As we have seen in Melbourne, there have been a rise of new COVID-19 cases.
Anyone who has been to any of the current hot spots or has been in contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19 must self-isolate. Even if you are tested and it comes up negative, the Government still wants you to self-isolate for 14 days in case the virus begins to show.
If you are currently self-isolating here a few ways to stay mentally healthy.
*For all Coronavirus related questions call the National Coronavirus Helpline at 1800 020 080. This line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Maintain a routine
Having some kind of daily plan, even if it is small, can help you feel like you feel a sense of control and satisfaction. Try to set an alarm if you know you oversleep, and force yourself to get up and do something. Getting out of bed will help you avoid falling into a slump.
Learn a new skill
The good news is that this virus has forced everything online. This means that you have the world’s knowledge right at your fingertips. There are literally hundreds and thousands of things to learn, whether a short course on Udemy or a longer term course through The University of Sydney.
Self-isolation is not a prison sentence (although it may sometimes feel that way). Stay in touch with friends. Call people and set up virtual hangouts. You are not alone.
Get lost in a book
Find a good story and immerse yourself in it fully! Books are one of the most healthiest forms of escapism. It will keep your mind active, your eyes away from a screen and a time for feelings of anxiety and worry to subside. If reading a book doesn’t feel manageable, try audio books – there are many free ones available online.
Nothing beats going through Netflix and watching every possible show, and re-watching your favourites!
DIY Home Spa
Self-indulge and soak in a bath with a face-mask and spa music. Pamper yourself!
If you have access to a garden, go out and pull out the weeds, mow and rake the lawn, trim the hedges, transfer plants, get your hands dirty. If you don’t have a garden then what about changing up your indoor plants?
Get fancy in the kitchen
Try your own MasterChef at home. Challenge yourself to create something that takes a lot of extra time.
Take time-out from social media and the news
This can be a major buzzkill. Try to find moments in the day when you are not connected to the internet. The news and media in general has become a great source of anxiety at the moment, and there is evidence of people either entirely disengaging or developing almost obsessive tendencies around keeping updated and informed.
Keep a journal
Studies have shown time and time again of the importance of journaling to release our thoughts. It’s almost as good as having your own therapist. Maybe by the end you’ll have some drafts for a book.
Try out meditation
Maybe this could be a good time to tap into your inner self. Try out some meditations to calm your mind. These are some skills that will help you ride the waves of anxiety well beyond your time in self-isolation.
Try out some drawing, or adult colouring books. Drawing has been proven to reduce anxiety and relieve symptoms of depression. It also gives your mind a chance to focus on one thing.
Book an online appointment with a counsellor
If all of all the above is not helping then check our online counsellors page here to learn more about booking an appointment with a mental health professional.
If you’re in need of mental health support, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.
For resources and up-to-date information for COVID-19 in Australia, check out health.gov.au, call the Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080 or speak to your GP.
Uncertainty. More than anything else, this word sums up what most of us have been struggling with during this pandemic.
Uncertainty about how long it will last, uncertainty about money, uncertainty about safety, uncertainty about the future.
What this equates to is a lack of control. This is unsettling and anxiety-inducing to most people but to those with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), this can lead to an unravelling of all the good work you’ve done on yourself to calm your obsessions.
What is OCD?
According to Health Direct, OCD is an anxiety disorder that is made up of two parts:
• obsessions – unwanted, intrusive thoughts, images or urges that repeatedly come into the mind
• compulsions – repetitive behaviours or rituals, that are difficult or impossible to resist doing, which are carried out to reduce anxiety¹
According to Dr Katherine Stewart of Uplift Psychological Services in Redfern, Sydney,
“If you’ve ever thought about falling off a ship in the middle of the ocean without a life jacket, you would know how it feels to experience OCD. Profound fear. The accepted model of treatment is based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which views the problem as obsessions giving rise to anxiety, and this anxiety is then reduced by certain compulsive behaviours, for example ‘checking’. Certainly, the Covid-19 pandemic would be a nightmare scenario for many people suffering from OCD.”
Examples of compulsive actions are excessive hand-washing, checking locks multiple times, walking in distinct patterns on the street, turning doorknobs multiple times, to name a few. This can all be very time-consuming, exhausting and debilitating.
OCD & COVID-19
If you’ve been working on your OCD, going through CBT and beginning to convince yourself that these compulsive actions are not necessary to combat your irrational fears, a global pandemic that suddenly makes these fears a reality can be destabilising, to say the least. Many of your compulsive behaviours have now become World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended actions to prevent the spread of this virus.
