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.

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