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.

Bubble of one here. I keep busy. I walk. I Facetime, call, text and use social media. And yet, and yet … I can feel myself coming unmoored by the lack of human contact. I’ve started having urges to scream. Other times I feel like burying my head in a pillow and crying. How am I going to get through the next three weeks (or more???) of lockdown?

If you feel like you need to scream, scream. If you need to cry, cry. It’s understandable, what you’re doing is really hard.

In addition to connecting online with friends, it may help to also reach out and talk to a counsellor, especially when you’re struggling.

The counsellors at the national helpline “1737” are available 24/ 7 and will have heaps of advice about skills and approaches that will help. It helps in a different way talking to someone “objective.”

Dealing with the “distress” of loneliness is about “down regulating” the physical responses – slowing breathing, reducing heart rate, reducing muscle tension and shifting attention away from distressing thoughts.

Google “distress tolerance skills” and put together a list of things to try, and do them.

And when you’re really struggling just focus on getting through the next hour, or 
minute – what you’re feeling will pass.

My partner and I have had our first child seven weeks ago and the three of us are in lockdown. We’re taking it in shifts with our son so we can have a break but struggling without our village of support – the midwife and Plunket visits have stopped but especially missing the grandparents visits. We’re trying to eat well and exercise etc and do best by our son while our lockdown world is chaos. Have you got some suggestions on how we can manage mentally? New parents in a new uncertain world is frightening and I think he’s picking up on the stress.

Having a new born is hard enough at any time, I can only imagine how hard it is to manage the changes required in isolation. You’re doing a good job of getting breaks and time for yourself: at least as much as is possible.

Make sure you’re using technology to stay in contact with friends and family. Consider starting a journal, writing about your feelings and thoughts can be really helpful. Exercise as much as you can – walking with baby can be a great way to utilise their nap time.

Most importantly practice acceptance: let yourself have the feelings you have at the moment. Give yourself permission to not do it perfectly, as a new parent you only have to be “good enough.”

Compassion for yourself means accepting that this is likely the most stressful time of your lives. Be there for each other, your only job is to get through intact.

Others seem to be having the time of their lives in lockdown – baking bread, going to empty (nearby) beaches, living perfect “bubble” lives. How do I stop feeling resentful of them, given I’m finding the lockdown challenging on so many levels?

It’s well known that people tend to curate – deliberately or not – their social media. We post only the good news and positive in our lives.

That is no less the case at the moment. It’s important to remember with everyone: there is always more to it than what you see on the timeline.

Consider practicing “social media distancing” – especially if it is having a negative impact on your mood.

Set time limits on your social media usage, or if their are specific people whose posts are upsetting at the moment then consider temporarily “muting” them – they don’t know when you do so and you have every right to control the information that you engage with at the moment.

And practice gratitude – we all need to. Write down three things every day that you feel grateful for, or make it a family dinner table conversation.

Any tips on how to switch off between work and home life? At the moment it feels like it all rolls into one

It has been a sudden transition for many of us working from home at the same time as having our entire family at home with us.

Set up a family plan, for things like room usage, times when the adults will be working, and when they will be lead parent.

Write it down and keep it somewhere where everyone can refer to it. If you’re lucky enough to have a space that you can allocate to work then do so, otherwise set up a roster for private spaces around need.

Get up at the same time, and it might even help to “dress for work” and get changed into “home clothes” when you’ve finished your day.

It’s also true that we’re all having to switch in modes more, so do what works.

It may be useful to ease up on work expectations and recognise that we can only do our best at the moment and for many reasons that is likely to be less than what we were capable of doing a month ago.

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