With lockdown extended once again in Melbourne, it’s understandable that a lot of people are feeling anxious, worried, and frustrated. According to a survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, one in five Australians has experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress linked to the pandemic, with people living in Victoria being most affected (27% of people, in comparison to 18% of the rest of Australia).
For everyone, the pandemic has provoked a challenge for managing our mental health. Lockdowns and increased isolation make it harder to seek out stress management activities like chatting with friends over a coffee, or participating in community sports.
In an uncertain time like this, when we’re required to adapt to a “new normal”, it’s important for us to take proactive steps to protect our mental wellbeing.
We recently published an article about boosting your mood in lockdown, written by Dr Paul Hermann, which focused primarily on physical health. While that’s definitely important, here are some more tips that go beyond physical health that are recommended by Mental Health Australia’s 2021 World Mental Health Day campaign – ‘Look after your mental health, Australia 2021’ – to help you navigate these challenging times.
We all love to socialise. With social distancing and travel restrictions in place, we’re unable to meet up with our friends and family as we used to do, making us feel lonely, frustrated, and even depressed.
These days, however, keeping regular contact with our loved ones is easy enough with just a phone call, a text, or a video call. With access to a range of technologies like Skype, Zoom, and Facetime, your social events – from trivia nights and family dinners to book club meetups – or even just evening chats with your friend group can be virtual events. This will help you to stay socially and emotionally connected while maintaining social distancing, going a long way to assure you that you’re not alone in this.
We underestimate sometimes the comfort that phone contact can bring, you can still feel a sense of connection and closeness even if it’s not face-to-face.
During a pandemic, everything around you can feel like chaos, so doing something that brings joy to you can uplift your mood and help you feel safe and calm.
This could be anything at all, whether you start a new hobby or else get back to an old hobby you didn’t have enough time for. You can re-decorate your room, play board games with your family and friends, read a new book, watch a movie, write a novel, play an online game – genuinely, just do anything that brings a smile to your face and brighten your day.
During a lockdown, it’s important to stay informed about what is happening around you so that you can act accordingly. However, watching too much news about infection numbers, death rates, and tracking each and every briefing can make anyone feel overwhelmed. It’s hard not to see an end to this years-long pandemic, and keeping an eagle eye on the numbers can make you feel extremely worried over the health of you and your loved ones.
Dr James Collett, a lecturer in psychology at Melbourne’s RMIT University, says that limiting your media exposure and sticking to trusted sources of information helps you stay ‘conscious and active’ while maintaining your mental well-being. It also helps you avoid mis- and disinformation, which is really common online, so if you want to stay informed, make sure you’re getting accurate information.
To maintain your mental health during an uncertain time like this, you should always be kind to yourself and maintain perspective. Giving yourself positive feedback for all the things you have done and achieved, no matter how small that is, helps cheer you up and maintains your mental health. Whether you managed to have an amazingly productive day, or you managed just to get some washing done, take those victories and praise yourself for a job well done! Things are tough right now, so we all deserve positive vibes – most of all from ourselves.
Moreover, it’s important to understand that there are no right or wrong reactions to the uncertainties of the pandemic. Viewing all the changes around you with openness and acceptance can help you maintain your perspective and mental well-being.
This pandemic is a new challenge for every one of us. Feeling anxious, frustrated, and stressed is normal in such a scenario, so if you’re struggling to cope with your emotions and your mental health, never be afraid to reach out and receive help.
You can talk to a trusted friend, family member, or a professional to get the help you need. The Australian Psychological Society has some great information and guides to help you manage the mental health impacts of lockdowns, and if you or anyone you know needs extra help, you can contact the following numbers for professional advice:
13 11 14
24 hours a day - 7 days a week
0477 13 11 14
6pm to midnight (AEDT) - 7 nights a week
1300 22 4636
1800 334 673
1800 242 636 or 1300 554 660
1800 187 263
1300 659 467
1800 55 1800
1300 789 978
1800 184 527
1800 011 046
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