As yellow leaves and chilly mornings marked the start of autumn, the Covid-19 virus travelled continents to land on our shores. We retreated to our homes under lockdown rules and only ventured outside for essentials like bread and milk.

The normal hustle and bustle of everyday life became confined to our homes four walls. Suddenly physical contact with friends and family not living with us, are no longer possible. New rules apply like working from home, home schooling the kids and hiding our faces behind a mask when out in public.   

Amidst this chaos, our emotions can run havoc. Fear of the virus and concern about the well-being of those we love, our finances, job security and other daily stressors can lead to anxiety, frustration, loneliness and sadness. Some days might be better than other days. At times, you might go through a whole range of emotions in one day. Having these feelings during this uncertain time in our lives are understandable and okay.

We all react differently to the situation and you must give yourself permission to feel what we feel. However, you must also find a way to cope with these emotions so that you are able to look after yourself and those you care for. 

Vulamathuba Social Development Officer,  Nicolette Boois, shares a few simple things you can do to take care of your emotional wellbeing: 

Name your feelings 

If you are able to name what you feel, it becomes easier to manage that feeling. Naming your feelings helps you pinpoint what is causing it and if you know the cause, you can find ways to manage it. Therefore, if you are lonely and needing connect with a friend or family member, you can phone or e-mail them. 

Sometimes it is difficult to name what you are feeling. Writing those feelings down (journaling) or chatting to a friend about it, can help. 

It is important though to realise that there is not always a solution to whatever is causing your feelings. Some things are just not in our control like the spread of the virus. Focus on things that are within your control like how you act, what you say, how you behave and respond to others. For example, iyou fear getting the virus, you can control your environment by following the COVID-19 prevention guidelines like wearing a mask, washing your hands regularly and practicing social distancing. This might go a long way in alleviating the fear. 

Connect with others 

Social distancing rules does not mean social isolation. So even though it is better not to have physical get togethers with friends and family right now, it does not mean that we cannot chat regularly over the telephone, e-mail, WhatsApp or other social media. In fact, for our own mental health it is important to reach out to others and feel connected. 

Follow a daily routine 

We are nurtured by having a routine and structure. Plan your day and allow adequate time not just for work, but include your mealtimes, enough time to sleep (at least eight hours), time for exercise and time for fun. All of these are important for a healthy body and a healthy mind too. 

Do things that calm you: 

We all have things we do that give us a warm fuzzy feeling of happiness and calm. For some it is taking a bubble bath, for others it is reading a good book or playing board games with the kids. Make time for the things that calm you each day but especially when feelings of worry or sadness overwhelm you. 

A great coping tool for difficult times is a self-sooth box. This can be a shoebox filled with things that makes you happy and calm. Items like a photo of your mom, a scented candle, a letter from a friend, a quote or poem, anything that has special meaning to you. It is useful to add some pamper items like a chocolate if you love that, hand cream to give your hands a massage or something squishy like a stress ball to squeeze when anxious 

Something as simple as kiddies blow bubbles can be a useful filler for your box to help you practice deep breathing when feeling overwhelmed. And how much fun it is just popping the bubbles of bubble wrap! So, whenever you are feeling sad, bad or mad, take out your box and escape from reality for a while. 

Support and help others 

During these trying times, it is important to remember the African concept of Ubuntu, which means, “I am because you are”. We cannot live in isolation; we depend on each other to thrive. Moreover, we will get through this pandemic by helping and supporting each other. Look for ways in which you can add meaning to someone’s life. Maybe this means phoning someone going through a tough time or telling someone how much you love and appreciate them or if you have a few Rands to spare, adding an item or two to the donation trolleys at the malls. Maybe you make some masks for those who do not have. Look inside yourself and ask how you can make a difference. Meaning something to someone will up the endorphins in your body. Yes, it will increase your happiness. 

Ask for help when you need it 

Whatever you do to cope, remember the situation we are in now will not last forever and for most of us, these feelings of anxiety, worry and sadness will pass. If however, none of the coping strategies helps you feel better, reach out to people trained to assist you. Here are a few helpful numbers: 

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) Helplines providing free telephonic counselling, information, referrals and resources 7 days a week, 24 hours a day – call 0800 21 22 230800 70 80 90 or 0800 456 789 or the Suicide Helpline 0800 567 567. 

SADAG Chat online with a counsellor 7 days a week from 9am – 4pm via the Cipla WhatsApp Chat Line 076 882 2775. 

SADAG SMS 31393 or 32312 and a counsellor will call you back – available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. 

Lifeline offers a 24-hour counselling service, Tel: 0861 322 322 and speak to a counsellor. 

Gender-Based Violence Command Centre: 0800 428 428 / *120*7867#  

Woman Abuse Helpline: 0800 150 150  

Communicare also has three Social Development Officers who are trained social workers who are available to provide Communicare tenants with counselling and support. Phone the Call Centre, Mondays to Fridays 08:00 – 16:30. Toll free number: 0800 266 737 or e-mail and ask that a Social Development Officer contacts you.  

 Please take care of yourself and those you love and remember to stay safe!