You may be feeling manawa pā or anxious about catching COVID-19 again or for the first time, or might be struggling with your recovery post-infection. It’s normal to feel tāmomi/overwhelmed, tired and low.
To help with managing these feelings, we’ve sourced some guidance from people who’ve lived through and managed manawa pā/anxious thoughts and emotions before, and a registered psychologist. Together with your own instincts, their mātauranga/wisdom can help you to find a way through.
I’m finding it hard to be tūmatanui/in public spaces
It’s completely understandable to feel uncomfortable being in public spaces after so long living with social distancing restrictions and mask use, especially when the case numbers are creeping up again. It may take time and conscious effort to get used to being in public spaces again, and that’s okay.
You can manage being in tūmatanui/in public spaces by:
- Easing yourself into being in public spaces. Setting a realistic goal for how long you want to be in public can really help with this. Once you’ve set your goal, try to stick to that amount of time and gradually work up to longer timeframes. Some people use a technique called imaginal desensitisation – where people visualise themselves being exposed to a situation that causes distress, and eventually become more desensitised to that situation over time.
- Identifying your triggers. Think about what triggers your manawa pā/anxious thoughts and emotions when you’re in public spaces. Knowing your triggers will help you to address any mataku/fears you might have around them.
- Planning ahead for what you can control. Once you know your triggers, you can start to manage them. If you are triggered by people sneezing, would it help to wear a N95 face mask or gloves in public spaces? If you are triggered by crowds, perhaps meeting a friend at a local park would suit you better than meeting at a mall right now? Planning ahead can help to give you a sense of control when COVID-19 is in the community.
- Taking a friend with you. Being accompanied by a loved one in public places that might trigger anxiety can be incredibly reassuring. Try asking someone you trust if they can come with you when you’re planning to go out in public.
- Practising mindfulness and/or mindful breathing. Being in the moment can reduce stress and help to take your mind off manawa pā/anxious feelings. When you’re out for a hīkoi/walk, what can you see, hear, smell, taste and touch? At your local café, do you notice any additional thoughts or emotions you’re experiencing? If you do, try to simply notice your thoughts as they enter your mind rather than judging them as wrong or invalid. Box breathing, or breathing in a deep and controlled way, can also really help. You can practise box breathing by following a short YouTube video here.
- Journaling your thoughts and feelings afterwards. Writing down what senses, thoughts and emotions you’ve experienced can help you to recognise recurring manawa pā/anxious feelings and keep track of what eases or triggers them for the future. Apps like Just a Thought can be helpful to practise cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and note any progress you’ve made.
I’m feeling tāmomi/overwhelmed at work
COVID-19 has significantly changed the way many of us work. You might be working from home; have to come into the office before you’re comfortable or ready; or you might find it tricky to work while recovering from COVID-19.
Experiencing changes to your mahi/work can be unsettling and trigger new and old anxious thoughts and feelings.
You can manage tāmomi/overwhelming thoughts and feelings around changes to your mahi/work by:
- Asking what concessions your workplace can offer. If you’ve worked well remotely and your employer is okay with it, you might like to ask for continued flexibility. Could you spend mornings at your workplace and afternoons at your kāinga/home? Splitting your time between your kāinga and workplace could help you to accept the new changes and reduce feelings of overwhelm. Many employers are allowing their employees to work from home for a day or two across the working week.
- Taking some aspects of remote working with you. Being back in your workplace is a good opportunity to introduce the things you’ve enjoyed while working remotely into your standard working day. If you’ve enjoyed the quiet at your kāinga, try bringing in some noise-cancelling headphones. If you’ve found that taking a hīkoi/walk has been good for your wellbeing, take a hīkoi at lunch. Keeping parts of your former daily routines will help you to feel more grounded as you transition into a new way of working.
- Looking for ways to lower your stress. Stress at your workplace might seem inevitable but being able to recognise tohu/signs that you are stressed and knowing what calms you down can help. Read our guide to reducing stress in the workplace for some top tips.
- Finding new ways to travel to your workplace. The daily commute can be a big strain, especially if you haven’t done it in a while. Could you replace the way you travel with something that enhances your wellbeing? Perhaps you could cycle or hīkoi part of the way? If you have flexible hours, you could try starting before or after rush hour for a smoother journey. Think about what else you can incorporate into your commute to make it more enjoyable, like listening to your favourite waiata/songs or a new podcast, doing the latest Wordle or reading a pukapuka/book to distract yourself.
Working at home?
Working at home for long stretches or working partly in the workplace, partly at home can feel overwhelming, too. Too much screen time, domestic distractions and a lack of face-to-face communication can leave us feeling isolated, overwhelmed and unproductive.
