COVID-19: Looking after your mental health

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of looking after our mental health. For many this has been a time of anxiety, stress, frustration, and loneliness. For some this may be the first time they have struggled with their mental health, and for those with ongoing physical and/or mental health conditions this may have been a particularly challenging time. 

Here are some suggestions and tips for looking after your mental health and taking care of yourself and others.

Stay connected:

Lockdowns and periods of isolation have shown the importance of social connection. Having strong social connections is associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety, better emotional regulation, increased ability to cope with stress, and even a stronger immune system. Loneliness has been linked with increased cortisol (stress hormone) levels, increased blood pressure, and depression, and has been shown to be more harmful for your health than smoking. 

Here are some suggestions for staying connected, even if you cannot meet up in person - 

  • Call - Catch up with whānau/ family and friends on the phone. 
  • Video call - Use apps such as Zoom, Facebook messenger, Facetime, etc. to have a video call. You could even have a group call with many people at once.
  • Write an email or a letter. 
  • Play an online game or team video game. 


Limit the amount of time you spend checking the news/ media:

Repeatedly checking the news for the latest COVID-19 updates can be overwhelming and increase feelings of stress. 

Tip: Try to limit yourself to checking one reliable trusted news source once per day. 


Keep up routines:

If you are isolating or working from home it can be beneficial to maintain a daily routine. Keep a regular sleep routine, eat at regular times, and schedule in time to catch up with people, exercise, etc. This could be a good time to try a new routine or establish some new healthy habits.

Tip: Start your day by making a ‘to do list’ of the things you need to and want to achieve over the day. 


Spend time outside:

Spending time in nature has been shown to improve mood and reduce stress. Sunlight is important for the production of vitamin D and serotonin which help to improve your mood. 

Try to go outside for some fresh air and sunlight each day. 

Tip: If you cannot go outside, open your windows and curtains to let in natural light. 


Check in on others:

Check in on your whānau and friends; call, video call, email, or visit in person if you can. Ask them how they are and if you can help in any way.

Make an extra effort to check in on those who live alone, the elderly, and those who may need extra support. 


Help others:

Volunteering is great for your mental wellbeing. If you can, help out others in your community. You might be able to help by delivering groceries. 


Take care of your general health - both your physical and mental health:

Here are some ways to look after your general physical and mental wellbeing…

  • Get enough sleep. 
    • Establish a good nighttime routine, practice sleep hygiene, and stick to a regular sleep schedule.
    • It is recommended that adults get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. 
  • Eat well.
    • Eat healthy balanced meals regularly throughout the day. 
    • Research has found that a Mediterranean diet is associated with better mental and physical wellbeing and reduced stress.
  • Drink enough water.
    • The Ministry of Health NZ recommends 8 to 10 cups of fluid per day to stay hydrated. 
  • Stay active.
    • Regular physical activity helps to improve mood and reduce stress. 
    • It is recommended that adults get 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of intense exercise each week. 
    • However, if you have covid it is important to rest. 
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs. 
  • Practice relaxation techniques.
    • Some examples include... mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, deep breathing techniques, grounding exercises, guided imagery. 
    • These practices can help to reduce feelings of stress and improve your ability to cope with stress. 
  • Make time to do the things you enjoy. 


If you are struggling with your mental health, ask for help:

Talk to your doctor/ GP, a mental health professional, or call a telehealth service. Explain to them how you are feeling and they will be able to provide support or direct you to the right support. If you do not feel comfortable talking to a professional, then talk to a whānau member, friend, or someone else you trust. 

There are also 24/7 free and confidential helplines available across New Zealand. A list of these services can be found on the ‘Crisis Help’ page.