The pandemic and our collective grief

The pandemic and our collective grief

This column was published in the NZ Herald on 30th September, 2021

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, and as a result you’ll probably be inundated with well-meaning – and largely helpful – ideas about all the feel good things you can do to increase your mental wellbeing.

But Mental Health Awareness Week should be more than an opportunity for online influencers to bust out some new wellbeing memes on Instagram.

Mental health and resilience is always a balance between doing things that make us feel good – and staring reality in the face. This can be hard when the reality we are looking at is not what we want to see.

Psychotherapy is a search for the truth – regardless of how painful – because so many of us are in emotional trouble due to the convoluted ways we try to avoid the truth.

This last week has seen a fresh flurry of opinion pieces demanding certainty, screaming for a clear date when we can travel, when our people overseas can come home, when we can “go back to normal”.

Or claiming that our Government is “using fear” to manage the pandemic response and breathlessly drawing parallels with North Korea.

The truth is Covid really sucks at a scale we’ve never seen before. It sucks at a global scale.

We’re in the grip of a pandemic, an event most likely to be remembered as the worst years of many of our lives. Our children will recall it for the rest of their years, and in terms of historic events the pandemic is likely the defining feature of the first half of the twenty-first century, like the World Wars were for the twentieth century.

And coiled around the anger, the demands for certainty and the never-ending demands that we just move on and “live with the virus” is a collective denial of the overwhelming grief we must all face into.

Grief for many aspects of life that are gone.

The freedom to travel anywhere in the world at a moments notice. The ability to make plans for next week, next month or next year with confidence. The privilege to know the future is a safe and predictable thing we can rely on.

Big and small we are all losing the future we thought we had, and it hurts, and angry denial is understandable. But left unchecked that denial kills, through not adjusting and doing what is required to protect us all from what is a terrible, at times overwhelmingly terrifying invisible virus.

In bringing our attention to this through modelling, science and an openness about the thinking they’re using to plan, our Government isn’t ruling with fear.

It’s governing using reality.

So this Mental Health Awareness Week by all means find reasons to be grateful, or connect with nature, or whatever makes you feel good really.

But also make some time to be aware of the grief, just don’t do it alone. Because the silver lining of this grief is that it is a collective grief. We are all in this together – no matter how shitty it gets.

And ultimately our together-ness gets us through, and gives us the strength to face down the grief together, and ultimately adjust, change and embrace a new future we haven’t yet met.

Click here to see the original article on the NZ Herald site…

NZ Herald Mind Matters Column

NZ Herald Mind Matters Column

Happy New Year, and welcome to 2021. I wanted to take the time to thank all the readers of my blog “Off the Couch over the years – I really appreciate it.

This year I’m writing a new “Ask the Therapist” column for the NZ Herald called “Mind Matters”. I’ll be answering YOUR questions, and the column is in every Herald on Sunday print edition, and the online “Premium” Herald. So yes, it is behind a pay wall but hey – journalists (and columnists) deserve to get paid too!

Click here to see all my columns for the NZ Herald… and email me if you have a question you’d like me to answer via:

Because they’re behind a paywall I can’t post them there – so get yourself a Herald subscription, buy a paper or nip down to your local cafe and read theirs!

The Nutters Club is also back for 2021, every Sunday from 11pm on NewstalkZB (thank you NZ on Air). And in an effort to simplify my life (call it a New Year’s resolution) I won’t be posting them here. But you can always listen live, or to listen afterwards on demand click here…

I also post the links to the show each week to my Facebook Page click here to like the page…

And I’ll still be posting updates, along with other projects, interviews etc. here as they happen.

Have a great 2021 and take care of each other.

NZ Herald Column Kyle MacDonald

It’s the virus which has sparked fear and disruption around the world. And New Zealand is not immune – our lives remain restricted under alert level 3 in a bid to eliminate Covid-19.

So, how do we get through the coronavirus pandemic?

