I am
Show me:
Show me:
Looking after your emotional health in uncertain times
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

Looking after your emotional health in uncertain times

Blog by Carlye Weiner, Clinical Psychologist

It’s almost impossible to avoid hearing about the COVID-19 pandemic, which took over our screens, conversations, news feeds, and daily lives from mid-January 2020. The global sense of being ill-at-ease due to anxiety, fear and lack of certainty is palpable.

There’s no clear end. Who knows what will happen next?

People with chronic diseases, including heart and lung issues, diabetes, those who are immunocompromised, the elderly and those who are pregnant are considered especially vulnerable to the virus.

Their best protection against COVID-19 is to isolate, stay home and stay away to stay safe. Ultimately, this advice and those who follow it, will contribute to avoiding the potential for devastation that we see wreaking havoc in other countries.

Quarantine saves lives. However, there are other effects too.

Physical distancing, quarantine and lock down; taking these steps has helped to save lives. However, there are psychological impacts from these actions. People can be left feeling a range of emotions, some of which are new and, perhaps, uncomfortable.

At this time, it’s possible that you are feeling:

Vulnerable

Suddenly we’re faced with the need to place people who happen to have a heart condition or had a heart event in to yet another diagnostic category. Particularly for young people and for those whose health statuses may not be easily visible, and for people who are still coming to terms with their illness, this new label might feel like yet another stigma. It may also be another reason to feel scared, uncertain and “different” from others.  

If you weren’t feeling it already, the thought that everyone and everything feels like a threat to my life will likely feature. 

Fearful

A main feature of fear related to COVID-19 is being afraid of the unknown. Is that a fever coming on? What will happen if I catch it? Does my partner, neighbour, milk carton or doorhandle carry the virus? How long will the pandemic last? Are the guidelines going to change again tomorrow? 

These valid questions and concerns are added on top of an already long list of uncertainties and traumatic experiences related to managing a heart condition; this can snowball into feelings of anxiety. We rely on predictability for our safety and our sanity, and without it, we feel extremely unsettled and turn to “what ifs” for answers in the hope that it brings us some sense of control.

Here are some tips to help manage uncertainty and increase your resilience through the COVID-19 pandemic

Choose choice

Focus on the choices you can make. Intentional choices keep you in tune with yourself, by asking yourself how you ‘feel’ about something, as well as enabling you to take action. This could include clothing choice, meal choice, or doing something mundane in a different way. If you feel that COVID-19 restrictions are impacting your ability to make choices, take control over the smaller things in life.

Take the time to figure out how the COVID-19 pandemic impacts you

We can be influenced by others’ reactions and personal circumstances. However, it’s important to reflect on your own situation. What does COVID-19 mean to you and what impact does it have on the way you conduct your life? Acknowledge your confusion, grief, sadness, injustice, fear and anger, and know that not knowing how you feel is ok too. Or, just embrace some silence while the world slows for a bit (introverts rejoice!).

Whether that’s through journaling, learning about others’ experiences, alone time, or your usual ways of reflecting on things, understanding your own reactions will help you cope with uncertainty as well as further changes.  

Know which coping strategies work for you, and stick to a consistent routine including exercise, good nutrition and adequate sleep

Other strategies could include virtual socialising, laughter, fresh air, creativity, home projects and giving your brain new experiences. Practicing mindfulness can help with relaxation and also reduces anxiety and worry associated with health and physical symptoms.

Buy what you need

Many people got caught up in panic buying. Maybe you did too. However, knowing that you have adequate supplies can help you to successfully cope with quarantine. Write a list of what you need (and want) for the week, and you decide how you want to get it. Calling upon others for a no-contact drop of supplies can feel anywhere from uplifting to demoralising, so decide how independent you want to be.

You can minimise some of the stress by making online orders or taking up a shopping subscription service. Either way, plan for what you need and how you’d like it to get to you.

Stay connected though COVID-19

There are so many ways to connect, even in isolation. Make sure you reach out to loved ones, old friends, professionals or your online community. You can be open and honest when you talk with them; let them know what you are going through. Your connections may have had similar experiences, and you can share ideas and tips on how to manage the emotional impacts of COVID-19.

