Mental health and wellbeing during COVID-19

The outbreak of COVID-19 is a unique situation. For many people, it can generate different emotions. There are many factors that contribute to stress in our daily lives, such as work, study, finances and relationships. This may now have been further compounded by the emergence of COVID-19. You may be experiencing:

  • stress and anxiety
  • fear of going outside or in public places
  • feeling overwhelmed
  • feeling helpless or lack of control
  • being isolated and withdrawn
  • frustration or irritability
  • denial
  • physical and psychological symptoms such as racing heart or low energy
  • sadness.

Everyone reacts differently in stressful situations. How you respond to stress can depend on many different factors. It is important to find the right level of support for you during this time and keep it in mind as circumstances change around us.

Suggestions on keep your mind healthy

When you block your emotions because they are overwhelming or conflicting it has a tendency to cause stress on the mind and body and can make those feelings stronger. It is helpful to acknowledge the feelings and thoughts you are having and not “beat yourself up” about them. Once you’ve acknowledged what’s happening in your heart and mind, then ask yourself, “What can I do to take care of myself at the moment?”

Try this:

  • Acknowledge how you feel – to yourself, to someone or something else, recognise how you feel. Do you feel sad, anxious, angry or overwhelmed?
  • Explore the possible cause - ask yourself in a gentle and curious way, “Why am I feeling this way at the moment? Can I reduce the source of stress? What can I do to take care of myself while I’m feeling this way?” Sometimes we can’t understand what is causing an emotion, and that’s ok too. Just try and acknowledge it and then do what works for you to help “ride the wave”.
  • Own your response – Reflect on the way you have reacted and dealt with the situation. If this situation is unavoidable, think about your behaviour and how you could handle it differently next time.
  • Practise self-care – find activities that calm and relax you.

While it’s not helpful to block our emotions and thoughts, it’s also not helpful to get “lost in our head” and obsess over things. Some of us are more prone than others to do this 😊. Take extra care of your mind at the moment and what you are exposing it to!

A constant stream of COVID-19 coverage in our news feeds can keep us in a heightened state of anxiety. Limit (or purge) social media and pick one or two reputable resources to check when you need.

La Trobe has its own COVID-19 fact page which is updated frequently as the situation changes.

The World Health Organisation and the Department of Health and Human Services Victoria can keep you informed and armed with facts.

While we are told to socially distance ourselves, it is more important than ever that we stay connected. Remember, connection doesn’t have to mean in person! Here are some ways to stay connected to each other:

  • Try a virtual coffee date – using an online video platform, call up a friend, make a drink of your choice and have a coffee date.
  • Similarly, plan a movie night with friends on video or Netflix Party– pick a movie, set up the video stream, start the movie at the same time and watch together.
  • Get familiar with Zoom - use Zoom to start an online study group with classmates.
  • Reach out to your neighbours – check in on the people living around you to see if they need help, especially if they are elderly or vulnerable.
  • Check on your friends – ask if they are OK.

Identify your own biggest supports during this time, get in touch with them and have a conversation about how you are feeling.

You can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 f you are experiencing any personal crisis, including loneliness 24 hours a day.

Exercise has been proven to be extremely helpful in combating anxiety and depression and can help for COVID-19.  The good thing is, you don’t have to go to the gym or run on a treadmill to exercise! Here are a bunch of equipment-free, free workouts you can do from your own lounge room.

Please ensure if you are starting a new exercise to always talk to a health professional first.

  • La Trobe sport

La Trobe sport often have free, online classes in lockdown, including ones for the whole family! Check out their website or Facebook page to view what's on at the moment.

Instead of workouts try some yoga:

If that’s not your thing, try learning a new style of dance:

Remember to take advantage of the sunshine when it's out and get some fresh air where possible, being mindful of keeping the recommended 1.5m distance from others. Take a walk or go for a bike ride.

Ensuring we eat well and stay healthy during the COVID-19 outbreak and in the lead up to winter is important while self-isolating at home. Here are some easy healthy recipes to try at home.

Please note this is not advice to cure or fight COVID-19, but general wellbeing advice. Always follow advice from your doctor or a health-care professional.

Mindfulness is a great skill to develop during trying times such as these. COVID-19 can make you feel stressed and anxious and practising mindfulness is about learning how to keep calm and stay present in the moment.

Our very own counsellor Cassandra Scicluna has also created a mindful meditation video based at our Melbourne (Bundoora) campus focusing on the calming Nangak Tamboree river.

Check out these apps which offer free guided meditations as well as beginner tracks.

Keep your mind busy by starting a new project or finally doing those things you’ve always wanted to start but never had the time to do!

  • Learn a new language – check out the Duolingo app.
  • Read that book you’ve been wanting to pick up.
  • Join or start a book club - pick a book to read with friends and set a date to discuss it in depth.
  • Update your resume and portfolio. Research what the STAR method is and create some examples to use in an interview setting.
  • Educate yourself on a new topic. Check out this YouTube Chanel Vox, that teaches you about different topics in 10 minutes.
  • Learn to scrapbook.
  • Organise your digital photos – clean and back up your phone photos.
  • Similarly, clean up your email inboxes. Unsubscribe from all those emails clogging up your inbox you never look at and create files for different email categories.
  • Have an at home spa day – run a bath, make a DIY home face scrub, light a candle, play your favourite calming music and relax.
  • Re-arrange your bedroom – sometimes a change is as good as a holiday.
  • Pick up some paper and a pencil and draw something new for your bedroom wall.
  • Do some colouring for mindfulness.
  • Learn a new card game, or play some classics online.
  • Start a journal. Write down what is happening and how you are feeling. When all of this is over it will be a memory to reflect on and learn from.
  • Start a shared Spotify playlist with family or friends. Pick a theme and everyone must contribute at least two songs that best represent that theme to them.
  • Do a deep clean of your house.

Sleep plays an important part in regulating our emotions. Try and make getting between 6-8 hours of sleep a night a priority to help combat stress and anxiety around COVID-19.

Some tips to help get a good night’s sleep include:

  • Get enough exercise during the day.
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
  • Limit evening tech.
  • Do not keep your phone near your bed.
  • Avoid eating a heavy meal before bed.
  • Expose yourself to bright natural light during the day and avoid it in the evenings (such as TV glare) to regulate your body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm).

Additional support

Internal resources

  • Contact our Health and Wellbeing Center to talk to our Wellbeing Advisors. They can help you with booking our services, such as counselling, or can provide you with short-term advice and support.
  • Not sure what sort of support you need? Fill in our request a call form to request a callback from our wellbeing team.
  • Use our Crisis Line for out of hours mental health and wellbeing support. Call: 1300 146 307 or text: 0488 884 100. This service operates 5.00 pm–9.00 am on weekdays and 24 hours during weekends and public holidays.

External resources

  • Lifeline – For anyone experiencing a personal crisis, 24 hours a day, call: 13 11 14.
  • Beyond Blue – The government has created a new Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service which offers further Wellbeing services and resources
  • Headspace – Check out their COVID-19 resources on coping with stress related to Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • Switchboard – for LGBTIQA+ specific support and referral