NZ Herald Column Kyle MacDonald

It’s the virus which has sparked fear and disruption around the world. And New Zealand is not immune; we are now in a four-week lockdown 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.

What if I don’t want to use the video function of a digital workspace meeting? My home is private, and I don’t want all my colleagues to see how I live

It’s an interesting and suddenly very new quandary – how do we maintain that boundary and privacy.

Firstly, if you’re using Zoom, make use of the “Virtual Background” feature, where you can load any photo in and use it as a background that hides your real environment.

Otherwise find a space where you can either sit in front of a blank wall, or rig up a sheet or other screen.

It’s important to psychologically keep your work space separate from home if possible, and having a set video meeting space can help achieve that separation.

How do I resist the temptation to reach for the bottle?

It’s pretty normal to reach for whatever our preferred habit is at the moment.

And it’s also important to try and keep your use of alcohol as “normal” as possible – whatever that means for you. Even better, you may want to use this time to try and reduce your use.

Set some clear limits, in terms of how much you will drink and on what days. Try and have at least two alcohol-free days per week.

And, most importantly, try to track what sorts of thoughts, feelings and situations are triggering the desire to drink more.

If you finding yourself responding to emotions or tension with the need to drink, try getting active by exercising, or simply sitting quietly with the feeling: breathe, and work at tolerating the emotion.

If that proves overwhelming, distract with activities, or entertainment – housework, music or TV – anything you know works for you. If the temptation proves too much and you feel worried about how much you’re drinking, then reach out to 1737, and ask to talk to an alcohol and other drug counsellor.

Total confirmed and probable cases

I’m working from home. How can I support friends who are anxious but also interrupting my workflow?

Firstly, make sure your expectations of your productivity at the moment are realistic. We are all struggling to do as much as we did a few weeks ago: and that’s okay.

Having said that, you may want to set a timetable for when you will be working, and whilst doing so turn off or mute platforms where you receive messages. Or even disconnect from the internet if that’s possible.

And keep an eye out for inappropriate guilt. It’s okay to have boundaries in terms of how much you are able to support others at present. Make sure you’re sticking to your own emotional limits – as they say in the safety videos: put your own oxygen mask on first.

Your are no use to anyone if you wear yourself out.

I have been finding myself feeling quite tired even though I’m lounging around the house all day/working and feel less active that previously. Is there a reason for this and a way to combat this?

It’s exhausting isn’t it?

At the simplest level, just adjusting to all the change has a significant mental toll.

However, there is also a known phenomena called “moral fatigue” whereby when even simple decisions take on a weight of “life and death” – like they do at the moment – it takes more mental effort to consider them.

Many of the things we normally do on cognitive “auto-pilot” are now more taxing.

Work against inactivity, even though it’s hard, by going for a walk, or engaging in some simple tasks around home.

Make a realistic to do list, and tick them off. And be gentle with yourself, reduced energy levels are normal at the moment.Sam Cane talks to Sam “Lashes” Casey for The Country’s Rural Mental Health week.

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