Kyle MacDonald is a psychotherapist and mental-health advocate and has been answering your questions in a twice-weekly column since the lockdown began. This will be his last regular column.

I’m working hard to manage the challenges of Covid-19, but there’s no end in sight. I feel very low some days. Sometimes I have dark thoughts, which I know I mustn’t act on. But I do find them upsetting and want to stop them. What are some good strategies?

When we’re overwhelmed we need to work really hard to just focus on what is in front of us – to stay in the present moment.

It’s a tricky balance between acknowledging the feelings and not getting stuck in them: lost in the worry about the future.

Without question the best approaches are distraction, in other words focusing on things that engage our attention that are outside of ourselves – not the thoughts that are going on inside your head.

The annoying thing is it requires work to keep our attention away from the distressing thoughts – and on whatever it is that we’re engaging in.

If the distress is intense you may need more physical distractions, intense exercise, cold showers, or holding an ice block. These techniques might sound a bit strange, but can be really effective when highly distressed.

But overall – just get through the moment, one day, one hour or one minute at a time.

And if you’re really struggling ask for help – call or text 1737 and talk to a trained counsellor.

With children likely to go back to early childhood education centres and school at level 2, but with social distancing being enforced, I’m concerned about the short- and long-term effects on my young children of enforcing social distancing. It’s not natural to expect them to keep their distance from their friends and teachers and I wonder what effect this is going to have on them. Especially on preschoolers if they can’t hug their teacher like normal if they are upset or hurt

Anyone who works with small children knows that the reality of keeping little people apart is not that realistic.

It’s also true that the evidence as it exists thus far is that very little transmission has happened between children, or from children to adults. We don’t know why but that seems to be the case.

The so called “Marist cluster” hasn’t helped this anxiety either, but it has been confirmed that this didn’t start with a student – the cluster is about the community surrounding the school.

It’s going to be really hard for all of us to re-calibrate our anxiety to the threat – remember at level 2 we’re no longer in bubbles.

But we need to keep trusting the official advice and doing the best we can in the environments we are in.

And you are right, our children’s emotional wellbeing is important too and we all have a part to play in making our children feel safe and cared for.

I’ve been hoarding food. Don’t hate me. I go to the supermarket with the best intentions to just top up on fresh food, but I can’t seem to stop myself buying more things for the cupboard and freezer. I can’t really afford this, but I can’t seem to stop

Anxiety shows up in all sorts of ways, and the thing about hoarding food is it is one of the most understandable responses there is – our survival depends on it.

However, as I think you’re recognising, it isn’t necessary.

It’s important to focus on the anxiety so it can be managed, without needing to act on it.

This means tolerating the feelings without buying more food than is necessary – which might sound easy but can be hard – especially if the feelings are intense and highjacking our behaviour.

Make a plan to support your “rational mind” – make a list and stick to it, or challenge yourself to only make meals from what you already have in the cupboard.

And distract while shopping – wearing headphones and listening to music, the radio or podcasts is a good way to do this.

Remember, your anxiety is trying to protect you but it can take a little time for our alarm system to catch up with reality. You’re not alone we’re all struggling with that in one way or another.

I’ve been having panic attacks, and some quite out-there catastrophic thinking. What can I do to get control of this?

Panic is awful, we define it as the fear of fear. Because of this the main focus with panic attacks can seem counter-intuitive – we have to get better at tolerating fear and anxiety.

A physical focus is the best place to start.

Managing our breath – we all tend to breathe to shallow when anxious – so slowing and deepening the breath is the aim.

The easiest way to do that is to put your hand on your diaphragm, just at the base of your ribs, and breathe in a way that makes your hand move.

And as I’ve talked about elsewhere, distract from the distressing thoughts with engaging activities that require an external focus.

Tolerating the anxiety is hard, but it’s important to remember that fear is an understandable response to the current situation and for all of us it is going to take some time for anxiety to “recalibrate” to the reality of the situation as it changes.

For some of us that will take some work, but it is time well spent.

