Self-care during the COVID-19 outbreak

Self-care during the COVID-19 outbreak

There’s a lot going on in the world right now, with the coronavirus, COVID-19 adding uncertainty to our daily lives.

You may notice that you feel more stressed, anxious or depressed than usual. This is normal at this time but there are things you can do to look after yourself both physically and emotionally.

We’ve put together this list of self-care activities you can do from home. They’ll help you feel a bit better and give you a sense of control.

Taking care of your mental health

  • If you feel overwhelmed, talk to a health worker, social worker, similar professional, or another trusted person in your community.1
  • Draw on skills that you have used in the past during difficult times to manage your emotions during the COVID-19 outbreak.1
  • Try to keep to a routine. If you are at home more than usual, set your alarm to get up at the same time each day, have a shower, put on your favourite clothes and try to maintain a routine. It will feel different than your normal but it will help.
  • Be creative. If you have good ideas for keeping your mind busy and healthy, share them with others.
  • Anxiety is normal, talk about it. Lots of people feel the same way. Listen to your mind and body, anxiety is a feeling like any other. Don’t try to push it away, acknowledge that it is anxiety.
  • Acknowledge your sense of achievement when you have tried something new or feel good about something.
  • Try something new. Look on YouTube for creative ideas of new things to try. Bake a cake, try some origami. Learn something new and teach it to someone else, if possible.

Taking care of your physical health

  • Have a plan on where to go and seek help for physical and mental health and psychosocial needs, should you need them.1
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle (including a proper diet, sleep, exercise and social contact with loved ones). Keep in touch with family and friends through email, phone calls and social media.1
  • Stay active – go for a walk each day, try to see the sky and breathe fresh air every day. Pay attention to your surroundings. Notice the colours and sounds around you. Just remember spatial distancing rules - keep a safe distance from other people.
  • Download a couch to 5k app if you haven’t run before. It is a great way of staying healthy and active.
  • If you are missing the gym or want to try to up your exercise level, use a YouTube video or online coach to motivate you.

Staying connected

  • It is normal to feel sad, distressed, worried, confused, scared or angry during the COVID-19 outbreak. Talk to people you trust. Contact your friends and family.1
  • Try to stay connected to friends and family members as much as you can. Social isolation is difficult but stay connected and make the effort to use your preferred social media platform to video call friends.
  • Ask your friends how they are keeping busy and active, they may have some really good ideas.
  • Start a Netflix group, watch the same series as friends and chat online about it.
  • Have a virtual music party or share a playlist. Enjoy your favourite music.
  • Read a book, start an online book club.

Taking care of others

  • If children in your life have concerns, addressing these together may ease their anxiety. Children will observe adults’ behaviours and emotions for cues on how to manage their own emotions during difficult times.2
  • If you know of vulnerable people in your community, ask them if they need any shopping or leave them a note to say hi and you hope they are okay.

Seeking COVID-19 news or information

  • Get the facts about your risk and how to take precautions. Use credible sources to get information, such as the World Health Organization website or a state or federal public health agency.1
  • Minimise watching, reading or listening to news about COVID-19 that causes you to feel anxious or distressed.2
  • The near-constant stream of news reports about COVID-19 can cause anyone to feel worried. Seek out facts, not rumours and misinformation. Facts can help to minimise fears.2

Sometimes situations can become overwhelming, even if you’ve been practising self-care.

As most people will be spatially distancing (also known as social distancing) or self-isolating, a great way to access support is through telephone and online services. Lifeline (13 11 14) and Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800) can be accessed for phone and online counselling. Lifeline phone counsellors are on call from 7 pm to midnight, and Kids Helpline is available 24/7. Eheadspace also offers free online and telephone support and counselling.

If it’s available to you, you could also see your GP or mental health professional for extra help (but make sure to follow the advice of Healthdirect if you’re showing symptoms or are in self-isolation). You could also ask your mental health professional if they could chat over Skype/FaceTime if you’re in self-isolation.

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  1. World Health Organization, Coping with stress during the 2019-nCOV outbreak (Handout). WHO: Geneva, 2020.
  2. World Health Organization, 2020.