How to look after your mental health and wellbeing during Alert Level 4.
We all have an important job to do while Aotearoa New Zealand is at COVID-19 Alert Level 4. Whether you are in your physical isolation ‘bubble’ at home, or working to deliver an essential service, you are helping to save lives.
It’s important to take care of yourself – and that means your mind as well as your body.
Remember your feelings are completely normal – it’s understandable to feel sad, distressed, worried, confused, anxious or angry during this crisis.
Be strong and be kind (especially to yourself) – we’re going to get through this.
Wellbeing is a continuum and we’re likely to find ourselves at various points over the coming weeks and months. Lots of useful information about wellbeing is available online through organisations including the Mental Health Foundation and the Health Promotion Agency – see the Depression website, and the Lowdown website for youth.
Wellbeing tips to help you feel good and get through
Find ways to stay connected
- He waka eke noa – we’re all in this together. Remember you are not alone, it’s important that physical isolation doesn’t lead to social isolation. Stay connected with the people who are important to you on the phone, through social media, video chats or text.
- Self-isolation doesn’t mean cutting off all communication - in fact, it’s more important than ever to talk and listen, share stories and advice, and stay in touch with the people who matter to you.
- Organise a virtual coffee or lunch with your friends or schedule a daily phone call with an elderly relative or neighbour.
Do things that make you feel good
- Prioritise looking after your body and mind – we know what makes us feel good and what doesn’t.
- Remember what worked for you in previous times of stress and try to recreate and repeat those feel-good factors. Get into healthy habits.
- At times of crisis it’s important to give our minds and bodies what they need to stay healthy – good food, plenty sleep, fun, exercise, mindfulness, music, relaxation, reading, nature, laughter, space, gratitude – whatever works for you.
- Exercise helps your mind and body to release tension and stress; it energises you by releasing feel-good endorphins.
- Find ways to move your body and your mood every day.
- You can still go outside for a walk, run or cycle, as long as you stay in your ‘bubble’.
Find ways and space to relax
- Relaxation is especially important if you’re feeling stressed or anxious; finding things that help you breathe deeply, switch off and recharge will make you feel better.
- Breathing deeply and slowly for just 60 seconds will help you feel calm.
- It’s important to have a relaxing space to be in. If you can’t create a physical space use your imagination to create ‘headspace’.
Be generous – think about what you can do for others
- Giving helps us feel valued and connected – think about ways you can give your time, skills and knowledge to help others.
- Assist other others who might need help and reach out to people who are alone.
- Text a compliment to someone, share a recipe or book recommendation on social media, or call someone who might be feeling lonely.
Stick to a routine
- We cope better with stress when our lives have structure – routines keep us healthy.
- When our usual routines are upset, it’s important to create new ones.
- Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, eat regularly, shower, change your clothes, get some fresh air, book in video-chats with colleagues or friends, do your chores and make sure you make time for fun.
Moderate your consumption of (bad) news
- COVID-19 is a global issue and the endless updates from news outlets and people on social media can be overwhelming.
- Notice how you feel and switch off when you need to.
- Get important information from reliable sources such as the Unite against COVID-19 website.
Remember all the good things in life that aren’t being reported!
If you’re struggling and need to talk
However, if you’re struggling and need to talk, free call or text 1737 to have a chat with a trained counsellor. They’re available for free, day and night.
- The Depression Helpline (0800 111 757)
- Healthline (0800 611 116)
- Lifeline (0800 543 354)
- Samaritans (0800 726 666)
- Youthline (0800 376 633)
- Alcohol Drug Helpline (0800 787 797)
If you’re concerned about someone
If you are concerned someone you care about may be feeling suicidal, it’s important to ask them about this. It is a myth that asking people about suicide might put the idea in their head to try it.
Asking and talking about suicidal thoughts in a supportive and non-judgmental way can support suicidal people to open up and seek help. Ask them clear and direct questions about how they are feeling, and whether they are thinking about taking their life. If they say yes reassure them that you will support them and help them to identify and access the professional support they need.
If you are interested in learning more about how to support people who may be feeling suicidal, there is a free online training course available on the LifeKeepers website.
If someone is putting themselves or others in immediate danger, call 111 for assistance.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, please don’t suffer in silence. Seek the support of trusted family members or friends and use the free services referred to above. Every life matters and help is available.
Taking care of children
There may be children or young people in your life who experience distress. As a trusted adult, you can help reassure and educate them about COVID-19 – it can be good to talk to them now, so they can understand the illness and be reassured. If you feel the child or young person is getting distressed through this conversation, reassure them and end it.
Children react to stress differently than adults – they may withdraw or behave in a more ‘babyish’ way, seem anxious or clingy, be preoccupied with illness in their play or drawing, have problems sleeping or nightmares, or may get physical symptoms such as stomach aches or headaches.
Tips for supporting children and young people
- Reassure them they are safe.
- Encourage them to talk about how they feel.
- Tell them they can ask questions and answer these in plain language appropriate to their age – be honest but avoid details that may distress or cause anxiety.
- Tell them that feeling upset or afraid is normal, that it’s good to talk about it and that they’ll feel better soon.
- Be understanding – they may have problems sleeping, throw tantrums or wet the bed – be patient and reassuring if this happens. With support and care, it will pass.
- Give your children extra love and attention.
- Remember that children look to their parents to feel safe and to know how to respond – reassure them, share that you are upset too but that you know you will all be fine together.
- Try to keep to normal routines – mealtimes, bedtimes etc – allow them to burn off their energy.
However, if a child’s distress is escalating or they are displaying any worrying behaviours (such as extreme withdrawal, terror that you cannot comfort them from), seek help early.
Call or text 1737 to talk with a trained counsellor for free, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.