NZ Herald Column Kyle MacDonald

It’s the virus which has sparked fear and disruption around the world. And New Zealand is not immune – our lives remain restricted under alert level 3 in a bid to eliminate Covid-19.

So, how do we get through the coronavirus pandemic?

Kyle MacDonald is a psychotherapist and mental-health advocate and will answer your questions in a twice-weekly column.

If you have a question for MacDonald, please send it to: before 9am tomorrow.

We are a couple in our early 70s and our immune compromised relative has been living with us during lockdown. Under level 3 we agreed to expanding our bubble to another couple in extended family, also in their 70s, to help them on the understanding the new bubble would be exclusive between us. We now find they’ve not kept their bubble exclusive to us and have been socialising. We feel a bit let down but don’t want to spoil the friendship. What should we do?

At least at level 3 the advice is clear and the fact that your relative has reasons to be protected only serves to make it certain, you need to talk with them, but what to say and how to say it?

Almost everyone finds it hard to have conversations where we feel conflict is certain. And most of the time the conflict that does arise is much less troublesome than our worry would have us believe.

The important thing is to be clear, make no assumptions about their reasons why, and speak what we call “from the I” – that is, start all your statements with “I feel…”.

Avoid starting any statement with “You…” – tends to be an accusation.

It’s fine to do it face to face, or not, whatever makes it feel possible, and manageable.

And don’t apologise – you have every right to need to protect your bubble.

My wife was working from home throughout level 4. Once we dropped to level 3 her workplace decided to reopen their offices and she’s now back in the office five days a week. I don’t agree with this – the rules are pretty clear that those who can work from home should continue to do so – but she sees it as no problem, insisting there’s no risk. There’s nothing she’s doing in the office that couldn’t be done from home. I don’t understand her mindset and I’m really disappointed in her attitude. To me it’s no different from the thousands of people we all hear about who are ignoring the rules and putting us all at risk. We’ve spoken about it and she’s still insisting on going to the office every day. I’m having a hard time putting this behind me and letting it go. What can we do from here?

We have to manage theses conflicts and differences all the time in relationships – in fact it’s no exaggeration to say that it’s most of the work of a relationship.

And it’s always a tricky balance, between being clear about what we feel ourselves, and accepting the other person’s view.

Without knowing more about the industry in which your wife works it’s hard to say for sure, but many businesses can open at level 3, and the expectation is that people manage social distancing with workmates.Kiwi-born poet, Tom Foolery has racked up over 24 million views on social media with his ode to a post-COVID world. Video / Will Trafford

I can understand you feel anxious about this – given all we’ve been through, it’s hard not to worry.

But try to talk about the worry you feel, rather than the anger at your wife.

Anger is often a way to not feel other more vulnerable emotions, and conversation about your worries and fears – for her well being and your own – is going to be much more helpful than one lead by anger, no matter how justified it feels.

The lockdown gave me time to stop and think. Now I feel there are parts of my life that need to change. Some of these changes are quite big. But this has been an unusual time, to say the least. Is this the right time to be making big decisions in my life?

There’s no wrong time to listen to your feelings and thoughts that we find when we stop and really listen to ourselves.

And as you’ve found for many that’s what this time has offered – a reality check, a time to prioritise.

Any brush with our own mortality – however faint, can have that effect. And even though – thankfully – most of us here in Aotearoa have been safe, the fear and anxiety was about our own mortality – at least until it was clear we had this thing under control.

Most of the time we put our own mortality out of our mind. But being clear about the time we have, and where we are in the likely timeline of our own mortality sharpens the mind.

It leaves us clearer about what really matters – what we haven’t done, what we will likely miss out on.

Keep that focus. Write it down, and use it to motivate yourself to do what really matters.

If a person asks you nastily “step back” as a coronavirus reference, how should one respond? In this case it was meant more as social attack than health precaution. I was standing away and felt hurt and upset at the actions of the person I am unfortunately forced to deal with from time to time

At the moment we need to give everyone a wide berth and the benefit of the doubt.

