Counsellor Sarah Barr has five tips to help you care for your mental wellness during this time.

This is an unsettling time for us all, therefore it’s important to remember the facts and only listen or follow reliable news sources.

Anxiety creates repetitive, intrusive and fear-based thoughts. These irrational thoughts have a knock-on effect on how we feel and on our behaviour.

A large part of anxiety comes from a sense of what we think we should be able to control, but cannot. We are worried about COVID-19 and may feel helpless about what will happen. The uncertainty might also connect to our uncertainty about other areas of our lives, or remind us of times in the past when we didn’t feel safe and the future seemed uncertain.

In times like these, our mental health can suffer and we don’t always know is happening. You might feel more on edge than usual, angry, helpless or sad. You might notice that you are more frustrated with others or want to completely avoid any reminders of what is happening.

For those who live with a mental health illness they may feel more depressed, anxious or less motivated. We all have a responsibility to prioritise and care for our own mental health, during this uncertain period.

Here are a few suggestions that may help you care for your mental wellness during this time:

1. Limit social media and news

If you are finding the media coverage overwhelming and it is heightening your anxiety, it may be useful to allocate set times throughout the day on social media to catch up on news and updates . Too much time on social media, googling things and excessive exposure to media coverage may increase your anxiety.

2. Keep in touch

Even though we are further apart physically through social-distancing, this does not mean we need to loose our connections with family and friends.

It is so important to keep in touch. Call, Skype, video call, message, text or email. It will help you and help them.

We all need to check-in with each other, to talk about our fears and worries, to reassure and offer each other support.

3. Help those in need

Focus on what you can control and not what you can’t control. Be proactive.

Try thinking about what we can do to protect ourselves and those who are vulnerable around us.

Practice good hygiene, be careful, avoid crowds and help those in need.

4. Find a new routine

Routine is key in helping us to care for our mental health and well-being. The lack of it can have a huge impact on thoughts, feelings and behaviour.

Create a new routine, get up every morning at the same time, get washed and dressed. Even though you are at home and staying in a lot, it is important for your wellness.

Sleep and diet are both also so important for your immune system, so stick to a good routine and make sure that you are getting enough sleep and eating well.

5. Take time out

Finally, make sure you include time out for yourself throughout the day, self care will help you to manage your mood and anxiety.

This can include reading, having a bath, going for a walk (within limits and practicing social distancing), listening to music, watching your favourite film, learning a new skill, cooking, journaling/writing or simply sitting for 10 minutes in a room by yourself.

It is important to be cautious, but fear and panic will not help. Worrying steals our joy.

Pro-active things like mindfulness, gratitude, breathing techniques and meditation can also help.

Meditation/mindfulness apps such as Headspace and Calm can be downloaded to your tablet/phone.

There are brilliant support services locally and online:
24/7 Suicide Helpline: 1800 247 247
Aware Support Line: 1800 80 48 48
Pieta House: 1800 247 247
Samaritans: 116 123.

Hopefully everything will return to normal soon. Then we can all move forward with perhaps a different perspective and we won’t take for granted the small things anymore, like visiting our family, meeting a friend for coffee, or going to work.

Take care of yourself and others,