By Luke Foster, LIVIN Psychologist
Steady your bucket!
“WARNING, ALARM BELLS – COVID-19 IS SPREADING FAST…”
Sound familiar? Headlines like these are everywhere at the moment. People and organisations – some qualified to comment, some very unqualified to comment - are speaking at length about this respiratory virus.
Of course, we need to listen to the medical experts (those who are qualified to comment) and take all necessary precautions to prevent infection from spreading: like regular hand washing; covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze and cough;; avoiding close contact in social situations; taking appropriate measures to socially distance yourself from crowds of people; but, panicking is not a helpful way to respond for anyone, especially yourself. The following information aims to reassure you, your family and friends - let’s call it some helpful advice - and, fingers crossed, prevent you from becoming overwhelmed.
As a psychologist I hear some pretty horrific things from time to time – some of the things people are dealing with or have been through are nothing short of terrible. I remember as a junior psychologist thinking, feeling seemingly invincible, that nothing would ever affect me and that I could handle all manner of things.
After almost 10 years in the profession (most of my career as a psychologist has been in the military), stories that I had been told began to play over and over in my head and began to chip away at my resilience.
My bucket had become full.
I sat with an experienced clinician of almost 30 years and told her what I was experiencing. She spoke to me about compassion fatigue, burn-out and reinforced the importance of ‘self-care’ which, to my surprise included minimising exposure to the constant stream of negative information regularly portrayed across many forms of media.
One of the key pieces of advice given was minimising exposure to the news which, let’s face it, more often than not is plagued with negative headlines and stories. The negativity on the news, combined with the complex things that some of my clients were telling me, were quickly filling up my bucket. There is only so much ‘negativity’ that the human brain can tolerate before it becomes overwhelming and our overall emotional wellbeing becomes tested.
I was burning out, and my bucket was far from steady.
If you keep adding more and more water to a bucket, it’ll eventually overfill and shit will spill all over the carpet. My carpet was becoming more stained each and every day. You need to empty your own bucket from time to time to avoid shit from spilling and to prevent you or the people around you from having to clean up the mess.
So, how do we keep our bucket from overflowing?
- During times like what we are currently experiencing, avoid watching too much hyped up media warning that an apocalypse is fast approaching and try your best to avoid doomsday discussions. Stick to the facts - sure, that influencer on Instagram with 1 million followers might have the best of intentions, but the preferred option is to rely on information provided by scientific sources. This is the best way to maintain true perspective and manage your feelings.
- Try your best to remain calm (again, reinforce self-care by providing link to self-care article) and continue with your usual routine, as much as you can. If you’re a parent, teacher, coach, caregiver, be mindful that the current situation might be having an adverse impact on those younger people in your lives. Being open and honest with younger people about the true state of play is the best way to help them cope with serious situations, from mental illness, physical illness, suicide and now, COVID-19.
- We have mentioned self-care a few times already, and one of the more important points outlined in the article linked to self-care above is social support. Sure, there may be some restrictions placed on how much face-to-face contact you can have with people at the moment, but this does not mean that social support has to be ignored. Sitting all alone isolated in quarantine sounds like a pretty depressive situation to find yourself in, but this does not mean that you cannot provide or seek social support. It is social distancing, not social isolation. Pick up the phone and give them a call, Facetime them, Zoom call your colleagues etc. etc. etc. – get creative when it comes to providing social support. After all, social support is one of the greatest predictors of human resilience, so now more than ever is an important time to get creative with providing social support to those you care about. For some more tips and the science behind social connection head here https://livin.org/blogs/news-2/social-tuesday-challenge-the-benefits-of-social-connection
Conversations will not be cancelled.
Relationships will not be cancelled.
Love will not be cancelled.
Kindness will not be cancelled.
Hope will not be cancelled.
Self-care will not be cancelled.
If you feel like your bucket is getting full, don’t let it overfill and spill shit all over the carpet. Take control of your own mental health and practice self-care regularly.
Self-care, self-care, self-care – you get the point, I hope!
Of course, if emptying that bucket of yours is becoming too difficult to do, don’t’ beat yourself up or think that you are weak, take courageous action and seek professional support.
The Beyond Blue Support Service offers short term counselling and referrals by phone and webchat on 1300 224 636. Alternatively, visit the Get Help section of our website for more options that might be better suited to you. If you change nothing, nothing will change!
For up-to-date, reliable information on COVID-19, contact of these trusted sources.
- The Australian Government Department of Health – health.gov.au
- The Public Health Information Line on 1800 004 599
- Your local public health agency:
- Australian Capital Territory: 02 5124 9213
- New South Wales: 1300 066 055
- Northern Territory: 08 8922 8044
- Queensland: 13 43 25 84
- South Australia: 1300 232 272
- Tasmania: 1800 671 738
- Victoria: 1300 651 738
- Western Australia: www.healthywa.wa.gov.au
Above all look after yourself and each other. We will all get through this.