Even though it’s hard, we’re all struggling, and the reaction you copped has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with the (unknown to us) challenges that person is facing in their own life and their own head.

Covid-19 in NZ — Wednesday 6th May

Total confirmed and probable cases

While our Prime Minister has implored us to be kind, we also need to “be compassionate.”

Assume that even bad behaviour is motivated by pain, anxiety and distress – by all means protect yourself, but also let it slide and move on.

Feel free to avoid if possible, otherwise walk away with your head held high.

NZ Herald Column Kyle MacDonald

It’s the virus which has sparked fear and disruption around the world. And New Zealand is not immune from this – our lives remain restricted under alert level 3 in a bid to eliminate Covid-19.

So, how do we get through the coronavirus pandemic?

Kyle MacDonald is a psychotherapist and mental-health advocate and will answer your questions in a twice-weekly column.

If you have a question for MacDonald, please send it to: before 9am tomorrow.

So, here we are at level 3. I thought level 4 – where the only person I talked to “in person” was the supermarket checkout operator – would be hard, and it was. At first. Now I can see other people through the bubble extension thingee. Except I have no desire to do so. I feel neither happy nor sad about not seeing people anymore. Why do I feel nothing? Should I force myself to see people again? Or wait until I want to?

These changes have been unpredictable, and hard for most. But the human capacity to adapt is amazing, which is what I think you’ve done – so well done. The problem now is how to turn the adaption off, because you need to.

What do I mean by adaption? Well, switching off the feelings around socialising – feeling drawn to people, wanting company, which you expected would be hard – makes sense when you can’t follow the feelings.

However, when unhelpful feelings get stuck, which is not uncommon with adaptations and defences against difficult feelings, we need to use conscious effort and behaviour to get moving again.

So yes, you should force your self to see people even though you don’t feel like it. But do it gently, and start easy, with people and situations you previously enjoyed and weren’t taxing.

It might take some time for the feelings to change, but they will.

I’m a university student and had to leave my hall and move back in with my family when the lockdown began. In the rush, I didn’t really get a chance to say goodbye to my friends. I miss them, and my old life. Everything is on hold. I know others have it harder, but I feel so angry and depressed. Is it ok to feel p****d off at this situation, even though others are suffering more?

Anger is a natural response to loss and grief. By definition, when we experience loss it’s of something we are attached to and don’t want to lose, and pretty much every model of overcoming grief acknowledges anger as part of the process.

So yes, it is okay to feel angry, and sad.

There are two important things with grief, first is to allow space and time for the feelings to come and go, accept them don’t fight them. And second, don’t get stuck in the feelings.

Control what you can – like meeting up with your classmates online, and keeping going with study – and let the rest go.

And if you find it hard to shift the anger or sadness, get active and allow yourself to practice gratitude for the good things about the current situation. It’s a combination of bad and good, allow yourself to see the good too.

How much sunlight does my mental health really need? And is there an impact on my mental health of only seeing what is familiar?

Sunlight is important, not only does it help our bodies produce vitamin D, but it also triggers the production of serotonin – the brain chemical associated with depression.

So within reason, get as much as you can!

The thing about seeing only what is familiar, is that most of us crave novelty and new inputs and experiences, even if that just means watching a show on TV we haven’t seen before.

But it is possible to see new things even in very familiar environments and neighbourhoods. I’m sure many of you have had the experience of walking around your local streets recently and seeing houses or landmarks you’ve never noticed before.

In part that’s because we are spending less time in our cars, which means we’re paying more attention to the world around us.

But what that leads to is noticing our world in a different way, a more mindful way.

Usually when we suffer a loss like a death in the family, being laid off, or business failure there are rituals we follow to help deal with the trauma. Funerals, vigils, having a drink with friends etc. But we don’t have these for this situation. What can we do instead?

You’re right, those rituals are incredibly important, and I think it’s why there are some revisions for funerals and weddings at level 3.