People with OCD have reportedly reacted in one of two ways to this pandemic. Some have continued as normal because their everyday ‘norm’ has now become the new norm for everyone else. Their compulsive hand-washing is now a compulsion of the larger population and this makes them feel safer in general. On the other hand, some OCD sufferers are spiralling. All their irrational thoughts have now become rational in terms of the situation and this can be very hard to reconcile in their mind, especially if they have been receiving treatment.
Here are some signs to look out for:
If you notice that the amount of time you’re taking to complete the compulsions is increasing, this may be cause for concern.
Notice if your behaviour is having an impact on other areas of your life. Maybe you’re having relationship issues, struggling at work, battling to sleep, or your exercise or eating routines have been affected.
• Health focus:
You’ve been obsessing over your health and that of your loved ones and your hand-washing or sanitising compulsions have increased.
• Information overload:
You follow the news updates, social media and the COVID-19 statistics websites constantly, to the point that your daily life is affected.
Even after performing your compulsive actions, your anxiety level is unchanged.
People closest to you have commented on your compulsions. You’re feeling out of control and at the end of your rope².
It’s not an easy time, but there are things you can do to help yourself cope until this pandemic eases off and you can go back to your regular treatment to work on your OCD.
Here are some ideas to help you cope:
Be strict with yourself about how much news/social media you view each day.
Give yourself a certain time slot where you are allowed to check the updates on the pandemic. Once the time is over, switch off and continue your life. Constantly checking media can exacerbate your anxiety and your OCD.
Setting a routine
The lack of control and disruption of our routines that this pandemic has caused has unsettled a lot of people. Try to set yourself a daily routine so you feel in control of your life, which can then translate to control of your impulses.
Remember to self-care
We are all going through an unprecedented experience. Go easy on yourself. Many people are struggling at the moment and it’s important to do things that you enjoy, take moments to give yourself happiness and give yourself a break. Activities such as exercising, taking a bath, reading a book, building a puzzle or watching a feel-good movie are examples of self-care.
Monitor your obsessions and compulsions
Keep a journal of your thoughts, actions and the time of day and frequency with which they occur. This will help increase your awareness of patterns, triggers and loops and help you to take steps to reduce these.
Follow recommended advice
There are tips on how to stay safe on the Australian Department of Health website. Follow the advice to the best of your ability and you can rest assured you’ve done everything you can to prevent contracting the virus or spreading it to others.
Reach out digitally to family and friends. It is important to stay connected with your support systems so that you remember that you are not alone. And chances are, those who support you are also needing support right now. Make use of video calls, messaging and voice calls to connect with those you love.
Don’t stop your medication
If you are on medication, do not stop it during this time. This can lead to a strong regression and a spiral into compulsive behaviours. You need to keep your neurochemical balance, especially in this trying time.
Get professional help
If you feel like you are not coping and need professional help, you have options. There are multiple 24-hour free helplines that you can call for immediate advice and help. If you are not already on a Mental Health Care Plan, head to your GP and get a referral to a psychologist or psychiatrist. While a face-to-face consultation might not be possible at the moment, counsellors are conducting sessions over video calls to assist their patients.
Finally, control what you can and try to accept what you cannot. Uncertainty is not a comfortable feeling, but if you can differentiate between the aspects of your life that you can control, it will help you to accept the things that are out of control and will, hopefully, help you to manage your OCD until this situation passes. Dr Stewart notes, “It it is always helpful to know that a thunderstorm becomes insignificant when considering that the vast sky has plenty of space to cope with all kinds of problems”.
We are currently living through an unprecedented time of crisis. COVID-19 took us all by surprise and we were unprepared for its implications and its duration. Most people have found this time challenging for various reasons, be that social isolation, frustration at being locked in or a lack of job security, to name a few. By far, one of the most stressful results of this pandemic is the financial stress it has placed on countless people. Worrying about how to pay your rent or debts can put immense psychological pressure on you and with no definite end in sight, this can wreak havoc on your mental health.
For this reason, we’ve put together some practical options and tips for managing your finances and your mind during this chaotic period so that you can come out the other side with a healthy life and mental state. The first step to improving things is to consider whether financial stress is having an effect on your mental health.
Signs your finances are weighing on you:
- Insomnia or sleep difficulties.
Money worries can adversely affect your sleep, keeping you awake at night or leading you to wake up at 4:00 am witching to ruminate over all your financial (and other) problems.
- Depression or anxiety.
