Feeling good at home (during COVID-19)

ANU Feeling good at gome COVID-19 resource
28 April 2020

Feeling good at home is a brief summary of evidence about things that you might do to stay well. These include ways you can be kind to yourself, family and friends and stay connected during this time. There are links to further resources throughout, and a summary of reliable COVID-19 information sources and mental health help organisations at the end.

 

Notice your emotions – they are informative

During a time like this, it is normal to feel stressed, anxious, fearful or sad and for most people this will diminish over time. One strategy to help with your emotions is to notice and name the emotions you are experiencing. By recognising and acknowledging your emotions, you may gain a better understanding of your experience and that of others. These resources provide information you may find useful when trying to deal with stress and anxiety during COVID-19.

  • Head to Health (Department of Health). This site describes practical psychological skills to help you and your loved ones cope with anxiety and worry about infectious diseases.
  • Tips for coping with coronavirus anxiety (Australian Psychological Society). This information sheet outlines some useful strategies that can help both adults and children cope with the stress or anxiety experienced because of the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Managing anxiety and stress (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention). Provides help for parents, first responders, and those who have been released from quarantine.
  • Seek support and talk with a trained mental health professional.
 

Stay connected, even from afar

Staying Connected

Being physically separate from friends and family can result in feelings of loneliness. ‘Social distancing’ is a confusing term. While we need to be physically separate from people outside our household, it doesn’t mean we need to be socially isolated as well. Social isolation can negatively impact our mental health. There are many ways to remain connected from a distance:

  • Keep in regular contact with others. Check up on your neighbours as well as friends and family. Maybe, create a buddy system to check in with each other regularly. You could also send an email, SMS, or funny picture – they are likely to appreciate feeling connected.
  • Check in with an elderly neighbour. Ask them if they need help with shopping, gardening, or walking their pet. You can use this COVIDKindness card to avoid in person interaction.
  • Make video calls. There are so many platforms that you can use to connect with family and friends. Why not schedule a “dinner date” with your mates, or arrange a catch up for your children with friends from school.
  • Take advantage of technology but avoid social media ‘noise’. Perhaps start an online class. Do you have a special talent? Maybe, you play the guitar or are great at drawing. Maybe, you can start an online class to connect with others.
 

Take time for the things you enjoy

It may be difficult to move away from thinking about the pandemic, and you might feel guilty for taking time out for yourself. However, it is important to take time for the things you enjoy. Things you might enjoy could include the following:

  • Practice a musical instrument
  • Reading and writing
  • Art and craft like knitting, drawing and painting
  • Watch the sunset
  • Dance around your living room
  • Play a board game
  • Watch your favourite movie
  • Meditate or learn to meditate for relaxation
  • Learn any number of new skills via an online class or YouTube

ANU Feeling good at home: Eat well

Eating well provides our bodies with the nutrients we need for our physical and mental health. You may not be going to the shops as often as you used to, so it's a good idea to think in advance about your shopping trips and plan to purchase food that helps you eat well.

Some ideas on eating well and some cooking related activities include:

  • Eat fresh fruit and vegetables. There is currently no shortage of fresh fruit and vegetables. You may need to plan your meals to use fresh produce first, and then rely on canned and frozen goods, as you will be shopping less often.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink water instead of sugary beverages, and avoid large quantities of tea, coffee and other caffeinated beverages – they lead to dehydration and can negatively affect your sleep.
  • Plan. List the ingredients you will need for a weeks' worth of healthy meals and be ready to adapt if ingredients aren’t available.
  • Hygiene is key. Hand washing remains critical in the control of COVID-19 and should be done often, including before preparing food and after moving used plates and cups.
  • Think long shelf life. Canned and frozen are still nutritious and are a good source of key nutrients, with the added benefit of longer shelf life.

Additional resources:

The World Health Organisation (WHO) provides additional nutrition tips during quarantine, and examples of long-lasting fruit and vegetables.

The School of Public Health from Harvard University provides information on food safety and nutrition during COVID-19. This includes staying safe while shopping, and discusses how to wash and store fresh produce, and handling food packaging to minimise the risk of infection.

 

Exercise is a proven way to reduce stress levels, anxiety and depression by releasing ‘feel-good’ chemicals including dopamine, endorphins and serotonin. Australian guidelines recommend adults do at least 30 minutes of moderate to intensive physical activity on most or all days of the week. This level of activity may be more challenging in the home environment, any activity is better than none, and you can be creative in what types of activity you do. Shorter 10 to 15 minute sessions can be spread over the day.

