It’s hard to believe that we’re here again, staring down the barrel of another lockdown.
As Thursday night marks the beginning of Victoria’s fourth lockdown, many of us will be feeling angry, frustrated, sad, anxious, stunned, numb, even relieved – and maybe several of these at once
“It’s normal to be feeling whatever you’re feeling right now,” says Jo Mitchell, clinical psychologist and founder of The Mind Room.
Just remember: we have done this before, and that means we have learnt a few lessons along the way.
The first step to getting through the next week, Mitchell says, is to acknowledge any feelings you’re noticing and say it out loud to someone or write it down. “That will relieve some of the energy behind the emotions,” she says. The next thing is to reflect on the last year to determine what your best coping mechanisms are. Ask yourself these two questions: What worked for you in the last lockdowns? And what didn’t work? “Maybe you overdid it on the wine or didn’t get out of pyjamas for a week and it wasn’t great,” Mitchell says. Whatever your answers are to those two questions, apply that to the next seven days. Mitchell also encourages people to ask the same to others in their household or community.
Of course, some people – such as those suffering from mental health issues – may need more help. There are support services including Beyond Blue’s coronavirus mental wellbeing helpline on 1800 512 348 or Lifeline on 131 114.
Figure out your lockdown routine early to give yourself a sense of control and grounding. Mitchell’s big tip here is to stay consistent with your wake-up and sleep times each day. Also limit your screen time in the hour before bed: the blue light can affect your capacity to fall asleep, and “doom-scrolling” through COVID-19 information won’t help you either.
As for rituals, Mitchell is a fan of weaving music through the day to help manage mood. For example, you might mark the end of your work day by turning on upbeat or calming music – whatever mood you’re looking to create. There are so many rituals you could introduce, be it stretching, meditating, preparing tea, walking, sitting in the garden or journaling. “Now is an opportunity to slow down and appreciate those small things,” Mitchell says. It can be simple as getting dressed. And don’t forget that a “fake commute” is a great way to transition between work and non-work when you’re staying at home.
The timings are entirely up to you, Mitchell says. Some rituals may occur at set times – like your meals – and others might be hooked on more fluid indicators, like finishing a work task or school activity with your child. “It’s not one-size-fits-all, you understand what function any of these activities play in your life.”
We’re allowed up to two hours of exercise a day, so make the most of that time – and don’t let the cold put you off. Firstly, we know that exercise supports our physical health and immune system, but it’s also a very effective mood-booster, with the ability to help relieve stress, sharpen our minds and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. There are so many ways to get moving outdoors: go for a run, walk the dog, kick the footy, throw a frisbee. “You have to be a bit more creative … [but] use that opportunity,” Mitchell says.
There are other important perks to getting outside. Mitchell explains that being around nature relaxes us, and you can get that effect whether you’re at the local park or sitting among the pot plants in your courtyard. Mitchell adds that looking to the horizon, as opposed to objects and screens immediately in front of us at home, also activates the calming response in our body. Plus, low vitamin D is linked to depression. “So having your dose of sun, even in winter, is a really good thing,” Mitchell says. And you’ll probably find you’ll get a sense of social connectedness when you’re out in your neighbourhood.
Looking after your relationships at any time is important, but when we’re under more stress, we’re not always our best selves, so make an effort to check in with those in your household, whether it’s your partner, kids, housemates or parents. “Talk about how you’re doing rather than it coming out as being annoyed at some trivial habit,” Mitchell says. “Be kind and patient and support each other.”
And remember to check in with friends and family outside your home, too. Do you know someone living alone who might be struggling? Someone who might need some cheering up? Try to call at least one person a day. It also gives you a chance to compare notes to find out how others are coping.
Mitchell explains that looking after your relationships is key to wellbeing because it helps us to better cope with life challenges. Oh, and give your pets a squeeze: nothing beats that furry comfort.
The key here is to embrace play, in whatever form that takes for you. It might be board games, dancing, watching a movie, reading a book, knitting, gardening. “We cant spend all our time thinking about lockdown,” Mitchell says. “We need to be able to unhook our minds and let it roam free. Our creativity comes from this as well.”
Where you don’t want to lose yourself is on social media or with news consumption. Mitchell recommends setting time limits: “It might be you allow yourself to scroll to your heart’s content between 5-6pm … then stop unless it’s giving you joy.” Scrolling on craft websites is different to grumpily comparing yourself to interstate friends holidaying in Queensland.
Food is far more than just fuel, Mitchell says. It can foster creativity and social connection, and of course, it provides nourishment and it gives us an activity to do.
It’s also OK to find comfort in food. This might be a time when you drink an extra glass of red wine or eat more ice-cream. “If you have a day when you maybe aren’t as conservative as you would be around food, don’t panic, don’t beat yourself up,” Mitchell says. If you’re craving something, there is probably a reason – be it a physical or emotional need – so listen to your body. The key is to be intentional about how and what you’re eating, Mitchell says. It’s true that having a balanced diet does lead to better physical and mental health, so try to eat well when you can, but the occasional splurge won’t hurt. If you’re struggling, call the Butterfly Foundation on 1800 334 673.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald.com