Having ongoing money concerns in the back of your mind can leave you feeling hopeless with a constant knot of worry in your stomach. This will weigh on you and can lead to depression or ongoing anxiety.
- Physical symptoms and delayed treatment.
Stress often manifests itself physically. Perhaps you’ve been having stomach issues, constant headaches, indigestion, high blood pressure or heart disease. Unfortunately, when money is tight, we often delay medical treatment for physical conditions until things are financially easier and that only makes the symptoms worse.
- Weight changes.
We often find comfort in food. Weight gain can be an indicator of mental stress and anxiety. On the other hand, if your stress is causing you stomach issues such as gastritis, you may avoid food and notice a decline in your weight. You may also be eating less or food with less nutritional value to save money.
- Relationship problems.
Arguments around finances and financial stress are one of the main topics that cause strife in relationships at the best of times. In this pandemic time, this is likely to happen more frequently. The financial pressure can make you irritable, short-tempered and less compassionate with your loved ones.
- Unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Sometimes it’s easier to escape reality than to face the stress of reality. Sometimes you just need a break. Unfortunately, this can lead to the abuse of alcohol, drugs, gambling, and addictions such as sex or other vices to distract us, but these can also ultimately destruct us.
If you have noticed any of the above in your life, perhaps it’s time to get help. You don’t need to cope with this alone. Many people are going through a similar experience. You don’t have to worry about the financial aspect either as there are options for free or heavily subsidised mental health support.
Here are a few free or subsidised mental health care options:
Perhaps you prefer not to meet with a counsellor face-to-face and retain complete anonymity. Perhaps you have reached the end of your rope and need some urgent support. There are various free helplines you can call where you can speak to trained mental health professionals.
1300 22 4636
Beyond Blue offers free help and advice on anxiety and depression. They can talk you through a crisis and point you in the right direction for finding solutions and ongoing support. They have options for support via phone, webchat, an online forum and also offer suicide and crisis support.
13 11 14
Lifeline offers a free helpline for adults in distress or who just need to talk to someone. They have many resources on their website for ways to manage your mental health and cope with the current pandemic.
1300 78 99 78
Mensline provide support specifically aimed at men by taking a practical, solutions-oriented approach to counselling.
All three helplines are available 24/7.
Getting a Mental Health Care Plan
If you would like to get ongoing support with a dedicated counsellor, a Mental Health Care Plan might be for you. This would usually give you face-to-face sessions, but due to the current pandemic, session may be via a Telehealth system using phone or video.
In order to qualify for government-subsidised mental health assistance, your first port of call is your GP. They will give you a questionnaire to fill out and if you are suffering from anxiety, depression or related mental health stresses, they will put you on a Mental Health Care Plan and refer you to a counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist. Under this plan, you get six subsidised sessions with a mental health professional per year, but if you need more, you can return to your GP for a referral for a further four sessions. If you are worried about the gap (the difference between what the government will subsidise and what remains of the charge for the session), you can find numerous bulk-billed providers of counselling services that have no gap.
The National Mental Health Commission
The commission has brought together experts from many of Australia’s leading mental health organisations to give practical advice and tips on maintaining good mental health during COVID-19. The campaign is called #InThisTogether and you can watch their videos on Youtube for guidance and support in this time.
As many people are struggling financially right now, the government and numerous institutions and providers have put in place measures to assist Australians with their finances.
Financial assistance, ways to lower debts and survive the crisis:
Many banks are offering concessions such as home loan pauses or reductions, credit card payment deferrals or plan reductions, and personal loan pauses or reductions. Check with your bank on how they can help you reduce your expenses at least until the situation improves.
- Balance transfer credit card
Having to think about paying off a credit card when you’re trying to pay expenses and put food on the table just adds to financial stress. If you move your debt to a balance transfer credit card, you get an introductory interest-free period which can last up to 26 months. See link below for more detailed information.
Health, life and car insurers are doing their bit to help in this time. Many of them are offering options to clients who are struggling financially. Contact your providers to see if they can do anything for you, even if it means suspending your cover for a period or changing to a different insurer.
- Energy, internet and mobile providers
Many service providers are also being lenient in order to help their clients come through financially. Contact your providers and ask what options are available to you to reduce your costs.
As of 22 March 2020, anyone affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and battling financially can withdraw from their super to a maximum of $10,000. You can check with your super provider if you are eligible.
