Isolation is a reality for many people across the world as COVID-19 continues to demand the need for stay-at-home orders and lockdowns. While there is still much uncertainty about how the pandemic will play out over the coming months, especially given the recent lockdown in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, it’s important to prioritise your mental health.
Alongside your own health, checking in with your loved ones who might currently be in quarantine or lockdown is vital in making sure they are travelling OK. While you might not be able to make their physical situation better, you can provide a helpful outlet for them and be a strong source of support during this tricky time.
Looking after your own mental health
When it comes to your own mental health, Dr Lauren Rosewarne, a senior lecturer in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne, advises using social media sparingly.
“Know your triggers,” Dr Rosewarne told The Latch. “If social media fuels your anxiety — if it feels like too much information is coming at you from too many different sources — then you need to limit your access. This might mean muting certain accounts on Twitter or unfollowing certain people on Facebook.”
If you do want to consume news articles about the virus, be picky with what sources you’re obtaining this info from.
“Tuning in to the nightly news or checking government health websites once or twice a day is likely to be enough to keep you informed while not bombarding you with content on a drip-feed basis all day long,” said Dr Rosewarne.
Lastly, try to keep things in perspective and recognise what you can and can’t control during this time.
“Think about where you’re living and what circumstances are like. Think about your own immediate health and those of loved ones rather than catastrophising about what might happen,” said Dr Rosewarne.
“There is no point getting upset and anxious about what everyone else is doing; all you can do is focus on your own health and wellness practices and exert caution to the best of your own ability.”
It could also help to really lean into those TV shows, movies or books that make you happy and provide comfort. The concept of security blanket TV is real and can help you to relax, de-stress and unwind.
How to help those around you
While monitoring your own mental health is a massive priority, checking in with your loved ones is also important as self-isolation can be a daunting prospect for many people. While memes about introverts loving self-quarantine do the rounds online, those who thrive on physical contact and are naturally more extroverted might find this time extremely difficult.
The same goes for those with mental health conditions. People who experience poor mental health might find isolation particularly hard and need some extra support. While we might shy away from social media as a news source, it can also connect us with loved ones.
“There is no better time to feel connected to others from the comfort of your own home,” said Dr Rosewarne. “For all its faults, social media is at its very best when it gives people the feeling of connectivity even if they are geographically far apart.”
Technology offers us a means of connection, and while it can be flawed, it’s so important at the moment.
“Sending notes — emails or texts or messages through your favourite apps — is an effortless way to check-in on loved ones and let them know they’re in your thoughts,” Dr Rosewarne said.
“Think about creative ways to socialise remotely. Can you share a meal with a friend via Skype? Can you make time to have a coffee with a friend over coffee via FaceTime?”
To make your conversations more engaging with a friend or loved one (and help them take their mind off what’s going on), try setting each other a task to complete. Maybe you could each watch the other person’s favourite movie and discuss it on your next phone call. While it might seem trivial, this might be the highlight of someone’s day during a period of isolation.
Dr Rosewarne also recommends searching out resources that are specifically helpful to you or those loved ones who are struggling.
“There are online groups for every situation/interest/medical condition,” she said. “Go online and find your people and, in turn, find a network of support and a deluge of resources specific to circumstances that you’re very unlikely to be alone in.”
Stay safe out there, friends, and be kind to yourself, your loved ones and neighbours.
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.
The health crisis is ever-evolving. If you suspect you or a family member has coronavirus you should call (not visit) your GP or ring the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.