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Information Sheet 1: 

Anxiety management during the COVID-19 outbreak

At RelateWell, it has always been our priority to provide mental health support to those in need within the community. As the impact of COVID-19 is being felt across the country, more Australians than ever need support.   

With concerns about our health, uncertainty around our jobs, major changes to our lifestyle and constant bombardment by the media, many Australians have been experiencing heightened levels of anxiety and stress. Therefore, in this week’s publication we will be focusing on anxiety management during this time.  

On average 1 in 3 Australians experience anxiety in their lifetime. This makes anxiety the most common mental illness in our country. Certain factors, including stress, increase our risk of developing anxiety, and we can all agree that these times are proving to be highly stressful for many Australians.   

Below is list of some common symptoms of anxiety:

  • Difficulty sleeping or disrupted sleep;
  • Restlessness;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Racing thoughts;
  • Difficulty concentrating;
  • Obsessive behaviour;
  • Panic attacks;
  • Feelings of sadness, anger, frustration, irritability, agitation;
  • Feeling fearful;
  • Feeling out of control or overwhelmed;
  • Physiological symptoms such as – headaches, increased heart rate, hot flushes, shortness of breath, nausea.

If you are experiencing any of these, it is likely you are being impacted by anxiety, and with everything going on around us, it is not hard to see why. Even when we try not to think about it, the major changes to our daily lives make it hard to forget. As such, it is imperative that we learn to reflect on and manage our anxiety during this time. Below are some strategies which may help.

Be in Control

One of the most stressful things about this global crisis is that fact that it seems things are so out of our control, and that we don’t have impact over what may happen to us and our loved ones.

As such it is important that we do what we can to control our behaviour, our thoughts and our immediate environment. Consider that even in the most chaotic times, we always have control over how we respond.

We can wash our hands, stay home where possible, follow the rules and regulations put in place by the authorities and limit the amount of contact with others we choose to have. This can significantly minimise our risk of exposure.  

We can also make sure we take all steps to be pro-active about managing our mental health, taking care to not let our thoughts spiral and overwhelm us.

Taking all necessary precautions when we can, gives us as much control over our own outcome as possible. Knowing that you have taken all the steps you can, shows that you are not completely helpless.

Limitations on Media

You may have recently noticed that every time you check the news, turn on the radio or go on social media, that you are being bombarded with stories about COVOID-19.

As we scroll through the masses of articles it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

As such, it is very important to place some limitations on what we read and listen to:

  1. Time Limits – it is important to stay informed, however, it is beneficial to put a strict limit on the amount of time we spend looking at the news per day. 30min – 60min is usually ample time.  
  2. Use accredited sources - stick to accredited news and medical sources. These sources will provide the most reliable material so that you can stay informed without exposing yourself to other sensationalised and panic evoking content.
  3. Don’t read before bed –This can impact on our quality of sleep. Instead try and watch / read / listen to the news at a time where you can follow up with a relaxing or distracting activity after.

Exercise and Eat Well

Regular exercise is proven to be highly effective in the management of anxiety. Chemicals like serotonin and endorphins are released into our bodies when we exercise, which is why we tend to feel calmer and happier after a workout.

It has also been proven that, what we consume can minimise or maximise our anxiety. Caffeine, sugar, refined carbs, highly processed foods and alcohol can all exacerbate anxiety. Where possible, try and stick to eating healthy, fresh foods.

Mindfulness and Relaxation Activities

There are a wide range of relaxing and mindful activities we can do at home that can help slow down and re-center our racing minds. Anything that engages our minds and give us a break from our racing thoughts, is extremely helpful.

Things like:

  • Meditation
  • Reading a book
  • Taking a long bath or shower
  • Sitting outside in the sun
  • Doing a puzzle
  • Cooking
  • Listening to podcasts
  • Studying
  • Learning a new skill
  • Gardening

Routine

Establishing a routine is extremely important. Not only does it help promote feelings of control it creates a sense of normality. 

If we get up each day, get dressed, have our breakfast and morning coffee, go for our morning walk, it feels a lot more like a normal day and therefore a lot less like a period of significant change.

Having a good routine can also minimise feelings of confusion and tension between couples and families. It can help children (and us) know what to expect each day so that they can adjust better. It can also help make sure parents’ factor in time for each of them to have a break.

Good routines help hold us accountable and break up our day. If we have a strict routine, we are more likely to follow tasks we set for ourselves, including limitations to media, meetings with friends, exercise and mindfulness.

Be kind to yourself and others

It’s important to acknowledge what you are feeling and know that you needn’t be hard on yourself for feeling it. As we have said it is normal to feel uncertain, stressed or even scared in these times. Practice being kind to yourself and understanding that you are not alone in being afraid.

By the same token, remember that the people around you may also be struggling. While it can be easy to judge some people’s behaviour during this time, remember that everyone copes with these challenges differently and may be struggling in their own way.

Communicate and Connect

It is important to continue to communicate with the people around us, even though we cannot see them physically. Make sure you regularly reach out and talk to your partners, family, work colleagues and friends and share how you are feeling.

Staying in touch via various technological platforms is a great way to remain connected, share and support each other, prevent loneliness, and maybe even have a good laugh.

If you try these strategies above but feel that you need additional support, there are numerous mental health support services such as Beyond Blue and Lifeline which you can call anytime.

We also encourage you to reach out to one of our counsellors or psychologists at RelateWell for additional ongoing support. All counselling services are now available over the phone to ensure you can receive support safely. Phone 9354 8854 or email relate@relatewell.org.au

 

Thank you all for reading, next week we will be discussing some strategies to help couples cope with self-isolation.

 


 

2020 The YEAR of the Nurse and Midwife

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The Challenges of an Interracial Couple in Australia 

RelateWell, in collaboration with Pronia (formerly Australian Greek Welfare Society Ltd), has been working in the cross-cultural / interfaith / bi-cultural relationships space since 2012. Raising awareness in couples of potential conflict arising from familial expectations and loyalties partners feel towards their family of origin is what we address in our information sessions and/or individual, couple and family counselling. 

To highlight the importance of the issue, Hear Me Out on the ABC addressed the issue in: 'What life's really like for an interracial couple'. 

If you need assistance in the cross-cultural / interfaith / bi-cultural relationships space, RelateWell and Pronia can assist you. 

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-11-23/hear-me-out-interracial-relationships/9043746

 


Poorly trained relationship counsellors doing more harm than good, experts say

Relationship counselling is a specialised field.

In the article 'Poorly trained relationship counsellors doing more harm than good', Professor Moloney sees couples counselling as a growing and increasingly important area of therapy, with one in five Australian couples seeking it.

"I think bad therapy is worse than no therapy at all. I think you can actually do damage," he said.

RelateWell prides itself on having a team of psychologists and counsellors whom specialise in working with couples. 

To read the article, follow this link.

Source: ABC news


 

Supporting Healthy Couple Relationships Early in the Lifecycle:

RelateWell's Executive Director Angela Damianopoulos discusses the importance of changing cultural mindset early in the relationship cycle so to offset future problems.

Read the 'significance of working with couples early in the relationship cycle' here