- Centrelink support
Centrelink has eased its eligibility requirements for support for JobSeekers and Youth Allowance. JobKeepers, who have lost their job or had their hours reduced due to COVID-19 could be eligible for fortnightly payments of $1500 through their employer. Visit your local centre or have a look on the Centrelink website to see what options are available for you.
For more tips and links visit Finder – Coronavirus Financial Help
Free financial tools
Finally, if you’re feeling overwhelmed and at a loss as to where to start with managing your financial stress, head over to Money Smart for advice. They are offering free financial counselling services to get you back on your feet and feeling positive about the future. This is not an easy time for anyone and there is no shame asking for help or advice to get through. This is a time where we need to pull together and support each other to keep safe and healthy, both in body and mind.
Did you know that Dry July is a fundraiser encouraging people to alcohol-free to raise funds for people affected by cancer?
The funds raised provide invaluable services for cancer patients, their families and carers – whether it’s a lift to a life-saving appointment, guidance from a specialist nurse, connection to an informative voice, access to therapy programs or a bed close to treatment.
Not only that, but a month off no alcohol has great health and financial benefits.
If you’re thinking of signing up, but find the thought of a month without alcohol is a little daunting, you aren’t alone. Many people find the prospect of one month of no alcohol a little intimidating.
Here are a few ways to get through an alcohol-free month.
Remember why you are doing this
Sticking to any commitment is always easier when your goal is attached to an important personal value or cause. Perhaps you are doing this because you know someone who is living with cancer or maybe you know someone who struggles with alcohol.
Either way, it’s unique to you. Values are personal and there is no right or wrong. The important thing is to know why this pledge is important to you.
Be prepared for difficulties
Let’s face it, alcohol is a major part of our culture.
Going for drinks is a normal and even encouraged activity that is perpetuated by popular culture. It’s often easier to go with the flow rather than be the odd one out who doesn’t drink.
If you find your friends encouraging you to drink, it helps to have planned in advance how you will politely decline or enjoy a non-alcoholic beverage with them instead.
Remember that you don’t owe anyone an explanation, but you owe it to yourself and your supporters to keep your commitment. It can be extremely tempting to give in, but remember why you’re doing this!
Have a secondary goal
Sometimes people find having another goal (on top of being dry all of July) helps to increase their motivation.
While you’re at it, you might as well eat healthier, go for daily walks at sunset, or try yoga everyday. It can add to your momentum and make you feel incredible at the end.
Manage cravings with mindfulness
Having a glass of wine, or a beer can be our go-to for relaxation.
Perhaps Dry July is your chance to re-evaluate why. Often we fear cravings and cave into the. But all a craving really is, is a combination of thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations. All of which are all harmless and transient. Instead of acting on the urge, breathe into it and give it space. Don’t judge yourself or try to get yourself to stop feeling it, but just let it be and observe. Before you know it, the craving will subside.
Going alcohol-free can save you a significant amount of money so why not reward yourself at the end of the month?
Knowing that you’ll be saving money for something at the end will make it all the more easier for you.
Did you know that one of the best ways to relieve stress is completely free and everyone can do it?
That’s right – conscious breathing is one of the most effective ways in activating the body’s natural relaxation response. Deep, mindful breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness. Breathing techniques can help you feel connected to your body and quiet your mind.
The good news is that breathing exercises are easy to learn and can be done whenever you want, and you don’t need any special tools or equipment to do them. Also, it’s worth pointing out that if you have been a shallow breather, this might initially feel strange and even somewhat difficult. But just like anything, controlled breathing does take a bit of practice so be patient with yourself.
Here are a few exercises to try out, you can them out and see which work best for you.
This exercise also uses belly breathing to help you relax and can be done either sitting or lying down. Taking a deep breath is actually linked to the sympathetic nervous system, which controls the fight-or-flight response. While exhaling is linked to the parasympathetic nervous system, which is in control of the rest and digest response. If you have ever experienced a panic attack you might be aware that taking too many deep breaths too quickly can cause you to hyperventilate. Hyperventilation decreases the amount of oxygen-rich blood that flows to your brain. Longer exhales help to signal to the brain that it’s time to relax.
How to do it: Place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest as in the belly. Take a deep, slow breath from your belly, and silently count to 4 as you breathe in.
Hold your breath to a count of 7.
Breathe out completely as you silently count to 8. Try to get all the air out of your lungs by the time you count to 8.
The idea of this exercise is to lengthen the exhale. Repeat this four times or until you feel calm.
Notice how you feel at the end of the exercise.