They allow us to mark the changes, take time to pause, reflect and connect with others that are navigating the same changes. They also allow us to access support from our wider community.

While it’s harder at present, you can do all those things still.

And I know, I’m a bit sick of saying “connect online” too, but it is part of the answer. It’s important to take the time to mark and process the changes, whatever they might be, and to do that with people.

Because we are all in this together, even the grief. We have all inevitably lost things – or will – as part of this pandemic.

Sadly, it is grief that will likely be one of the most marked features of the aftermath of Covid-19.

NZ Herald Column Kyle MacDonald

It’s the virus which has sparked fear and disruption around the world. And New Zealand is not immune from this – after an almost five-week alert level 4 lockdown to eliminate Covid-19 we are now in the slightly-less restrictive level 3.

So, how do we get through the coronavirus pandemic?

Kyle MacDonald is a psychotherapist and mental-health advocate and will answer your questions in a twice-weekly column.

If you have a question for MacDonald, please send it to: before 9am tomorrow.

Our neighbour wants to expand their bubble with us as their children are struggling with isolation. But the children talk through the fence and they do FaceTime with them. We aren’t keen to expand our bubble as our children can get a viral-induced wheeze. They don’t have family here, what do I say and how else can we help them without expanding our bubble?

I certainly understand that saying “No” to people can be hard at the best of times, and even more so when you can see that you are their only social connection at the moment.

But it is important to be clear, this is about your kids’ health.

I would suggest a clear “no story”, and explain that your kids have an underlying vulnerability so all the best advice is to keep your bubble exclusive.

You may also want to add the very genuine offer you’ve just made, namely “is there anything else we can do to help?”

Personally, when it comes to these hard conversations don’t get too hung up on having to do it in (socially distant) person, the main thing is to get the message across clearly.

Text, email, call, whatever is most comfortable for you. You can then follow it up with a conversation. And make sure you explain it in a clear and age-appropriate way to the kids too.

After initially struggling with working from home, I’m now in a really good space with it. To be honest, I’m feeling a bit anxious about the eventual switch back. Why does “going back to normal” now feel weird and daunting?

It’s amazing how quickly we’ve found ourselves adjust to this “new normal” isn’t it?

Fear is one of the quickest (often too quick) ways to retrain our mind and behaviour. We avoid and hide from perceived threats for survival reasons and it’s hard wired into us.

So far with level 4 that has kept us safe, and so it can feel like we’re now working against instinct to move easily back out into the world.

The main thing is to listen to the feelings but gently challenge them. Take your time as much as possible with any change, and also consider exploring working from home more if it works for you.

I suspect more people working from home – at least some of the week – may be one of the positive changes of this experience. It’s good for traffic, emissions and even our mental health to not have to commute five days a week.

I know I should be happy about our progress in going to level 3. It’s really good news! So why don’t I feel happy?

There is no wrong way to feel about our current situation – or any situation for that matter.

It can be easy to buy into the media discussion about the relief, the celebration and the availability of takeaways and takeout coffee, but actually change is hard.

And we’ve been asked to make so many dramatic changes to our lifestyle in response to the pandemic that it can be hard to keep up.

For many people the change from level 4 to level 3 will make no difference, and simply means another two weeks of lockdown – which is hard.

Keep looking after yourself, sticking to a structure, eating and sleeping well, stay connected with others and walk or exercise every day.

And be gentle with yourself and your emotions. You’re allowed to feel however you feel about this: and while our responses may differ, we’re still all in this together.

Covid-19 has been dominating our lives for a long time now. And there’s still a lot going on. But, now we’re in level 3, should we put some boundaries in place for the amount of time we spend talking and consuming news re Covid-19 while in isolation, for mental health of adults and teenagers?

Yes, is the short answer!

I’ve been advocating for boundaries around the information overload from the beginning, it’s important that we recognise the value of having good information from reputable sources enables us to make informed decisions, but also balancing that with a break from the constant news flow.

It can even feel that we “have to” engage with the news, but actually that is our fear system highjacking our attention.

