health

'Hold a family meeting.' 6 tips to help you and your kids cope with COVID-19 anxiety.

This is Robbo the teddy.

He has ‘the virus’ and is in hospital.

Robbo’s five-year-old owner, daughter of The Quicky host Claire Murphy, is just one of thousands of kids and adults across the country feeling on edge due to COVID-19.

“Thinking out loud to husband about whether 5yo’s sudden clinginess was virus panic related… he shows me this picture she drew this morning of her cherished teddy ‘Robbo’ who is in hospital with ‘the virus’ and now I’m too sad,” Claire wrote on Instagram.

Are you working from home today?

Are you preparing to panic buy some groceries?

Are you worried about what might happen if we’re sent into lockdown?

Chances are you too are struggling with some coronavirus anxiety, which is only natural given the serious, scary and unpredictable nature of our new reality.

WATCH: Here are some of your COVID-19 questions answered. 

Video by Mamamia
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Lorraine Corne, a psychologist who specialises in anxiety and depression, explained to The Quicky that feelings of anxiety often make us exaggerate anything that’s a little wrong, resulting in “OMG thinking”.

“This produces adrenalin in the body, and this adrenalin runs around and affects the parts of the body that are the weakest. You end up on high alert too long, and this affects your perception of things,” she explained.

It can also manifest physically in a tight throat, headaches, and churny stomach as you try to manage everything around you.

“We can not control everything around us right now, we can only control what we can control,” said Lorraine.

LISTEN: The Quicky chats to Psychologist Lorraine Corne. Post continues after podcast.

Here Lorraine’s 6 tips for looking after your mental health, and focusing on the things we can control at this time of uncertainty.

1. Getting into nature. 

Obviously we’re operating in a time of social distancing.

But walking, going to a park, exercising, and getting into nature are all still allowed right now.

We, Australia, are not in lockdown, and Lorraine says things like “smelling the ocean” tend to reduce the adrenaline and produce more serotonin (aka, the good stuff.)

2. Manage your day differently.

When we’re feeling anxious, we tend to feel overwhelmed by all of the things and tasks ahead of us.

If you are working from home right now for instance, Lorraine says scheduling your day the night before reduces the feelings of being overwhelmed.

“You can pretend you’re in the office and give yourself a 15 minute coffee break and a proper lunch break when you usually would,” she explained.

3. Hold a family meeting.

At the moment, we’re being encouraged to spend a lot more time at home.

Lorraine says it’s worth getting everyone together for a family meeting so everyone is clear on how, exactly, that’s going to work.

She suggests discussing everyone’s movements and work schedules, and plans for the kids, to pinpoint what possible irritations and stresses could arise before they do.

If your kids are at home with you, having some structure written down for their days will help ease both yours and their stress.

3. Write a list before bed.

Unfortunately, no matter how tired you are, sometimes your brain just refuses to turn off.

“You need to get ready for bed psychologically,” says Lorraine.

“You need to have a half hour of turning off everything that could distract you, calm yourself down, get everything onto a notepad you’ve got to do tomorrow, so they’re down on that paper and not in your head when you get into bed,” she added.

If you fall asleep okay and instead wake up in the early morning tossing and turning, Lorraine says just get up.

“The body is very sluggish, the metabolism is not working properly so you need to get the mind and body back into sync,” she explained.

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So get out of bed and do something physical to help get your mind and body back into rhythm.

Half an hour later (according to Lorraine) you should find it easier to drift off.

4. Practice this quick relaxation technique.

Lie in bed and tighten every muscle – hold for 10 seconds – and slowly let the whole body go.

Repeat three times. Get the whole family involved.

“It means scrunching up the face, everything,” said Lorraine. “And what that does, is it focuses the mind on to something other than all that craziness that has been going on in the mind.”

5. If your kids ask questions, answer them.

For children up to nine-years-old, Lorraine says the two things that are important at this time of crisis are information and intonation.

“The information they need to know is what they want to know. They might need to know whether their grandparents are going to die. That’s one of the things that keeps coming through the news,” Lorraine told The Quicky.  

Lorraine suggests parents take five minutes in a quiet corner to ask their kids some questions, things like: ‘what do you know about coronavirus?’ ‘what are your friends saying?’

Answering their queries and concerns calmly and normally will help ease little minds.

With teenagers, Lorraine says you need to show them respect.

“In the end teens work things out for themselves,” she explained. “They will tell you what their ideas are. Then you can often feel like you’ve connected with that child on an adult level, which helps them feel in command.”

6. Call a loved one.

Connection has a lot to do with reducing anxiety.

Speaking to someone who can listen and understand you, helps you feel more secure, says Lorraine.

So pick up the phone, and have a debrief with your mum, bestie, or boyfriend.

If you think you may be experiencing anxiety or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner. If you’re based in Australia, immediate support is available through Lifeline (13 11 14) and beyondblue (1300 22 4636).

Feature image: Supplied.

The Australian Government Department of Health advises that the only people who will be tested for COVID-19 are those with symptoms who have either returned from overseas in the past 14 days or been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case in the past 14 days. 

If you are sick and believe you have symptoms of COVID-19, call your GP ahead of time to book an appointment. Or call the national Coronavirus Health Information Line for advice on 1800 020 080. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 000. 

To keep up to date with the latest information, please visit the Department of Health website. 

Anxiety can leave you exhausted and overwhelmed, but it doesn’t have to be that way! Introducing The Anxiety Course – designed to help you grow your confidence, identify your triggers and reclaim your life. Find out more here

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