For many of us, catch COVID-19 and isolation at home can be a lonely, frightening and disturbing experience.
For those with pre-existing mental illness, it can be even more difficult.
The following strategies are designed to help you take care of your mental health if you receive COVID-19 and isolate yourself at home.
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Remember the basics
When living in a time of great uncertainty and threat, it can be difficult to remember and practice simple strategies to maximize wellness.
If you isolate yourself at home with COVID, it is important to:
deal with fever and other symptoms such as soreness, pain and sore throat with paracetamol or ibuprofen
maintain a healthy diet
keep your fluid intake up, especially if you have a fever
stop training for at least 10 days, and depending on the severity of your symptoms, return slowly to exercise (if you have any questions about returning to exercise, ask your doctor)
deep breathing, which can help lung function and help you stay calm during isolation and recovery, but this should be done in consultation with your doctor
practice mindfulness to help cope with the inevitable anxiety surrounding illness and isolation
find distractions like reading, watching movies or making one creative activity, which can help prevent your brain from fixating on worries (this is especially important for children)
and stay connected with friends and family, online or over the phone.
It is important to monitor your COVID symptoms. The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners has a useful symptom diary to help with this. Or use Healthdirect symptom checker to decide if you need medical attention.
If you live alone, you should make sure that someone contacts you regularly to make sure you are doing well.
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Some coping strategies to avoid
In times of anxiety and insecurity, such as isolation at home with COVID, it is understandable that people may turn to drugs and alcohol, unhealthy diet, gambling, or other addictions to deal with mental discomfort.
These strategies can temporarily relieve stress. But they can cause more mental problems in the long run.
It is also important to avoid “doom scrolling“, which is the tendency to keep scrolling through bad news on your mobile phone, even if the news is sad, depressing or depressing.
It may be a good idea to break away from mainstream or social media if it has become detrimental to your mental health.
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It has been extra hard for those with mental illness
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it even harder to live with mental illness. The last few years have been challenging and exhausting for many. People with mental illness and other chronic disorders have had to adapt their normal management strategies to cope, change care and some forms of therapy online.
Recovery from and management of mental illness often involves activities such as exercise, positive social engagement and therapy – all of which may be limited due to COVID-19 restrictions, financial constraints and staff shortages.
Emergency services, including hospitals and general practices, are struggling to meet demand.
Isolation can be especially difficult for people who do not have one safe and secure home. People who experience domestic violence have more difficulty accessing care than they can do not be sure to interact with healthcare professionals in their home.
Children are at increased risk to harm if they live with domestic violence. They may have no safe places to go when schools or childcare facilities are closed, so family, friends and services such as Helpline for children plays an important role in supporting children.
There are many resources available to help you if you are isolating yourself because of COVID.
Your GP can advise, help you navigate the healthcare system and treat physical and mental health symptoms, via telecommunications over the phone or online. Medicare discounts for telehealth are available if you have seen the GP face to face in the previous 12 months.
That National Coronavirus Helpline is a 24-hour service that provides free advice on how to seek medical attention.
Beyond Blue offers one range of resources to adapt to the pandemic, including for Australians living abroad and people who speak languages other than English. The organization also offers free counseling during the pandemic. Call 1800 512 348 to speak with a trained mental health professional, or chat online.
The federal government offers a free mental health service to people in Victoria, NSW and ACT who have been affected by the pandemic. Call 1800 595 212 Monday to Friday at 8.30-17.
That Raising Healthy Minds app has information, ideas and guidance for parents that can help them support their child’s mental health and well-being.
Individuals experiencing domestic violence can access support by calling 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visiting the organization’s website.
Each state and territory also offers a mental health service to help you access local support:
ACT – Canberra Health Services Access to Mental Health on 1800 629 354 or 02 6205 1065 (available 24/7)
NSW – Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511 (available 24/7)
NT – Northern Territory Mental Health Line on 1800 682 288 (available 24/7)
Queensland – 1300 642 255 Mental Health Access Line (Available 24/7)
SA – SA COVID-19 Mental Health Support Line on 1800 632 753 (available 8.00-20.00)
Tasmania – Mental Health Service Helpline at 1800 332 388
Victoria – Seek help on 1800 595 212 (available 8.30-17.00, Monday to Friday)
WA – Mental Health Emergency Response Line at 1300 555 733 (metro) or 1800 676 822 (Peel) (available 24/7).
If this article has raised issues for you, or if you’re concerned about someone you know, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Louise Stone, the author of this article, is a general practitioner and associate professor at ANU Medical School at the Australian National University. This piece first appeared on The conversation.
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