The WHO has provided some useful tips on how to stay active at home during self-isolation with no special equipment, and limited space. It includes specific examples (including photographs) of home-based exercise activities including:

  • Take short exercise breaks during the day. Use these times to get the blood pumping in a way that suits you for example stretch, run on the spot, lift some books.
  • Follow an online exercise class. Many gyms are now offering online classes due to social restrictions, or you could look on platforms such as YouTube for free classes. Just be sure to choose a class that is suitable for you age and current health/fitness condition.
  • Go for a walk. Even if it is walking around your room, garden, balcony, or on the spot -- every step counts!
  • Stand up. Reduce your sedentary time by standing wherever possible.

 

ANU Feeling good at home: Enjoy nature

Enjoying nature can be beneficial for your wellbeing. This can include being in your garden or going for a walk when that is possible. Even when inside there are ways to connect with nature including:

  • Listening to nature sounds.
  • Looking out your window, or being on your balcony, enjoying the fresh air.
  • Spending time with pets.
  • Looking at pictures of nature settings, your favorite spot, your photos, or a place you want to visit.
  • Tending plants, herbs and flowers in your garden or pots. Many supermarkets sell seeds, maybe pot out some seedlings and give them to your neighbours.
  • Painting, drawing, and reading and watching about nature are all useful.
  • Encourage nature play with your children, or collecting leaves, flowers, etc. for craft activities back at home. You can even go on a Bear Hunt.

 

Establish a routine

Routines help us to achieve regular activities such as personal care, household chores, sleep, study or work, eating well, staying connected, exercise and time for other things we enjoy - indeed all of the things outlined here in Feeling good at home. Routines can help us to coordinate activities, provide a sense of control and feel a sense of achievement. Remember, a lot of people won’t be operating at the same capacity compared to “normal life”, so you might find it helpful to adjust your expectations and be kind to yourself and others.

Here are a few tips for making and keeping a routine whilst you are staying at home.

  • Identify important activities. Identify activities that are both important and beneficial to you and your household, these may include personal hygiene, preparing and eating meals, cleaning, caring, or playing. It is useful to include quick activities like "Change out of pyjamas" (they might be comfortable, but changing can help you get in the right headspace to start the day).
  • Define your work/study hours. This can help maintain the boundaries between your work/study and personal life.
  • Include “feel good” activities. Make sure you include activities that you enjoy. You might pick a few from Feeling good at home.
  • Write a schedule. Include the times and order of your activities, then practice and refine it. A schedule may also help you to limit distractions (e.g. doing household chores during work time) by providing a set time to complete activities. For example, scheduling 'hang out washing' with 'enjoy nature' followed by 'drink water and eat a piece of fruit' during the day, provides helpful daily structure rather than a piecemeal approach.
 

Avoid alcohol or other drugs

You may have found yourself drinking or using substances more than usual during this time. However, this habit can be harmful in the longer term, and stress can increases vulnerability to addiction. The Alcohol and Drug Foundation, as well as this article provide useful suggestions on alcohol moderation during isolation.

 

Limit your news intake

It's OK to switch off the news in relation to COVID-19, especially if it makes you feel anxious. While it is important to remain informed, try to avoid spending excessive time monitoring developments. See this article for “5 ways to manage your news consumption in times of crisis.”

Social media can sensationalise news or propagate misinformation. This may increase your feelings of stress and anxiety. Some people find it helpful to only look at news from reliable sources, and to regulate how much social media and news they watch.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by media or social media, it might be helpful to limit your news and social media intake, and instead do something that helps you relax, like listening to music, going for a walk, or reading a book.

 

Use reliable information and seek support

COVID-19 has been the lead story in the news for weeks, and with good reason. But how do you know the information you are receiving comes from a reliable and up-to-date source?

Is it important to get the facts, not rumours. For reliable information on COVID-19 in Australia, we recommend you visit the following websites:

If you or anyone you know needs support, you can talk to someone you trust, a family member, friend or healthcare professional, visit the following websites or call one of the numbers below and speak to a trained professional.

People experiencing domestic violence may be particularly vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic due to many factors including social restrictions, employment, financial and social pressures. If you, a family member or someone you know is at risk of domestic violence, several organisations are available for support:

  • White Ribbon Australia. This is a domestic violence primary prevention campaign. They provide a list of organisations that can help you.
  • Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria. This site provides information specifically on COVID-19 and domestic violence.
  • 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732. They are open 24 hours to support people impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence and abuse.
 

Wellbeing during the COVID-19 Pandemic with Dr Jo Lane