With Australia transitioning into a new normal of going back into the office and interacting with others, it is natural to feel anxious and stressed.
It is important that throughout this time you are taking care of your mental health and checking in with yourself.
Here are seven ways you can work on your mental health.
- If you feel overwhelmed, talk to a health worker, social worker, similar professional, or another trusted person in your community.
- Draw on skills that you have used in the past during difficult times to manage your emotions during the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Try to keep to a routine. If you are at home more than usual, set your alarm to get up at the same time each day, have a shower, put on your favourite clothes and try to maintain a routine. It will feel different than your normal but it will help.
- Be creative. If you have good ideas for keeping your mind busy and healthy, share them with others.
- Anxiety is normal, talk about it. Lots of people feel the same way. Listen to your mind and body, anxiety is a feeling like any other. Don’t try to push it away, acknowledge that it is anxiety.
- Acknowledge your sense of achievement when you have tried something new or feel good about something.
- Try something new. Look on YouTube for creative ideas of new things to try. Bake a cake, try some origami. Learn something new and teach it to someone else, if possible.
Your physical health also has a big effect on your mental health and can have a positive impact on your wellbeing.
Here are 5 tips to take care of your physical health.
- Have a plan on where to go and seek help for physical and mental health and psychosocial needs, should you need them.
- Download a couch to 5k app if you haven’t run before. It is a great way of staying healthy and active.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle (including a proper diet, sleep, exercise and social contact with loved ones). Keep in touch with family and friends through email, phone calls and social media.
- If you are missing the gym or want to try to up your exercise level, use a YouTube video or online coach to motivate you.
- Stay active – go for a walk each day, try to see the sky and breathe fresh air every day. Pay attention to your surroundings. Notice the colours and sounds around you.
COVID-19 has made connecting with friends and family very difficult and the social isolation has had a big impact on people’s mental health.
Here are 5 ways for you to stay connected with your loved ones to help combat these emotions.
- Start a Netflix group, watch the same series as friends and chat online about it.
- Try to stay connected to friends and family members as much as you can. Social isolation is difficult but stay connected and make the effort to use your preferred social media platform to video call friends.
- Have a virtual music party or share a playlist. Enjoy your favourite music.
- Ask your friends how they are keeping busy and active, they may have some really good ideas.
- Read a book, start an online book club.
When returning to work, study and other activities you might feel physical sensations such as:
- shortness of breath;
- butterflies in your stomach or queasiness;
- feeling like your face is red or flush; or
- racing heart.
You may also think things such as:
- ‘I don’t want to do this’;
- ‘I am scared or uncomfortable when I go out’;
- ‘No one in class will have missed me’;
- ‘Who would want to hang out with me?’;
- ‘They all think I am strange’;
- ‘What if I can’t think of anything to say?’;
- ‘No one will want to sit next to me in class’;
- ‘What if they notice I am anxious?’;
- ‘Life doesn’t feel the same’; or
- ‘Can I talk about COVID-19?’
You might even find yourself behaving differently. This may include:
- avoiding hanging out with friends;
- staying home or avoiding leaving home;
- increasing your use of alcohol, tobacco or drugs;
- making excuses to avoid activities or seeing friends;
- arguing or fighting with friends or family;
- refusing to go to school; or
- avoid talking in class or at work.
These are all normal reactions to the feeling of anxiety. You may have not been around friends, teachers or other people for some time, it is completely normal to feel anxious about normal life resuming.
There are a number of strategies you can try when you are feeling like this.
- Address Negative Thoughts
Negative thoughts are a common feature of anxiety in social situations. Try and remind yourself that many other people are also feeling the same and will also be feeling anxious in similar ways or having similar thoughts.
- Name Your Feelings
When people feel anxious, it is normal to try to avoid the unpleasant physical sensations (e.g. butterflies in your stomach, panic, shortness of breath, etc.). Anxiety is a normal emotion, just like all the other emotions we have every day. It is ok to name anxiety as we all feel it. By talking about anxiety, it sometimes loses its power over you.
- Take Small Steps
If you’re feeling anxious about life not being the same as it was before the COVID-19 outbreak, try to take small steps and do something that doesn’t feel as scary for you. For example, if you are feeling anxious about returning to school, start walking past school a few days before you return or ask to meet a friend you trust to walk to school together.
- Set Goals To Build Up Your Confidence
Everyone will need a different approach to feeling confident to do tasks they haven’t performed for a while. Some may benefit from a relaxed approach and set one to two goals in the lead up to performing the task itself. Others may benefit from clear goals set each day – you can imagine it to be a bit like a step ladder towards the final goal, so that every task you do becomes more complex or might initially cause you a bit more anxiety.
- Talk To People You Trust
Remember, adjusting back to our lives is something we are all doing together. Sharing your thoughts and feelings in a safe space will help normalise what we are going through. If this doesn’t help, seek help from a parent/carer, teacher or someone you trust.
- SEEK INFORMATION AND SUPPORT
Look for information about anxiety online. People in your support network might be able to help you with this. If it’s available to you, you could also see your GP or mental health professional for extra help (but make sure to follow the advice of healthdirect if you’re showing symptoms or are in self-isolation).