Emotional Support during the COVID-19 Pandemic
by Stephanie Foxley MCouns, MACA
6th April 2020
AS WE ARE FACED with increasing boundaries in our normal day to day life and as isolation and social distancing are required to flatten the growth rate of COVID-19 many people will find themselves struggling with their emotions.
It is really important that we, as a community, look out for each other; especially the elderly, the vulnerable, those with asthma, compromised lung capacity or auto immune problems.
But it is equally important to be considerate to other members of our community too, those who live alone or have no family.
There are many people out there who already struggle with isolation from their families and friends; especially those who live with depression, anxiety and stress.
If you know someone who is struggling, reach out to them; if you know someone who lives on their own, no matter what age, reach out to them; if you need to make a trip to the shops, offer to help do the shopping for them; check in with them, make a phone call or a video call, give them a “virtual” hug, you might be their life saver.
Anxiety is a normal response to stressful situations or perceived threat, and currently Australians and other nationalities around the world are under threat from the COVID-19 virus.
This anxiety ranges from the sense of uneasiness to increased worry or fear, to severe panic.
It is important that if you are feeling heightened feelings of anxiety to seek help; to talk to a friend or a member of your family, ring a counsellor or call a hotline.
These feelings may include “fear of this situation”, that “this situation is really bad” or that you “can’t cope with this”.
In extreme cases your behaviour may become uncharacteristic, like being aggressive, restless or irrational.
We have all seen some of these responses on television where people have been fighting in the supermarkets.
Your counsellor will be able to help you manage your thoughts, assist you with some relaxation techniques and breathing exercises.
Families who find themselves in isolation will inevitably struggle with the close proximity in which they are having to live.
Extended periods within the same four walls will no doubt lead to some form of conflict.
“Effective coping strategies can transform a conflict into a problem that can be solved mutually” (from Learning to cope with conflict and violence: how schools can help youth by Susan Opotow and Morton Deutsch, inLearning to Cope: Developing as a Person in Complex Societies, edited by Erica Frydenberg).
So, it is time to be even more considerate to one another, give each other some space and if possible, come up with constructive systems that promote positive outcomes.
Avoid situations that might increase tensions and anger.
While getting angry is a normal human emotion, so long as it is managed well, it should not cause a problem.
Anger can range from slight annoyance to severe rage, and it is these heightened feelings of anger that need careful consideration especially when having to live in close proximity, confined to your home.
Anger, in extreme cases, can lead to violence and if you are at all concerned about your own anger or that of someone close to you, it is important to reach out and get help.
Isolation can lead to other mental health issues, and prolonged isolation can lead to feelings of being “trapped” or “cabin fever”.
When you are confined to a small space or restricted against your will in your own home it is possible that you can begin to feel irritable and restless.
These are claustrophobic reactions to being confined and may occur if you are faced with self-isolation or if there is a total quarantine lockdown.
Keeping yourself motivated is important, finding constructive things to do is helpful and reading a good book or playing an engaging game will also be advantageous.
Contact a friend for a video chat, or simply pick up the phone and talk to someone; tell them how you feel, that you feel like you are going to go crazy, reach out and share these emotions, once shared, they are halved.
We live in a community that cares, be there for one another, it might be your turn to need help next time.
Stephanie Foxley is a Warrandyte based counsellor who offers face to face and online counselling services. Medibank, Bupa, Police Health Fund and Doctor’s Health fund accredited. Member of ACA and CCAA, Provisional member of PACFA
Mobile: 0407 921 122
Coronavirus Health Information Line: 1800 020 080
Beyondblue Australia: 1300 22 4636
Lifeline: (Crisis Support) 13 11 14
Headspace: (12-25 years) 1800 650 890
Health and Human Services: https://www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au