Maintaining mental health in lockdown
The last few years have been tough. Bushfires, drought and floods ravaged the nation over the summer of 2019-20. By March 2020, COVID-19 had made its way to our shores, drastically changing how we live, work, play and connect.
The potential for COVID-19 to impact mental health was recognised early in the pandemic. Apart from being worried about contracting the virus, some of the measures being used to stop its spread — such as social distancing and lockdowns — have added to the heightened levels of stress, confusion, and frustration.
Of course, feeling anxious, overwhelmed, sad, or even bored during hard times is normal, but it can also take a toll. So, it's crucial that we all take the time to look after ourselves and support our friends, family and colleagues.
Here are some simple ways you care for your mental health and wellbeing during these trying times.
Keep your body healthy
Good physical health has long been linked to good mental health. It’s important to try and maintain healthy eating and exercise routines and ensure you're getting a good night's sleep.
Friends, family and community aren’t just the people we spend time with in the good times. They also provide us with a deep sense of wellbeing, safety, and support through the bad times.
While physical meetups may not always be possible, technology is helping us keep in touch more than ever. You can still connect through video chats, phone calls, texting or other online groups.
If you live near other people, a socially distanced chat over the fence or the weekly wheelie bin run is another easy way to stay in touch with those going through a similar experience to you.
For more details, see R U OK?’s tips for staying connected during lockdown.
Maintain a routine
In an uncertain world, routines help us structure our days and provide a sense of purpose and achievement.
While maintaining routines can be tricky if you're working or learning from home — particularly if you have kids home from school too – it's important to break up your day and separate ‘work and school time' from 'family time' or 'me time'.
As a guide, think about your usual downtime activities and try to find a way to schedule them into each day. This could involve a video lunch with workmates or joining an online gym or yoga class.
Give yourself a break
Everybody reacts differently to stress. Some people like to keep busy and throw themselves into work or a new hobby. Others put everything on hold and just focus on getting through each day the best they can.
There’s no right or wrong way to navigate a pandemic, so don't beat yourself up about what you have or haven't done with your time. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself permission to take a break. Focus on things that make you feel calm and happy.
If that means binging The Queen’s Gambit or baking mountains of sourdough, so be it.
The pandemic has been long and drawn out and is likely to stick around for some time yet. So, it’s important to talk about how you feel to help manage any stress and anxiety now and in the future.
If talking to someone you know isn't an option, there are many online and phone chat support services that can help.
Head to Health can help you find digital mental health services from some of Australia’s most trusted mental health organisations.
Beyond Blue has a dedicated coronavirus online and phone support service.
Many doctors and health care providers (including psychologists) are offering video and phone consultations. Health.com.au has all the information about accessing health services during COVID-19 restrictions.
Be there for others if you can
The pandemic has affected us all in one way or another, but some people in our communities are more vulnerable than others.
The sick and elderly, people living alone or with a disability, those dealing with difficult home environments — there are many for whom the pandemic has made getting support harder than ever.
If you can help someone else out in a time of need, it can make a big difference to their lives. It can also improve your own mental health.
We're giving you this information in good faith. It comes from sources we think are reliable and accurate. However, we can't guarantee it’s right and don't accept any liability relating to the content or any linked external websites.