COVID-19 - calming and coping

By Dr Stephanie Hodson CSC, National Manager, Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling

26 March 2020

Across Australia, people are feeling anxious, which is a completely normal reaction to the uncertainty around the impacts of COVID-19. Importantly, as long as it does not become overwhelming, this anxiety can be channelled into positive actions to help us cope and maintain our wellbeing. 

Key at this time is looking after ourselves and those around us. It is especially important to check in with people who have an existing mental health issue. If anxiety becomes overwhelming, it can lead to feelings of hopelessness and depression. Thankfully, there are actions we can all take to strengthen personal wellbeing and assist others.

Remember these are not new skills for veterans and their families. Service members and families face change and challenges throughout their service career. This is about refocusing coping strategies to face a new challenge.

Coping with uncertainty

There are strategies we can all use to strengthen our resilience and maintain our mental health, including:

Get the facts

  • Get your information from reliable sources such as the Department of Health healthdirect website.
  • Balance your exposure to media. Constant exposure to stories about the virus feeds anxiety and feelings of lack of control. It is important to stay informed but this needs to be balanced.

Stay connected

The need to practise social distancing or social isolation does not mean we cannot strengthen our connections to our support network.

  • Set up a regular time to virtually connect with family and friends.
  • Write a letter, email or share photos.

Identify individuals to support you:

  • RedSix is an app for veterans that allows you to identify and link to ’Battle-buddies’ to support you.

If you are feeling anxious and need to talk, call the 24/7 Open Arms support line on 1800 011 046. There will always be someone to talk to. Maintain your wellbeing.

Protect yourself by washing your hands and practising social distancing.

Set goals to achieve something meaningful each day. It is OK to do activities you enjoy, as long as they comply with Government restrictions:

  • Phone or FaceTime a friend to provide emotional support.
  • Work on those goals you never have time for – sort photos, read a book, and learn something new. 

Exercise is a quick and effective way to distract yourself from negative thoughts and to manage emotions like anxiety or depression:

  • Go for a walk, run or join a virtual yoga class. Be prepared and make a plan. Visit the: High Res website

Calming your emotions through relaxation activities enable us to think more clearly and work through challenges:

  • The Open Arms High Res website has a number of relaxation tools including: controlled breathing, grounding and muscle relaxation.

Practise kindness and gratitude:

  • Take the time to thank people who are keeping our essential services operating, including in our supermarkets, our health staff, and our ex-service community, which is continuing to work to support our veterans and their families.
  • Share resources.
  • Do not refer to people as ‘COVID-19 cases’. They are ‘people who have COVID-19’.
  • Take time to read the stories of people assisting each other, promoting hope or assisting others to cope.

If you are struggling to use these strategies it can help to talk to someone. You can call Open Arms 24/7 on 1800 011 064. We’re happy to have a chat about the different hints and ideas that might work for you.

Helpful resources 

State and Territory information about Coronavirus: