The potential for COVID-19 to impact mental health was recognised early in the pandemic. Measures necessary to contain the virus’ spread such as widespread restrictions on movement, social distancing measures, physical isolation, loss of employment and social interaction, remote working and home schooling – were all geared to negatively impact mental health.
Stress, confusion and anger are commonplace as a result of the pandemic resulting in increased anxiety, depression, PTSD and substance misuse.
It’s never been more imperative for people of all ages to focus on their mental health and utilise strategies to assist coping with the effects of COVID-19.
The Mental Health Movement recommends checking in with yourself to effectively manage your mental health and wellbeing. The first step is to identify contributing factors to your mental health and how these have changed over time. Even incremental shifts over time can culminate in longer term impact.
Self-awareness is vital in managing mental health MHM recommends regularly reviewing ‘Your mental health cup’ illustrated below by Identifying all factors potentially contributing to your mental load.
Recognising that it’s ok to have a bad day or week, however prolonged changes in your health and happiness – three weeks or longer – is the professional indicator highlighting it is time to take action and seek appropriate support.
Implement coping strategies to support your mental health
There are several ways to positively support your mental health through the pandemic.
1. Stay connected and maintain communication with your loved ones
“This is a difficult time for many of us because as human beings, we like to have control over our environment,” says health psychologist Amy Sullivan, PsyD, ABPP. Dr. Sullivan believes that by remaining social during times of uncertainty, we can maintain a sense of control in our lives.
Regularly check in with your friends and family to stay connected – seeking fun ways to interact. These are some recommendations to consider.
- Distant dinner parties
- Virtual book club chats
- Game nights
- Virtual tours of museums, art galleries, parks and other recreational activities.
2. Engage in healthy activities you enjoy which are relaxing
Avoid too much screen time and allow yourself to switch off by dedicating more time to your hobbies or starting something you have wanted to try but haven’t had the time. These may include
- Cooking or baking
- Playing a musical instrument
- Reading or writing – try mind mapping your life’s future
- Riding or hiking
- Learning a new language.
3. Utilise the benefits of exercise
Exercise and Sport Science Australia (ESSA) research demonstrates that as little as 60 minutes of physical activity per week could prevent up to 17% of incident cases of depression. Exercise offers a wide range of positive benefits towards aiding our mental health, including mitigating and reducing stress and enabling our minds to remain clear and focused during the pandemic.
There’s a wide range of online resources with numerous at home workout programs you can participate in, with or without weights.
In addition to regular exercise, experts recommend meditation, yoga and breathing techniques as beneficial coping strategies. There are a number of meditation and breath work apps available including HeadSpace or Calm. Visit your local yoga studio’s website as many offer virtual classes.
4. Ensure you have a good nights sleep
Sleep is a critical biological process and as we juggle the mental, physical and emotional demands of the pandemic, not being sleep deprieved is arguably more critical because:
- Sleep empowers an effective immune system. Solid nightly rest strengthens our body’s defences
- Sleep heightens our brain functions and our mind works better when we get efficient sleep. A good night’s rest contributes to complex thinking, learning, memory and decision-making. For adults and children adapting to work and at-home schooling, good sleep assists the mind to remain sharp.
- Sleep enhances moods. Lack of sleep can make a person irritable, reduce their energy levels and cause or heighten feelings of depression and anxiety.
5. Create healthy eating habits
Eating a nourishing, balanced diet impacts our overall sense of wellbeing and while the pandemic continues to affect everyday life, a healthy, nutritional approach is imperative towards supporting our mental health.
6. Maintain a healthy work-life balance
If you are working from home ensure you are allocating specific work hours, taking regular breaks and if possible, creating a dedicated workspace conducive to being productive.
7. Avoid news and social media if this is filling your mental health cup
Monitor your daily screen time and the potential negative impact on your mood and energy levels of media and social media channels. Switch off and focus your energy on the things you can control not what is beyond your control.
8. Seek support
If you or a loved one requires further support there are a number of available options.
- Black Dog Institute– a complimentary online clinic providing a mental health assessment tool and other support services.
- Head to Health– assists you in finding digital mental health and wellbeing resources.
- Lifeline(13 11 14 – operates 24/7) – provides crisis support and suicide prevention services.
- RUOK?– inspires and empowers everyone to meaningfully connect with people and support anyone who may be struggling with life.
- ReachOut – provides practical tools and support to assist young people get through everything from everyday issues to tough times.
- Kids Helpline(1800 55 18 00 – operates 24/7) – a telephone counselling support line for children and young people ages 5 to 25.
14 of the best cycling tracks in Sydney – https://www.sydney.com/things-to-do/adventure-and-sport/cycling/best-cycling-routes
Bushwalks, walking tracks and hikes in Sydney – https://www.sydney.com/things-to-do/nature-and-parks/walks
10 of the best cycling tracks in Melbourne – https://concreteplayground.com/melbourne/travel-leisure/leisure/ten-best-bike-rides-in-melbourne
Melbourne walks – https://www.victoriawalks.org.au/Best_Melbourne_Walks/
Virtual tours of Australia – https://www.australia.com/en/things-to-do/arts-and-culture/virtual-tours-of-australias-top-cultural-experiences.html
Don’t miss Coraggio’s next weekly Special COVID addition outlining ways to alleviate financial pressures including Westpac taking the lead offering business owners interest free cash flow options
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