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How to maintain your mental health as we re-enter another lockdown

Well it happened!! Last week, despite all the hard work and sacrifices made by so many Melburnians, Greater Melbourne was put back into stage 3 lockdown restrictions! I have spoken to so many people regarding this – and I am seeing people’s reactions on social media, and to say the mood is low is an understatement. People are frustrated, people are exhausted and people are concerned. But we all know it had to happen, and now we need to make sure we take care of ourselves, and those around us that we care about.

The one thing that seems particularly striking about the coronavirus is its ability to infiltrate almost every aspect of people’s lives - from their sense of financial security, relationships with others, to their overall mental health. Experts have advised that there is quite a strong association between loneliness, social interaction and mental health outcomes.

The first thing for us to remember is that, although the lockdown experience will be different this time round (as the entire country is not affected), we will get through this – we have done it before, and we will do it again. Most will be able to navigate the situation a little easier as it is somewhat familiar ground. While we will still have feelings of uncontrollability and uncertainty, we are being advised to focus on the elements we can control.

Stay connected! Whilst we might not be able to have those face to face interactions, that as humans we crave, it is important that we stay connected and emotionally close to those that we care about - even though we must remain apart. Use work and family as a welcome distraction from what’s going on – there are a myriad of connection tools that we have at our fingertips. Mental health and human connection is critical during these difficult times - so don't forget to check in on each other and don't underestimate the comfort that a phone call can bring!

Routine and sleep is also really important – keep an eye on your use of alcohol as it is known to disturb sleep.

Eat as nutritional as possible, and get as much exercise as possible – even if that’s just incidental exercise around your house or apartment. If you’re like me, you promised you would use the last lockdown period to exercise more (the couch won out in the end, as it did for so many) – I think people are more committed to ensuring it happens this time (including myself). Finding the motivation can sometimes be hard, but let’s face it – we all feel better after even just a small amount of exercise (remember, it can be as simple as going for a walk).

Try to avoid things that make you feel stressed or anxious, in particular, the constant news updates about the pandemic. Although it is important to stay in the know, if the media or social media is making you feel worried or stressed, it is best to try and limit your exposure to it. What we do know is, although we are going through a “second wave”, we are faring better than a lot of countries around the world.

We also need to avoid trying to place blame and single out responsibility – I think this only causes anger and resentment in those who have been complying with social distancing and hygiene – and this is very unhealthy for mental health. We also risk creating the unintended stigmatisation of perceptions of groups of people – creating further feelings of isolation for some.

We must do what we need to do to support ourselves (while still following the public health advice), and remember…. get help if you need it. Pick up the phone and call one of the many mental health services available to everyone – counsellors will be able to give you immediate strategies to help deal with your situation, as well as coping strategies.

Crisis support services can be reached 24 hours a day: Lifeline 13 11 14; Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467; Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800; MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78; Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636

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