Taking care of your mental health and wellbeing during COVID-19

17 March 2020

It is normal and healthy to feel stress and anxiety sometimes.

The changing daily circumstances and widespread media reporting and commentary on COVID-19, however, can give rise to heightened individual and community anxiety.

‘This is understandable as these are unprecedented and uncertain times,’ said the President of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, Associate Professor John Allan.

‘It is important to acknowledge that each person experiencing anxiety will feel different – it is common to have trouble breathing and feel panicked, or to have a racing heart, feel dizzy, shaky or unwell.

‘The stress of an infectious disease outbreak like this can also lead to fear and worry about your own health and that of your loved ones, difficulty in sleeping or concentrating and increased use of alcohol and other substances.

The RANZCP President emphasised that there may be some people who respond more strongly than others to the stress of the unfolding events.

‘This includes people who have mental health conditions, for example, children and adolescents, and older people and those with other physical health conditions who are more at risk for COVID-19.

‘There are the psychological impacts of public health measures to contain the virus which can exacerbate pre-existing anxiety and other mental health conditions, and can lead to increases in distress, symptoms and relapse into mental ill health,’ said Associate Professor Allan.

‘Quarantine measures and other restrictions to everyday practices can be stressful and quite isolating.

‘It is important, where possible, to keep up normal routines, continue with the things that help you relax, and keep in touch with (and check in on) family members and friends via telephone, email or social media – we are all in this together.

‘It might be the right time to explore or start a simple creative endeavor such as a daily journal of what is going on, and your key thoughts – this can also be therapeutic.

‘It is essential that we find and develop new ways to be connected and support each other as communities,’ said Associate Professor Allan.

If you have very strong feelings of worry, unease or fear and you are struggling to cope it is important to seek the right support, information and help – effective treatments are available.

For all the latest government information and guidance on COVID-19, please visit www.health.gov.au (Australia) and www.health.govt.nz (New Zealand).

For all other expert mental health information visit Your Health in Mind, the RANZCP’s consumer health information website.

ENQUIRIES: For more information, or to arrange an interview call Sarah Carr on +61 (0)3 9640 0646 or +61 437 315 911, or email media@ranzcp.org.