Concern about the psychological impact of the coronavirus pandemic
Posted Wed 25 Mar 2020, 8:03pm
Updated Thu 26 Mar 2020, 7:12am
Expires: Thursday 20 February 4758 8:03pm
The steady flow of coronavirus bad news is enough to make you feel hopeless, but experts explain there are ways we can all look after our mental health.
SECURITY GUARD: Everyone will get something today. Have a great day.
ASHLYNNE McGHEE, REPORTER: Everywhere you look, the news is pretty grim. It is no wonder we are all feeling so worried.
ROS KNIGHT, AUST. PSYCHOLOGICAL SOCIETY PRESIDENT: Anxiety in response to a threat like COVID-19 is a natural and normal emotion for everyone to feel. The problem is that then if we act on that emotion inappropriately.
ASHLYNNE McGHEE: Like panic-buying at supermarkets.
ROS KNIGHT: We don’t know what the Government’s going to require us to do. We don’t know what is going to happen to each of us, so therefore we go “What can I do? Well, I can stockpile food so I know if I actually get told I have to stay indoors for a couple of weeks, I have got everything that I need.”
ASHLYNNE McGHEE: Psychologist Ros Knight, says there are some simple things you can do to improve your mental health.
ROS KNIGHT: Trying to eat well, trying to still exercise, still talk with friends by phone and by Skype and other means. Trying to just basically look after ourselves and seeing it as perhaps an enforced holiday, a chance to do a bit of a project around the home.
ASHLYNNE McGHEE: Children and the elderly may feel especially worried.
Experts say, it is better to discuss what is going on than to ignore it.
ROS KNIGHT: The best way to manage with kids is to be factual but at a level they can understand and to treat it like you would any other safety behaviour. So, if you are training kids to cross the road, we use appropriate language.
We talk about the risks involved but we don’t make it into some sort of disaster.
ASHLYNNE McGHEE: And there is still fun to be had. You can’t take kids to the zoo but the zoo can come to you. Hundreds of museums and art galleries from around the world can be explored online.
PROF. ROBIN GURWITCH, DUKE UNIVERSITY: Please take a break and that doesn’t mean, I turn off the television to go check the Internet to see what the stories are.
ASHLYNNE McGHEE: Duke University’s Professor Robin Gurwitch has been observing anxiety levels rise in the US. She is worried that inconsistent public health advice is making it worse.
PROF. ROBIN GURWITCH: When you have different messages coming from multiple sources, that can create increased anxiety because I am not sure who to believe or what to trust.
ASHLYNNE McGHEE: Her advice is to establish a new routine, including time each day to get information from a trusted source.
Keep in touch with family and friends and find enjoyment in the little things.
PROF. ROBIN GURWITCH: That may be taking a walk, playing with the dog, playing a family game. It may be yoga, it may be relaxation or meditation, mindfulness.
I like to cook when I get a little stressed, so I am cooking and cooking and cooking.
ASHLYNNE McGHEE: The challenge for all of us, is how to maintain some sense of normality when life is anything but.