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COVID-19 pandemic: how to keep calm and look after ourselves and others

The word pandemic may instill feelings of fear, panic and uncertainty, but it doesn’t have to. Recently, news headlines have been dominated by updates on the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In this time of increased health needs, economic change and population lockdown, here are some ways we can keep calm, look after ourselves and help the community around us.

Originating in Wuhan, China, COVID-19 has now spread globally. Countries such as China and South Korea look to have passed the peak of the disease, while others like Iran, Italy, the USA and Spain are fighting hard as new cases accelerate. Here in Australia, we are beginning to see a rapid rise in cases as the government monitors the situation and adopts a “precautionary response”. 

A number of COVID-19 related terms and hashtags have been circulating on the internet and it may be useful to understand what they mean. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently declared COVID-19 a pandemic. This acknowledges that the disease has spread across multiple countries and populations. However, the WHO Director-General also warned that the word pandemic, “if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death.” 

Social distancing aims to slow disease spread through reducing personal contact. This includes interventions such as school and work closures, working from home, self-isolation and the cancellation of conferences and festivals. 

Self-isolation involves confinement of an individual to their home for a period of time to mitigate risks of infecting others. Currently, suspect cases of COVID-19 are required to self-isolate for 14 days. 

#FlattenTheCurve aims to educate on the possibility of disease cases surpassing healthcare capacity. The first peak represents a burden of COVID-19 cases which cannot be adequately managed by the health system due to shortages in staffing, beds, and medical supplies. Interventions such as social distancing, appropriate testing protocols, and travel bans are being implemented in an attempt to flatten the curve, prevent deaths, and improve health outcomes for patients.

Flatten the Curve | credit Julie McMurry

Look after yourself, be kind to others

While governing authorities discuss how to handle the evolving pandemic, there are a few things we can all do to help. The following poster demonstrates some key points.

PAWS Poster | credit Lyndal Parker-Newlyn

It is also important to consider our own self-care. Exercise and diet remain vital components of a healthy lifestyle, and contribute to maintaining mental health. Keep up with hobbies and stay up to date with preventative health including any medications and recommended immunisations.

Consider your support network, including family, friends, health professionals, and phone helplines. Have some fun brainstorming creative ways to stay socially connected without group gatherings. 

The uncertainty surrounding the current pandemic can give rise to stigma and fear, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) offers some suggestions on how we can be kind to each other during this time.

WHO – Be Kind | credit World Health Organisation

Get the right facts 

Getting the right information and staying up to date can help us to make measured, informed decisions. Be aware that the situation is changing as we learn more. Protocols may vary between different Australian states and territories, and recommendations will change as the pandemic progresses. 

Here are some credible COVID-19 resources: 

If you are struggling with your mental health and need support, see your GP, counsellor or psychologist. Alternatively, get in touch with one of the following helplines.

  • Lifeline – 13 11 14
  • Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636

We might have a pandemic, but we don’t have to panic. Stay calm, be kind and get the right facts. Let’s look after ourselves and others.

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