I will be writing a series of weekly columns covering some unique issues caused by the extraordinary events related to the Covid-19 virus
These will include some resources, advice and tips on how to maintain your mental wellness while we all ride out the Covid-19 wave together.
The first thing that I want to emphasis is that it is absolutely, 100 per cent normal to feel scared during these uncertain times.
We are being thrown into a situation that none of us have experienced before and we are being asked to keep us with information that is not changing daily, but hourly.
It is an exhausting time, both mentally and physically, but there are techniques that you can use to minimize long-term negative effects on your mental well-being.
Anxiety in this situation is based on fear. It may be fear of the unknown, fear of being isolated or fear of the illness itself. Fear has the driving force behind panic buying, and can be contagious. Bulk buying of toilet paper is the perfect example of this.
I'm not going to ever suggest that you should ignore fear, as this is one of the primary drives that we all use for survival.
I, instead, suggest that you let yourself feel scared from time to time during this trying period and to allow yourself the moment to analyse how this makes you feel and behave.
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Being mindful of your fear and anxiety can often be the first step to managing it. Sit with your feelings at the time, think about what is causing the feeling, how is that driving your behaviour? Is this a panic attack or am I simply over-thinking an issue? How do I feel physically right now?
The next step after being aware of your anxiety is to look for ways that suit you best for managing the symptoms. At times, your anxiety can turn into panic attack. The first time you have a panic attack, it can feel awful and overwhelming but being aware of triggers and how to manage an attack can be powerful tool in your mental-health toolkit. This is a simple, 5-minute routine to distract yourself when experiencing an attack.
Safety: The most important first step. Make sure that you are in a safe place during a panic attack. Your bedroom or toilet are suitable options, as they are usually private and lockage spaces. Your car is another. Somewhere comfortable, but anywhere where you are out of harms' way will be suitable. Try to take a long, deep breath in through the nose, hold for a count of three and release slowly. Repeat three times.
Smell: Our sense of smell can trigger powerful memories, both good and bad. Replace the smell around you with something that you know is pleasant. Your favourite perfume or cologne, essential oil or simply something that you love the smell of.
Sight: Seeing something or someone can be a ready trigger for a panic attack. You can overcome this by refocusing on something that requires attention and is pleasing to look at. Focus on the details of a favourite photo. Imagine that you are in your favourite place or the event where that photo was taken.
Sound: Excessive noise can make a panic attack seems worse. Replace the noise with sounds that you like. Create a 5-minute meditation playlist on your phone or on your favourite CD. If nothing else is available, try to isolate and focus on a pleasant sound, such a bird singing in the distance.
Taste: Adrenaline from a panic attack can leave a metallic taste in your mouth. Something sweet can also assist in boosting your blood-sugar levels, as hypoglycaemia can make a panic attack worse. Lollies or toffees that last for more than a few minutes are ideal. Your favourite hot drink is another option.
Touch: Touch is also a powerful tool in overcoming a panic attack. Stroking a pet's fur is very calming. Stress or tennis balls are great for applying pressure to, to release tension. While in lockdown, you can put together a calmness pack containing the elements needed for the panic attack routine. This can then be kept somewhere easily accessible, perhaps on your bedside table. If your kids are feeling overwhelmed, this can be an activity that they can do too.
We are all in this situation together and we can get through it by supporting each other. There are free printable and sharable mental-health resources available on my website - araratwellness.com.au.
If you are feeling overwhelming anxiety and require urgent assistance, please contact LifeLine on 13 11 14.