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 – last night we began a four-week lockdown.

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 new, twice a week, column.

If you have a question for MacDonald, please send it to: noon Thursday, March 26.

Panic buying: What’s driving it and how can we calm the panic?

One word – fear. It’s pretty understandable, and turning “panic buyers” into the bad guys doesn’t help either. We are all struggling, and if we’re honest with ourselves, any one with means to do so has bought a little extra, pasta, noodles or liquid soap.

Again, good information is the key to reassurance. We now know that under level four “lockdown” conditions, supermarkets will be open, and we will have access to food.

However, it can help if you find yourself in the grip of an urge to panic buy, to instead focus on others – and the need for generosity.

How can you explain Covid-19 to your children when they act up over not being able to go to the pools or other public places, and how do you manage that parent guilt over having to keep them locked in?

It’s really important to validate their disappointment – they’re missing out: in one way or another, we all are.

It can be hard, because to truly validate our kids’ feelings we also have to feel it ourselves.

But get down physically to their level, let them know you understand how upset they are, and give them a hug.

And don’t forget to validate your own disappointment.

You can also set aside the time that they were going to be at swimming, or other activities, to do something fun at home with them. Play games, or get involved in some physical activity with them – it might even help you too.

What are some good grounding exercises that people can do to fight this anxiety over lack of control of the situation?

Breathe, breathe and breathe.

Many people have heard of mindfulness these days, but unless you’re a practiced meditator stopping and paying more attention to whats going on “inside” yourself, is likely to make you more anxious.

Instead, limit access to breaking news, put the devices down, ignore social media and find an activity that lets you focus on the “outside.”

It could be as simple as sitting outside and watching and listening to nature, going for a walk, or listening to music.

Put your hand on your diaphragm (just at the base of your rib cage) make your hand move when you inhale and exhale.

And breathe, breathe, breathe.New Zealand’s coronavirus lockdown will be managed by a leadership team of some of the country’s top officials. That team is Dr Ashley Bloomfield, Director-General of Health, Sarah Stuart-Black, Director of Civil Defence Emergency Management, Mike Bush, Commissioner of Police, and Dr Peter Crabtree.

Why is it so reassuring to have regular updates and for someone to look like they’re in charge, even when the news you’re hearing is mostly bad?

It really does make a difference doesn’t it, if we allow ourselves to trust it. I think the threat level framework announced provides the same sense of security.

We all have a deep need to feel looked after, and when we’re stressed, overwhelmed or frightened many people believe the “child” part of us needs to know a parent is in charge and in control.

Right now, certainly seems like the grown ups have got this.

Now that we’re all in lockdown, how can we support vulnerable friends and family, or those who might be especially struggling, while also looking after our own needs/mental health?

Reaching out and helping others is a priority, but just like they say on plane safety videos, you have to put your own mask on first.

But don’t underestimate the simple power of a quick phone call, or a short check in on a regular basis.

As much as anxiety, loneliness is now going to be the enemy. And a little goes a long way if you are on your own.

But we also all need to be checking in on ourselves, taking the time to monitor and check in on how we feel and how we’re tracking – and making sure we aren’t giving more than we can.

Remember, “Be kind” includes ourselves too.

Read more from Kyle MacDonald here:

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