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Distance Makes The Heart Grow Kinder

Story: Redcliffe Guide | Photo: Lyndal Magee
Apr 08, 2020
Distance makes the heart grow kinder

s the idea of ‘social distancing’ spreads far and wide, something else is catching on in the local area – random acts of kindness.

From sharing toilet paper at the check-out to delivering groceries to elderly neighbours, many Redcliffe locals are eager to lend a hand to those in need. So why do some people fight over toilet paper, while others give it away?

Scarborough-based psychologist Sacha Gibson didn’t believe there was a straightforward answer. “I can say that taking action is a really critical part of alleviating feelings of helplessness,” she said. “We just want to be able to do something.”

However, feeling anxious may cause some people to take action in less helpful ways. “When people feel stressed, they are in a state of ‘fight or flight’ and become highly reactive,” she said. “There may also be the occurrence of group-think mentality, which can lead to some of the so-called ‘panic-buying’ behaviours we’ve seen in recent weeks.”

But there’s a healthier alternative, and we’re seeing lots of it in the local community. “There’s a wealth of evidence that altruistic behaviour has a positive impact on mental wellbeing,” Ms Gibson said. “It’s definitely what we call a protective factor.”

When offering support, she said, focus on friends and family first. “If you’re a known source of care and support, you’re much more likely to get a better response to your offers of help in these times of heightened fear and anxiety,” Ms Gibson said. “If you’re not well known to someone, try a phone call or note first to ensure you’re not being too invasive and exacerbating their anxiety, especially if they are a vulnerable member of our community.

“One of the best ways you can help is to stay in contact with those around you.” Ms Gibson said. “Call, text or email daily to counteract the effects of physical isolation.

“My hope is that if we can help each other to calm our collective anxiety, we can all start to think more clearly and make sound choices,” she said. “Hopefully compassion and care of self and others will ultimately prevail.”