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Looking after Mental Health and Wellbeing During COVID-19

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In times of crisis, such as what is happening around the world with COVID-19, anxiety, fear, sadness, anger and frustration are normal reactions. We need to be kind to ourselves, and accept that these emotions will happen, without minimising or denying them. There are things that you can do to help overcome the stress; empathic responding is one way to positively deal with the stresses we all find ourselves under.

Helen Bartimote, lead psychologist at Container Solutions, published an article on the Container Solutions blog on looking after mental health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the article she points out the importance of accepting that anxiety and fear are a perfectly natural response and that we are not alone in experiencing these emotions. She advises accepting not denying these feelings, focusing on what you can control, and exploring the value of empathic responding - reaching out to help others is good for communities and for our own mental wellbeing.

She points out that the current situation is unpredictable, novel and ambiguous, all the ingredients that can lead to worrying thoughts and ultimately anxiety. This is perfectly normal. She advises people to play the long game - give yourself time to adjust and accept the situation we find ourselves in. Denial and trying to ignore the situation can lead to burnout.

Talking about Empathic Responding, she says:

I would like to help you, what can i do to support you?, I wonder what I can do to help my community with this?, I wonder how this situation is making X feel? How could I help? = Empathetic Responding, which is generally considered to be the most effective for communities and also for an individual’s own psychological well being in a crisis situation.

Other organisations providing advice on looking out for mental health during this time include Nature, who published a piece by Desiree Dickerson, PhD titled Seven tips to manage your mental health and well-being during the COVID-19 outbreak. Dickerson advises:

  • Manage your expectations
  • Proactively manage your stress threshold
  • Know your red-flags
  • Routine is your friend
  • Be compassionate with yourself and with others
  • Maintain connections
  • Manage uncertainty by staying in the present

The New Zealand Mental Health Foundation has a paper with Top tips for looking after mental health and wellbeing during COVID-19 and beyond and International SOS has advice on Looking After Yourself During the Coronavirus Outbreak: Psychological Advice For Employees.

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