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Let’s look after ourselves, others


The Covid-19 pandemic is deeply unsettling, especially with regard to our elderly and people with health conditions that mean they have a greater chance of being seriously ill if they catch this new virus. It is, first and foremost, to protect them why much of the world has closed borders and many areas and some whole countries are in lockdown.

As psychotherapist and mental health advocate Kyle MacDonald told the NZ Herald this week, it is OK to feel afraid but it is also imperative that we look after ourselves and those around us.

“This is a big deal, and it has happened really quickly,” he said.

“But be gentle on yourself and others . . . it's important to avoid either extremes (of reaction), sliding into panic mode and being overfocused on the threat, versus sliding into denial.”

You can't hide from the situation, but you can make good choices about how you hear about it.

Consistent, reliable information from the Ministry of Health, yes. Uninformed reckons from strangers on social media, or your neighbour over the fence, no, MacDonald said.

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson advises those who are anxious to not binge on news or social media about Covid-19 — with a suggestion of checking updates just once or twice a day, and, yes, enjoying those funny memes going around — and to give yourself breaks from thinking or worrying about it.

There were lots of healthy ways to take those breaks, such as going out and leaving your device at home, playing with your children or animals, or watching comedies on TV. Good food, helping others and getting plenty of exercise and sleep were other ways to help cope.

“It's really important that we keep our sense of humour. We know that it's a great stress relief and helps with (reducing stress hormone) cortisol,” MacDonald said.

While scientists around the world were working to identify treatments and a vaccine for this coronavirus, there was already an antidote for helping everyone get through the mental distress it was causing — and we have it, Robinson said:

“One of the big antidotes to this is kindness and connection to one another. Look for ways to help others. We can control that.”

The really nice thing is that this is happening, people are being kinder and reaching out. No matter what is ahead, we need to keep that up.

For those feeling desperate or depressed, a trained mental health professional is just a free call or text away on 1737.