Loves going out and about, drinking coffee, eating chocolate, and writing about her adventures!
Published April 11th 2020
We are living in an extraordinary time.
As the deadly Coronavirus sweeps the world, countries are in lockdown, national borders have closed, once-bustling cities are eerily silent, children are doing school at home with many parents working from home as well, festivals and sports events have all been cancelled, and things that many of us have always done and taken for granted, such as getting our hair cut or popping down to the shops for some milk and toilet paper or eating out at our favourite restaurant or heading to the beach for a swim or heading to the playground with our kids for a playdate, can no longer happen. Life as we knew it has changed.
This incredibly sudden shift has forced us all to re-think, re-imagine, and re-configure our worlds. But many of us are struggling with this. Fears of coronavirus, the constant news reports, the lack of basic supplies in our supermarkets, and living in self-isolation in our homes are greatly impacting our mental healths.
Now more than ever, it is important for us to look after ourselves and do whatever we can to maintain our mental health during this pandemic.
Karen Tyrrell Brisbane-based author, Karen Tyrrell, knows all about keeping mentally well. Karen was working as a primary school teacher when she was repeatedly bullied and stalked by the parents of her student to breaking point, triggering severe mental illness. "I became an involuntary inmate of a psychiatric facility where I discovered the healing power of daily writing," Karen tells me. "I developed coping strategies to deal with life challenges. I eventually recovered from mental illness and returned to teaching to prove that I could."
But Karen's creative spark had been ignited. And so she left teaching and began writing books and performing at festivals and schools. Her first book, Me and Her: A Memoir of Madness, was written to help adults going through trying times. The book included coping strategies that helped Karen recover.
Karen is now an award-winning author for adults and children, writing empowerment books to help us live strong. Her books include Me and Her: A Memoir of Madness, Me and Him: A Guide to Recovery, STOP the Bully, and Bailey Beats the Blah.
She is also the recipient for four mental health achievement awards for her books, and she presents at schools and in the community, often accompanied by her husband Steve. In 2015, Karen won a Queensland highly acclaimed peer mental health award, the Jude Bugeja Award.
Long before we had even heard of coronavirus, Karen was already promoting the absolute importance of mental self-care. Her words are now more important than ever. "Through this pandemic, I'm keeping calm and channelling my energies into positive actions," Karen says.
Karen's Top Tips for Staying Well If you (or a family member or friend) are struggling with coping in this new world of self-isolation and lockdowns, Karen has some simple tips for you on how to stay mentally well.
1. Stick to your daily routine as much as possible. Go to bed and wake up close to your old times. Set daily goals of things you wish to achieve. 2. Capture your feelings and emotions by writing in your journal every day. Make positive plans. 3. Exercise every day in the fresh air with positive self-talk. This keeps your mind, body and soul in peak condition. Each morning and evening, take a walk being mindful of nature and your five senses. E.g. What can you hear, see, smell etc? Set up a simple home gym, where you can work-out together with fitness goals.
4. Keep yourself connected to friends, family and work colleagues via phone, SMS, social media. Learn new online ways to communicate like Zoom, Google Hangouts, YouTube, Instagram and IGTV. Ask each other RUOK? 5. Restrict how much news you watch. Just enough to keep you updated with new rules and procedures, without traumatizing you any further. 6. Give yourself time-out for self-care. Develop a self-care tool-kit that soothes you in times of great stress. Grown-ups: Try lavender oil to keep you calm, listen to soothing music, Mandala colouring book.
Children: teddy bear, blanket, a fidget toy to stress-less. 7. Make KINDNESS your everyday mode of operating with the world. Be forgiving of others short-falls (and your own), remember to be always KIND. Practice self-care, gratefulness, meditation, practice mindfulness. Keep yourself calm. Take slow, deep breaths. 8. Get enough sleep. Unplug an hour before bed time. Laugh, giggle, sing, dance. Humour is powerful, reducing stress. Watch your favourite comedy shows before you go to bed to relax you. Mine are Graham Norton, The Office, Comedy Festivals. 9. Spend time outside nature every day. Listen to birds. Breathe fresh air. Tend to your pot plants or garden. Pat your pooch or cat. 10. Immerse yourself into a creative project: write, paint, draw, take photos, sew, knit, build.
For Karen, writing her books and making educational videos for children via Youtube are just some of her many other ways of keeping mentally well during this crisis. You can check out Karen's videos here.
"Please keep hopeful, practice gratitude and stay well," Karen says. "This situation will end."
For more information and tips on staying mentally well, please visit Head to Health, an initiative of the Australian Government's Department of Health, where you will find plenty of digital mental health resources for your needs.
For more information about Karen and her empowering books, please visit Karen's website here.