Abdominal breathing technique
The abdominal breathing technique can be particularly helpful before experiencing a stressful event like preparing for a job interview or giving a big presentation.
How to do it: Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Take a deep breath in through your nose, allowing diaphragm (not your chest) to inflate with enough air to create a slight stretching sensation in your lungs. Slowly exhale.
Taking 6–10 deep, slow breaths per minute for 10 minutes each day using this breathing technique can help reduce your heart rate and blood pressure. In effect, this will also reduce anxiety and stress.
Notice how you feel at the end of the exercise.
This technique can be done sitting or lying down. If you are feeling particularly stressed at work, or at school, you can even do this quietly in a room full of people.
How to do it: Start to inhale and exhale normally. Take a few moments to mentally scan your body for any tension. Take a slow, deep breath through your nose.
Notice your belly and upper body expanding.
Do this for a few minutes, paying attention to the rise and fall of your belly.
To maintain focus on your breath, it can be helpful to choose a word to focus on and repeat in your mind during your exhale. Words like “calm” can be effective.
When you get distracted, gently bring your attention back to your breath and your words.
Notice how you feel at the end of the exercise.
As the world emerges post-lock-down, the lingering effects of COVID still remain.
There has been an enormous pressure on families and couples, many now of which are seeking support. Not only that, but winter in general can be a difficult time. The nights are cold and the days are short, most of us are likely to retreat indoors and spend our time in front of the TV. In fact, the lack of sunlight and overall time spent outdoors can contribute to Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.). While this is more common in Northern Hemisphere countries where the temperature changes are much more extreme, people still do experience S.A.D. in Australia.
If you feel like your mental health is slipping, there are many things you can do to make sure you are staying mentally healthy.
First things first: What Is Mental Health?
There is so much talk out there about mental health, it’d become kind of a buzzword. But what exactly is it?
“Mental health refers to the state of our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects how we feel, think and behave.”
Many people are reluctant to talk about their mental health because it’s associated with a disorder. But having good mental health doesn’t always mean you live without a diagnosable condition. It means that you’re able to cope effectively with the curve balls of everyday life.
Our mental health impacts every single element of life, how you perform at work, how happy you are in relationships, how connected you are socially, and how you feel about your own self-worth. Let’s face it, being a human being is difficult. Life is a series of ups and downs, and so much is out of our control. Having good mental health is like having the tools to bounce back from whatever life inevitably throws at us.
Also, because mental health is still so stigmatised, people often don’t even know what signs to look out for.
Here are some warning signs that your mental health could be declining:
- Feeling anxious or worried
- Feeling depressed or unhappy
- Emotional outbursts
- Sleep problems
- Weight or appetite changes
- Quiet or withdrawn
- Substance abuse
- Feeling guilty or worthless
- Changes in behaviour or feelings
If you feel like any of those signs are relevant to you, then here are some ways to improve your mental health.
1. Get the right amount of sleep.
Sleep is absolutely critical for mental health. It’s as important to our bodies as eating, drinking and breathing. Sleeping helps us to recover from mental as well as physical exertion. Not getting enough sleep per night not only makes you more tired and irritable, but it exacerbates any emotional and psychological problems. Unfortunately, it’s usually those emotional and psychological problems that tend to keep us awake.
If you’re struggling to sleep, try a meditation app. There are so many to choose from: Headspace, Sleep Cycle, Calm, Insight Timer, Noisli, Pzizz, Slumber – to name a few. Also, try to keep your bedroom dark and quiet, and refrain from using your phone just before bed. The blue light from your phone mimics daylight, tricking your brain to stay awake. Also, any emotionally charged content makes your brain work even harder to wind down.
If you continue to have sleep problems, it’s possible there may be an underlying issue and you may need to see a GP.
2. Connect with your friends and community.
As social animals, strong social networks are extremely important for our mental health. Sometimes when we feel our mental health declining, a common reaction is to withdraw from social events. But it’s when we stop interacting and isolate ourselves that our mental health plummets. It’s important then to build strong interpersonal connections with positive, supportive people.
Feeling like we’re part of a community gives our life meaning, a sense of belonging, and helps us feel accepted. If you don’t have supportive, positive people in your life then join activities, clubs or classes where you can meet new people.
3. Stay active
It can be difficult to motivate yourself when you’re feeling low but it’s so important that you do. Exercise increases your body’s production of endorphins (feel-good hormones) which helps to improve your mood, gives you better sleep, and makes you feel relaxed. All you need is 30 minutes of walking each day to improve your mood and reduce stress.
