COMMENT

We are all now learning the meaning of new words.

"Self isolation" is separating and restricting the movement of people who are well, who may have been exposed to Covid-19, to prevent spread if they become ill. Or separating an individual who has become infected with Covid-19, also to prevent spread.

"Social distancing" means not shaking hands, hugging, using hongi; it means standing two metres from other people, and avoiding crowds. And, most important, staying home if you feel sick – especially cold/flu symptoms or fever.

Advertisement

READ MORE:
Coronavirus in NZ: Tourists to be deported after failing to self-isolate upon arrival
Coronavirus: International students in isolation while travel mate tested for Covid-19
Coronavirus: Most of Crusaders, Chiefs teams in self-isolation after Government announcement
Coronavirus: Communities rally online as thousands self-isolate

Some people (eg, those with a history of past trauma, significant mental illness/distress, disability, long-term physical health problems) may find social isolation more difficult.
For some, being stuck at home may increase emotions such as frustration, and increase conflict with family.

Common sources of stress include: reduced social activities, financial strain from being unable to work, and a lack of access to usual healthy coping strategies such as going to the gym or attending religious services.

This stress may increase the incidence of domestic violence, and the consumption of alcohol and drugs.

However, we can all "rise to the occasion" if we are prepared.

Limit the amount of time spent reading the news and social media, and instead visit sources such as the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation. Misinformation is the "norm" in this era of the internet, but should be avoided to reduce stress at times like this.

The Ministry of Health gives helpful information on staying at home and self-isolating, and there are things you can do to make the 14 days easier.

Talk to your friends and family, ask for their help to access the things you will need. Be sure to tell your employer why you are working from home.

Advertisement

There are Government advisories for employers about what pay you are entitled to.

Go outside, but limit contact with others. It's okay to go for a walk, run or ride your bike, or go for a drive as long as you avoid coming into close contact, eg, workplaces, shops, events.

To look after your wellbeing, there are many things you can do.

For example, keep virtually connected to your culture and/or social group, spend time in places that feel safe and comfortable as much as possible, do things that you enjoy. This might include watching a series on Netflix, listening to music, and reading.

Reach out virtually to your usual supports – family and whānau, friends and workmates.

Sharing how we feel and offering support to others is important. As much as possible keep to usual routines – mealtimes, bedtime, exercise and so on.

David Codyre. Photo / Supplied
David Codyre. Photo / Supplied

Try creative ways of still doing fun social things – have a "virtual dinner party" Skype or Zoom – where you cook the same meal and eat it together from your own homes – the possibilities are endless for creative ways to maintain fun and social connection.

Use strategies such as mindfulness, meditation and relaxation exercises to help you feel less anxious. The Computer Assisted Learning for the Mind website has good resources.

Regularly check in with your elders to make sure they are okay. Self-isolation can take its toll on people who live alone.

If over days and weeks you feel you are not coping, or you are struggling to function, help and professional support is available.

This includes: ringing Healthline 0800 611 116, and ringing or texting 1737 to talk with a trained counsellor about grief, anxiety and stress.

Michelle Dickinson has made a great video for small children. It's available on YouTube.

Janet Peters. Photo / Supplied
Janet Peters. Photo / Supplied

Reassure children/tamariki they are safe, and encourage them to talk about how they feel. Tell them they can ask questions and answer these in plain language appropriate to their age. Tell them that feeling upset or afraid is normal, that it's good to talk about it.

Give your children extra love and attention and remember that children look to their parents to feel safe and to know how to respond. Reassure them, share that you are upset too but that you know you will all be fine together.

Try to keep to normal routines – mealtimes, bedtimes, etc, and allow them to get out and play, ride their bike, etc. Restrict going to playgrounds.

If a child's distress is escalating or they are displaying any worrying behaviours (such as extreme withdrawal, terror that you cannot comfort them from, etc), seek help early.

Everyone is important - protect each other and keep connected.

• Janet Peters is a registered psychologist and the NZ liaison for the International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership; and psychiatrist Dr David Codyre is the clinical lead for Tamaki Health's Wellness Support Team.