You are not alone. A lot feels out of control right now, but there are steps you can take to stay in control of your mental wellbeing.
The past year has been unprecedented. It has been challenging for all of us for different reasons. Mainly because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
We resiliently dealt with being introduced to Zoom, face masks, and social distancing. But social isolation, coronavirus health fears and sadness about the changes to our lives is real. Understandably there has been a spike in mental health difficulties, including here in Australia.
It can feel overwhelming if you are struggling with low mood, mental health conditions, or supporting loved ones.
And if you feel pretty good- excellent! We recommend you still read on, because of the pandemic’s potential long-term impact. And because staying on top of your mental wellbeing is always important.
Keep reading for all the tips you need to know.
Stay Connected With Loved Ones
Yes, you guessed it, Zoom is still on the agenda. Connecting to others reduces loneliness, after all.
But if Zoom does not suit you, there are other ways to check in with loved ones, from letters and emails to phone calls or messages.
Often the other person needs that connection too, especially when in self-isolation. Tell them how you feel, and ask how they are. So whether it is to connect to others or be kind to others, it will benefit your mental wellbeing.
Use video calls to do activities together. For example, quizzes, ‘watch parties’, learning a new skill or storytelling together.
A COVID-19 News Diet for Mental Health
We focus on diets for our physical health, but what we consume for our mental health is essential. Find a healthy balance.
Follow credible media coverage due to fake COVID-19 news online. The Australian government also recommends this. You could follow government pages or the World Health Organisation (WHO), for example.
Also, try to limit your consumption of news each day. We live in a time of information overload, so taking a break from social media or our phones is okay.
Have a Daily Routine
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, we have changed the way we live. Unless we are essential workers (thank you), most of us remain at home.
It is okay if you have not made banana bread. But having a routine, or starting a new one gives a sense of control and certainty during a difficult time.
Daily routine tips include:
- Have a consistent sleep schedule
- Factor in breaks from work or chores
- Eat regularly and healthily
- Avoid napping in the day
- Shower regularly
- Get dressed as if you were going to work
- Have some downtime before bedtime to switch off
These are simple steps, but they can be challenging to implement when in a low mood. Write a list, prepare your clothes for the next day, and set alarm reminders to make these tasks easier. Before you know it, it becomes a habit!
The opposite can be true too. Often when we are anxious, we can distract ourselves.
Because of COVID-19’s impact on the economy, many of us fortunate to have jobs are working too much. Or we focus on our household’s needs but not ours.
Set a reminder to stretch and move. Plus if possible, have a dedicated space to work away from your bedroom. This can do wonders for your mental wellbeing and productivity!
Move Your Body
The benefits of working out include your physical health and your mental health too. The Australian Government recommends at least 30 minutes of exercise most days.
Exercise can include jogging, yoga, or going for a walk (if coronavirus restrictions allow).
Going for a socially distanced walk with a friend can be an excellent way to start.
Factor exercise into your daily routine. It could be either as a 30-minute block or broken into smaller time chunks. There are plenty of workouts online for inspiration and different levels.
Get Some Fresh Air
Do you go outside each day? Just five minutes of fresh air can clear your head and revitalise your energy levels.
It can be anxiety-provoking to go out, but it is important to do so. And safe as long as you follow government guidelines.
You can go for a walk, sit in the sun, or arrange a socially distanced chat with a neighbour outside.
Take Time for Self-Care
Often, we take time to check in with others but do not check in with ourselves.
Where to start?
Dedicate a space and time for downtime if you can, ideally separate from your workspace. Take some time to journal, meditate or listen to music. Any activity that lets you focus on your breath and ask yourself how you feel and what you need.
A simple breathing exercise to try is 4-7-8 breathing. You can do this when stressed or when you want to relax.
Take a deep breath in for four seconds, hold for seven seconds, then release for eight seconds. You can do this sitting or lying down. Try to breathe from your stomach.
Whilst it is essential to check in with ourselves, it is also important to switch off from time to time.
Social media may feel like a productive way to do this, but it often does not make us feel happier. Also, low mood can make us compare to others. So it is recommended to avoid overusing social media to switch off.
Instead, set aside time to read a book, cook, complete a puzzle, do a favourite hobby, or watch a movie (ideally a comedy!) Anything to let you relax, and be fully absorbed in the activity.
Master the Pandemic Perspective
So there is advice out there to be productive or make changes during this time. But honestly, the best pandemic perspective to have is to not be hard on yourself!
It is great if you feel like baking banana bread or starting a new hobby! But it is also fine if you do not.
Be kind to yourself. A simple exercise to feel more in control each day is to think of five reasons you are grateful. It can be anything from the sun shining to having a good cup of coffee.
Also, remember this time will pass.
Self-isolation and social distancing are challenging things to do. But remind yourself that your actions help control the pandemic and end it. We all have a role to play no matter how out of control it feels.
We recognise it can be challenging with children to think of new activities to keep them entertained. You could adapt some of our Ramadan at-home activities for kids.
Call a Coronavirus Helpline
There is no shame in reaching out for support during this time. There are services out there to support you. Talking to someone anonymously, who is separate from your situation, can help significantly.
There are many confidential helplines, some specifically for coronavirus mental wellbeing support. Helplines include:
- Beyond Blue Coronavirus Support Service: call 1800 512 348
- HeadtoHelp Coronavirus Support (Victoria): call 1800 595 212
- Lifeline for depression and suicidal thoughts: chat online or call 131 114
- Suicide Call Back Service: call 1300 659 467
- Kids Helpline for ages 5- 25 years old: call 1800 551 800
Do not hesitate to call if you want to talk to someone or are in distress.
In the case of an emergency, always call 000.
Contact Counselling Services
It is normal to feel overwhelmed during this time, and also to experience low mood or anxiety. But it is also normal to get further help if you need it.
You may be struggling with pre-existing mental health conditions. Or you may have taken the steps above but need more support. Either way, it is time to contact professional services.
A good place to start is a counselling service. There are many teletherapy options available right now. Speak to your doctor or use Australia’s Find a Psychologist tool if you are unsure where to start.
Mental health support options continue to grow and change. There are calls for more support to be given around the world to mental health services. So keep an eye on the Australian Government website for updates.
Prioritise Your Mental Wellbeing
Prioritising your mental wellbeing is always important. The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted this fact. It does not matter what position you are in; your mental health and struggles are valid.
We cannot control COVID-19 directly, but we can keep safe and protect those around us.
One day we will hug distant relatives again, and have reunions. We will sit in crowded restaurants, cough unhesitantly, and travel. And of course, throw the sourdough cookbook out the window and buy bread from our favourite bakery.
In the meantime, follow the steps in this article. This way, you can make sure you stay on top of your mental wellbeing, so you are ready for when that day comes.
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Specialising in community engagement and digital product growth Nebras has over 15 years’ experience in designing and delivering executable audience growth and content strategies across a range of leading industries and countries. Nebras’s strategies are always focused on return on investments, customer retention and high brand value. He also plays a key role in ensuring research services business intelligence processes and operations are conducted in accordance with all audience measurement guidelines.