There are 2 things we need for mental health:

  1. personal autonomy – the ability to make our own decisions about our lives with some certainty and predictability
  2. social connection – meaningful & healthy relationships with family, friends, work colleagues and communities.

The pandemic has disrupted both these things which is why experts are calling the mental health effects of the frightening spread of the virus and the control measures such as lockdowns the “shadow pandemic”. Indeed there are many life events which can similarly disrupt these two important factors – serious illness, divorce, caring duties and so on.

There are a number of simple strategies we can use to protect our minds and bodies from the harmful effects of this chronic stress and uncertainty. The key is to have a plan for monitoring your stress levels and review and renew this plan each day:

  1. Structure your day, put some routines in place. These are the things you CAN control.
  2. Incorporate daily exercise into your plan – it might be a quick walk around the block, going for a run or a swim, 20 minutes of yoga or an online workout in your living room.
  3. Try and get outside for at least 20 minutes a day – sit out in the sun with a cup of tea or exercise outside if you can.
  4. Ensure you have regular contact with others and are checking in with them. A phone call to a friend or family member, maybe an online cup of tea or a video chat. Chat about how you are coping and ask them how they are doing. Maybe arrange to meet up for a socially distanced walk provided local public health orders allow.
  5. Healthy eating – comfort food is so tempting at this time and fine in moderation but try and balance it with plenty of fruit and veg and wholegrains. A nutritious and balanced diet has been shown to boost mood levels.
  6. Adequate sleep – try and get to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Try and limit screens, especially the news or emails, an hour or two before bed and even keep them out of the bedroom.
  7. Keep an eye on unhelpful coping strategies – an over-reliance on alcohol or excessive news consumption are two examples. Social media can be a positive way to maintain connections but regular breaks from it are important too.
  8. You may want to limit your exposure to the news. Whilst it’s important to stay informed to keep yourself and your loved ones safe, checking a reputable news site or the NSW Health website once or twice a day is OK.

Signs that things may not be working include difficulty sleeping, feeling irritable, over-reliance on alcohol, feeling tired all the time, difficulty concentrating or being forgetful. This might mean you need to review your plan or, especially if you have been experiencing these things persistently for 2-3 weeks, that you should talk to someone. Your GP is a good place to start, we are here to help and are available for telehealth consults over the phone, via video or, of course, in person.

Further resources & crisis support:

For kids and young people:

13 11 14

Beyond Blue
1300 22 4636

Kids Help Line
1800 55 1800

Book appointment