It makes sense at a survival level, but ultimately in our modern world is unhelpful as it can cause us to over-focus on the anxiety-provoking tidal wave of news and information about Covid-19.

Instead, as a family, engage in shared activities, exercise, board games, watch a show together or read – fiction offline.

If it is a real struggle, then you may even want to set a weekend day where all talk of the “virus” is banned to make the break really clear.

Two people Hugging

It’s the virus which has sparked fear and disruption around the world. And New Zealand is not immune from this – we’ve been in a more than four-week lockdown to eliminate Covid-19, and regain some freedoms tomorrow with a move to alert level 3.

So, how do we get through the coronavirus pandemic?

Kyle MacDonald is a psychotherapist and mental-health advocate and will answer your questions in a twice-weekly column.

If you have a question for MacDonald, please send it to: before 9am tomorrow.

I don’t have family, but I’m lucky to have very good friends, and we always greeted each other with big hugs … before Covid-19. I hope to expand my bubble at level 3. But I’m nervous my friends will be afraid to hug. I miss being close to people and feel very low some days. Please help me.

Yes, I miss hugging my friends too. It’s going to feel strange to stand at a distance when we are allowed to see others again.

It sounds like it may be a plan to slightly expand your bubble.

However, it’s important to check the details on as expanding your bubble doesn’t mean socialising with a group of friends, unfortunately.Focus: Wellington’s unusual silence as New Zealand enters week 4 of Covid-19 lockdown.

But you can add yourself to a bubble, as long as you are consistent with that choice.

There’s no doubt that for many the biggest impact of this pandemic is the lack of connection. We need to work hard to maintain those connections at a distance.

And remember level 3 is at this point only scheduled for two more weeks. The more we maintain our bubbles, and stop the spread, the better our chances of moving to level 2 sooner.

I’m the only person in the house who can do the shopping, but since the coronavirus I feel stressed and anxious at the thought of going to the supermarket, let alone actually walking in the door. How do I make this stop?

It’s understandable you feel anxious, and even though the threat is decreasing, the reality is we are still in the middle of a global pandemic – that is scary!

However, it’s also true that moving out of lockdown and getting used to being in the world again is going to be hard for many.

When we feel anxious and avoid things, the fear grows – that’s normal, that’s how anxiety works.

We have, of course, largely been encouraged to avoid the wider world and for many this will mean anxiety when we move out of our bubbles again.

The trick is to do it gradually and accept that it might be uncomfortable, at the same time as reminding ourselves that we are safe.

Follow all the guidelines for cleaning, and wear masks if it helps you feel safer. And if it feels too overwhelming, distract with headphones and music, talk radio or an engaging podcast.

A family member hasn’t taken the lockdown seriously, but was at least semi-restricted by the prospect of being stopped by police. With restrictions easing, but social distancing etc still important, how do I get him to take the ongoing danger seriously?

That is frustrating, but it’s important to accept what we can control and let go of the rest.

There’s a risk in focussing too much on what others are doing and becoming angry and frustrated about what we can’t control – and that only harms us in the end.

If you can provide him with some good information to clarify what he can and can’t do at level 3, do so, but equally he’s going to do what he will.

If fear of getting in trouble will make a difference to misbehaviour, you can consider reporting any concrete examples to

Otherwise, feel free to manage you own health by keeping a distance from him, and making sure you are doing all you can as a bubble to stay the course and stop the spread.

How can I best support my wife, an essential worker. She’s a nurse and will probably end up being re-directed to Covid-19 related work?

It’s great that you’re thinking about it, and your wife likely will need additional support if she ends up in that role.

Firstly make sure you’re following all the advice about “decontaminating” when she arrives home: it’s important to do all we can do to reduce the valid worries about exposure.

Secondly, ask her.

She may need some time to debrief, and talk over her worries and the emotions that she may experience as a result of the tension and stress. We’re all a bit more emotional than normal at the moment, and that’s okay.

