COVID-19 and uncertainty –
providing mental health support

Risk Matters - Autumn 2022

The past two years have been tumultuous, with unplanned changes to restrictions, safety measures, and border closures adding to the stress and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While these measures are designed to ensure the safety of the WA community, the rapid timing and ambiguity around how changes affect us as individuals and in the workplace can be stressful. Moreover, WA borders opened on 3 March, with many worried about how rising case numbers will impact life as we know it.
Seeking to understand our responses is a proactive step towards adaptability and emotional agility.

How uncertainty affects our mental health

We’ve been living in a state of hyper-vigilance – along with the inability to plan ahead – for an extended period of time. This uncertainty contributes to anxiety.

Uncertainty is an unavoidable aspect of our daily lives, however the pandemic has disrupted our ability to deal with uncertainty through challenges in mitigating the impact to our lives. Constant feelings of uncertainty can impact how efficiently and effectively we manage adversity, and if not addressed, contributes to unhealthy levels of anxiety that can impact mental health.

With the state borders reopening and the current uncertainty around how we learn to live with a potential endemic, the need for proactive self-management and actively engaging in support resources is crucial to reducing anxiety levels and looking after your mental wellbeing.

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Coping strategies

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported across 2020-21, 61% of Australians used at least one strategy to manage their mental health. Employing multiple strategies can be considered best practice in adopting a holistic response to being the best version of ourselves when in the face of uncertainty.

Consider implementing the below stress management strategies:

Problem-focused coping: Involves managing and dealing with the stressor (problem) directly, in an attempt to reduce or resolve the issue. Best suited when the source of the stress is within your control.

This strategy involves:

  • Seeking trusted advice – asking for support and guidance from a trusted friend or a professional with expertise.
  • Thinking rationally – listing the pros and cons, regulating your emotions.
  • Proactive problem solving – research, establish facts, stay solution focused.
  • Time management – scheduling and prioritising your time more effectively, reducing procrastination, create a ‘to do list’.

Emotion-focused coping
: Focuses on reducing negative emotional responses associated with feelings of anxiety. Useful when the source of the problem is outside your control. This strategy employs self-management behaviour for proactive self-regulation, including:

  • Mindfulness – meditation, grateful journals, visualisation, going for a walk.
  • Emotional disclosure – talking with a trusted family member, friend or professional and/or journaling to better understand your emotional responses.
  • Optimistic thinking – positive affirmations, self-encouragement and focusing on the present.
  • Reframing – questioning your biases, positive reappraisal and adopting a growth mindset.

What can you do?

If you feel able, stay informed on COVID related facts from viable sources and limit media exposure. LGIS recommends Healthy WA website for general COVID related queries and WALGA for local government specific information. It’s also important to take a break from the news cycle if it begins feeling overwhelming.

Other tips include:

  • Self-reflection on past experiences that demonstrate your resilience and ability to cope and deal with adversity.
  • Practice self-care:
    – Healthy eating
    – Regular exercise
    – Consistent and healthy sleep
  • Maintain social connection and interpersonal relationships with family members, friends and community.
  • Focus on smaller steps and what you can control.
  • Familiarise yourself with reliable websites that have a variety of resources for managing COVID related stress and anxiety. LGIS recommends Beyond Blue, Headspace, and Black Dog Institute.
  • Engage with your Employee Assistance Program or contact LGIS health and wellbeing program at [email protected]
  • Consult with your GP or health professional.

How can LGIS help?

The LGIS People Risk Services are available to discuss tools and services that are available to members – all services can be tailored to your individual local government. For more information, please contact Emma Horsefield, LGIS People Risk Manager on [email protected] or discuss with your LGIS regional risk coordinator.

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