How to protect your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic

Money and Life
(Financial Planning Association of Australia)

If you’re feeling worried about the impact of COVID-19 on your financial wellbeing, you’re not alone.

CoreData reports that 81% of Australians are fearful about the potential impact of the pandemic on their personal finances and the broader economy.

While it is a challenging time in many respects, the added burden of financial stress can be especially hard on your mental health.

Severe financial stress can lead to symptoms of anxiety and depression, even triggering relationship conflict, trouble sleeping and anti-social behavior.[1]

If you’re struggling with the impact of financial stress, social isolation or just the general uncertainty, here are some practical steps you can take to improve your outlook.

Conduct a financial health check

If you’re feeling worried about money, start by doing a quick financial health check. Once you have a clear picture of your situation, you’ll feel more in control and be able to take concrete steps to improve your position.

If your main source of income has been impacted by the lockdown and you’re experiencing severe financial distress, remember there is support available.

As a first step, check whether you’re eligible for government support payments like JobSeeker or JobKeeper. You can find out more about what’s available here or visit Services Australia to check your eligibility and apply. For business owners and sole traders check the government’s business website for information.

To help manage your cash flow, contact your service providers as soon as possible and ask to negotiate lower fees and extended payment terms.

You can also ask your lender to pause your mortgage repayments, or speak to your leasing agent about rent relief, if you’re a tenant.

If you’ve exhausted all other options, there is also the possibility to access up to $10,000 from your superannuation.

Most importantly, try to remain calm and focus on practical solutions. Remember that the disruption to our economy and jobs will pass.

Stay connected

Keeping in touch with your friends and loved ones is more important than ever when you can’t socialise as much as you normally would.

Social isolation can compound mental health issues and stress, making it hard to keep your situation in perspective.

So explore new digital ways to connect with those you care about and enjoy the extra quality time with your immediate family.

Get outside for exercise

There’s a reason we’re still allowed outdoors to exercise, so take advantage of the opportunity to get some fresh air.

Research shows that exercise helps lift your mood, increasing energy, improving sleep and helping to distract your mind from rumination and worries.

So dust off your sweatpants and get moving.

Keep it in perspective

While it’s normal to feel anxious, keep in mind that governments, medical experts and scientists are all working hard to contain the outbreak and develop a vaccine.

If you find yourself being drawn in by negative news coverage or social media content, limit your exposure.

“Avoid reading social media posts that warn of an apocalypse and don’t get drawn into doomsday discussions,” says The Australian Psychological Association.

“Sticking to the facts and relying on scientific sources for your information is the best way to maintain perspective and manage your feelings positively.”

Be open with your kids

This can be a particularly stressful time for children, who’ve had their normal routines turned upside down. Kids can be especially sensitive to the stress of those around them, including what they see and hear through the media.

Just like adults, kids can have a range of different reactions to stress, for example, becoming more clingy, anxious, withdrawn or agitated. To help your kids cope during this difficult time, the

Be open about what’s happening and why you need to change their daily routine. And provide age appropriate facts and information on how to reduce their risk of being infected.

Kids Helpline has some great resources to support you through the COVID-19 pandemic, including fun ways to de-stress. For more information, visit their dedicated Coronavirus page.

Seek support

Remember to always seek further professional support if required. There are a range of services available online and over the phone. Here’s a few you can try.

Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue has a range of resources to help support the community through this time. Check out their website for helpful information, advice and strategies, as well as access to their community forums.

If you’d like to chat to someone in person, Beyond Blue operates a 24/7 phone support service, where you can speak to a trained mental health professional. Or chat with them online between 3pm and 12am AEST.

Lifeline

 If you need immediate crisis support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. Their confidential telephone crisis support service is available 24/7 from a landline, payphone or mobile.

Lifeline also offers a range of self-help tools, facts and information on their website. 

Emergency

If you’re in an emergency, or at immediate risk of harm to yourself or others, please contact emergency services on 000.

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