COVID-19: Managing distress

Managing COVID-19 distress

If you’ve been feeling this way lately then please continue reading:

This is a short blog post about some ways we can adjust our minds to better handle the current crisis:

How do I know I’m feeling distressed?

Symptoms like:

  • Feeling like your brain is switched on and running at 100 miles per hour,
  • increased heart rate, shallow breathing,
  • “butterflies” in the stomach,
  • catastrophising about the future,
  • feeling distressed by boredom,
  • short temperament (like snapping at others),
  • increased drug and alcohol use etc.

Why is this occurring?

For many people, the perpetuating factor here is exposure to the endless cycle of news, which focuses on the negative and catastrophic circumstances around us. Our brains were not evolved to be constantly flooded by information from social media, radio, news and so on. When focusing on things outside our control, we have a tendency to experience emotional distress. In these times, our Amygdala (the smoke alarm unit of the brain) is in overdrive and places us in a flight or fight mode.

What can we do?

There are many ways to deal with it the symptoms of distress. As an ACT (Acceptance and Committment Therapy) practitioner, a helpful acronym to remember is:

F= Focus on what you can control
A= Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings ( e.g. “I’m having the thought that…right now what I feel is…”)
C= Come back into your body (e.g. through controlled breathing, meditation, exercise etc)
E=  Engage in what you’re doing

C= Committed action (do what you value and find important)
O= Opening Up (to feeling the emotions of distress, communicating with others)
V= Values (What direction in life am I heading and how do I continue that journey?)
I= Identify resources (who can you reach out to for debrief or help?)
D= Disinfect & distance (practice hygiene, social distancing, and social media distancing!)

Dr Russ Harris came up with this and I’d highly encourage you to access his free resources for COVID-19 using ACT skills.

In closing, 2020 has brought about monumental change for Australians and lifestyles. With change comes uncertainty, the greater the change the greater the uncertainty. With COVID-19, if we fast forward six months, it will show how each of us responded to this change in a way that utilised our strengths, sense of self and community.  It will no doubt have an impact on the role we play as global citizens, as Australians, as mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, friends and individuals.

Change is not easy and I’d like to do my part in helping us reflect on our frame of mind, and for those experiencing distress, find new ways to reframe the situation. I hope this blog is another addition to those helping us manage and heal from this event.

-Living Life Psychology


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