Living with COVID-19

Coping with mixed emotions and wellbeing tips for home isolation.

Feeling all sorts of emotions

It’s an uncertain and stressful time. Whether you’re feeling out of sorts, sort of hōhā, a bit down, kinda happy, totally stressed, quite anxious, an emotion you can’t even explain, or a weird combination of lots of these, it’s important to remember all of these feelings are normal and expected, and different people will feel different things – even if they’re going through the same experience. 

There are all sorts of emotions, and they can combine in all sorts of ways – feelings can change day to day and ups and downs are normal.

Supporting your mental health when you have COVID-19

If you’ve received a positive test result telling you you have COVID-19, you’re probably feeling heaps – shock, stress and worry for yourself and others, or maybe ka pai/all good – all of these feelings are normal and expected.  

While your physical health and doing what you can to minimise your chances of spreading the virus are important, it’s also important to look after your hinengaro/mental health throughout this time too. Here’s how:

Coping with isolation and being at home

With Omicron in the community and new COVID-19 cases popping up all over the place, chances are you or someone you know will have to do a stint of home isolation at some point to help keep your loved ones and community safe.  

It’s not easy spending so much time at home – it can make us feel isolated, lonely, a bit ‘meh’ or just plain bored. Isolating with others can be hard too. Finding some ‘me time’ while also being there to support whānau or tamariki can be an exhausting juggling act. 

If you or someone you know is isolating at home, we’ve come up with a few ideas to help recharge your wellbeing and look after yourself to help you get through isolation in the best possible way.  

Wellbeing tips for people isolating 

Here are some ways to support your mental health when you’re at home isolating, based on the Five Ways to Wellbeing:

  • Connect/tūhono with your friends and whānau on the phone, through social media, video chats and text. 
  • Find ways to switch off and recharge. Reading, mindfulness, gardening, organising the house, getting stuck into a project, deep breathing and meditation are all great ways to unwind. Check out some free mindfulness practices here.
  • Remind yourself that this is a temporary period of isolation to slow the spread of the virus and remember that your efforts are helping to keep others safe.
  • Find ways to take notice. Take time to feel the sun on your skin and breathe in fresh air whenever you can, even if it’s just through the window! Practice gratitude to help you focus on what’s important – try writing down what you’re grateful for, and what you’re looking forward to.
  • Stick to a routine as best as possible to keep some structure and certainty in your days. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time, eat at regular times, shower and get ready each morning.
  • Think about how you can connect with nature from your home. Can you bring some nature indoors? Put up pictures of maunga (mountains), whenua (land), moana (oceans) or awa (rivers) that have meaning to you. Listen to nature sounds – birdsong is a lovely background noise while you work. Open the windows as often as you can.  
  • Find ways to be active as much as you can from home. Regular movement helps release tension and stress and gives us an energy boost. You could try a Youtube yoga class, or even some simple stretching!
  • If you’re working from home, try to maintain a healthy balance by allocating specific work hours, taking regular breaks and, if possible, establishing a dedicated work space.
  • Keep learning new things to help focus your mind and give you a sense of purpose. You could use this time to learn something you’ve always wanted to know about like your whakapapa or family tree.  
  • Give – it feels good to give, and everyone has something to offer – big or small. Give thanks to whānau, friends or colleagues who might be helping you right now. Let someone know you appreciate them. Give your time by checking in with the people you care about.  
  • Try to get some ‘me time’ everyday, whether you’re isolating on your own or with others. It can be as simple as cuddling a pet, tending to the garden, having a bath, singing a waiata or drawing a picture.  
  • Limit how much you look at the news and social media if you find it overwhelming. Pick one trusted source and check it once or twice a day.

Life’s a bit unpredictable at the moment, and it’s completely normal to be feeling all out of sorts. It’s okay to feel ups and downs and to take things day by day. 

If you’ve noticed you’re really not feeling yourself, there is help available. See the helplines page for advice.  

Relaxation exercises for home isolation

Finding a sense of calm in our day-to-day lives can feel hard when things feel a bit out of sorts, but relaxation exercises can help to calm the mind and body and help us to cope with the ups and downs we might be feeling. 

There are lots of types of relaxation techniques, like breathing exercises, mindfulness exercises and physical activities like yoga you can do at home. As with lots of things, the more consistently you do them, the more helpful you’ll find them to be. Try a few out and see which ones work for you! 

Breathe in, hold, breathe out

Try this popular technique called ‘box breathing’

Mindful colouring

Colouring is a relaxing and mindful activity for people of any age and has proven benefits for our wellbeing. Simply find a template online, grab some pens, pencils or crayons, take some time for yourself, be present in the moment and enjoy bringing your unique scene to life. 

Mindfulness exercise 

Research suggests that when we intentionally practice being mindful, we feel less stressed, anxious and depressed, and more balanced and in tune with what’s happening inside and outside of our bodies.  

Try this simple mindful exercise: 

Stop for a while; take 10 mindful breaths in and out, calming the body and mind, then simply rest where you are noticing everything that is going on around you.  

This practice incorporates four key aspects of mindfulness training: Stopping - Calming - Resting - Noticing. Together, these four steps are innately healing. 

Use an everyday environmental cue (the phone ringing or an email alert) as a reminder to pause and breathe for three breath cycles and take notice of the world around you.

Supporting others

Tips for supporting whānau who are isolating at home

If your whānau or friends are having to stay home, there are plenty of ways you can support them through. Here are some tips from Rachel Nelson, an Aucklander who’s ‘been there done that’ and has some wonderful wisdom to share. 

When Auckland locked down in August 2021, Rachel and her whānau closed their bubble tight. As the mother of two boys with compromised health conditions, Rachel knew if COVID-19 made its way into her whare, it would have a devastating impact. Rachel and her husband did everything they could to stay safe at home for the entirety of the long lockdown. 

COVID is frightening,” Rachel says, “But my belief is if we work together, if our voices are heard, we know what we need to do to look after our people.” 

Rachel knows some of the sacrifices we all need to make to keep our whānau safe from COVID-19 are a real challenge. “But, if we really love our whānau, if we really love our kaumatua, our kuia, our tamariki and our mokopuna, we have to do whatever it takes to protect them.” 

Rachel’s tips for supporting whānau who are staying home:

  • Really stick together and look after each other.  
  • Stick to the rules and keep it simple.  
  • If you’re getting frustrated inside the whare, go outside and sit in the sun or the rain, put your feet on the grass or the whenua.  
  • Ask for help when you need it. From health services or other whānau – tell people what you need.  
  • Karakia, karakia, karakia. Prayer is powerful.  
  • Take care of yourself while you’re taking care of your whānau. Do what you need to do to reset every day.

And, if someone in your extended whānau has COVID-19, Rachel says you can help them by staying in touch however you can, dropping off kai, and advocating for them to ensure they get the support they need.  Rachel knows COVID-19 will continue to be a challenge for whānau for some time to come. But, she says, “all of us together doing a little bit makes a massive difference.”  

Kei roto i te pōuri, te marama e whiti ana.