Managing wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic: our psychologist’s adviceACER news 17 Apr 2020 4 minute read
Everyone’s experience of remote working and learning will be different according to personal circumstances, and many of us are still learning how to adjust.
Some parents and carers are increasingly anxious about juggling working from home with supervising their child’s remote learning needs. Students are learning to adapt to the ‘new normal’ and teachers are being asked to learn new ways of working with minimal time for adjustment. There’s no doubt it’s a challenging time for all concerned, so we asked Eirini Lammi, consultant psychologist at the Australian Council for Educational Research, for her advice on promoting healthy mental and physical wellbeing in Term 2, 2020, and beyond.
Be alert, not alarmed
It’s a confusing time for children so try to answer their questions as openly and honestly as you can while keeping in mind their developmental needs. Reassurance is key to calm.
Acknowledge what is within your control, such as staying informed through trustworthy news sources and limiting exposure to misinformation on social media, and what is out of your hands, like the official advice on social distancing.
It’s necessary to adapt the way we live for now. Perhaps use this period to try something you have always wanted to but never had the time for. This doesn’t necessarily need to involve a large commitment, as learning a new skill often requires. It could instead be something as simple as:
- Ask your children to plan the week’s dinner menu
- Read a new book
- Play board games
- Go camping in your backyard.
Maintain a balanced routine
Plan and track a healthy routine that incorporates indoor and outdoor activities. The BACE Weekly Activity Diary is a popular free tool to plan a week’s activity schedule.
Understand that this is temporary
Try to accept and let go of difficult thoughts and emotions created by this situation, and recognise that these thoughts and emotions will pass in time. Using metaphors can be helpful here, such as:
- Imagine riding a wave of difficult thoughts and emotions
- Difficult thoughts and emotions will blow over like the clouds
- Place difficult thoughts and emotions on leaves and allow to run down a stream.
Harness your personal coping strategies
We each have unique ways of dealing with life’s challenges. Psychologist Associate Professor Erica Frydenberg has done some great work in this area, and her research has identified 22 coping strategies, such as physical recreation, seeking social support, focusing on the positive and accepting your best efforts. (Find out more about Erica’s work in the links below.) Identify and harness your strengths and recognise if you need to reach out to a friend, family member or additional support services. What are your personal coping strategies?
Despite social distancing rules, there are lots of ways to retain connections with family and friends, and with your community. The pandemic has brought about some lovely examples of community spirit in action, such as teddy bears popping up on doorsteps, ‘bin night dress-ups’ and neighbours checking in on each other.
Ask for help if you need it
There are a range of free apps and online resources to support wellbeing, such as:
- The government’s Telehealth service: search ‘telehealth’ online to find the service offered in your state or territory
- Free meditation apps like Smiling Mind and Breathe2Relax, popular recommendations by psychologists
- Reliable, independent sources of mental health support:
- Lifeline published this guide to coping with COVID-19 stress.
- RUOK? wrote a guide to staying connected during social distancing.
- Beyond Blue’s Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service page is regularly updated and contains information, advice and strategies for managing health and wellbeing during the pandemic. ■
Find out more:
Erica Frydenberg resources for parents and teachers available through ACER: