Coping with trauma and anxiety during COVID-19

Apr 29 2020

The bushfires, floods and now the COVID-19 pandemic have had an ongoing impact on many people’s anxiety levels for months. For many Australians, this has had a cumulative impact on their mental health and wellbeing. In situations like this, our minds are responding to a perceived threat has been continuing for months.

Associate Professor Lynne McCormack acknowledges that this is a unique situation because people have not had enough time to recover between these events. The stressful situations have been ongoing – and we can’t see the end in sight.However, we do have the opportunity to take power back by following safety guidelines around self-isolation and adhering to general hygiene advice. This way, we’re actually doing something to protect ourselves and our families, friends and colleagues.

For parents: helping children cope with COVID-19 restrictions

It’s important to stay calm when answering children’s questions, and explain that being anxious is a normal response to abnormal events in our lives and it’s nothing to be frightened of.

Taking ongoing care of your mental health

Continuing to take care of your mental health is particularly important at this time. If you’ve been seeing a counsellor or psychologist, keep doing so. Many are now offering online and telehealth options, rather than in-office visits. If you’re feeling upset and anxious for the first time, you should make contact with your GP, or contact one of the mental health organisations listed below. It’s important to talk about what you’re experiencing right now and take care of your mental as well as physical wellbeing.

Why have we seen panic buying during COVID-19?

We’ve not seen panic buying like this, in many of our lifetimes, as we’ve not been in situations like this since the 2nd world war. It’s about uncertainty and self-survival. In these situations it’s causing people to respond in ways that may not seem rational but are natural responses to a real or perceived threat to their freedom to access the basics they need.

What can we learn from this experience

If we take the time, after this is over, to explore the lessons learned then we may do many different things in our society. Many people who are exposed to a traumatic event think they should get over it and go back to who they were before. But we’re never going to get ”back to normal”: we’re going to be people who lived their lives as they were, with a new chapter in our lives. People should recognise that for most of us, growth out of adversity is a necessary and positive thing. We usually grow and become better people who will contribute in many positive ways to our society.

If you’re experiencing anxiety and mental distress, contact your GP or one of the following:

Lifeline call 13 1114

Beyond Blue call 1300 224 636


Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800