By JIMIN SEO

The Coronavirus continues to spread rapidly throughout the world, with the crisis now maturing in predominantly European countries. At the time of writing, Covid-19 has infected more than 234,073 people globally (WHO). Looking at the panic-induced shopping sprees going on in New Zealand – and the consequent toilet paper and sanitiser shortages that have arisen – one would think that apocalypse has also descended upon Aotearoa. However, the reality is anything but.

Compared to Covid-19 hotspots such as Wuhan, Iran and South Korea, New Zealand’s current state is far milder, with very few infected people, and those infected have been experiencing far milder symptoms than those infected in other parts of the world. Of course, it is important to exercise a healthy dose of caution, such as washing hands and maintaining social distancing, but it cannot be denied that many New Zealanders seem to be in a state of paranoia disproportionate to reality.

Observing this widespread sentiment, Professor Michael Kyrios, Vice President & Executive Dean of Flinders University noted that “the [Coronavirus] is not just a health or economic concern, but also a mental health and wellbeing crisis.”

Kyrios added that: “If wellbeing and resilience interventions are rolled out early, we prevent people turning up unnecessarily to medical services, and becoming too anxious, developing mental health problems or exacerbating any existing problems such as OCD, anxiety or trauma conditions. South Australia is at the forefront of pre-emptive and preventative wellbeing interventions that can mitigate the development of mental health dysfunction and improve community outcomes. Therefore, existing resources can easily be upscaled and adapted for the current situation, to help people if they’re stuck at home or are beginning to feel stressed.”

By tackling this issue of panic, professor Kyrios hopes to improve the mental health of civilians. According to Kyrios, by improving mental health during these stressful times, this will lessen the strain on already busy hospitals as they would not have to provide additional checkups for mental health-related illnesses, as well as keeping the community proactive and ready to combat the spread of the virus.

Health officials have repeatedly stated that the best way to curb the spread of this pathogen is to keep your hands clean, and for those that feel they have the symptoms of the disease, to self isolate at home for at least 14 days. But it is just as vital to have a healthy mental state and to keep a positive outlook.

In order to have a healthy mind, Flinders University’s Órama Institute of Mental Health, Wellbeing and Euroscience and SAHMI’s Wellbeing and Resilience Centre have provided tangible steps for individuals, called STREAM.

STREAM stands for:

S – Social networking. Social distancing is important in order to curb the flow of the disease, but it does not mean that reaching out to friends and family is not possible. Share your experiences to facilitate support. Many are sharing their concerns through social networking apps such as Tiktok and Instagram, as seeing other people going through the same experiences can bring comfort. Video calling older, more isolated family members can be a great way to keep their mind clear and to check up on their health.

T – Time Out. When practising social distancing, it can be emotionally straining, as you may be spending prolonged periods of time with a few people. It can be beneficial to timetable periods of Time Out for yourself to minimise the ongoing stress of being in a limited space with others for long periods.

R – Relaxation, mindfulness or yoga strategies. Anxiety can be managed through using a variety of relaxation strategies such as breathing and muscle relaxation exercises, playing musical instruments and yoga.

E – Exercise and Entertainment. Exercise is a great way to keep the body fit while being cooped up indoors, as well as improving mental health. Also, use this at-home time to partake in activities such as reading, board games and hobbies, or playing music.

A – Alternative thinking. Sudden change in lifestyle can often lead to heightened anxiety and stress. Self-reflection is key: question yourself if you’re becoming angry (such as supermarket or car rage). What does science tell us about the most likely outcomes? Is your response reasonable? Are there better ways to manage your underlying motivations? Find friends and counsellors to reach out to.

M – Mindful of others. This is a short-term situation that New Zealanders will overcome together. New Zealanders are kind and generous, and we can draw on our strengths to help those in need during these times. Although we will be busy ourselves, it is important that we make time to check on neighbours and make sure we maintain good hygiene practices. The elderly and those with previous medical conditions are particularly vulnerable and may need support.

Hopefully, New Zealanders can incorporate STREAM into their lives during the next few months, so that New Zealand can emerge from this crisis as a more caring and united nation. Let’s remember that small acts of kindness improve our wellbeing and that they make us feel good about ourselves, the world and the future.

For COVID-19 health advice and information, contact the Healthline team (for free) on 0800 358 5453 or +64 9 358 5453 for international SIMS.

If you have been overseas within the last 14 days and develop a fever, cough or shortness of breath, call Healthline on 0800 358 5453.

 

COVID-19 Alerts & updates found at:

https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus

https://covid19.govt.nz/government-actions/covid-19-alert-system/#new-zealand-covid-19-alert-levels

Jimin is a student in Auckland with a passion for writing prose and journalism. Hobbies primarily comprise of: hitting that diplomatic woah at MUN events, annoying friends about geopolitics, and binging on the Conan O’brien show.

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