Everyone responds differently to stress. In psychology, we talk about a complex interaction between biological, psychological and sociocultural factors. Put simply, this means that our genes, personality, pre-existing mental and physical health conditions, and life experiences interact to influence our stress threshold and experience of stress.
The experience of feeling stressed is heavily dependent on what events we notice and how we interpret them. Understandably, the outbreak of COVID-19 will be anxiety provoking for many. Your concerns might be health, financial, work related or other. A lot of the Australian community will be entering this crisis already feeling depleted and vulnerable the from the recent droughts, bushfires and floods. People who do not identify with the experience of anxiety might notice heightened levels of worry, fear, sadness, uncertainty and stress. These emotions can feel overwhelming and could be impacting on everyday life.
How to access psychological support
Using evidenced-based strategies, psychologists can help you manage feelings of stress and anxiety. If you are referred to a psychologist through your GP, you may be eligible for a Medicare rebate. You may also be eligible to receive psychological services via video/telehealth, thereby avoiding the need to travel to see a psychologist.
To access a psychologist:
- Ask your GP or another health professional to refer you;
- Locate a psychologist using the Australian Psychological Society’s online directory Find a Psychologist TM or phone 1800 333 497.
Employee Assistance Programs
Another option is to check if you have access to an EAP through your place of work. EAPs offer confidential, short-term counselling for employees. In many instances, immediate family members of employees can also access these services.
Other support services
- Solicitor Outreach Service (SOS) 1800 592 296 - SOS is a dedicated psychological service for NSW solicitors. Funded by the Law Society of NSW, NSW solicitors can access up to three psychological sessions per financial year, and 24/7 telephone crisis counselling with a psychologist if in acute distress or thinking about suicide.
- Lifeline 13 11 14 - Access 24/7/ crisis support and suicide prevention services. Lifeline provides services via a 24/7 telephone hotline, online and face-to-face.
- Beyond Blue 1300 224 636 – Access telephone support 24/7 with a trained mental health professional on 1300 224 636. Alternatively, if you do not feel up to talking on the phone, chat online between 3pm and midnight, or send an email.
- Relationships Australia, Time 2 Talk 1300 022 966 – Time 2 Talk is a free telephone support service for people experiencing difficulties during COVID-19 associated with maintaining healthy relationships, working from home with home schooling, mental health issues, and loneliness.
- Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 – Kids Helpline is a free service for young people aged 5-25 years. Counselling is available 24/7 by phone, email or over the web.
- 1800RESPECT 1800 737 732 – National sexual assault, domestic family violence counselling service. Access confidential information, counselling and support service.
Online mental health resources and treatment programs
If you are experiencing difficulties coping with the current situation, there are several online services and treatment programs which can help you to understand what is going on for you, and help you to manage better. Many online mental health treatment programs are offered either free of charge, or at reduced cost.
The following programs are provided by reputable organisations and are evidence-based. They are completely independent of the Law Society of NSW.
- Head to Health – Head to Health is an Australian Department of Health initiative with a focus on bringing together information about apps, online programs, online forums and phone services of respected Australian mental health organisations. Head to Health has a dedicated COVID-19 page to help support mental health and wellbeing during this pandemic.
- myCompass – Free, personalised mental health strategies to help you manage thoughts, feelings and behaviours that cause you concern.
- Black Dog Institute Online Clinic – Free, mental health assessment tool and personalised report with suggested support services/resources for you to access.
- This Way Up – Online treatment programs, education and research to help improve mental health, wellbeing and physical health difficulties.
- MindSpot – Free, online assessment and treatment for people experiencing stress, worry, anxiety, low mood and depression.
- moodgym – Free, online self-help program designed to help users prevent and manage symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- Beyond Blue New Access – Free coaching program to help people cope if feeling stressed, anxious or overwhelmed about everyday life issues (such as work, study, relationships, health or loneliness).
Tips for managing COVID-19 related stress
- Limit exposure to media coverage about COVID-19
- Get information from reliable sources such as the World Health Organisation (WHO), Australian Government Department of Health or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Keep things in perspective by giving your thoughts a reality-check when needed – we are more resilient and better able to cope than what we give ourselves credit for
- Take reasonable precautions such as by maintaining recommended hygiene principles
- Practise self-care – eat three healthy meals per day, maintain good sleep routines, minimise use of alcohol/drugs, and get as much fresh air and sunshine as possible
- Stay active by exercising daily
- Stay connected with family, friends and colleagues
- Show some self-compassion – it is ok to feel concerned
- Seek support if you need it
What if you are feeling unwell?
If you suspect that you or a family member has COVID-19, you should call (not visit) your GP or phone the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080.
Do not attend a GP practice or hospital without phoning ahead and letting them know of your symptoms and concerns.
Miriam Wyzenbeek is a Clinical and Forensic Psychologist, and the Law Society of NSW’s Wellbeing Coordinator.