UPDATED & REVISED article ‘COVID-19 and its impacts on our Mental Health’ 26 Oct, 2020.
As I write this Coronavirus continues to change the world and therefore continues to have a significant impact on everyone on the planet. Even if we haven’t contracted the virus and don’t know anyone who has, the way we live and our day to day lives have changed.
Covid19 has created fear, uncertainty and a loss of control in many aspects of our daily lives.
It’s also affected home life. These factors alone can lead to worry, stress, anxiety, and in some cases depression.
We learnt early in the process that without a vaccine, managing the virus came down to three key things: we need to wash our hands regularly, keep a physical distance of at least 1.5 metres from others and, in some cases, physically isolate.
Other than that, most of us have felt powerless to do anything else.
Now with vaccines available there appears to be a way forward.
My blog today is not intended to present a for or against argument for vaccination.
That’s not my area of expertise.
The area where I believe I can make a contribution is in the area of improving mental health through these times.
Human beings like to be in control.
There are a number of areas we can control and plenty that we can’t.
I’ve made a conscience decision to focus on areas in my life that I can control.
It certainly saves on energy for one thing … my energy.
Nothing will drain us quicker than constantly focusing on things out of our control.
One of the areas I find I can control, which made an enormous difference to my wellbeing is how much media I consume daily.
I work in the media, so ignoring the covid situation is impossible. My job is to provide information on the radio and I do.
When I’m off air and my commitments for the day are done I want to know the key things.
- The areas where there have been casual contacts.
- The number of positive covid cases via the Premier’s media conference.
- Whether the rules around the current lockdown have been changed or modified.
- As long as my immediate family are in the loop that’s about all I want to know.
I don’t want to consume media reports 24hrs a day, 7 days a week as this can lead to overload.
Many people I know become more stressed, more worried, and more anxious because of the constant messages that are available and absorbing every single detail is exhausting.
While all this is going on, work, family, home-schooling, bills, other illnesses, elderly parents to care for, childcare and core relationships still have to be managed.
This is a time that we expect a lot from ourselves.
My tip, give yourself a break.
What I mean here is don’t beat yourself up because you can’t be everything to everyone.
At the moment practice selfcare.
If you’re as good as you can be, everyone else in your life will benefit enormously and you will feel better as a result.
One of the character traits that we can have is perfectionism and striving to be perfect is not helpful at the best of times but right now is certainly not the time to try.
Even Pre-Covid, perfection isn’t healthy. Perfectionists spend three quarters of their day trying to be perfect and the other quarter beating themselves up when they’re not.
That’s an insight coming from a reformed perfectionist.
Perfectionism is a one-way ticket to disappointment. I know, from my own experience, that to fight constantly with life leaves you exhausted, anxious and stressed.
As much as we all love to be in control, there is so much more in life that we are not able to take control of, so having an acceptance of that can reduce stress immediately.
So, for what it’s worth, here’s what I do to minimise the bumps and bruises of lockdown.
- Better hydration
Most of us are dehydrated. Even though we feel like we don’t need to drink any more water, our bodies need a minimum of 1500mm a day.
- Better diet
I find it’s helpful to eat more unprocessed foods. When we are stressed we tend to eat more sugar, salt, fats and consume more alcohol.
Sleep pattern is very important. The impact of disrupted sleep affects your mood, it affects the ability for your body to recover, it can affect your cognitive function and concentration levels. Lack of sleep slows down recovery time for injury and illness.
Nature is underestimated as a way of managing stress and anxiety. Get outside, if you can, and get some sunshine, natural vitamin D, and exercise. It doesn’t have to be high intensity; just walking around the block is better than nothing. Walk along the beach, around town, wherever. Fresh air is fantastic.
- Have fun at home
Play music, dance, embarrass your children, read an inspiring, uplifting book, watch a TV series or documentary that you hadn’t had time to watch.
Talk to someone if you are overwhelmed. It does help and it is important. It could be a friend, your partner, a work colleague, a counsellor, your GP, or a psychologist. Don’t be embarrassed, it’s our wellbeing we’re talking about here. Lifeline is always there for a chat 13 1114.
- Look out for one another
If you see a change in a family member or a friend or a work colleague, don’t be afraid to ask them if they are going okay.
Right now we need to slow down, get back to basics, and learn to enjoy a slower life.
- Breathing exercises reduce anxiety.
- Yoga reduces anxiety.
- Meditation reduces anxiety.
- All of these practices can be done at home and be guided by online presentations