As millions of Australians are dealing with lockdowns due to recent spikes in cases of COVID-19, what is the impact on their mental health?
It’s not hard to imagine the collection of emotions relating to having fabulous plans cancelled at the last minute to be replaced with being stuck at home by yourself or with children facing imminent cabin fever, not to mention the fear of exposure to the recent outbreak and concern for those that are already suffering from the virus. Do you find yourself making unhealthy choices, just to feel like you have control or have something to look forward to? Maybe it’s pouring that extra glass of wine or making a dent in the pantry sweets and snacks supplies or even creating that meal that destroys cholesterol levels with one bite. Or is it sleeping in until mid-morning or watching an extra three episodes of a Netflix show rather than doing house chores or exercise?
It’s fair to say that impacts of COVID-19 on our mental health are real and we’re all dealing with it in different ways.
Kieran, a Psychologist at Open Minds Morayfield Mental Health Hub, said: “Since April last year, I have seen an increase in health anxiety and feelings of isolation and loneliness amongst my patients. It’s understandable that people that are experiencing depression during these times because it is difficult to feel connected, make friends and be able to participate in normal activities. There is a genuine grieving process that people are experiencing when plans are constantly changing and when we can’t freely make plans for our future.”
“If someone is already feeling overwhelmed or depressed, imposed COVID restrictions like wearing a mask, lockdowns and border closures can worsen or exacerbate what is already happening. If you are experiencing feelings of anxiety or depression or know someone that is, please remember that it can help to speak with someone outside of your normal circles and speaking with a psychologist or counsellor can easily be done over the phone if we are in a lockdown”, she said.
Kieran suggested two key tips for staying on top of mental health during the pandemic, “Firstly, keep up to date with online resources as there is so much out there now to help with staying connected and supported as well as many online activities like yoga and art classes. Secondly, be flexible but try to maintain a daily routine such as getting up at a regular time and fitting in some exercise.”
The Open Minds Mental Health Hub at Morayfield is providing both face-to-face and phone psychological and counselling services throughout the Brisbane lockdown.
The Health Department has developed a helpful list of other simple things we can all do to look after our mental health, such as:
- Look after your physical health – this means eating well, exercising regularly as well as getting a good night’s sleep.
- Stay connected – maintaining social connections is really important and we can do this safely via video chats, phone calls, online groups and chats with people while keeping 1.5 metres apart.
- Develop new routines – routines are great for providing a sense of achievement so when things feel out of your control, it will help provide the new normal.
- Take breaks – take some time for you and do something that makes you feel calm and happy.
- Reach out to others – supporting others that are particularly vulnerable can help your mental wellbeing and make a big difference to someone else’s life.
- Seek Support – if you are feeling anxious or depressed, it a good idea to chat with someone. Maybe friends and family are a great place to start, but don’t forget that there are range of phone and online support services as well as health professionals that are there to help.
Open Minds partners with SANE Australia to host a free and anonymous online forum for anyone with mental health concerns. These forums provide peer support, which means that you can speak to people who have experienced similar mental health concerns to you, and you can benefit from the shared learning and understanding that you gain. The forums are always open and there when you need them, moderated by trained professionals. Simply setup your free account and make your first post here on the Open Minds SANE Forums.
Check out Open Minds website for more information about the services that we provide and a list of useful contacts that can help in a crisis.