NZ Herald Column Kyle MacDonald

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It’s the virus that 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.

I know a lot of 20-somethings who are pushing the boundaries of their quarantine, including meeting friends for “secret” drinks. I’m feeling so furious at them! There is little I can do, but have this burning frustration at them and have even lost sleep through my anger. I want to scream at them! How can I get my anger under control? I feel helpless and overwhelmingly frustrated that they may well be the reason we are all in lockdown longer. Grr! Regards, Frustrated Mama

There’s an old piece of wisdom in Alcoholics Anonymous: “Keep your own side of the street clean.”

It refers to the idea that to maintain emotional equilibrium, our focus needs to be on what is within our sphere of control. Anger at what we can’t control ultimately just causes us suffering, because we can get stuck in anger or frustration – with no solution.

Focus instead on what you can control: on managing your own experience of the lockdown as well as you can, on keeping yourself well and calm, and pay attention to any distress or frustration of your own that may be underneath the anger at “20-somethings”.

And of course if you are directly aware of people breaking the lockdown, talk to them or, if you need to, inform the police.

I don’t know if I can cope during this lockdown. We are only into week two and depression is getting the better of me and I’m feeling imprisoned all over again. I know it’s for a good reason that we are in this lockdown but some of us are truly struggling mentally and financially. How are we supposed to manage if help isn’t actually there for us?

Most importantly reach out for help. Call the National Helpline via 1737, or if you have the ability to approach a psychotherapist or counsellor then do so. Most are working via video link and can offer sessions to you at home.

Set up a plan and structure, and take it one step at a time.

Include daily activities, engaging activities and active relaxation. Google “relaxation exercises” and keep working on getting your physical distress levels down.

If you feel depression taking hold: get active, physically or mentally. Get up each day, make your bed and get moving – doesn’t much matter what it is, just move.

How do you stop/limit the male of the household from destroying the garden and demolishing the house in his well-meaning attempts to ” help” now that he has lots of time on his hands?

Honestly, let him! For many of us keeping busy is a necessary distraction, especially for people who are normally busy in their day to day work and life.

As long as none of his “helping” is actually irreparably harming things, let it go. Perhaps you could talk to him about how to channel his energy into useful tasks, but recognise that he’s likely doing what he needs to do to get through.

It can be an adjustment for a relationship to spend more time together like many of us are now doing and especially if it throws the normal roles and routines into a chaos.

Try to roll with it, and breathe.

What’s the best way to support our young children’s mental health (and behaviour) with them hugely missing social contact and play with their friends/teachers during the lockdown? Our 6-year-old gets the distancing and why it’s important but she is struggling and as a child who already has social issues, this lockdown isn’t helping her. How can we help her from home?

One word: play. Encourage play, and even better spend some time playing with them.

Young children don’t tell us if they’re distressed, they show us in their behaviour.

And their language is play. So spend some time engaging in play, let them lead it, and get down on the floor with them.

Play Lego, draw, colour in, read stories. The best tool we all have as parents is our connection with our children, and so prioritise that time to connect.

If you can use video calls to allow them to see their friends or teachers, great, but the thing they really need right now is you and your time and attention. This can be hard if you’re juggling working from home, but a little goes a long way.

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