Dealing with the stress caused by COVID-19

Jessica Satherley
Dealing with the stress caused by COVID-19
Mentemia offers scientific and evidence-based techniques to cope with stress.

“Most of us are living with extra pressure right now, as COVID-19 has created stress even in people who are not generally anxious,” says Dr Fiona Crichton. 

Dr Crichton is the health psychology specialist who heads up the clinical team working with Sir John Kirwan on the app Mentemia - Italian for ‘my mind’. 

Mentemia, which is supported by Westpac, has been launched free to New Zealanders to offer scientific and evidence-based techniques to cope with life during stressful times. 

Kirwan created the app with tech entrepreneur Adam Clark and health professionals such as Dr Crichton. 

“Everyone has mental health and every single person needs to do things to look after their mental wellbeing, just as they look after their physical wellbeing,” Dr Crichton says. 

“This is especially so in times of crisis.” 

Not everyone will benefit from the same techniques to de-stress though, which is why Mentemia is designed to offer a variety of coping mechanisms. 

The former All Black’s app offers a range of techniques such as breathing exercises and ways to challenge your own thoughts. 

“We offer evidence-based techniques for relaxation, such as teaching people how to breathe through the stomach instead of the chest, which is proven to reduce stress in the body. 

“We also teach ways to activate the brain’s executive function (thinking part of the brain) to challenge a worrying thought instead of getting stuck in a loop of stressful thoughts. 

“These techniques strengthen the connections between the thinking part and the emotional part of the brain.  

“When that connection is strong, the rational part of the brain can quickly calm the stress response,” Dr Crichton said. 

“By managing our thoughts, we can decrease the stress in the body before it creates physical symptoms like headaches,” she said. 

“One of the most useful techniques is a tool we have where you learn to turn a worry into a plan of action. 

“Because when you know what to do, you can let worry go. 

"We also want people to do more than just cope – we want them to thrive,” she said. 

The app includes simple things that can be done every day that evidence shows boosts chemicals in the body like dopamine or serotonin, which can be thought of as the wellbeing hormones.   

“It’s very important to us that our app is based on science and evidence.  

“We have a wider clinical team made up of health psychology experts, clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, and medical doctors.  

“We also have a dream team of app designers and tech experts working alongside us.  

“Sir John Kirwan has this clear exceptional vision, and we are so proud to be working with him,” she says. 

 “Our goal is to make everybody a little bit better every day,” says Sir John Kirwan, who is a Westpac ambassador.  

The former professional sportsman says he’s mentally well today because he practices techniques offered on Mentemia on a daily basis.  

He has his own daily mental health plan which keeps him well and thriving.  

The goal of Mentemia is for you to have one too. 


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