Prioritising mental health during COVID-19

At Newcastle and Hunter Community Health, we’re very aware that the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak can leave people feeling anxious, stressed and worried.

Whilst we all recognise the need to remain vigilant and proactive regarding our physical health, it’s also important to prioritise your mental well being.

What we are facing is unprecedented. We are living in uncertain and stressful times, and it’s bound to have an effect on us all – particularly the more vulnerable members of our community, many of which we support through our services.

Ways to stay mindful and positive during the COVID-19 pandemic

There are many ways to boost mental wellbeing by making small adjustments to your everyday routine.

Some of our tips include:

Find a healthy balance of information

There is a constant barrage of information from press conferences, news sites, and social media. So it’s easy to become overwhelmed and begin to panic. The media is saturated with a mixture of updates, information, figures and opinion. Add to that the input and hearsay from family and friends, and it can be confusing to separate fact from opinion. It can be hard to know what is useful and what is causing you more stress.

This never ending commentary can have negative impacts on your mental and physical wellbeing. It’s important to find time to switch off, and try to maintain some sense of normalcy.

Our number one piece of advice during this challenging time is to find a balance that works for you when it comes to staying informed. This means thinking about how, when and where you source information.

Trust only reliable and official resources for information rather than news outlets which exist to sell a story. Such as World Health Organization and the Australian Government.

Always balance staying informed about COVID-19 with other forms of light-hearted information and entertainment. This can help reduce the stress caused by the current situation.

Protect the physical health of yourself and others

There are some simple steps that we can all follow to maintain our physical health, and help stop the spread.

Eat well and find time to exercise

During this time, it’s more important than ever to make time to exercise and prioritise eating well. There are some new restrictions designed to flatten the curve that have changed the way you may have previously sourced food or exercised. However, there are still plenty of healthy options available.

For example, whilst many gyms have had to close their doors, a lot of business owners have been innovative and proactive in creating digital classes. These can be enjoyed from the comfort of your home whilst still offer the same calorie-burning benefits. Many are offering classes for free or at a discounted rate and are readily available for all to access.

When it comes to your diet, resist foods high in fat, sugar and salt. Instead choosing high protein, fibre and other essential nutrients. This will help you build an even stronger immune system. There’s no better time to prepare your body to fight against infection.

Look for opportunities to source fresh produce from local suppliers. Get creative in the kitchen so you use up pantry supplies rather than leave them to run to their due-by date. If you don’t have access to fresh vegetables, frozen are fine. In fact, they often retain as many or more nutrients than their fresh counterparts. Learn more about this here from Melanie McGrice, spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia.

Click here for some great ways you can incorporate fruit and vegetables in your diet.

Find stress relievers that work best for you

It goes without saying that during this time you may encounter heightened stress. Instead of letting the stress take over, we recommend finding activities to do to help you to manage stress better and feel more at ease.

This could include things like listening to music, taking time out to meditate, reading a book, breathing exercises, other physical exercise and so much more.

The most important thing is to find what works best for you and to practice them regularly.

Establish your new normal

The coronavirus safety precautions have meant we’ve all had to make adjustments to our everyday routines. For many, this means working from home, spending weekends indoors and adjusting our time out to ensure our wellbeing. This can be a radical shift to the lifestyle you previously led, so make sure you take some time to adjust and reinvent your new ‘normal’ that will get you through this time.

There are many ways to adapt your routine, and increase resilience, such as these outlined by Clinical Psychologist, Mike Kyrios.

For example, spend some time establishing a regular sleep schedule or find a designated timeslot to connect with friends or family members over the phone or internet. Ensure you set up your work from home space separate to the main living areas, so you can still feel a sense of freedom at the end of the day.

Another great idea is to create a schedule that may include 30 minutes exercising in your neighbourhood and some time spent in the sunshine outdoors each day.

A little creativity can go a long way when it comes to creating a routine that gets you excited to jump out of bed each day.

Self-isolation doesn’t mean you have to be alone

Technology has afforded us a wonderful opportunity to stay connected, even during challenging times like these. Whilst we are encouraged to self-isolate to play our role in flattening the curve and reducing the impact of coronavirus on our community and health system, this doesn’t mean completely isolating yourself from others!

Skype, video-based apps, phones, emails and social media have allowed us all to stay connected for work and in a personal capacity. Colleagues are holding virtual coffee catchups, friends are enjoying Friday night virtual trivia, Netflix is allowing people to watch shows in sync and families are staying connected everyday through technology.

Set up regular virtual meetups with friends and family using the technology that most suits you. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Know your resources and seek support if needed

If you are finding it hard to cope, you are not alone! Reach out to a trusted family member or friend and share how you feel. If you don’t feel comfortable talking with someone you know, there are many great community support services designed to help people facing feelings of distress, many of which are offered completely free of charge. Here are a few resources that might be able to assist you: The most important thing to remember is that we’re all in this together. This is a moment in time, and it will pass. We just need to work together now to make that process quicker and smoother for our community and vulnerable community members.

If you or anyone you know needs help, please don't hesitate to reach out to our team:

Ph: 02 4920 1637 | Email: enquiries@nhch.com.au
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