Looking after your mental health with asthma through COVID-19
Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. As we battle to flatten the COVID-19 curve and adhere to the guidance from the Australian Government, we find ourselves social distancing from friends and family, self-isolating for our own safety, out of work due to the latest level of lockdown restrictions, or preparing for our children to partake in remote learning due to school closures. All of these scenarios have a deep impact on our health and wellbeing. This is particularly the case for people who have been affected by the recent bushfires, which may be compounding on their sense of wellness.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced more support would be rolling out immediately to deal with the secondary effects of the health and economic crisis caused by coronavirus. “More help will be given to millions of Australians battling the devastating impacts of coronavirus with a $1.1 billion package which boosts mental health services, domestic violence support, Medicare assistance for people at home and emergency food relief.”
Australian Psychological Society President, Ros Knight said: “it is reasonable and understandable that people are concerned, but panicking is not a helpful way to respond.” We are in this together and we will get through this.
Focusing on achieving good asthma control during this time, will help reduce the negative impact asthma may be placing on your life. Most people (74%) have poorly controlled asthma according to PEEK research program. You can find out more information on good asthma control here.
Remind yourself it is ok to not feel ok. You’re certainly not alone.
Tips to improve your mental health when you have asthma
We know asthma can be harder to manage or cope with if you have depression or another mental health condition. Additionally, several studies have reported an association between stress, anxiety and extreme emotions and how they may trigger asthma symptoms and flare-ups.
In a recent survey by the Patient Experience, Expectations and Knowledge (PEEK) research program, 78% of people with asthma reported at least one negative impact of asthma including reduced physical activity, emotional strain and ability to participate in hobbies. The same survey showed that 46% of people described asthma as impacting their relationship in a negative way. Having asthma can be difficult in a variety of ways. It’s important to acknowledge that managing usual strains in addition to a health pandemic can take an additional psychological toll.
Finding strategies to manage stress effectively may help you lessen the impact on your asthma.
According to Beyond Blue, these are their tips for managing your mental health throughout the COVID-19 crisis:
- Remind yourself that this is a temporary period of isolation to slow the spread of the virus and reduce your chances of exposure
- Remember that your effort is helping others in the community to avoid contracting the virus
- Stay connected with friends, family and colleagues via email, social media, video conferencing or telephone
- Engage in healthy activities that comply with the current level of restrictions, but allow you to enjoy yourself and find relaxing moments
- Keep regular sleep routines and eat healthy foods
- Try to maintain physical activity at home, as this can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression
- Establish routines as best possible and try to view this period as a new experience that can bring health benefits
- For those working from home, try to maintain a healthy balance by allocating specific work hours, taking regular breaks and, if possible, establishing a dedicated workspace
- Avoid news and social media if you find it distressing
- Try to stay positive
Staying connected through the COVID-19 crisis
Lifeline announced in a recent article that connection to friends, family and support networks is important during this time. Here are some of their tips on staying connected with the current social distancing and isolation requirements:
- If there is someone you think may be struggling through social distancing and isolation, it is important to reach out to them by sending an email, writing a note, sending an email – just to let them know you care.
- We encourage you to get creative with video calls, set virtual coffee dates, online challenges, chat groups to keep up that social aspect.
- Join a local social media community group and talk to other locals, they can support you in times of need and help keep you up to date on your current surroundings.
Where to go for support?
It is extremely important to seek out help if you feel you need it; finding strategies to manage stress effectively may help you lessen its’ impact on your asthma. Try giving these services a call so they can offer you more support with your stress and caring responsibilities.
- Lifeline 13 11 14 operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
- Kids Helpline – for children that may need support 1800 551 800 https://kidshelpline.com.au
- Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636 https://beyondblue.org.au
- Head to Health – provides links to trusted Australian online and phone supports, resources and treatment options https://headtohealth.gov.au/
If your asthma is getting you down or if you feel anxious or overwhelmed, make a telehealth appointment and tell your doctor. Your doctor or health professional can assist you during this time.
Additional resources of interest
It’s important to get accurate information from credible sources such as those listed below. This will also help you maintain perspective and feel more in control.
Asthma Australia have put together an Anxiety and Depression brochure for further reading, as well as providing quick links to the below sites;
- Australian Government coronavirus (COVID-19) health alert
- Health Direct – Coronavirus (COVID-19)
- World Health Organization – coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak
- gov.au: https://www.pm.gov.au/media/11-billion-support-more-mental-health-medicare-and-domestic-violence-services-0
- Australian Psychological Society https://www.psychology.org.au/About-Us/news-and-media/Media-releases/2020/Coronavirus-psychologists-offer-advice-for-mainta
- Beyond Blue: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/looking-after-your-mental-health-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak
- Lifeline: https://www.lifeline.org.au/get-help/topics/mental-health-and-wellbeing-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak
- National Asthma Council, Australian Asthma Handbook: https://www.asthmahandbook.org.au/