Walking around Melbourne right now looks like some sort of dystopia.
The streets are empty.
Everyone is wearing masks.
And, the weather is freezing.
Whenever life gets a bit “blargh” I clutch onto my good old self soothing strategies of hanging out on the couch with my sister, relishing my morning coffee or going out for dinner with a girlfriend.
When my clients are experiencing struggle town, I suggest similar things (as do all psychologists): Socialise, get outside and do some fun things – e.g. go to the movies.
However, here we all are in Stage 4 restrictions… stripped of our comforts and our usual “pick me ups”. It feels like one of those dreams where you realise you’re naked and desperately trying to find your clothes! If you haven’t had one of these dreams, trust me, they’re horrifying!
So while COVID-19 not only affects people’s livelihoods – e.g. job loss, work-from-home, childminding strains, financial stress, etc – we cannot utilise the typical comforting strategies that would normally lift our spirits.
So, how do you cope under Stage 3 and 4 restrictions if you’re in struggle town?
There are two major things you can do to increase your resilience during these difficult times.
Go back to basics
It might sound simple, but by going back to basics and doing these REALLY WELL, you will re-instate a sense of control and self confidence. What do I mean by basics? I mean: Eating well, establishing a good sleep routine, exercising, ensuring you’re safe and healthy, staying on top of life admin and attending to basic self-care (more here in blog post Self-care: What the Heck?).
This time of isolation is an opportunity to change some habits and get the basics right. According to popular and well-founded theory of human needs, known as Maslows Hierachy of Needs, you need to be able to adequately satisfy your basic “physiological” and “safety” needs to be able to attend to less essential needs of “belongingness and love” and “esteem”.
Start by knowing that the COVID-19 pandemic will one day be over; it’s not a forever situation. There will be either a treatment or vaccine that will allow us to resume normalcy. While experts express varying opinions on when this will occur, the time will come around. As well, not all of the waiting around will be under significant lockdown, especially as our community and government becomes wiser in effectively manage the spread of COVID-19.
It’s important to also remain optimistic and notice the positives. First, Australia is managing COVID-19 very well in comparison to other countries around the world. Our health system is not over-run, where we are still able to care for the sick and vulnerable. As well, the likelihood of catching COVID-19 is very low for most of the community.
What to do if your mental health is suffering?
More than ever, it’s important to care for your health and wellbeing. If you’re struggling to cope, a psychologist will be able to help you improve your mood and wellbeing. Psychologists are trained in evidence-based therapies for anxiety, depression, eating disorders, stress, trauma, relationship issues and chronic health issues.
At the moment, our team of Melbourne-based psychologists are offering support via Telehealth. Fortunately, there are rigorous studies to show psychology Telehealth is just as effective as in-person¹ and the relationship with the therapist is the same, if not enhanced².