Thriving, not just surviving - Mental wellbeing amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Thriving, not just surviving

Mental wellbeing amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

From the desk of Blackmores Institute Director, Dr Lesley Braun.

It’s hard not to feel confronted by the emerging news of COVID-19. It’s the lead story on every newsbreak around the globe, our phones are ‘pinging’ with constant updates and ‘counts’ and social media continues to bring out some of the most extreme views. Even doing our weekly shop, or our favourite sporting event may have been impacted.  

By now, we all know the importance of good hygiene, knowing the symptoms, getting tested and self-isolating if we are at risk. These are important, life-saving measures we can all take. 

But what can we do to support our mental wellbeing during this time of uncertainty?

How can we as individuals thrive during this period of uncertainty, rather than just survive?

Organisations like WHO and Beyond Blue have collated some excellent recommendations for supporting your mental health at this time. Strategies include: 

  • Try to find a healthy balance in the news you are receiving – being exposed to volumes of negative information can increase anxiety. Limit your exposure to it and ensure that you,
  • Choose to get your information from reliable sources such as WHO or your local health authorities over social media ‘experts’
  • Find opportunities to share the positive news that is arising – such as the heart-warming stories of how communities have ‘come together’ during times of isolation, the discoveries being made by scientists to fight the virus and the amazing collaboration the global community is partaking in to tackle this disease.
  • Try to maintain perspective and take a practical, calm approach – it is reasonable to be concerned, but there are a lot of positive steps being taken by governments and health authorities to manage this challenge. There are also many practical strategies you can use to look after yourself and your loved ones, such as practicing good hygiene and following the advice of health authorities.
  • Try to stick to healthy routines and stay connected – keeping active, eating well and getting good rest are the fundamentals for good health – but ensuring you are also staying connected with your family, social and work networks during this time can support your mental wellbeing and resilience – and help you to thrive not just survive.
  • Speak to someone or seek support – while it’s natural to have some concerns, if you are feeling overwhelmed it’s important to acknowledge these feelings and speak to a trusted friend, family member or colleague, or seek further professional support if needed.
  • Assist others – offer to help elderly neighbours, friends and family. This can be as much of a benefit to you, as it can be to the person you are helping.
  • Acknowledge the caretakers and the healthcare workers – they are working hard to protect our health and wellbeing, we are lucky to live in a society that has such dedicated and selfless professionals.
    • Working from home:

      As someone who's worked from home for several decades, I have developed a few tips you might find useful if you find yourself spending your working hours at home. 
      1. Make sure you've got healthy snacks on hand because the pantry is too easy to access and you can easily start nibbling all the wrong things
      2. Make time for some physical activity because it’s easy to walk less than 100 steps a day just working from room to room.I like to walk the dog for an hour and either take 'walking meetings' or listen to podcasts 
      3. Get some fresh air and sunshine each day if you can manage it
      4. Over-communicate with colleagues and friends... it’s easy to make assumptions or jump to conclusions so double/triple check things, and don’t forget time just to chat about how you're feeling  
      5. And finally, make sure you get a few good laughs in every day – it’s the best medicine 

        Social Distancing and self-isolation

        We are hearing a lot about these two terms at the moment – and while they are required to different degrees in different locations, this is a very positive step we can take to slow the rate of infection or “flatten the curve”. It also allows our health systems time to cope and those most at risk in our community to have an extra level of protection against the disease. 

    While this might be an annoyance for some or even a great concern for others, this is an example of how reframing our thinking can make this temporary change to our daily life a great opportunity to embrace the positives that come with it.   

      Some examples of the benefits this extra time at home can have include:

      • Acknowledging this as a proactive step you are taking to support your community in the fight against the COVID-19 outbreak. 
      • Your commute time to work has just been eradicated! How can you fill those newfound hours in your day with things that inspire or motivate you? 
      • If self-isolation is required, what are some of the things you could do that you’ve put on hold because there just weren’t enough hours in the day? 
      • Is it reading a book, preparing a slow-cooked meal, finally finishing that photo album, creating a family tree, calling a loved one for a quality conversation, watching that movie or Ted talk – or even starting some online learning?
      • Goal-setting during this time can also be a productive way to stay positive. For example, getting fit, losing some weight, learning a skill such as meditation, or playing the guitar – or even finishing that DIY project you’ve had on your to-do list forever, can help provide you with a sense of achievement and to see the home time as beneficial.

      There is no denying that this has, and will be, a challenging situation for many, particularly for those most at risk and our frontline healthcare professionals. However, a positive mindset will substantially improve the way you navigate the days and weeks ahead.

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