 942-8787, for 5- to 18-year-olds.
  • OUTLine NZ, phone 0800688-5463 (0800 OUTLINE), support for sexuality or gender-identity issues. Helpline available 6pm to 9pm daily.
  • Lifeline, phone 0800 543-354, or text HELP to 4357.