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Psychologist calls for mental health to be a priority

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The coronavirus pandemic is leaving many feeling isolated, out of control and concerned for the future.

Manager of Counselling and Clinical Services at CatholicCare and Access Newcastle, Psychologist Kelly Pavan, says looking after your mental health should be a priority during these uncertain times.

“Prioritising our mental health at this point in time is a good idea when we feel good – we feel more capable of doing things,” she says.

“It’s human nature to feel anxious where we are faced with this kind of radical uncertainty, and research tells us that people who feel a sense of control over their surroundings experience less anxiety, stress and depression.”

Ms Pavan has several tips to support your mental health including; maintaining some structure, practising physical self-care, limiting news intake, and reframing how you perceive the situation.

“Within the boundaries that you have now, make your life as predictable as possible,” she says.

Ms Pavan suggests creating a routine to follow each day, including set times for work, school and exercise.

“We need to be kind to ourselves about this and have different expectations during this time about what we can achieve and our levels of motivation,” she says.

She adds that the way we think about what is happening is another important factor.

“I often work with clients on ‘Reframing’ which is essentially looking at a situation from another angle,” she says.

“We don’t minimise what’s happening, but instead of following negative thoughts down the rabbit hole, we can stop and take a moment to consider if there’s another way to see the situation.”

Ms Pavan uses the example of social distancing. While the COVID-19 restrictions require people to physically distance, that does not mean we have to be emotionally or socially isolated.

“Social distancing doesn’t mean emotional distancing; while we can’t physically reach out to loved ones, we can emotionally check-in,” she says.  

“It is more important than ever to connect with others socially and emotionally.”

Calling your friends, family and colleagues is an easy way to maintain social contact and feel less alone.

Ms Pavan urges anyone who is really struggling to connect with a psychologist.

“The psychology community have developed a wealth of useful resources, tips and ideas specifically about coping during coronavirus, that could contribute to you feeling and keeping well right now,” she says.

She adds that most services are offering sessions via video call or phone call if you do not feel comfortable going out.

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