Virus anxiety and finding the little things in life

Sunrise on a pretty autumn landscape

Hi everyone

I hope you have all had a marvellous Easter, albeit a very different one to usual.

Adapting to this “new normal” has not been easy. Not being able to see our family and friends over Easter; having kids stuck at home for the whole break; working from home and learning to navigate new technology in a hurry so we can do so. It can be very easy to lament the things we cannot do, and long for our old life. I know some people who are out of work and angry that everything is shut down, others who are feeling isolated and lonely, and many who feel scared and worried about what is happening in Australia and the wider world and are struggling to process it all. It is no wonder that there has been a call for more resources for mental health problems during this time, and it is predicted that rates of anxiety and depression are likely to rise.

I wanted to write this blog to highlight some of the things you can do to help beat the Coronavirus Blues. In my discussions with my patients I believe is it always important to look at the big picture and I can see there is a need to have this discussion now. I also want to highlight some of the things I am doing in my clinic, and others are doing in their clinics, so you know what kind of help you can access.

Switching off and acknowledging your feelings I am sure I am not alone in being guilty of spending too much time glued to my phone or the TV of late, watching or reading piece after piece about the horrors that are unfolding around the world. It’s a bit like watching a train crash – terrifying but hard to look away. This alone can make many of us feel anxious and worried.

So can a simple visit to the supermarket. I have to admit, I was feeling fairly under control about everything a few weeks ago … until my first trip to the supermarket when suddenly a whole lot of our usual staples were not available. Not just the toilet paper, but the rice, pasta, flour and cans of tomatoes and beans. I left feeling a mild sense of panic. What on earth would we do if this continued?

Any change from our normal routine can induce anxiety and panic, and with this virus there have been a whole heap of changes introduced very quickly. They were necessary and we have been very lucky in Australia, as these measures seem to have stopped us having the kind of outbreaks seen in other countries. But the uncertainty continues. We don’t know how long this will go on and how and when we can safely reduce the restrictions. Certain stories in the news and online have not helped, spreading panic or misinformation.

There have been several excellent articles on addressing Coronavirus anxiety and panic, and I have included the link to some of them below. As a summary, some of the suggestions include:

  • Limiting the amount of news and virus-related information you read or watch every day. Take a break and do something else so you are not thinking about it all day.
  • Ensuring you stick to credible sources of information – personally I follow the ABC and BBC news. Anything else I see, I tend to fact-check, as there is a whole lot of rubbish out there. Be wary of things you see on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. If it seems dubious, there’s a good chance it is.
  • Acknowledge your feelings – sit with that emotion for a few minutes and note how that makes you feel. It is OK to feel worried, but an alcohol or Netflix binge is not the best way to cope.
  • Establish some kind of daily routine, including a healthy meal routine and sleep time

Some useful links:

Appreciating the little things

As I am writing this, I can see a wonderful, sunny autumn day from my window. The leaves on the tree in my front garden are starting to turn red and gold and the abelia is flowering. If there is one thing this virus has forced us to do, it is to slow down. My husband and I are both in the fortunate position to still have work – and we are both working hard in different ways. However, like many people, I have found this situation has made me take stock of the things we take for granted.

Some examples of things we have done in my family to appreciate what we have and make the best of the slow-down include:

  • Going for walks in nature with my husband and kids – now that all their sport is cancelled, we have time to do this, and the kids actually want to be with us!
  • Watching how the seasons are changing and seeing what is growing in the garden.
  • Starting a home project of cleaning out my son’s room, including deconstructing his enormous Lego collection. It’s like doing a reverse jigsaw puzzle and amazingly satisfying.
  • Embracing both old and new technology to stay connected with family and friends. I have had good old-fashioned phone calls with family members I have not spoken with for ages, as well as Zoom meetings with my book club and other friends.

There are many other things you can try. I have heard of people who are learning to draw, paint or finally getting around to those odd jobs that never seem to get done. In the busy-ness of life, it is not a bad thing to be able to stop and appreciate what we have. And that’s also a good way to combat the negative emotions that many people are feeling right now.

Exercise is medicine

Another tried and true method for combatting depression and anxiety is to exercise. For many, your normal exercise routine may be completely disrupted if this involved going to the gym or an exercise class. However, this can be a good time to explore other exercise options. There are plenty of options, and many are completely free. Some ideas include:

  • Going for a walk, bike ride or run. If you don’t feel safe going out by yourself, you can team up with a family member, friend or neighbour and still exercise with appropriate social distancing.
  • Trying an online workout. There are many, many different workout videos on YouTube including yoga, Pilates and cardio. Obviously find something at an appropriate level for you and make sure you have a safe environment in which to exercise. But this can allow you to try something new at no cost.
  • Some personal trainers and exercise physiologists are still offering 1:1 exercise sessions, if you feel safe to do this. Obviously still exercise social distancing and use appropriate hand hygiene if you are going to do this.
  • Many physios, including me, are doing online 1:1 and small group exercise sessions. I have taken my pregnancy and postnatal classes online in a closed Facebook group. I am also doing online individualised exercise programs, using an exercise app called PhysiApp that I have been using for a few years. It allows me to set home programs for people and provide them with videos to show how the exercise is done.

It doesn’t really matter what you do, but getting out there and doing some exercise for 30 minutes daily is recommended for all adults, unless medically advised otherwise. If you can, get out in nature to do your exercise – even if it is just your own yard.

What’s happening at Life Cycle Physio

I have taken the majority of my consultations online for the past few weeks. Despite a few technical hiccups, things have worked really well, and I have been heartened by still being able to help my clients make a difference in their lives. I already outlined above some of the things I have been doing on telehealth, but there is a lot more to it.

This whole process has opened my eyes to the fact that there is actually a lot of research showing telehealth can be just as effective as face to face treatment for many conditions, including musculo-skeletal conditions and pelvic health, such as incontinence. Telehealth does not have to be just a “make do” option and can provide real benefits. We have also had some recent welcome news that the government-funded Medicare plans for Allied Health (including Physio) has now been expanded to include bulk-billed telehealth. As well as this, many private health funds will now also pay for telehealth sessions – and it’s very likely the rest will come on board soon.

I am still seeing a few patients face-to-face as well. Many of you know I also work in the public sphere, the two hospitals in which I work continue to have face-to-face outpatient clinics. Physio practices have not been told they have to close – but many of us are trying to do consultations by phone or telehealth whenever possible. However, if you still need to come in - and we can discuss if that is needed or not - then face-to-face appointments are still available. I have stepped up the already stringent hygiene measures I already used and hand sanitiser is being used liberally. But don’t be surprised if you get asked about any recent travel, and please don’t come in if you have any suspicious symptoms.

I hope everyone is managing to stay safe, stay connected and stay happy and healthy in this difficult time. Wishing you all a wonderful remainder of your Easter. If you can, try to get out and notice the little things.

Best wishes for safety and wellness,


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