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Coping with anxiety and worry caused by COVID-19

These uncertain times are affecting everyone around the world. Now, more than ever, it is important to manage your mental health and wellbeing, particularly if you are feeling worried or anxious.

Here’s a few tips to help you do just that.

Ways to look after yourself

First things first: keep things in perspective

When we are stressed, it’s easy to see things as being worse than they really are.

Today’s non-stop media coverage is a great way to keep up to date. There is lots of information out there, so it’s important to make sure you are accessing good quality information from credible sources about the virus, such as official Western Australian advice.

Even limiting our information intake to credible sources can still often, quite unwittingly, stoke a lot of unnecessary fear and alarm.

You can avoid this by keeping things in perspective – and by not underestimating your ability to cope. It might also be a good idea to lessen the amount of media coverage you watch or read if you find it upsetting.

Take reasonable precautions

Another good way to keep anxiety (and the virus) at bay is by being proactive and following these basic hygiene principles:

  • Wash your hands often (and for as long as it takes to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice).
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • If you begin to feel unwell, stay at home (self-isolate) until you recover.
  • Seek medical help early if you have a fever, cough or experience breathing difficulties.

Visit the Healthy WA website for information about how to seek help if you have COVID-19-like symptoms.

Practise self-care

Looking after yourself will help encourage a positive frame of mind. And whilst different people have different ways of practising self-care, here’s a few examples you may find useful:

  • Keep up your connections with family and friends. You can’t pop round to see them, but you can telephone or video call (such as FaceTime, Zoom or Skype).
  • Keep up a healthy lifestyle. Eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, get quality sleep – and avoid alcohol, tobacco and other drugs to cope with stress or anxiety as it’s only likely to make you feel worse.
  • Keep yourself occupied. Remember when there were never enough hours in the day? Now you can make time for all those activities and hobbies you enjoy.
  • Keep calm. Practise things like relaxation and meditation to give your body a chance to settle and readjust to a calm state.

Ways to help older adults who may appear worried or anxious

Older adults, especially those in self-isolation or those with dementia, may become more anxious, angry or withdrawn during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Giving them practical and emotional support can go a long way toward getting them through this tough time.

You can start by sharing simple facts about what is going on and giving clear information about how they can reduce their risk of infection – see the official advice here. Remember to always give instructions in a respectful and patient way, and to repeat the information whenever necessary. Displaying this in words or pictures may also be very helpful.

Other family members and/or support networks can also be engaged to help older adults to practice virus protection methods, such as how frequently and how long to wash their hands.

It’s important we all do our bit to help older members in our communities stay healthy and safe during this difficult time. While it might be difficult to not see our older family members for a period of time, it’s important we make the effort to stay connected to them by regular telephone or video calls.

If you have an underlying health condition

Firstly, make sure you have access to up to two weeks’ worth of any medications you are currently using. If necessary, get in touch with friends or family to help you with this, or talk to your pharmacist by phone to see if they can deliver your medications to you or if there are alternative ways to provide them with a script without the need to go in to the pharmacy.

Next, know in advance where and how to get any practical help you may need, such as calling a taxi, having food delivered or requesting medical care.

Learning simple daily exercises will help you maintain mobility. Equally, regular routines such as cleaning, daily chores, painting, or doing a crossword can all help in reducing any boredom that may set in.

Of course, always be sure to keep in regular contacts with family and friends via the phone, email, social media or video calls.

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