Managing your concerns about COVID-19

Headshot of Dr Loretta Poerio

Dr Loretta Poerio, Mental Health Adviser

21 April 2020

Concern about our health and wellbeing due to the COVID-19 pandemic is challenging for everyone. There are a range of reactions such as distress, fear, confusion, sadness, fatalism and frustration. Worries, however, can overwhelm us at times, and engender feelings of helplessness, making us vulnerable to poor mental health. With some reflection, high quality information, and self-care strategies, the current situation can be managed, and a level of predictability restored. This situation is one where problem solving can assist in managing the risk.

Know the facts

Everyone is entitled to an opinion, of course, but only draw on reliable information sources. These include DVA, the Department of Health and other government sources.

Avoid overconsumption of media!

Media outlets have a financial interest in encouraging you to engage with them frequently. They rely on the use of fear to make you think the outbreak is something you need to worry about constantly. It’s not. Limit the time you and your family spend watching or listening to sensational media coverage and instead focus on the things that are positive in your life and things you have control over.

Self-care strategies for promoting a healthy immune system

As adults, we have all faced adversity. This is a good time to become re-acquainted with helpful coping strategies we know work well. In addition, the following tips for good self-care, which will boost your immune system, may be useful:

  • Exercise: Even 10 minutes a day of walking, housework, gardening or anything that gets you moving can be very beneficial. These activities need to be undertaken with social distancing principles in mind. Maintain at least two metres (six feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Breathing and Relaxation Techniques: these techniques, which include yoga and mindfulness, have been found beneficial in treating anxiety.
  • Eat well: Nutritious food fuels our body and brain, and can make all the difference in how we feel physically and mentally.
  • Sleep: is critical to your mental and physical health.
  • Social connection: If you are aware of people who are in isolation, make sure to connect via telephone, face-time, Skype, drop off some groceries, flowers, puzzles, books. This is especially relevant for people living alone.
  • Limit alcohol consumption: Government Guidelines recommend that healthy adults drink no more than two standard drinks a day and no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion.
  • QUIT smoking: Quitting smoking is the best thing most smokers can do to improve and protect their health.

Tips to help children and adolescents

Including your children in your family’s health care plan will lead to better understanding, counter fear of the unknown, and help children and adolescents feel a sense of control.

  • Ask children what they have heard about coronavirus.
  • Provide age appropriate, accurate information and clarify any misinformation or misunderstanding they may have.
  • Encourage children to share their concerns, and let them know that parents and teachers are available to discuss thoughts and feelings.
  • The way parents behave can have a significant effect on children. Keep conversations calm and focussed on the facts. Emphasise efforts that are being taken to contain the infectious disease.
  • Model health-promoting behaviours for your children. For example, teach them to wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds — as long as it takes to sing the happy birthday song twice.
  • Educate the entire family about good health habits. Talk about what each family member can do to help others outside of the immediate family.
  • Include children in family discussions and plans, in an age-appropriate way.
  • Address any misconceptions children may have that could result in stigmatising people or groups of people in the community.

Seek assistance early if you are feeling overwhelmed

Symptoms of stress can be managed when you know what to look for, and strategies are put in place early. If you find it difficult to do the activities you need and want to do, and feel that life is out of control, then it is time to seek assistance.

Please call Open Arms — Veterans & Families Counselling on 1800 011 046.

Use of online resources: There are a number of very good online resources through the Department of Health’s Head to Health portal, and the World Health Organization website.