With some 12 million Australians currently experiencing lockdown, it’s no wonder that doing everything in your day in the same place, perhaps even the same room, can start to weigh on your mental health.
If this is you, the first thing to remember is that you’re not alone. Thousands of Aussies across the country are experiencing similar struggles right now. Feeling down during a global pandemic when all of the things we normally do to make ourselves feel better have been stripped away is totally normal.
Studies from across the world have shown a marked increase in people reporting symptoms of depression and anxiety. One study in the UK found that the lockdown has been particularly hard on women, young people, and those with young children.
If you feel your mental health weighing on you during the current lockdowns, here’s what you can do.
Check-in with yourself
There’s a lot happening right now. If you’re constantly being bombarded with information, the world can be a very overwhelming place so it’s important to check in with yourself every now and then to get a gauge for how you’re really feeling.
We have a tendency to ignore or not prioritise our own mental health. It makes sense because it’s less visible, less obvious, and easier to brush aside for the moment until it becomes a real problem.
Have a quick check right now. Are you holding tension in your body anywhere? In your shoulders? In your jaw? Do you feel tight in your chest? Is your mouth dry? Is your heartbeat normal?
Have a think about your sleep too. Are you getting enough? Are you struggling to get to sleep? These can be signs that your mental health might not be in the best shape. Sleep can also play a big factor in how you feel too so this could be a good one to prioritise.
Write things down
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all this abstract stuff that you need to do, making a list is an easy way to take a bit more control.
Write down everything you need to do and then break that down into smaller, achievable things you would need to do to accomplish those bigger things.
This list can then be turned into a daily routine of small things to achieve to keep on top of the bigger stuff. Take it all one day at a time, it’s really the only approach that you have available.
Not every day will be good. Not every day will be bad. Remember that.
— Headspace (@Headspace) June 21, 2021
Writing down how you’re feeling can be a big help. The Black Dog Institute recommends doing this by setting an alarm on your phone or a reminder in your calendar to have a set time each day or each week to assess your feelings.
Write down on a scale of one to 10 how stressed, anxious, or down you’re feeling.
“It is normal for these scores to go up and down each day and throughout the week,” the institute says.
If you do notice that your scores are increasing or remaining particularly high, then you know it’s time to prioritise your mental health.
There is also an online test you can take which will give you a slightly more detailed picture of your own mental health too.
Take a break from technology
Keeping up to date is important but there comes a time when it can be damaging. Social media has a lot to answer for when it comes to our own mental health and a lot of what we spend our time doing on our phones and laptops is not great for our own wellbeing.
Taking a break from technology can be really helpful in taking control of your own mental health.
Most phones have time limits you can set for yourself on apps like Facebook and Instagram. If you feel like you can’t stop yourself from picking up your phone and endlessly scrolling, turning those apps off on your phone can be really useful.
Keep your phone or laptop in another room while you do something different in order to lessen the temptation to pick it up.
Screens and technology in the hours before bed can also really affect our sleep, so making a conscious decision to put them away before going to bed is a good idea.
There are few things more likely to stress you out than scrolling until you fall asleep and then scrolling as soon as you wake up. Taking your phone out of your bedroom and getting an alarm clock to wake you up instead will help to combat that screen addiction.
Exercise is your friend
The benefits of exercise really can’t be overstated. Filling your body with the endorphins that you’re missing from social contact is a definite mood-lifter and will help with your sleep and metabolism too.
Although gyms are shut in large parts of the country, that doesn’t mean you can’t work up a sweat.
There is tonnes of information online about how to do home workouts with little to no equipment. It doesn’t have to be super full on either; a quick, 10-minute yoga session that you can follow along to in the morning is a great way to start your day.
Even if exercise is not your thing, ensuring that you get outside every day for a quick walk is really important and you’ll find just a bit of time outside stretching your legs is going to give you a little boost through the day.
Help is available
If you need help, don’t wait. There is absolutely no reason to feel ashamed or embarrassed about your own mental health.
Getting your mental health in order is as normal as going to the doctor for any other medical issue and you wouldn’t put off a broken leg (or for that matter a dry cough). Mental health is the same.
Happiness can only ever be found in the here and now, and it arises from within.#mindfulness
— Everyday Mindfulness (@MindfulEveryday) June 25, 2021
According to the latest data, some 45% of the population will experience a mental health issue in their lifetime. Over the past 12 months, 20% of people will have experienced a mental health issue. That’s one in five people.
Anxiety and depression are the most common mental health issues and the pandemic is likely to have increased our rates of these conditions.
If you have a mental health treatment plan, which is very easy to get when speaking to a GP, you can get 12 free counselling sessions per year covered under the PBS.
Last year, the government announced a further 10 sessions per year would be made available to those who need it.
Of course, mental health services are fairly over-prescribed at the minute and you may find yourself having to wait several months to be seen. If you need help right away, places like Lifeline are available 24 hours a day and you can always pick up the phone to speak with someone there about your issues.
If you can afford it, private psychologists and therapists can be found online in your area who can see you much more quickly than a PBS service. There are also great apps like Headspace and Headgear which can offer mental health resilience training and mindfulness practices to incorporate into your everyday.
Remember, things change, life goes up and down, and you will get through this.
If you or anyone you know is struggling and needs support, call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14, both of which provide trained counsellors you can talk with 24/7. You can also speak with someone confidentially at Headspace by calling 1800 650 890 or chat online here. If you are in immediate danger, call 000.