The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted people on an international scale. During these times, it is natural to feel anxious and even overwhelmed by constantly changing alerts and media coverage regarding the spread of the virus.

We are committed to helping everyone in the UNSW community. For the latest advice from the university about all matters relating to the pandemic and our response as a university, visit the UNSW Covid-19 advice website. We have also made the ‘Working from home wellbeing guide’ available here.

For the most up-to-date advice from the Federal and state governments of Australia, go to the national Coronavirus website.

For student focussed health and wellbeing check out the UNSW Current Students Covid19 Wellbeing site.

At UNSW, we characterise the factors that underpin wellbeing in four parts: mind, body, places, and culture. Our advice, links and resources are categorised accordingly.


Mind

Anxiety

Experiencing anxiety about COVID-19 is a completely natural response. However, if your anxiety about the virus is starting to interfere with your day-to-day activities, you may need to seek help.

Benestar is UNSW’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provider and can be contacted on 1300 360 364. There is an online portal at www.benestar.com and an app for Android and iPhone users. These can all be accessed by all UNSW staff and their immediate family members. Login keys for the Benestar website and smart phone apps for UNSW staff and family members can be found here.

Avoid Information Overload

Although you want to keep up to date with current official advice about how to manage life under the COVID-19 crisis, it is important that you don’t become overwhelmed. Try to keep your news updates brief and confine them to a period of time in the morning and/or in the evening, rather than being plugged into updates all day. If necessary, take a short or even long-term break from the news and social media.

Social connection

There is a lot of talk about ‘social distancing’, when what we really mean is physical distancing. It is more important than ever to maintain your social connections, with colleagues, friends and family.

Staff of UNSW are already getting familiar connecting with colleagues on Teams or Zoom. Do make time to check in on one another, especially regarding mental wellbeing. It is worth making time to phone and text your friends and family more than you normally would. In the UK, seriously ill coronavirus patients cannot be visited by their families due to the infection risk, so please don’t wait until it’s too late to connect with loved ones!

Music and Reading

Reading a book or listening to music can take us into another world, leaving behind any worries or anxiety we may be experiencing in the moment. Sometimes it’s just the thing we need to create a mental break and allow us to refresh ourselves before getting back to our day.

Listening to music engages and lights up multiple areas of our brains. Playing music is even better for our brains, so if you’ve got an instrument gathering dust in a corner of your home, now’s your chance to dust it off. Check out this video from TED-Ed about the incredible benefits of music for your brain.


Body

Exercise

Exercising is so important for our physical and mental health. For many of us, the trip to work and back was the main source of activity in our workday. Considering that we may be in this homebound situation for several months, it is vital to get into a routine that incorporates exercise into our days.

This ABC article has some useful tips on how to exercise at home during the Coronavirus. Or try out this 7-minute workout. The Washington Post has a great set of 12 exercises you can do at your desk, with this animated and illustrated ‘work out at work’ guide.

If you are exercising with kids at home GoNoodle has some fantastic short videos you can all dance along to as a family (warning – you may have that tune about Fabio the Moose going around in your head for a loooong time!).

Yoga

Yoga is also a wonderful way to develop strength, balance, stimulate your body’s ‘operating system’ (including your lungs and circulation) and, of course, clear the mind. Try out these Yoga routines with Yogi Baron Baptiste, for 20, 45 or 60 minutes. Or explore Yoga with Adrienne.

Nutrition

During Covid-19 isolation, we all need to keep ourselves healthy and well fed to boost our immune systems and support our mental health. Now that we are all homebound and can’t go out to restaurants, why not take the opportunity to try out dishes you’ve always wanted to make but never had the chance?

There are many resources online with a huge range of recipes available for you to try. Bon Appétit has an article on ‘Cooking at Home in the Time of Coronavirus’, Goodfood Australia has their ‘Non-panicky guide to cooking your way through quarantine’ and also a guide to what foods to keep on-hand entitled ‘Two weeks indoors? Ten things to plan for your pantry’ by ex-Masterchef winner, the entertaining Adam Liaw

Ergonomics

Where possible, take the time to set up your home workstation as you would in the office. Taking a few minutes to ensure a comfortable physical work environment is critical to maintaining your health and safety. See the Covid19 Wellbeing guide for futher information


Places

Keep your home healthy

Now that we are all confined to our homes, it’s important to keep them clean. Here’s some advice from the ABC on how to keep your home clean and free from the coronavirus.

Try virtual travel

Visiting a museum or historic site might be off the agenda for a while, but there are some you can visit online. The Washington Post compiled this list of 12 historic sites you can tour virtually.

Gardening

Gardening has many benefits for wellbeing – getting outside in nature, the satisfaction of accomplishment, not to mention the joy of consuming your own home-grown produce. During the shutdown, gardening can be a great stress reliever and a way of providing some fresh produce so that you don’t have to leave home to go to the shops. This article from The Guardian has some great suggestions for growing a living pantry this coming winter – even if your only outside space is a balcony.


Culture

Be Kind

Be kind to yourself and to others. You can never know what others are dealing with, or why they might seem terse or abrupt with you, or not get back to you as soon as you’d like. Everyone’s work has been thrown into a spin by this health crisis. Many people in the community have already lost their jobs and are having an incredibly stressful time. Wherever you go, whomever you see or interact with (even online), practise giving everyone the benefit of the doubt and approach all your interactions with kindness. 

Maintain a positive outlook and attitude

Focus on the good news stories and not just the bad. Despite all the bad news, there are also lots of good news stories out there. Children have bought toilet paper with their own pocket money and walked up and down the street offering it to elderly locals. Italians are singing to each other from their balconies. A disabled woman in Melbourne was struggling with her toilet paper during the early morning shopping hour and the man behind her at the checkout offered her a lift home, gave her honey from his own bees and unpacked all her groceries for her. Not to mention all the many healthcare and other essential workers keeping us all safe and fed and often risking their own lives to do it.

Highlights of each day

At the end of the day, it helps to go over your day and think about the highlights. This can be a talking point for conversation at the dinner table with your family, or if you live alone, a topic to discuss in regular phone chats with a friend. It might seem some days like there were no highlights, but if you really think about it there is almost always something (even if it’s just something cute your dog did).

Gratitude

Practising gratitude has been shown to make people happier, more satisfied with their lives and less likely to burn out. Consider keeping your own gratitude journal, and remind yourself each day of all the things that you do already have that you can be grateful for, even in these uncertain times. Or try putting post-it notes on a wall so that others in your home can share iwhat’s making you feel grateful.

Helping others

Times of crisis remind us that we are all in this together. If you have the time and capacity to reach out and offer help to someone else, it can be so rewarding. The person you reach out to benefits, the community benefits, and you may also enjoy the ‘return’ on altruistic behaviours.

In Western Australia, volunteers are offering to ‘adopt a healthcare worker’ and do everything from their grocery shopping to minding their kids so they can keep going to work.

On a more local level, perhaps you can still visit the shops for essentials, but you know someone who can’t. Do you have a friend who is self-isolating, or an elderly neighbour or family member who is in a high-risk group? Perhaps you can help them set up an online shopping account. There are services like LogMeIn that can help you log into another person’s computer or tablet (with their full permission, of course).

If you do cook for neighbours, friends or family members, do remember to wash your hands and take all appropriate safety precautions when preparing items. Leave them at their front door to take in once you have left. Provide food items in containers you don’t need returned in the near future.

And remember, although you can’t visit these people right now, you can phone or text them regularly and ensure that physical distancing doesn’t become social distancing.