Feeling wobbly? With so much emphasis on physical health right now, it’s all too easy to overlook your mental health, that precious, fragile thing that keeps us going day-after-day.
With public focus firmly fixed on case numbers and vaccination rates, and with diluted messaging about psychological wellbeing, it’s easy to be left feeling as though mental health is a “first world problem”.
But it’s not…the ABS has shown that one in five (20%) Australians experienced high, or very high levels of psychological distress in June 2021, and that was similar to March 2021 (20%) and November 2020 (21%).
The decline in people’s mental health is fast becoming a serious and widespread side-effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and strict public health measures, such as stay-at-home orders and limits on outside time, reduce the tried and tested scaffolds we rely on when overwhelmed, stressed and anxious.
Added pressures such as burnout, home-schooling, unemployment, isolation and fear make for a perfect psychological storm. It’s worth noting, however, that the devastation resulting from this storm may not be clinical depression.
We all have different resilience thresholds and where some people may become depressed or anxious, others may be left with a feeling of blah, meh or whatever. This numb, joyless state of mind has been labelled ‘languishing’ by psychologist Adam Grant and may be useful for describing the foggy, unfocused days spent in lockdown.
So…With many parts of the country still under stay-at-home orders and the light at the end of the tunnel looking a bit like a birthday candle in the face of a Category 5 cyclone, what’s left? What personal actions can we take to reclaim a sense of control, or flow, and boost our wellbeing? Here’s a handful of reminders:
Yep, you know this, but have you actually done it yet? Living in a digital echo chamber, can fuel anxiety, fear and misinformation. Turning down the volume on your noisy social feeds, switching off the push notifications or removing the apps from your phone entirely (even just temporarily), will leave you feeling calmer.
Dialling down your socials does not mean going into a communication cul-de-sac. Living in lockdown is inherently isolating and now more than ever is the time to connect. Try talking to your neighbours over the back fence, calling fall flung family members or messaging your mates. It will help.
Again, nothing new here but the evidence is clear, exercise is a truly effective way to improve physical and mental health. Granted, motivation may be in short supply right now, but any energy expended will pay dividends in terms of your headspace. Find something you enjoy and make it a priority.
Feel your feelings
These are extraordinary times and everything you are feeling is valid. Acknowledge your thoughts and see if you can find words to identify the emotional responses you are having to them. Simple mindfulness exercises may help you with this.
They say we’re on the home stretch now, so hang in there and if you need a hand contact the experts below.
For immediate assistance
If you are in an emergency, or at immediate risk of harm to yourself or others, please contact emergency services on Triple Zero (000).