The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on people’s mental health. People from all walks of life have experienced stress throughout the pandemic – from frontline workers who are overwhelmed with work, young people who can’t go to school, family members who are separated from each other, those impacted by COVID-19 infection or loss of loved ones, or people with pre-existing mental health conditions who face difficulties in accessing mental health services during lockdowns.

It is understandable to feel scared, anxious or helpless during this unprecedented time. But whatever situation you are in and wherever you are in the Pacific, you have the power to look after your mental health and well-being. As we celebrate World Mental Health Day this 10 October, here are 6 things you can do to help you cope, not only with the COVID-19 pandemic, but any event that may cause stress.

1. Talk to someone you trust

Talking to someone you trust – whether a friend, a family member, or a colleague – can help. You may feel better if you are able to openly share what you are going through with someone who cares about you. If you live in an area where face-to-face interactions are limited, you can still stay connected with your loved ones through a video call, phone call or messaging app.

2. Look after your physical health

Taking care of your physical health helps improve your mental health and well-being. Be active for at least 30 minutes daily, whether that’s running, walking, yoga, dancing, cycling, or even gardening. Eat a balanced and healthy diet. Make sure to get enough sleep.

3. Do activities that you enjoy

Try to continue doing the activities that you find meaningful and enjoyable, such as cooking for yourself or your loved ones, playing with your pet, walking in the park, reading a book, or watching a film or TV series. Having a regular routine with activities that make you feel happy will help you maintain good mental health.

4. Steer away from harmful substances

Don’t use harmful substances such as drugs, kava, alcohol or tobacco to cope with what you’re feeling. Though these may seem to help you feel better in the short term, they can make you feel worse in the long run. These substances are also dangerous and can put you and those around you at risk of diseases or injuries.

5. Take two minutes to focus on the world around you

Help free yourself of constantly swirling thoughts by reconnecting yourself with where you are at this moment in time. Follow along with the video below or simply take three slow deep breaths, feel your feet grounded on the floor and ask yourself:

·        What are five things I can see?

·        What are four things I can hear?

·        What can I smell?

·        What does it feel like to touch my knees or a something else I can reach? How does it feel underneath my fingers?

6. Seek professional help

If you feel like you cannot cope with the stress that you are facing, seek professional help by calling your local mental health helpline or getting in touch with your counsellor or doctor.  Remember you are not alone, and there are things you can do to support your emotional wellbeing.

Further advice is available in Managing Stress: Self-help Tips for People Living in the Pacific Islands

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