Updated: Mar 17
Coronavirus. COVID-19. It is all over the news. People are facing weeks of being self-isolated or quarantined at home. Events are being rescheduled or cancelled, schools and universities are closing their doors, and supermarket shelves are being cleared with no toilet paper, tissues, hand sanitiser, pasta or rice in sight.
News of people becoming unwell with Coronavirus and dying, schools and businesses closing, and images of brawls over toilet paper in supermarkets, can frighten children and adults too. People who are prone to anxiety can feel even more overwhelmed and worried. When resources are reduced, many people – with or without anxiety, can feel nervous about the future.
People who experience depression may also be negatively impacted. For example, ordinarily, they would be encouraged to go outdoors, exercise and socialise. Once quarantined, they will be unable to use these coping strategies. Remaining indoors with time to ruminate can lead to an exacerbation of symptoms of depression.
Given the changing nature of the health risks and decision making, it is important to be prepared for possibility of enforced quarantine.
Some employees may be able to work from home and others won’t. Should schools close, families will need to make arrangements for their children. For parents trying to work from home, this will be impacted by the ages of their children, the layout of their home and the nature of their work.
Routines will be disrupted, people will be unable to do their usual activities or self-care, families will be confined, and cabin fever is a real possibility.
So what should people to do?
It is essential to follow the advice by the Chief Medical Officer and other medical experts. Practice good hand hygiene and the other health recommendations. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) provide regular updates and advice in the media and on their website.
It is also important to avoid panicking. Try and keep a level head. Plan. Don’t rush to the stores and climb over each other for toilet paper. What are the basics that you will probably need?
Some suggestions for those with children:
Talk with your kids about what they understand of the virus. They might be frightened that they aren’t safe, or they or someone they love might become ill or die. According to the most recent info from DHHS, Coronavirus is usually experienced like a cold or flu. Reassure your children that you’re listening to the doctors. Explain that closing schools, business and events is to prevent people from becoming sick. Tell them that if they do become unwell that you’ll be right there with them, just like when they have an upset tummy or a cold. Explain that some people get a small cold and others get a worse cold, but in general, people who are healthy recover well. Also, the doctors are helping people and can help them too if they need it. Limit exposure to the news because that can heighten anxieties. Having a sense of control can help reduce worries. Emphasise that there are some things that they can do including washing their hands, sneezing or coughing into their elbow and using tissues to blow their nose. Show them how to wash their hands thoroughly. There are some great clips and songs on Youtube.
Plan activities. Think about what activities you might do. Kids needs to be occupied and people with depression would also benefit from thinking ahead about how they might get through a period of quarantine. For example, playing board games, completing puzzles, drawing or colouring in, craft, reading books, watching their favourite series or Netflix, gaming or baking. If it’s possible, go in the backyard for a while and blow off steam. Involve your kids now and ask them what activities they would like to do if/when they are cooped up in the house all day.
Set up a routine or structure. Children benefit from structure and schoolies are used to waking up, learning, eating and playing at certain times of the day. Schools are setting up virtual classrooms or sending home lessons and homework, so it may be possible to have times for study and play.
Keep in touch with loved ones. Check in on family and friends and the vulnerable via telephone, email, online or social media.
These suggestions can be helpful for adults too.
What is the take home message?
Follow medical advice and be mindful of hygiene practices. Remain calm. Talk with your kids. Plan ahead. Stay in touch with others. Hang in there.
Wishing you and your families good health.