A mental health check-in

2 July 2021

If the last couple of weeks have left you with a sense of 'here we go again', you're not alone.

More than a year into the pandemic, many Australians find themselves back in lockdown, while others face tighter restrictions.  

These changes to our day-to-day activities can throw us off course and leave us experiencing many of the negative emotions associated with 2020 - according to Clinical Psychologist, Dr Amy Dawel, this is expected. 

"Pandemic-induced changes, such as lockdowns and mask wearing, disrupt our routine," Amy says. 

"There are going to be large individual differences in how people feel and why. The important thing is to pay attention to any feelings of anxiety and acknowledge this is a normal response to stressful and uncertain times." 

The good news is that there are strategies that can help us get back on track, and one of the simplest is to establish a new routine as soon as possible. 

This doesn't have to involve a big overhaul and can be as simple as implementing a new daily habit. 

"People are realising there is a lot of overlap between what we need to do to stay physically healthy and what keeps us mentally healthy,

"Stress can be reduced by something as simple as sticking to regular meal and bed times, and exercising daily." 

For those who have had to go back to working from home, Amy suggests working in a different room to where you eat and sleep, where possible. 

Alternatively, you can use routine activities to separate your work from your living time. For example, by putting your laptop away and going for a short walk to signal work time is done for the day. 

Our sense of community has also been disrupted, especially for those studying or working remotely, and it is important to acknowledge that feeling isolated or disconnected from community is normal under these circumstances.  

Despite the physical distance we face during the pandemic, Amy says it's important that we find ways to connect as best as we can because of the critical role social connection plays in emotional health.  

"The types of incidental contact we normally have go by the wayside when we are locked down,

"Making time each day to deliberately reach out to others helpful. A bit of extra kindness and self-compassion can go a long way." 

Whilst these simple strategies will be enough for some, it is important to acknowledge that for others the disruption caused by the pandemic is more severe than a disruption to routine, with significant social and financial impact also being felt. 

A longitudinal study conducted by Amy and colleagues from the Research School of Psychology and the Research School of Population Health at ANU shows that, during the first lockdown, almost twice as many people experienced clinical-level symptoms of depression or anxiety than is usual.  

If you're feeling the impacts of COVID-19, you can reach out for support or learn more about how you can make wellbeing a priority during this time