The onset of COVID-19 has radically disrupted the way we live, and with constant change, the feelings of fear, uncertainty and loss are natural… however, they can overwhelm us.
Alongside the physical danger that COVID-19 brings there is another risk, often hidden, and that is to our mental health. And most vulnerable to this are those of us who are already suffering from a pre-existing mental health condition.
For many the experience of COVID-19 will trigger fear, and may cause a re-experiencing of past traumas. Emotions can vary. From helplessness and despair to anger, guilt and shame. Moods can swing from nervous and irritated to detached and dazed, and even moments of calm. Therefore, we need to be self-aware and prepared to discover these responses within ourselves.
For those of us who have been recovering at or off work from a mental health concern, the feelings of fear, uncertainty and loss can intensify the condition beyond our ability to cope on our own. Any gains in recovery may be lost or, even worse, escalate the severity of the injury and prolong any return to work.
How can we identify if someone is at risk?
Feelings of anxiety and depression, trouble sleeping, not being able to enjoy daily activities that they are used to enjoying, avoidance, increasing alcohol or other drugs use can worsen and persist over time.
If these feelings continue, there is a great risk that health will be compromised. Speak to a doctor and/or mental health professional. These times can put a lot of emotional stress in ourselves and our relationships. It may be useful to discuss this with a professional also.
So what can you do to maintain your mental health in recovery?
Here are six tips for better mental health, and which should be considered each and every day.
Tip 1 for coping: Maintain supportive connections and trusting relationships
- Establish a plan, know your entitlements and available assistance and how to access it. And access it.
- Talk with friends and family and people your trust. Let those important to you know what is going on. Share how you are feeling. And ask for help.
- Accepting help and support from people who care about you and will listen to you are able to help immensely. The earlier we engage help, the more options we have. Keeping secrets is very stressful for individuals and family members. Having support and empathy is very helpful in moving through this emotional time.
Tip 2 for coping: Take care of your body and mind
- Exercise is an important remedy for stress.
- Being mindful about your eating and sleeping as it is important to keep yourself functioning as well as possible.
- Maintain a regular daily routine incorporating downtime and exercise can be helpful.
- Be mindful about the use of alcohol and other drugs.
Tip 3 for coping: Nurture yourself
- Do something at least once a day that makes you feel-good. This is a time to be compassionate with yourself and to utilise stress reducing tools that are right for you and help you feel calm.
- Try taking a walk, taking a warm bath, talking with someone interested in listening, mediating, praying, listening to music or anything else that helps you to feel relaxed.
- Calibrate your media exposure. Stick to one or two trusted sources.
Tip 4 for coping: Write
- Write down your ideas, thoughts and feelings.
- Writing can be very useful way to vent negative feelings as well as clarify or make meaning over any issues that you might struggle with.
- Journaling, writing in letter form, even list making can help to clear your head.
- Don’t worry about it sounding perfect, it’s your thoughts and ideas that count.
Tip 5 for coping: Keep a positive mental attitude
- Stay aware of the messages that you are giving yourself. If you notice you are having critical thoughts, e.g. “I will never get better,” “I feel worthless,” it is important to observe this and reach out to others and maybe tell yourself to stop doing it. These thoughts can consume us and make us feel worse.
- The impact of COVID-19 shows us that we cannot always be in control of what happens to us. So take note of things you can control, work with others to build upon this.
Tip 6 for coping: Keep a positive mental attitude
- Remember that nothing ever stays the same and tell yourself “this too will pass.”
- Many industries and services will re-build after COVID-19, and new ones will emerge.
- Maintain a hopeful outlook and picture what you want rather than worrying about what your fear.
When to seek professional help?
If you are concerned about your mental health or that of another, speak with your doctor and/or mental health professional. Seek help early.
Staying connected, being responsive to mental health symptoms and enabling return to work support services, early, mitigates the risk of a person’s recovery.
For more information on ProActiv’s telehealth services, contact us on (08) 8362 4507 or firstname.lastname@example.org