As we all adjust to a new way of living and working in the COVID-19 environment, it’s very normal to feel worried or anxious about the future, the uncertainly of our ‘new normal’ and all the changes happening around us and that we are required to make.
Dr Jill Newby, Associate Professor of Psychology at UNSW and based at the Black Dog Institute, has shared some helpful tips below on practical ways to help reduce anxiety and manage fears during this time if you are feeling overwhelmed.
You can view the original article here.
‘Some anxiety can be helpful’ – How to manage your COVID-19 fears
These are troubling times. With news of a new virus spreading around the world, and evolving updates of how we should all be protecting ourselves, many Australians are understandably feeling anxious. There are many unknowns about COVID-19. How quickly the virus will spread? What impact will it have on our communities? How will it affect our families?
But there are helpful actions which can assist in reducing anxiety and help manage COVID-19 fears. As an Associate Professor at UNSW based at the Black Dog Institute, I often help people with their anxieties and fear. This is my advice:
Some anxiety can be helpful
If you’re feeling anxious or worried, you’re not alone. Anxiety is normal, and in many cases it can be helpful. Research during past pandemics show that people who worry are more likely to do the things that help to keep the virus at bay, like frequent handwashing.
Channel your anxious energy into action: get informed, plan, and prepare
We often feel anxious when events feel out of our control, and when we think we don’t have the capacity, skills or ability to cope. Anxiety tricks us into thinking about the worst-case scenarios in vivid and frightening detail.
Instead of worrying, try your best to focus on what’s under your control. Equip yourself with the facts about COVID-19 from trusted sources. Follow government advice and make a plan about what you and your family will do if you need to be in isolation, or quarantine.
Limit or avoid unhelpful media and misinformation
Being exposed to constant, alarming, anxiety-inducing stories convinces us that there is something to panic about, and further perpetuates myths, rumours, misinformation, uncertainty and anxiety. The more we read and hear about it, the more frightening it becomes, and the less chance we have to distract ourselves and do things that can take our minds off it.
Although it might be tempting to keep informed, or difficult to escape, limiting your exposure to media, news, and social media about coronavirus will help quell the panic.
Cut down or stop the behaviours that are fuelling your anxiety
There are certain actions, when performed frequently that can fuel anxiety about health, and germ-phobia. Focusing too much on bodily symptoms, and relying on “Dr Google”, can consume one with anxious thoughts and panic.
Being aware of these behaviours, understanding how they’re making you feel, and replacing them with more helpful coping strategies can alleviate disproportionate feelings of anxiety.
Stay focused on the here and now, taking each day step by step
Try to focus on the here and now- not the past and not the future. Live in the moment and take one day at a time.
Be aware of negative thoughts and don’t give them too much power
Just because we’re thinking something, doesn’t always mean it’s true. When you notice yourself worrying a lot, take a step back, and try to let worries pass by without focussing on them too much.
Look after your body
Get enough sleep, exercise, eat well, avoid smoking, excessive alcohol and drugs. This will help protect your mental health and immune system.
Stay connected with others
It can make a huge difference when we share our worries with others, and connect with other people who are supportive. Try to stay connected to supportive people in your life so you feel less isolated and lonely. You might need try new ways of connecting that you haven’t before.
Help other people, be kind, and compassionate
When we help other people, it can also make us feel better. We are all in this together so let’s try our best to be kind and compassionate to each other.
Take a breath
When you feel overwhelmed take a few slow, deep breaths to help you calm down. If there are other things that help you relax (e.g., a walk or listening to music) you could try these too.
If you’re feeling like you’re not coping, get professional advice
It’s ok to ask for help. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by anxiety, seek professional support. Psychological therapies can be done online, or remotely via phone or videoconferencing, and are an excellent option if you’re in self-isolation, or worried about going to a clinic.
Click here to find out more about the Black Dog Institute.
Additional advice from Rocky Bay’s psychologists
Rocky Bay’s own Registered Psychologists, Meagan Judd and Lindsay Hogg, have provided some additional tips for parents of children and teenagers:
Schedule in fun activities
Make time for some fun activities to keep yourself busy such as art and craft, reading, getting fresh air, baking, watching movies, doing puzzles, completing chores and keeping your mind active.
Help to alleviate worries
Most kids will know about coronavirus and will be aware of how it is impacting on their lives. It is important to remember that COVID-19 is an adult problem that adults need to be concerned about. In that respect, be careful about oversharing information with your children as it is not a problem they should be worried about. You can do this by limiting access to things like the news and social media and being mindful when you are having conversations about coronavirus.
If your child is worried, listen and validate their concerns. Gently correct any misconceptions they may have about the virus while being mindful not to overshare information.
Routine routine routine!
Stick to a regular routine at home. Ensure that this routine is balanced with a variety of different activities (e.g. learning, play and exercise).