Covid-19 is a very real threat to our health and wellbeing in 2020 - a year that started with so much promise and instead kept us in a holding pattern of lockdowns, panic buying, fear mongering, complacency and very real isolation.
Following Stage 3 Restrictions which saw school aged kids and teens participating in remote learning from home, (in Victoria) restrictions were lifted for a period of 3 weeks before being reinstated and all of Melbourne Metro and the Mitchell Shire being placed into further lockdown restrictions.
The feeling from many was one of overwhelm, can I do another round of isolation? Can I survive my kids doing home learning again? Will this "second wave" be the big one that takes us all out. Or alternatively, feeling complacent about the risk, and refusing to take it seriously.
With that as our backdrop it is important to take stock and take control of our Mental and Emotional wellbeing and with a few tips get on track to Healthy thinking and even thriving during this current Pandemic.
The first step is obvious, take the threat to our health as serious and follow the guidelines to restrict physical contact with others, wash hands, stay home if unwell even if it is an inconvenience, sneeze into your elbow etc.
The next steps are less obvious but will help enormously as we all face lockdowns and restrictions together.
Monitor your stress and anxiety around your own susceptibility. Keep informed but dont obsess and if you notice the continuous reporting is making you feel anxious, switch it off. You decide how much you need to watch, read or listen to in order to stay informed but not feel overwhelmed. Give yourself permission to switch off ‘noise’ such as social media, news, or even radio for most of each day. And distance from those around you that cause stress and drama. Keep checking in to reliable news sources once or twice a day as needed but otherwise, turn down the ‘noise’. Instead, replace it with things that can help you, including doing things you enjoy, listening to music, entertainment, games, or even reading and meditation.
Keep a routine if you are working from home or are temporarily out of work. Continue to get up and go to bed at a reasonable hour. Eat meals at the same time each day and focus on getting healthy right now. Routines give us a sense of normalcy and safety. We know that our emotional health is strongly affected by regular routines; these routines not only help to get us organised, but give us a sense of achievement and accomplishment. Spend some time thinking about the routines that are important to you and those around you, and find clever and safe ways to keep up these routines or create new ones
Notice what you are thinking about and balance your thoughts. Remember, our thoughts are not always true or helpful. Challenge your negative thoughts by asking yourself what a friend would say in the same situation, or ask yourself what evidence do you have for negative thoughts. Whenever you recognise a negative thought balance it with a positive or realistic thought.
Stay connected. It is easy to isolate socially instead of just physically, which can lead to feeling alone, disconnected and unsupported. Continue to reach out to friends via phone, text, email, video conferencing, even letters. Others will appreciate your efforts as much as you would if you knew others wanted to connect with you. Take some time to reflect on which relationships are important to you and how you may stay connected.
Take up a hobby or an interest. With more time at home you may just have time to finish projects you have promised yourself, no matter how big or small. Plant out a garden, paint some furniture or a whole room, learn bonsai, write a blog, buy some paints and drawing materials and get creative, do a course or two, learn to cook a new recipe, learn to bake bread. Time is on your side for once.
Remember to exercise. A walk outside can really help with perspective. It may be time to get the bike out of the shed and pump up the tyres. The link between exercise and good mental health is strong.
And remember, this will end one day and our ability to adapt and show resilience as humans is remarkable. Tap into that resilience and ask yourself, what is one thing I can do this week that will impact my future or add to my wellbeing? Make a list and make a start.