NZ Herald Column Kyle MacDonald

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It’s the virus which has sparked fear and disruption around the world. And New Zealand is not immune from this – 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.

Is it normal to feel grumpy about all of this? If so, how do you maintain a positive outlook?

For many of us feeling “grumpy” – anger, irritability, impatience – is the first red flag of distress, and it is important to take note of it.

But it’s also important to stop and take the time to allow ourselves to check in and see what other feelings might be there. It’s pretty normal to be having a range of difficult feelings at present, from sadness and grief to anger, loss and fear.

Don’t get caught up trying to have a positive outlook: It’s okay to be struggling.

Instead practise acknowledging the negative feelings, and then intentionally do things that shift how you feel. Exercise, distract and engage your attention in other activities.

I’m a British national in a bubble of one living out of a motel room in Christchurch. My usual sanctuary is outdoors in the wilds of nature. I have no local links and my small network of family members/friends are across the globe. What would you recommend for maintaining physical and mental wellbeing.

The most important thing is regular virtual check ins with your network, via whatever method you have available to you. On the phone if that’s all you have, or use apps like Zoom or Houseparty to socialise and connect, and set up regular times to do so.

This will be your lifeline.

Also get out of your unit and get active. Use this as an opportunity to explore the area “local” to your motel in detail.

You may even want to take it a step further and research the history, landmarks, the people the parks are named after.

Give yourself a purpose and a focus. Treat it as an adventure, and a project.Mike Hosking talks to Finance Minister Grant Robertson about economic recovery after COVID-19 – 31st March.

Amongst other things, I’m finding the visuals of this event extremely upsetting. I hate seeing everyone in masks and gloves (at the supermarket, or driving past). I hate watching people, coming towards me on the footpath, suddenly cross the road. And I hate the general atmosphere of sadness and fear. How can I stop these things making me feel so bad?

The challenge is our brain sees these things as fear: the person’s fear that leads them to wear a mask, our fear of them wearing a mask, and the upset at someone crossing the road to avoid us.

But it’s important to try see all of these behaviours as protective: of each other and of ourselves.

We stay away from others to protect them, we avoid to keep our loved ones safe and we wear masks to stop the possibility of unknowingly spreading the virus.

Practice engaging with openness and kindness, head up, eye contact and a wave.

We are all in this together, and are all protecting each other as much as we are protecting ourselves.

How do you cope when being in lockdown triggers feelings of being trapped and trauma memories associated with that? I realise I can go out for a walk and I’ve tried telling myself it’s different now but the “not allowed to leave” feelings are still so strong, as is the stuff it’s triggering.

It’s really normal for the heightened fear and tension to be triggering past trauma, it’s happening for a number of people I’m talking to.

If you have had previous therapy then spend time reflecting on the skills you learned and what was helpful. If not, focus on distraction, and Google some relaxation and breathing exercises.

Take it slow. Start by simply spending some time sitting outside, on a doorstep in the sun, or lie on the lawn and watch the clouds.

Keep bringing your attention back to the present moment – what you can see, hear, smell, and feel with your body. Use getting out of the house and walking as an exercise in mindfulness, and be gentle with yourself – just do what you can.

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