By Jessica Darvell (Clinical Psychologist). MPsych(Clin.),GradDipPsych, BCom/BSc.
2020 is an unprecedented year. We are all affected in different ways, but for everyone this is not shaping up to be the year we had thought we would be having. Our lives have changed, our plans have changed, and our mental health has changed.
I listen to clients, friends, family, neighbours, shop keepers and people I meet. I hear that people are experiencing any combination of fear, uncertainty, stress, worry, financial strain, change, isolation, loneliness, exhaustion and much more.
As we begin to adjust, now more than ever we need to care for our minds and for ourselves, to notice our thinking, to attend to our needs, and to nurture our feelings. Here are 10 endurance tips for your mental health to survive this time; half are practical things you can do, and half are within our minds and our thinking.
Practical Things You Can Do:
- Maintain a routine – Even if you are in isolation, start your day the way you would when you used to go out. For example, get up and get dressed, eat breakfast, do some exercise instead of your commute to work, take a lunch break and take tea breaks. If you don’t have work to do, schedule home activities into your day (like cooking, cleaning, drawing, gardening, making something, organising, or contacting people). Schedule in catch ups with people over the phone or with video calls. If you have children at home with you, schedule in rest times and activity times (like a school day).
- Exercise. Move your body in some way every day. This is so important to keep you feeling well; for your body but mostly for your mind. E.g walk around the block, do YouTube exercise videos, walk around your house, lift books, stretch, dance, do yoga, try Tai Chi.
- Shower and get dressed every day. It sounds obvious, but if you are in isolation and aren’t going out, sometimes we let these things slip. Although you won’t necessarily go anywhere, it is important to maintain day and night to keep some consistency and routine. You will feel better for it.
- Avoid watching and reading the news too much. Remember that many news outlets are paid by you clicking on their headlines – for this reason headlines are catchy and anxiety provoking. Try to limit your time reading the news to a set period, for example 30 minutes per day, and not before bed. Use reputable websites such as https://www.health.gov.au
- Use social media to keep in touch and to cheer you up, not to fuel your fear. Reading and listening to the fears and worry of other people will only make you feel worse. Notice how you are feeling on social media and if you are feeling more scared and worse when using it then turn it off. Some other ideas are to watch funny clips, listen to music, watch comedians, log on to the zoo live stream, learn dance routines, learn a new hobbie, read about interesting and thought provoking topics, chat to your friends and family about their days.
Important Ways to Nurture Your Mind:
- Believe in your ability to cope. Often when we are scared and worried we underestimate our ability to cope. As individuals we are much stronger than we realise. We are more resilient than we think we are. As a community we are strong, as people we are strong.
- Notice catastrophising. Catastrophising is when we imagine the worst case scenario. It is when our thoughts snowball and jump ahead to very scary and disastrous scenarios that are often very unrealistic. These are thoughts, not predictions, not glimpses into the future, they are scary thoughts that make us feel worse.
- Be aware of worry. Identify if you are preoccupied or worrying. Remember that worrying that something will come true, does not increase the likeliness of that thing happening.
- Be present. We can control the moment now, the present, we cannot control the future. So try to keep your thinking in the present, where you are safe. If you feel worried about the future, ask yourself, right now in this moment ‘Am I safe?’. Be mindful of the here and now using your 5 senses.
- Focus on what is in your control. You can control how much news you watch, you can control how you use social media, you can control how you distance yourself from others, you can control where you put your hands, you can control your kindness and grace, you can control your behaviour, you can control your attitude, you can control what you do in your home.
**If you need more support with your mental health during this time you should speak to your GP.
GPs and health services including Psychologists in Australia are now offering bulk billed telehealth (phone and video sessions).
For more info on my psychology practice in Newport, how psychology works, and how to access telehealth please contact us.**
Some more helpful resources:
Lifeline: 13 11 14 or www.lifeline.org.au
Men’s Line Australia: 1300 789 978 or www.mensline.org.au
Kids Help Line: 1800 551 800 or www.kidshelp.com.au
Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636or www.beyondblue.org.au/
Women’s Help: 1 300 134 130 or http://www.wire.org.au
Suicide Helpline Victoria: 1300 651 251