If you’re not already in the habit of doing so set aside some time to talk each day. And respect her wish to not talk if that’s what she needs.

NZ Herald Column Kyle MacDonald

It’s the virus which has sparked fear and disruption around the world. And New Zealand is not immune from this, with a four-week lockdown beginning on March 26 to eliminate Covid-19, and later extended a further five days.

So, how do we get through the coronavirus pandemic?

Kyle MacDonald is a psychotherapist and mental health advocate and will answer your questions in a twice-weekly column.

If you have a question for MacDonald, please send it to: before 9am tomorrow.

I think I’ve been through the five stages of grief with the lockdown, and the hardships and worry it brought with it. Denial, sadness, anger, bargaining and then, about three weeks in, acceptance. This is a really good place to be. Given there will be more challenges ahead, how do I stay here?

Deep, or radical acceptance is always a difficult approach to explain to people out of context. It’s like trying to explain what “being mindful” feels like without the experience of it.

The good news for you is, you can’t un-learn it.

Make sure you take note of what you are doing now that helps you feel accepting, what day-to-day practices leave you feeling connected to the moment and how you can keep consciously practising that.

Mostly – in my experience – it’s about being able to slow down enough to notice what is happening – and all that is happening – moment by moment, and to tolerate all the feelings that come with dealing with what’s in front of you, good, bad, or otherwise.

You’re right to feel that staying there is a good plan.

I’ve suffered financial hardship in the past. I’m okay at the moment and don’t have any immediate reason to worry but I’ve found myself making somewhat irrational decisions around money – cutting off “wants” I can still afford, and getting a bit paranoid about grocery, water and heating consumption. I can’t seem to stop myself worrying about money, even though I know my fears aren’t completely rational. What should I do? 

Anxiety does some strange things sometimes doesn’t it?

It’s not unusual for our “over-learned” survival mechanisms to kick in, especially when we’re triggered into feeling the same way we did back then – for you, financial stress.

The trauma and long term impact of poverty and financial stress is something we tend to under estimate – largely because it’s politically uncomfortable – but it’s very, very real.

With any trauma, we need to keep consciously and deliberately working to locate ourselves in the present, and noticing and accepting the current reality as it is.

For you this means both holding onto the reality of your current financial situation, as well as working against any feelings or discomfort you may have about allowing yourself things you want and value.

Keep looking after yourself positively, even if it feels uncomfortable. You deserve to be treated well, especially by yourself!

What are some practical examples of being kind to ourselves during lockdown, adults and teenagers? 

It can certainly be harder with a limited range of options.

For may of us “being kind to ourselves” means treating ourselves by spending money: going out for a nice meal, drinking, eating or buying ourselves things we desire. Of course, almost none of those things are available to us at the moment.

In some ways the decision as to what feels like kindness is personal. But it’s good idea to think about what is scarce at the moment – time to yourself, social connections, freedom from demands, being looked after.Brooke Fraser: Helping musicians harmed by COVID-19. Video / Newstalk ZB

But for most of us, it’s a pretty good – and kind – idea to ease up on our expectations.

Don’t expect the same of yourself, or your kids. Allow ourselves and those around us to be a bit more “slack” than usual, aim lower and allow yourself to feel a sense of achievement with what you have done, not what you think you “should” have achieved.

This applies to our expectations of ourselves as employees, parents, and homeschool “teachers”.

Our only goal is to survive this, there will be plenty of time to work hard again.

What’s your view on sleeping pills?

Used as prescribed, and carefully, they can be a very useful tool.

The main downside is that if used every night then we can become dependent on them to get to sleep, and it can take some time to be able to sleep naturally again.

With that in mind try not to use them every night – unless explicitly advised to by your psychiatrist or doctor.

On the nights that you don’t take them, practice “sleep hygiene” (Google for a ton of useful suggestions) which is a series of suggestions to best maximise our ability to sleep naturally.

Use the sleeping pills every second or third night, as a safety net to know that you can reset things if your sleep really falls apart.