Parents and Caregivers – Caring for Yourself at the Time of COVID-19
March 20, 2020
As the number of coronavirus cases rise across Australia, the level of anxiety within the community is increasing. It is understandable that with the global spread of COVID-19 we feel worried, vulnerable and increasingly confused about how to best respond. Parents, grandparents and caregivers may be especially ruminating over how to protect and support their child/ren from the virus itself and from the fear, worry and panic that can be associated with the virus. It is important that we learn to manage our own distress, take care of ourselves and so care for our children’s wellbeing. The following are some suggestions that may help inform your choices:
Take a calm and practical approach to looking after yourself, particularly around observing good hygiene habits, your perspective and self-care behaviours.
Learn the facts, access good quality information (try not to make assumptions)
Constant media coverage can keep us stressed and confused. It is important to get accurate, credible information from reliable sources. Try to limit related media exposure and instead use factual sources that will help you maintain perspective and feel more in control. Some examples are:
- World Health Organization – coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak
- Australian Government coronavirus (COVID-19) health alert
- gov.au – travel information for Australian citizens
Keep things in perspective
When we feel stressed, it is easy for things to feel worse than they really are. Remember, medical, scientific and public health experts around the world are working hard to contain the virus, treat those affected and develop a vaccine as quickly as possible.
- Remind yourself of the facts from credible sources
- Remember, illness due to COVID-19 is usually mild and most people recover without needing specialized treatment.
- Think about how you would cope can help you put things in perspective; don’t underestimate your abilities to cope and your available support networks.
Take reasonable precautions
Being proactive can keep your stress and worry to a minimum. The WHO recommends several protective measures against COVID-19, including to:-
- Wash your hands frequently (with soap for 20 seconds)
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
- Stay at home if you begin to feel unwell until you fully recover
- Seek medical care early if you have a fever, cough or experience breathing difficulties.
During any stressful event, it is important to look after yourself and keep a positive, calm frame of mind. Everyone practices self-care differently, with some examples including:-
- maintaining your support network – communicating openly with family and friends and maintaining good social connections
- making time for activities and hobbies you enjoy
- maintaining a healthy lifestyle by eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, getting good quality sleep and avoiding the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs to cope with stress
- practicing ways to relax, be mindful and positive to help your body settle and establish a calm state
- acknowledging your feelings of distress to a trusted friend
- seek professional support early if you’re having difficulties – please contact a friend, your GP, a psychologist or other support services for help.
Managing your mental health and wellbeing while in self-isolation or quarantine
As official advice continues to change daily, it can be hard to prepare for what lies ahead. If you are required to self-isolate or be quarantined, please consider the following general suggestions for ways to care for yourself during this highly unusual and difficult time:
- Remind yourself that this is a temporary period of isolation to slow the spread of the virus.
- Remember that your effort is helping others in the community avoid contracting the virus.
- Stay connected with friends, family and colleagues via email, social media, video conferencing or telephone.
- Engage in healthy activities that you enjoy and find relaxing.
- Keep regular sleep routines and eat healthy foods.
- Try to maintain physical activity.
- Establish routines as best possible and try to view this period as a new experience that can bring health benefits.
- Practice self-compassion.
- For those working from home, try to maintain a healthy balance by allocating specific work hours, taking regular breaks and, if possible, establishing a dedicated work space.
- Avoid news and social media if you find it distressing.
Australian Psychological Society 2020, Tips for coping with coronavirus anxiety, viewed 17 March 2020, <https://www.psychology.org.au/getmedia/5fbb4efe-c599-4572-8ded-5b4ee5f41ff1/20APS-IS-COVID-19-Public-P2.pdf?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=COVID-19%20%20Updates%20on%20APS%20resources%20education%20and%20training&utm_content=COVID-19%20%20Updates%20on%20APS%20resources%20education%20and%20training+CID_e840e5eaa16e15f483923ddfe92a2b45&utm_source=Email%20marketing%20software&utm_term=Resources%20for%20clients>.
Beyond Blue 2020, Looking after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak, viewed 17 March 2020, <https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/looking-after-your-mental-health-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak>.
McKersie, C 2020, Caring for your child’s wellbeing at the time of coronavirus, Letter, COVID-19, Claremont College, delivered 13 March 2020.
UNICEF 2020, How to talk to your children about coronavirus (COVID-19), viewed 17 March 2020, <https://www.unicef.org.au/blog/news-and-insights/march-2020/how-to-talk-to-your-children-about-coronavirus>.