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Four months into 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted life as we knew it – from our personal health and societal norms to the global economy. Self-isolation, coupled with a constant barrage of mostly bad news about the disease and its impact, is driving intense emotions, including anxiety, fear, loneliness and stress.
While you can't control what's happening in the world right now nor the reactions of your fellow citizens, what you can manage is your own environment and the ways in which you process the ever-evolving situation. Here are six tips to help you and your loved ones maintain your mental health, as well as your social and community connections during this difficult time.
Commit to a routine.
Many people are working from home during this time but even for those who aren't, implementing a framework for your day will keep you focused and reduce potential stress. If you're working, stick to your usual routine of waking up, having a shower, getting dressed and eating breakfast before settling down in front of your desk. It's also a good idea to take short 20- to 30-minute breaks to do household chores, listen to music or interact with other people in your home.
Minimise your exposure to news about COVID-19.
Being bombarded with mostly negative news can spark feelings of distress and anxiety. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends you decrease your exposure to coronavirus news to just once or twice a day at most. Additionally, always rely on trusted sources for information, such as the WHO website or your local authorities. That way you'll be avoiding all the misleading rumours and fake news reports that are currently circulating on social media channels.
Pay attention to your kids.
As with every other aspect of society, your children's lives will be impacted by the pandemic. They are not able to attend school and may need to take online classes. Younger kids will also pick up on the changes happening around them and may have questions. Provide them with information in an age-appropriate way but do not overwhelm them. Instead, help them find positive ways to express their feelings of anger, fear or sadness, and engage them in activities to ensure they maintain social contact – either via video call, with other people in your home or through learning. It's also important to establish a routine for your children because the structure will help keep them calm.
Keep in touch with loved ones.
Whether you are self-isolating or are in your home with other people, it can get lonely. Take a few minutes each day to chat with family or friends that are in lockdown elsewhere. During these unusual times, it's important to maintain social connections to give you some level of normality. Whether it's via phone, text, social media or video call, speaking to someone else helps provide perspective on the current situation – and may even take your mind off the pandemic completely as you chat about your next Netflix binge or what you're preparing for dinner.
Find a purpose by helping others.
Doing something for someone else will not only take your mind off your own stress and anxiety but will also be gratifying in a different way. Pick up groceries for your elderly neighbour the next time you head to the shops or, if you're a maths whizz, volunteer to provide online classes for kids who are unable to go to school during the lockdown. Connecting with people has been proven to improve mental health and knowing that someone else needs you will make it easier to endure this tough time.
Give back without leaving home.
You already know that the best way to ensure the coronavirus does not spread is to stay at home but there are still ways in which you can help people, animals and the environment. Many local businesses are taking a hit during this time – thanks to forced closures while the operations of organisations that usually distribute food, clothing and other essentials have been curtailed due to limited resources. You can ease some of the loss by purchasing gift cards online to give to someone in need or by swiping your MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet card when shopping online at any of the community loyalty programme's partner stores, including Woolworths. Every time you swipe, a contribution of your spend will be made on your behalf to a cause of your choice.