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Mental health and COVID-19

Protecting your loved ones

Fear and anxiety are natural responses to COVID-19, but it's important not to let them overwhelm you. Here are some tips from AMP Life's Mental Health Specialists to help you and your loved ones stay healthy and resilient at a difficult time.

COVID-19 has disrupted every aspect of our lives, from our finances to our relationships. Whether you've lost a job, found yourself working in new ways or started home-schooling children, it's likely that your life has changed in unexpected ways. Even worse, none of us knows how long the disruption will last. This means we're all exposed to uncertainty, which leads to stress. And ongoing stress can play havoc with our mental health.

If you have others who rely on you, it can be tempting throw yourself into helping them to take your mind off your own worries. But it's important to start with your own needs first. By making your own mental health a priority, you'll reduce the chance of burnout and be better able to support your loved ones through this challenging time.

Taking care of your mental health

Psychologist Erin Beilby and Mental Health Nurse Steve Kay are AMP Life Mental Health Specialists. They work across the AMP Life team, helping front-line teams more effectively support customers suffering mental health conditions. Since the advent of COVID-19, they also help our team members manage their own stress and wellbeing. Beilby says the key to dealing with stress is to understand that our thoughts, feelings, behaviour and physical sensations are all interconnected. Left unchecked, our thinking can set off a vicious cycle, affecting our mental, physical and emotional health.

One way to guard against these negative spirals is by practicing self-care — deliberately carrying out activities that nurture our mental, emotional, and physical health.

"Engaging in self-care activities is something within your control," says Beilby. "Self-care can help you restore your energy and build your resilience."

Here are some practical steps you can take to build resilience and safeguard your mental health:

  • Exercising regularly: Exercise is good for you in so many ways — from releasing endorphins to lift your mood, to relieving stress and supporting better sleep. And it doesn't have to be high intensity to do you good. A brisk walk or a jog is a great way to boost your spirits while getting out of the house, while an online exercise class is a convenient option if you're at home caring for children.
  • Healthy eating: There are no shortages of fresh fruit and vegetables in the shops, so enjoy plenty of them. If you have extra time on your hands, this is also a great opportunity to start exploring new cuisines and adding some new, healthy dishes to your repertoire.
  • Meditation: The proven benefits of meditation include less stress and anxiety and a better outlook on life.1If you've never meditated before, download a mindfulness app or podcast like Headspace or Smiling Mind to get started.
  • Limiting exposure to upsetting news: If you're anxious, try to avoid spending hours trawling Twitter or watching news reports about COVID-19. Balance the need to be informed with relaxing and productive activities.
  • Spending time with people you care about: While it's vital to practice social distancing, it's just as important to stay in touch with your loved ones — even if that means contacting them digitally. There's also evidence that video calls are a much more effective way of building and maintaining strong connections than phone calls, so be ready to use Facetime, Zoom or another video app to chat with those who are most important to you.

1Goyal, M, Singh, S, et al, Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis, JAMA, 2014

Helping friends and loved ones

Once you've taken care of your own needs, you're in a better position to help others — especially children, friends who live alone, and older relatives who might be feeling especially isolated right now. By listening to them with empathy and acknowledging their feelings, you can help them cope with this crisis. But be careful you don't take on too much of others' problems as your own.

According to Steve Kay, dealing with other's stress day in and day out could leave you vulnerable to what's known as vicarious trauma. “You may experience emotional exhaustion or even burnout if you're exposed to frequent stories of distress,” says Kay.

Beilby says that when caring for others it's important to be aware of the cumulative impacts of stress, which she likens to filling up a bucket. When we're under pressure, adding even something minor to our 'stress buckets' can make them quickly overflow.

If you have children, they may be finding learning remotely tough and upset they can't be with their friends. Your parents may be missing seeing their grandchildren, or worrying about what will happen if they get ill. Friends or partners may be suffering financial stress if they've lost their job, or anxious about the level of change that the coronavirus crisis has caused. Even small problems on top of these worries can overfill their stress bucket. So, it's important to give them the support they need.

Beilby and Kay suggest you look for common signs of stress among those close to you, such as changes in behaviour, struggling with sleep, or failing to get work done. Encourage them to practice their own self-care regime and reach out to you or someone else they trust before things get too much.

Finally, don't forget the mental health resources available, including Lifeline, Kids Helpline, 1800 RESPECT, Mensline Australia, Beyond Blue, or the Suicide Call Back Service (if necessary).

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Important information

AMP Life Limited ABN 84 079 300 379, AFSL No. 233671 (AMP Life), has proudly served customers in Australia since 1849. AMP Limited ABN 49 079 354 519 (AMP Limited) has sold AMP Life to the Resolution Life group whilst retaining a minority economic interest. AMP Limited has no day-to-day involvement in the management of AMP Life whose products and services are not affiliated with or guaranteed by AMP Limited. AMP Limited is not liable for products issued by AMP Life or any statements or representations made in the PDS for those products. “AMP”, “AMP Life” and any other AMP trademarks are used by AMP Life under licence from AMP Limited.

Any advice and information on this website is general in nature and is provided by AMP Life, which is part of the Resolution Life group. The advice does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Therefore, before acting on the advice, you should consider the appropriateness of the advice, having regard to those matters as well as the relevant product disclosure statement (PDS), available from AMP Life at amplife.com.au or by calling 133 731, before making a decision about the product. Consider speaking to a financial adviser if you have any concerns.

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AMP Life is part of the Resolution Life group and can be contacted on 133 731 or via the contact us page.