Random acts of kindness during the Coronavirus outbreak
The Coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) has taken a lot of us by surprise.
Infectious disease outbreaks such as this one can be scary and can affect our mental health. While it is important to stay informed, there are also many things we can do to support and manage our wellbeing during such times.
Here are some tips that your friends and your family can use to look after your mental health at a time when there is much discussion of potential threats to our physical health.
Looking after your mental health while you have to stay at home
The government is telling us to stay at home and only go outside for food, health reasons or essential work, to stay two metres away from other people and wash our hands as soon as we get home.
This will mean that more of us are spending a lot of time at home and regular social activities are no longer available to us.
It will help to try and see it as a different period of time in your life, and not necessarily a bad one, even if you didn’t choose it.
It will mean a different rhythm of life, a chance to be in touch with others in different ways than usual. Be in touch with other people regularly on social media, e-mail or on the phone, as they are still good ways of being close to the people who matter to you.
Create a new daily routine that prioritises looking after yourself. You could try reading more or watching movies, having an exercise routine, trying new relaxation techniques, or finding new knowledge on the internet. Try and rest and view this as a new if unusual experience, that might have its benefits.
Make sure your wider health needs are also being looked after.
Here is a full list of tips on staying at home.
Try to avoid speculation and look up reputable sources on the outbreak
Rumour and speculation can fuel anxiety. Having access to good quality information about the virus can help you feel more in control.
You can get up-to-date information and advice on the virus here:
Follow hygiene advice such as washing your hands more often than usual, for 20 seconds with soap and hot water (sing ‘happy birthday’ to yourself twice to make sure you do this for 20 seconds). You should do this whenever you get home or into work, blow your nose, sneeze or cough, eat or handle food. If you can’t wash your hands straightaway, use hand sanitiser and then wash them at the next opportunity.
You should also use tissues if you sneeze and make sure you dispose of them quickly; and stay at home if you are feeling unwell.
Try to stay connected
At times of stress, we work better in company and with support. Try and keep in touch with your friends and family, by telephone, email or social media.
You may like to focus on the things you can do if you feel able to:
Stay in touch with friends on social media but try not to sensationalise things. If you are sharing content, use this from trusted sources, and remember that your friends might be worried too.
Also remember to regularly assess your social media activity. Tune in with yourself and ask if they need to be adjusted. Are there particular accounts or people that are increasing your worry or anxiety? Consider muting or unfollowing accounts or hashtags that cause you to feel anxious.
Talk to your children
Involving our family and children in our plans for good health is essential. We need be alert to and ask children what they have heard about the outbreak and support them, without causing them alarm.
We need to minimise the negative impact it has on our children and explain the facts to them. Discuss the news with them but try and avoid over-exposure to coverage of the virus. Be as truthful as possible.
Try to anticipate distress
It is OK to feel vulnerable and overwhelmed as we read news about the outbreak, especially if you have experienced trauma or a mental health problem in the past, or if you have a long-term physical health condition that makes you more vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus.
It’s important to acknowledge these feelings and remind each other to look after our physical and mental health. We should also be aware of and avoid increasing habits that may not be helpful in the long term, like smoking and drinking.
Try and reassure people you know who may be worried and check in with people who you know are living alone.
Try not to make assumptions
Don’t judge people and avoid jumping to conclusions about who is responsible for the spread of the disease. The Coronavirus can affect anyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity or sex.
Try to manage how you follow the outbreak in the media
There is extensive news coverage about the outbreak. If you find that the news is causing you huge stress, it’s important to find a balance.
It’s best that you don’t avoid all news and that you keep informing and educating yourself, but limit your news intake if it is bothering you.
- Be available to talk and reassure:
Children can have big questions, and it’s okay to answer them. Take cues from them and offer clear but concise answers in developmentally appropriate language. Keep the focus on what you are doing to prepare and prevention strategies that are within your control like proper hand washing and avoiding large crowds. Reassure when needed but avoid offering too frequently as this can prevent children from developing their own positive self talk.
- Limit news exposure:
Even when it seems like they’re not listening, children pick up on what they hear on TV and radio. Hearing unfamiliar words like pandemic and outbreak can be fear-inducing. Opt for watching or listening to news reports when your child is in bed or choose to read news articles if possible. This may also include limiting our conversations about what we are hearing on the news.
- Stick to routines and boundaries:
Children thrive with routines and boundaries, and predictability can be very comforting in anxious times. When some things feel out of control, routines can give them a sense of security. Write your daily routine on the whiteboard or make a paper schedule together and make sure that you include fun activities in your daily routine!
- Acknowledge the worries:
It’s completely okay to acknowledge children’s worries rather than ignoring them. Acknowledging worries won’t solidify them but it will help your child understand that worry is a protective feeling that alerts us to potential danger. The smoke alarm analogy can be helpful when explaining anxiety. Smoke alarms are really helpful for alerting us to danger when there’s a fire and we need to get out of the building. But sometimes smoke alarms go off even when there isn’t a big danger, like when we burn toast. Anxiety does the same thing, telling us that there is a big danger, even if the situation is not that big.
- Be mindful of your own worries:
It is reasonable for everyone to have some level of worry but children do pick up on our feelings and notice our anxieties, and they will take cues from us. We need to manage our own anxiety, including how we might express this in conversations with our child or others.
- Consider opportunities for exercise:
Make time to enjoy being active together, for example, throwing a ball in the backyard, dance to your favourite song or simply enjoy a stroll in the park.
Hang in there everyone …
we are sure you are all doing a really great job!