There are always options to seek professional help for extra support. Speak to your GP and specialist regarding telehealth options. You can also get help through the Beyond Blue Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service or through a referral to a Psychologist from your GP.

Lastly, know you’re not alone.  The virus will subside, and life will return to a new normal.

You might also be interested in

4 tips to keep your heart healthy while working from home

4 tips to keep your heart healthy while working from home

4 tips to keep your heart healthy while working from home

Stay informed about COVID-19

Stay informed about COVID-19

Stay informed about COVID-19

If you have heart disease, you are more vulnerable to severe complications....

COVID-19 and heart disease risks

COVID-19 and heart disease risks

COVID-19 and heart disease risks

Answers to frequently asked questions about COVID-19 and heart disease. ...

COVID-19 info & FAQs

COVID-19 info & FAQs

COVID-19 info & FAQs

Information and FAQs about COVID-19 and heart disease....

Feelings and emotions after a heart attack

Feelings and emotions after a heart attack

Feelings and emotions after a heart attack

This is a guide to how you might be feeling after a heart attack. ...

Lessons learned: recovering from open heart surgery

Lessons learned: recovering from open heart surgery

Lessons learned: recovering from open heart surgery

After having five open heart surgeries between the ages of 13 and 41, Peter knows a thing or two about recovery....

Confidential. Personal. Reliable.

Confidential. Personal. Reliable.

Confidential. Personal. Reliable.

Got a question about your heart?...

COVID-19 and the flu vaccine

COVID-19 and the flu vaccine

COVID-19 and the flu vaccine

Getting a flu shot now will help in the fight against COVID-19....

Love mends broken hearts on Valentine’s Day

Love mends broken hearts on Valentine’s Day

Love mends broken hearts on Valentine’s Day

Today, Cupid is busy slinging arrows. Perhaps, you are frantic buying flowers or chocolates, booking dinner or penning a pitter-patter inducing poem....

Psychological and social health action plan

Psychological and social health action plan

Key steps that can help you manage your emotional health....

Exercises to do at home

Exercises to do at home

Exercises to do at home

All you need to know about keeping active during COVID-19....

Associate Professor Nadine Kasparian

Associate Professor Nadine Kasparian

Associate Professor Nadine Kasparian

Understanding the connections between our physical and mental health....

Food and healthy eating during COVID-19

Food and healthy eating during COVID-19

Food and healthy eating during COVID-19

Healthy eating and COVID-19 FAQ...

Sharing scars, and more, on Valentine’s Day

Sharing scars, and more, on Valentine’s Day

Sharing scars, and more, on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day; some people celebrate, other’s vehemently oppose it. Whatever your opinion, it’s important to remember that the day is about love. All forms of it....

COVID-19 & cardiovascular disease

COVID-19 & cardiovascular disease

COVID-19 & cardiovascular disease

Information and resources for health care professionals....

Surprising ways your family can meet the challenge to keep active

Surprising ways your family can meet the challenge to keep active

Surprising ways your family can meet the challenge to keep active

Mental health and heart disease

Mental health and heart disease

Mental health and heart disease

Having a mental health condition can have a negative impact on your heart health and increase your risk of heart disease....

When The Heart Gets Heavy: Emotional Wellbeing and Heart Conditions

When The Heart Gets Heavy: Emotional Wellbeing and Heart Conditions

Emotional wellbeing is like having a garden, sometimes it grows green on its own, other times it needs watering, cutting back or fertilising....

Stay connected with your doctor

Stay connected with your doctor

Stay connected with your doctor

It's important that you stay connected with your doctor as needed. ...

Staying active at home during COVID-19

Staying active at home during COVID-19

Staying active at home during COVID-19

Physical activity and COVID-19 FAQ...

Clinical Guidelines

Clinical Guidelines

Clinical Guidelines

Full list of clinical guidlines and references for CVD, heart failure, ACS, hypertension, atrial fibrillation, SCAD and RHD...

Are you at risk of heart disease?

Are you at risk of heart disease?

Are you at risk of heart disease?

There is no single cause for any one heart condition, but there are risk factors that increase your chance of developing one. ...

Support and resources for health care professionals

Support and resources for health care professionals

Support and resources for health care professionals

Our range of clinical and patient support resources are available for you to use in your daily practice....

