June 17, 2020

Shrug off COVID-19 stress and anxiety

woman having fun kicking up water

There is a lot of strain being placed on Australians as the impact of COVID-19 continues to unfold. 

Over the period of mid-March to mid-April this year, almost twice as many Australia adults reported experiencing feelings associated with anxiety, such as nervousness or restlessness 1, compared to 2019.

According to the most recent well-being survey, people who report higher levels of anxiety, depression and distress are also more likely to use smoking, drinking and recreational drug taking as coping mechanisms.2

It’s completely natural to feel stressed, anxious or bored right now; so, if you've been leaning on unhealthy coping strategies to try and alleviate these feelings, don't be too hard on yourself –  but, there are healthier options to consider moving forward.

Establish a daily routine

Structuring your life around a set routine can help to reduce anxiety and stress. It can also create a sense of normalcy, reduce the risk of boredom and keep your attention focused on something.

A daily routine may involve:

  • Regular sleeping patterns: try going to sleep and waking up at a set time each day. You might like to also develop a routine, such as reading a book half an hour before sleeping or making your bed as soon as you wake up.
  • Healthy meals: try eating regular meals that are healthy and nutritious (e.g. vegetables, fruit, legumes, wholegrains). Cooking your own food where possible can help with this.
  • Self-care and hygiene: do things that make you feel good, like showering, exercising, relaxing activities (e.g. listening to music), or putting on an outfit that makes you feel happy.

Try to keep yourself busy

When you have time to yourself, try spending it doing the things you enjoy, such as watching movies, cooking, reading, drawing or playing video games. You might also like to spend a day accomplishing tasks you previously haven’t had time for, such as washing your car, tidying your room or cleaning the bathroom.

These activities can provide feelings of both enjoyment and achievement.

Connect with others

Interacting with family and friends is a great way to alleviate stress.

We know that social support helps us to manage stress better3, and that having positive social connections can help people to improve and maintain good mental health.3, 4

Our families, friends and colleagues are all-important relationships in our lives that need to be nurtured, especially through tough times.

With the restrictions starting to ease across the country, now is a great time to organise catch ups with the people in your life who are most important to you, or continue to socialise online if this is safer for you.

Get outside as much as possible

If you enjoy physical exercise, go for a run, or create your own workout routine at your local park or oval. There are also many gyms that are now offering online classes for yoga, Pilates, and other living room-friendly exercises – you can find free classes available online as well. Some gyms in certain states have even started reopening their doors, with other states soon to follow.

Now that we can gather outside in larger groups, you might like to get together with your friends and play a game of kick-to-kick with the footy or soccer ball, or any other form of non-contact sport.

If high-intensity exercise isn’t your thing, go for a walk with a friend, find an activity to do in your backyard, or complete some outside work such as gardening.

Any form of outside activity and sun can help with sleep and mood.

It is crucial we continue to look after our well-being, relieve negative thoughts and feelings, and maintain a sense of normalcy moving forward. It is also important to stay vigilant and continue to follow all necessary guidelines and procedures as Australia starts to recover from the impacts of the coronavirus.

  1. Statistics ABo. Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey, 14-17 Apr 2020 Docklands: ABS; 2020 [14 May 2020].
  2. Society AP. Stress & wellbeing - How Australians are coping with life. Melbourne 2015.
  3. Holt-Lunstad J. Why Social Relationships Are Important for Physical Health: A Systems Approach to Understanding and Modifying Risk and Protection. Annual Review of Psychology. 2018;69.
  4. Hostinar C, Gunnar M. Social Support Can Buffer Against Stress and Shape Brain Activity. American Journal of Bioethics -Neuroscience. 2015;6:34-42.

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