R U OK? Day: Expert says coping strategies are key - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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R U OK? Day: Expert says coping strategies are key

9 Sep 2020

The pressures and challenges of COVID-19 have made healthy coping strategies more important than ever, says USC Clinical Psychology Professor Helen Stallman.

Professor Stallman, who leads the suicide prevention research team at USC’s Thompson Institute, said coping strategies were available to everyone, and evidence showed they made an enormous difference.

“Coping is the fundamental thing here, and we recommend a set of four strategies that we know from our studies help people feel better and more in control,” she said.

“Firstly, we suggest self-soothing strategies such as taking a couple of deep breaths. From there, doing things that are distracting or relaxing such as watching TV for half an hour.

“Then we recommend talking to friends and family, because contact with people makes us feel better and, if you find those things aren’t working, talk to a health professional. You don’t have to have a mental illness to ask for help.

“Having healthy coping strategies like these are more important than ever before, as more people face unstable employment, are balancing childcare with work, and facing restrictions on the activities that usually make them feel good.

“Most people are feeling unsettled and that is a normal response when we get out of our routine. Feelings of worry or missing normal activities are not a medical illness,” she said.

She said R U OK? Day also provided parents with a great opportunity to have important conversations with their children, help them name their unpleasant emotions, and then support their children to believe in their own ability to cope with those emotions.

“You can simply ask your child ‘how do you feel and what are you doing to cope with this feeling?’. It really helps normalise the idea that we all experience unpleasant emotions,” she said.

“Kids will also copy your behaviour, so what you are doing yourself to cope sets an incredibly powerful example for them.”

USC’s Thompson Institute is currently offering a free program for Queenslanders wishing to proactively support their mental wellbeing. Queenslanders can register for EMERALD via the website usc.edu.au/EMERALD. Eligibility criteria apply.

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