Heart Healthy Dinner Plan

Heart Healthy Dinner Plan

Heart Healthy Dinner Plan

Sign up now and discover delicious, easy to follow dinner recipes. Plus shopping lists, tips and other helpful information to make healthy eating easy. ...

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Join the Heart Foundation community. Together, we can make a real difference for Australian hearts. ...

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Join the fight against Australia’s biggest killer by supporting the Heart Foundation.  ...

MyMarathon

MyMarathon

MyMarathon

The fundraising race where you set the pace. Run, jog or walk MyMarathon at your own pace during October....

Heart Foundation Research Award Recipients

Heart Foundation Research Award Recipients

Explore our research award recipients and projects...

Your heart is your most important tool

Your heart is your most important tool

Your heart is your most important tool

Men’s Health Week is the perfect time to think about your heart....

Q&A with Lauren Blekkenhorst

Q&A with Lauren Blekkenhorst

Q&A with Lauren Blekkenhorst

Research to develop better evidence for the vascular and metabolic health benefits of vegetables and their bioactive constituents....

Join Kate in making a difference to future generations

Join Kate in making a difference to future generations

Join Kate in making a difference to future generations

Kate wanted to find a way she could make a difference to future generations...

Endorsement of externally developed clinical resources

Endorsement of externally developed clinical resources

For Professionals: Cardiac Rehabilitation Patient Resources

For Professionals: Cardiac Rehabilitation Patient Resources

Know your risk: Family history and heart disease 

Know your risk: Family history and heart disease 

Know your risk: Family history and heart disease 

A family history of heart disease could mean you are at greater risk....

Peter is breathing easy again after heart valve surgery

Peter is breathing easy again after heart valve surgery

Peter is breathing easy again after heart valve surgery

Peter has lived with a rare heart condition since he was 14, but hadn’t given it too much thought until his 30s....

Heart health submissions to Government

Heart health submissions to Government

Every day we are lobbying government and industry to improve heart health....

For professionals: Heart Health Checks

For professionals: Heart Health Checks

Heart Health Checks have been supported by Medicare since April 2019....

Hypertension clinical information and guidelines

Hypertension clinical information and guidelines

Clinical information for diagnosis and management of hypertension....

Supporting Your Emotional Wellbeing: An Online Forum for Young Heart Patients

Supporting Your Emotional Wellbeing: An Online Forum for Young Heart Patients

Supporting Your Emotional Wellbeing: An Online Forum for Young Heart Patients

What is cardiac rehab?

What is cardiac rehab?

What is cardiac rehab?

Cardiac rehab is proven to keep you out of hospital and reduce your risk of death from heart conditions....

Pilbara Aboriginal Heart Health Program

Pilbara Aboriginal Heart Health Program

Pilbara Aboriginal Heart Health Program

The program works with local communities to improve heart healthcare in Pilbara communities...

Queensland Election 2020

Queensland Election 2020

Queensland Election 2020

Every day 15 Queenslanders die of heart disease. Fight to save Queensland Hearts....

Blueprint for an active Australia 

Blueprint for an active Australia 

Blueprint for an active Australia 

The Blueprint for an active Australia provides evidence-based actions to help address physical inactivity....

Our research stories

Our research stories

Our research stories

We fund amazing researchers who have important stories to tell...

From diagnosis at 37 to heart surgery, rehab and now

From diagnosis at 37 to heart surgery, rehab and now

From diagnosis at 37 to heart surgery, rehab and now

Claude Lam, Open heart surgery survivor...

Relationships and sex after a heart attack

Relationships and sex after a heart attack

Relationships and sex after a heart attack

Explore some useful things to know about intimacy after a heart attack....

Heart attack medication

Heart attack medication

Heart attack medication

There are a number of medications you could be prescribed after a heart attack....

About the Lighthouse Hospital Project

About the Lighthouse Hospital Project

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in Australia, but the burden of disease disproportionately affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples....

Heart failure resources for patients

Heart failure resources for patients

Educate your patients on everything they need to know about heart failure and managing their condition. ...

Heart attack at 35: Knowing the signs and symptoms

Heart attack at 35: Knowing the signs and symptoms

Heart attack at 35: Knowing the signs and symptoms

David reflects on how his life changed when he had a heart attack at 35 and how he got back on track....