How to manage your mental health and wellbeing during the Corona virus pandemic by Lucy Kennedy

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It is perfectly understandable to feel anxiety about this emerging health crisis. For pregnant women this is amplified because you are not only considering your own health, of course you are considering your baby’s too. While it is known coronavirus can be a severe illness in some, we also know it is likely to be the most severe in people who have an already weakened immune system. In women who are pregnant the very best advice we have to date is that most pregnant women recover well, much like they would if they were not pregnant.

 

When we are anxious our minds can inflate the perception of danger around us. This is a function of our brain’s fight-flight system – inbuilt and designed to help keep us safe. However, an inflated sense of danger and the related anxious thinking may mean you feel and think and believe that you are in danger, even though you and your baby are actually safe and healthy. Our brains often place the most worrying things at the very front and centre of our minds, like a movie showing in the movie theatre. This in turn means ordinary or even helpful, happy occurrences or thoughts are given less attention or time in our mind; or pushed to the side all together.

 

If you find yourself feeling anxious (worrying more than usual and the worrying thoughts are hard to switch off) I invite you to consider the following:

 

  1. Reduce time spent on news and social media.

Continuous exposure to online information and news feeds can and does significantly contribute to anxiety and allows our minds to keep the Corona virus front and centre. For this reason, I recommend reducing/limiting the time spent reading/watching and listening to news and information about the Corona virus to once or maybe twice per day, and only rely on information from a reputable source.

 

  1. Consider having a single source of information about the Corona virus and what it means for you and your pregnancy

How about making your Obstetrician and the Eve Health team the sole providers of information and facts about the risks Corona virus poses to you and your baby and how to manage these risks? This would reduce the need to search for information in other places which can be both reliable and unreliable; you may feel less confused and less concerned taking this approach.

Remember, your Obstetrician and the team at Eve Health are making evidence-based decisions based on the most current information available, and making great efforts and planning well ahead to be able to continue to support you, to provide hands on care and to plan for your delivery, hospital care, and after hospital care.  Your wellbeing is the front and centre of our practice.

 

  1. Take all precautions as recommended

Continue to take healthy precautions to reduce your chances of exposure to the virus. Remember it is a virus spread through everyday contact, touch, a cough or a sneeze. If you are healthy stay away from contact with a person who is unwell or has been exposed potentially. Continue to wash your hands and try to stop touching your face (this is a challenge); touching your pregnant belly is a perfect alternative.

Find the current government recommendations about precautionary measures here:  https://www.qld.gov.au/health/conditions/health-alerts/coronavirus-covid-19/take-action/coronavirus-prevention

 

  1. Keep your immune system happy and healthy

Eat a balanced diet, get as much good quality sleep as you can, and continue with regular gentle exercise as recommended.

 

  1. Use all your usual coping skills

All the things that have helped you manage worrying thoughts, or a worrying period in life will be helpful now. These may include self-talk to address unhelpful or irrational thinking patterns, using fact-based responses, distraction, and participating in enjoyable activities where possible (e.g. watching something funny, sitting outside and enjoying the change of weather, doing something creative). Reaching out to family and friends to talk through your worries could be helpful for some and continuing to engage with mindfulness, yoga or guided relaxation techniques is well known to be helpful.

Beyond Blue recommends the following in their booklet titled Understanding Perinatal depression and anxiety which certainly apply at the current time:

  • Continue to remain involved with day-to-day tasks related to the preparations for your new baby to arrive.
  • Accept offers of support from family and friends for help with meals/meal preparation, housework and childcare.
  • Plan some time with your partner as a couple and try to do something you enjoy.
  • Continue to gently exercise as you are able and as is recommended by your Obstetrician. Consider guided relaxation and mindfulness using an app such as Mind the Bump, Smiling Mind, Headspace and Calm.

 

  1. Here are some links where you can find additional fact-based information:

COPE (Centre For Perinatal Excellence) Covid 19 updates for pregnant women, children and parents

APS (Australian Psychological Society) Tips for coping with coronavirus anxiety

PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Support) PANDA response to coronavirus

 

Blog post by Lucy Kennedy, psychologist

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