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How to take care of yourself and others in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic

You probably don’t need us to to tell you, but these are clearly unprecedented times. The last time the world saw a pandemic on this scale was over 100 years ago – and it was a very different world back then.

Whether you’re currently employed or looking for work, the COVID-19 pandemic is undoubtably creating huge uncertainty – for almost every part of your life.

In between washing your hands a gazillion times a day, and maintaining a safe 1.5m distance from everyone, you may well find yourself feeling overwhelmed, anxious or even helpless.

With this in mind, we wanted to say: Take care of yourself. And take care of those around you – in your community, your family, your workplace.

Here are some tips and links to help you do just that:

Take care of yourself

1) Stay connected and seek support from your friends and family:

Keeping in contact with your network and sharing how you are feeling will let those who care about you provide the support you may need. The COVID-19 situation is one that is being experienced by all of us, so sharing your thoughts and emotions with others is likely to be met with understanding and compassion.

If you’re stuck at home, call or text your friends and family about the impacts or concerns you are experiencing, or seek professional support early if you’re feeling really challenged. Beyond Blue also has a dedicated forum on the topic ‘coping with the coronavirus outbreak’ if an online community is a resource you would find useful.

2) Find enjoyable activities that help to keep you occupied, and in a positive headspace:

Doing something that you enjoy can help ease the mental stress or simply provide a much-needed positive distraction from the COVID-19 media coverage.

It might be a great time to pick up the half-read book on your bedside, try your hand at drawing/writing/photography, listen to music, meditate, or maybe just start that Netflix series everyone has been talking about. Any activity that you find joy in will help create an outlet from the emotional strain and encourage a positive state of mind.

For more information on looking after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak, head to Beyond Blue.

3) Stay informed, but set limits for your news and social media exposure:

It’s understandable to want to keep informed about COVID-19 and health advice, but constantly monitoring news updates may also intensify any feelings of anxiety.

To find a healthy balance, seek out information sources that are reliable and factual and avoid sensation-seeking outlets or social media rumours. Below are some credible sources that will give you access to accurate information:

It may also be helpful to set yourself boundaries around how much news you read, watch or listen to. A helpful approach may be to choose your information source (for example, bookmark some the websites above) and set specific times once or twice a day that you’ll check them. Try to avoid other coverage outside of these boundaries.

Take care of your body

With a virus on the loose, staying physically healthy is more important than ever. Taking care of your body will not only assist in boosting your immunity but will also have important effects on your overall state of mind and resilience.

1) Eat well:

A healthy and balanced diet, high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains will keep your immunity system strong. Good nutrition also has many flow on effects for your body and long-term health.

The Victorian Government’s Better Health website has some handy reminders about exactly what we should be fuelling our bodies with, including; making sure you have variety in your diet, being mindful of high-salt and high-sugar foods, drinking only in moderation, as well as tips to help make these dietary goals achievable.

2) Sleep well:

Sleep is fundamental to maintaining good health and immunity. Not only does it give your body and mind time to rest, but also allows your body to rebuild muscles and clean away harmful plaques and waste that are produced in the brain.

Sleep is also essential to regulating your emotions. In fact, being sleep-deprived for just one night can increase your emotional response to negative feelings by 60%. This can have significant effects on the way you process the information around a potentially-stressful situation, like the coronavirus pandemic.

With sleep being so necessary to so many aspects of good health, it’s important to prioritise getting enough sleep each night. According to Harvard Health, that means 7-9 hours for most people. Going to bed at the same time each night to regulate your inner clock, avoiding caffeine in the afternoon and evening, and minimising exposure to electronics immediately before bed can all improve your sleep. For more tips, click here.

3) Exercise:

Exercise keeps you healthy and will also boost your mood. If you are working from home, self-isolating, or staying away from the gym, there are still plenty of ways to activate those endorphins. Personal trainers suggest finding a spot outside, or on a balcony, and doing body-weight movements like burpees, lunges and push-ups is a simple way to do a full-body workout without needing a lot of space or any equipment.

Take care of those around you

In these times, it’s often the small acts that can help band us together and create a community of support, lifting those around us who are vulnerable and ensuring that we are all cared for with compassion.

Now is a perfect time to check in with your neighbours (whether in person or using this handy card), share any excess items that are becoming hard to find on supermarket shelves, support local businesses that are likely to be doing it tough, and treat those who are working in stores with kindness and respect. It’s these simple actions that can help care for others and protect their wellbeing too.

If you notice anyone around you who is experiencing heightened anxiety and stress, reach out and ask if they’re okay. Feelings of isolation are likely to be widely felt – especially by vulnerable communities – so taking the time to connect with others could make a big impact. Perhaps it’s time to call out to your neighbour over the fence, send a message to that friend on social media who seems to be quite worried, or reach out to your elderly relatives to make sure they feel supported.

This is a challenging time for us all, but by taking these steps to care for yourself and those around you we can create a kind environment where everyone is cared for. This will mean that we are in a better position to overcome this massive challenge – and we will overcome it – together.

Thanks for everything you do to make the world a better place!

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