The current Covid-19 environment is challenging in many ways. We all react differently to change and with varying degrees of restriction from country to country and state to state and even regions within states, it can leave us confused and uncertain
Our world has been disrupted and we don’t know what the ‘new normal’ will be like. This disruption has impacted everyone in some way. Whether that be a change in how we work (working from home; social distancing etc), or whether that be as severe as losing your job or coping in Stage 4 Lockdown, with restrictions on how often and how long you can go outside, right through to curfews being decreed.
With this disruption brings fears, worries, uncertainties about ourselves, our families, our friends, our futures. We are learning to live with this uncertainty like we have never had to before. During times like this we need to remember to ‘check in’ on ourselves.
I have been coping quite well during the Stage 4 lockdown, I accepted the restrictions and curfews, I abided by the rules and regulations, limited when I had to go out for essentials, stayed home, did my one-hour exercise per day and thought all was well. That was until the Victorian Government announced the extensions to the Stage 4 restrictions. When I heard it, I thought, “OK, I’m doing alright, I’ll be OK”.
But…. as the day went on, I found myself getting angry and I didn’t really know why. After all, I’d accepted that I had to do my bit and stay home so that we can get on top of this pandemic. So, I checked in with myself and delved a bit deeper into what was going on for me. I discovered I was angry, not for myself, but because I’m seeing all the small business struggling and I’m hearing the hurt and pain that they are going through because they cannot open their doors. I’m hearing about those people that have had to walk away from years of building a small business and the heartache that they are going through. That’s what I was angry about.
Now that I understand my anger, I can address the fears and worries that come with it. I can manage my emotions so that I am in a better position cognitively to make decisions for myself and how I can support the local businesses in our area.
But if I hadn’t checked in with myself, that anger could have manifested in different ways. A couple of weeks ago I write an article on Coping In Uncertain Times and I went back and read that and took my own advice.
The Black Dog Institute Research identified that previous outbreaks of infectious disease have been known to have an impact on mental health of the population, for example, the SARS epidemic was associated with a 30% increase in suicide in over 65s and 29% of healthcare workers experienced probable emotional distress.
This is indicative of what can happen and highlights the need for heightened awareness around mental health. There is research, advertising and discussion around physical health, weight loss etc every day, but how often do we actually talk about our emotional state, our mental well-being?
We need to start these discussions and get them to be common practice amongst ourselves. A problem shared is a problem halved and that saying goes the same for expressing how we’re feeling emotionally. Sharing your emotional state with someone else helps you express how you’re feeling and being able to do that can help you talk things through, get and offer support to each other.
It is normal to feel anxious, sad, upset in the midst of a pandemic. Each of us will experience different feelings and emotions but some common responses include:
- Being anxious because this is new territory – we haven’t been through a pandemic before, so this is a normal, natural response
- Fear of the unknown
- Feeling lonely – lockdown and social distancing can separate us from loved ones, but also our reaction to ‘protecting ourselves’ can make us withdraw
- Hyper-vigilance (having an increased awareness to look for and prevent danger)
- Problems sleeping or ‘unwinding’ from the media around the pandemic
- Challenges when trying to focus on something / work / hobbies / watching TV etc
- Stress around not being able to maintain your old routine of getting up, going to work, going to gym, seeing family/friends
- Increase in alcohol intake (or other substances)
- Poor dietary habits
- Worrying about finances
- Worsening of any pre-existing illness or mental health condition
Whatever you’re experiencing, focus on yourself, and not on others. Your response to this situation is right for you, acknowledge how you are feeling and know that it is a valid response. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, seek some guidance and support – think about what will work for you, to help you in this situation.
- If you are anxious because of what’s in the media – limit your access to it, turn off the radio or TV
- Stay connected with people that support and uplift you
- Make a plan to call someone every day
- Go out in nature, go for a walk, sit outside and watch the trees, birds, feel the breeze and sun on your skin and listen to nature all around you – it’s amazing how much this can help
- Seek professional help
Mental Health Care Plan
Think of your mental health care plan, like your teeth. You brush your teeth once or twice a day and that keeps them healthy and stops you from getting decay.
Your mental health is the same, you need to nurture yourself on a daily basis. So, work out how you’re going to do that. What will work for you? I have discovered that when I’m feeling ‘foggy’ or ‘overwhelmed’, that going for a walk – even as short as 10 minutes, helps me reset emotionally.
Another strategy that works for me is doing 5, 10, 15 minutes of mindful meditation. There are numerous free resources available on the internet for guided mindfulness – click here for a link to some of them.
Think about what works for you and then plan that into your day, each and every day. The more you do it, the better you will feel and the better you feel, the more you will do it, until it becomes your new routine.
- Go for a walk
- Do mindful meditation
- Read a book
- Do a crossword / sudoku / puzzle
- Plan your cooking for the week and build in something that helps you relax
- Just sit and watch nature
- Get into good sleeping/night time habits – listen to sleep stories, set up a routine
- Do Box Breathing
(breath out for 4 seconds, breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, breath out for 4 seconds)
As humans we are tribal beings and need to be connected to a community, whether that be your family, friendship group, community group, local neighbourhood – whatever your group is, stay connected with them. Remember that this too shall pass, but until it does and until we establish what the ‘new normal’ is, please look after yourself and those close to you.
I’d like to hear what you’re doing to reduce stress during the pandemic, so leave your comments below.
If you’re struggling and need some support, please reach out to a friend, a support network, a community organisation (listed below), your doctor or call 000 in an emergency.
https://www.lifeline.org.au/ 13 11 14
https://www.beyondblue.org.au/ 1300 22 4636
http://www.mensline.org.au/ 1300 78 99 78
https://www.kidshelpline.com.au/ 1800 55 1800
https://www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au/ 1300 659 467