You can manage tāmomi/overwhelming thoughts and feelings when working at home by:
- Keeping a regular routine. Our minds love routine – it feels familiar, more manageable and creates structure in our day. Little routines like putting on work clothes, chatting (virtually or over the phone) with colleagues over lunch or brewing your favourite coffee or tea at certain set times can really help you to feel less all over the place.
- Creating boundaries between your work and personal life. It's so easy for our work and personal lives to feel like they blur when working from home, and this blurring can increase how overwhelmed or drained we feel. If you haven’t already, try to set up a dedicated workspace separate from your main living area and stick to regular start and finish times.
- Take breaks when you need to. You could try breaking up your work into bite sized pieces, for example: spending 25 minutes on a task and rewarding yourself with a five-minute break – this helps to make the mahi/work more manageable and might help to increase your productivity. Giving yourself a break to take a hīkoi/walk, stretch or micro nap can do wonders. If you find yourself thinking and talking about work a lot outside your working hours, try to reduce this by setting a timer on how long you can talk about work after-hours or talking about work only during dinner, for example. Putting these boundaries in place can make us feel like we’ve had a break from work and help us through these challenging times.
- Keeping connected with your colleagues. Often, it’s the people we work with that make our working days enjoyable. Consider new ways that you can connect as a team virtually – such as practising short Zoom karakia in the mornings or sharing email chains with each person’s favourite songs or recipes. If you can safely meet up with your colleagues and feel comfortable to, try organising a walking meeting or nice lunch out.
- Being clever with your Zooms. Many of us know how draining Zoom meetings can be. Try and lessen their impact on your wellbeing by finding alternatives to Zoom meetings – such as tracking changes on a document or sending an email – and shortening Zoom meetings to 45 minutes instead of an hour so that you can stretch, take a break or do the essentials. Research shows that focusing only on the Zoom meeting while in it (rather than responding to emails at the same time); setting your Zoom on speaker view (so you only see one face at a time) and hiding your self-view (so that you feel less self-conscious) can really help with how you feel before and after Zooming. Remember too that, if you need to, you can turn your camera off to help with any manawa pā/anxious feelings you might be experiencing. If you do turn your camera off, let your colleagues know you’re doing this for yourself and not because of something they’ve said or done – forgetting to do this could heighten their own anxious feelings.
Whatever your workplace looks like right now, remember that everyone is in the same waka/boat. The current landscape can bring up feelings of anxiety and uncertainty whether we’re working at an external workplace, at home - or a mix of both. Being up-front with managers and colleagues about how you are feeling will allow them to give you any extra support you may need.
If your manager or workplace is unsure how they can best support you, our free Open Minds e-learning training could help with some ideas.
Words of mātauranga/wisdom
These sage pieces of advice or mātauranga are from people who’ve “been there, done that” – people who have lived and are successfully managing their way through mental distress and trauma.
“Within our team of five million there will be many people who are having a tough time. You may not see them in your whānau, workplace or other settings, but they do exist. You are not alone.”
“You do what you need to do and don't worry if you think others disapprove. Everyone has something that they are struggling with, we just don't always see/know it.”
“Those of us who live with ongoing times of mental despair are the resilient ones in our society. We already know what hardship, anxiety and uncertainty feel like. We have the tools to be the most well-equipped to cope in this COVID-19 crisis.”
Titiro whakamuri, kokiri whakamua. Look back and reflect, so you can move forward.
Resources and tools
- Text or call 1737 for a team of free, trained counsellors who are available 24/7
- Call 0800 ANXIETY (269 4389) for specific questions around your or your loved ones’ manawa pā/anxious feelings
- Call or visit the Yellow Brick Road website for support for the whole whānau
- Call 0800 POUNAMU (768 626) to talk to someone about you or your loved ones’ hauora hinengāro/mental health or join an online hui
- Call Asian Family Services on 0800 862 342 if you are looking to reach out to someone from a similar culture or are not fluent in English
- Call Vaka Tautua on 0800 825 282 to have a phone talanoa/conversation about what you or your loved are going through from a Pasifika perspective
- If you or your loved one are also living with addictions, call 0800 787 797 for more support
Websites, apps and resources
- Read our tips on how to reduce manawa pā/anxious thoughts and feelings
- If you are looking for hauora/hinengāro/mental health supports and services, read our guide on what is available right now
- Listen to these guided mindfulness sessions for tamariki/children and adults
- Read this guide to protecting your hauora hinengāro/mental health after a job loss
- Use the app Staying on Track to access practical, cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) tools
- Use this interactive flow-chart to help you practice self-care
- Use this template to help to create your own self-care plan.
Supporting whānau and loved ones:
- See our resource on supporting your whānau through tough times
- OUTLine has some wonderful resources for rainbow friends and whānau
- Supporting Families New Zealand
- Just Ask, Just Listen
- Contact your local iwi for more resources and advice relevant to your area.