By Jaimie Bloch, Australian Clinical Psychologist
This second year of the pandemic has hit harder. And it is been felt a lot more intensely.
So it’s never been more important to know how to keep mentally healthy during this pandemic.
We are ALL experiencing pandemic fatigue. And when the body and mind experience prolonged anxiety and uncertainty, emotional and physical exhaustion can set in.
Let’s recap: 2020 had its own challenges with the emergence of COVID-19 and extreme uncertainty.
Then 2021 started with much the same uncertainty with on and off lockdowns – this meant no reprieve or break for anyone. Creating the perfect storm for the current fatigue most of the population will be feeling.
People are finding themselves in situations where their employment is unpredictable, they might not have seen their interstate and overseas family for over 18 months and many parents are at their emotional breaking points.
This current situation is also especially difficult for young Australians. Schools and learning have been heavily disrupted and the workplace has transformed from in-person contact to online so people are more isolated and vulnerable than ever before.
How to keep mentally healthy during this pandemic
Lockdowns and pandemic fatigue can feel like a rollercoaster of emotions, however it’s important to remember that there are small things you can do to support yourself through challenging times. When approaching wellbeing, it’s important to focus on the mind, body and soul all together.
Here are my top tips to approaching each of these:
Routine: Routine is your best friend! Our brains crave regularity and work best when there is a flexible routine in place. In its simplest form, our routine should include regular wake and sleep times.
Be grateful and write about it: This current year has paused many of us, which can create a sense of hopelessness. When we feel hopeless it is hard to remember the things that we do have going on or the things we are grateful for. When we make time to sit and take note of the great things, no matter how small, it can help us refocus our attention on what is going well in our lives to give us a mood boost.
Self-compassion: When we have hard days it is important to teach your internal voice to be your biggest coach and advocate. When we are down, we don’t need to be harsh and criticise ourselves, this will only make our mood worse and our thoughts more negative. Try coming up with a personal mantra you can recite when you are feeling down that involves being kind and compassionate.
Move your body: We all know the scientifically proven benefits of moving our bodies. So if you want to know how to support your mental wellbeing – get active. If you sit in a chair or lie down all day long your body stops producing feel-good endorphins and hormones. Stretch, move, dance, just activate those muscles in any way that feels good.
Nourish your immune system: Make sure you are eating well. Our body needs vitamins like vitamin C and vitamin D to help us produce feel-good hormones and endorphins and to keep our immune system strong. Our bodies are just like car engines, and without the fuel of good food and hydration, they won’t be performing at their best. Ways to improve your vitamin intake can
be as simple as just eating one Zespri SunGold Kiwifruit a day, which has 100% of our vitamin C intake in one tasty little package.
Learn to relax: We are not good at relaxing in our achievement-driven society but without learning how to unwind, our bodies will be holding on to a lot of tension. When our muscles are tight and our bodies are functioning in anxiety and feeling overwhelmed, it is hard to turn off and get the rest our body needs. Simple body meditations like progressive muscle relaxation or
a warm bath are great ways to start learning to relax.
Focus on your passions: We may not feel like we have any time right now but make the time to start an old passion or find a new one. Right now is a great time to learn a new skill or start that passion project you have been putting off. There is no time like the present!
Get outside and into nature: Walking outside and seeing greenery, smelling the sea or just looking up at the sky is good for the soul. There is scientific proof that nature calms our nervous system and induces relaxation hormones.
Surround yourself with positive discussions: When we are feeling hopeless or unmotivated, borrow someone else’s motivation. This may be talking to friends and family who are positive influences or even start listening to an inspiring podcast. Inspiration and the positive mindsets of others can actually influence us and help to rewire our own mindset.