Yoga is great for reducing stress, increasing muscle tone and balance. If you aren’t into yoga then try out other forms of exercise. It might take a bit of time to figure out what you like best, but it’s important to find something. Exercising for mental health is about sustainability, not about short-term results.
4. Eat nutritious meals.
We’ve always known that eating well is good for our physical health, but now we are seeing that a healthy diet can actually improve mental health. Eating high-quality foods with lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants nourishes and protects the brain. Sugar and processed foods have been proven to lead to inflammation throughout the body and brain, which may contribute to mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. Probiotics, on the other hand, help to maintain a normal microbiome, and therefore can potentially play a role in the treatment and prevention of anxiety and depression.
To boost your mental health, focus on eating plenty of fruits and vegetables along with foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Try to avoid processed foods or sugar-filled snacks. Consume plenty of healthy fats, such as olive oil and coconut to support brain function.
5. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is simply being aware and present to the current moment you are in.
It can be done anywhere, anytime; during a meeting at work, on the bus, washing dishes. All it requires is being fully engaged in the here and now. Most people go about their daily lives with their minds jumping around to the future or past, worrying about what ifs, rarely ever engaged in the present moment. While meditation is usually practiced for a specific amount of time in a specific place, mindfulness can be applied to any situation throughout the day.
6. Try some Meditation
Unlike Mindfulness, Meditation is an intentional practice where you sit or lie down, close your eyes and focus inward. Meditation is not the absence of thought, and there is no such thing as being bad at meditation. It’s essentially training your brain.
During a meditation, you might practice noticing stray thoughts, and then bringing it back to your breath. Or you noticing your emotions, and learning how to be non-reactive to them. All of this helps in real life, when an anxious thought grips us, meditation brings us back to the moment and helps us respond rather than react.
7. Keep alcohol to a minimum and avoid drugs.
This one goes without saying. In times of increased stress, it’s best to keep alcohol use to a minimum and avoid drugs. Often people use alcohol and other drugs to self-medicate but in this only aggravates the problem. Try your best to replace the urge to self-medicate by going for healthier options mentioned above.
8. Don’t be afraid to seek help.
If you have done all of the above and still don’t feel better, then it’s time to get professional help. This is nothing to feel embarrassed about. It can be as simple as having a chat with someone outside of your group of friends to gain some perspective on a situation. Have you ever noticed how it’s so much harder to see the bigger picture when you’re entangled in something?
A counsellor will not only help you make sense of what you’re going through, but will help build your emotional toolkit to bounce back easier. People see a counsellor for so many different reasons, there is nothing too trivial or silly.
9. Be kind to yourself.
Last but not least, treat yourself with kindness and respect. This can be difficult to do, it’s often so much easier to love and forgive other people. But we tend to be most critical and judgemental of ourselves. Pay attention to the voice in your head, is it the sort of stuff you would say to a friend?
Also, make time for the things that make you feel happy, even more so if you are struggling. This is the time to pamper yourself however that looks to you.
For many of us, the return to ‘normal’ brings about a new layer of stress and anxiety.
During the lockdown, life everywhere around the world was forced to slow down. The streets were left bare while everyone hibernated in their homes. For once, all of us were forced to take time away from our busy schedules and hectic workdays. Eventually, we found our own rhythm. Maybe we learned to find peace in our new routine; replacing work commutes spending more time with our children, or trying out new recipes.
But now the rules are loosening and the thought of transitioning back to a full-time job, commute and traffic can be overwhelming.
Life has been forever changed and unfortunately the virus very much still there. Understandably, there’s still a lot of fear around contracting the virus and how to manage ourselves under these unusual circumstances.
Here are few ideas on easing the transition back into the world.
- Give yourself time to adjust
It will be normal to feel equally disoriented, frustrated (now by the traffic) stressed and suffocated by “old” routines and start to long for a simpler life again. Getting your head around it starts now, as small steps are allowed: the limited visits to friends, staged school returns and so on.
- Reflect on your old life priorities
What are the things you learned about yourself during this time? What should stay and what might you choose to discard? Many people are talking about having more appreciation and gratitude for new elements of their lives and relationships and want to preserve more home investment. Rather than assume this is a pipe dream, start to ponder how you could make this happen.
- Decide how you want to live
Perhaps you now are aware that you didn’t see friends, or don’t have enough of them. Maybe you now appreciate quiet time or getting out into the sunshine. Perhaps you now worry about your elderly relatives when before it was hard to find time to even give them a call. You should seize this new information and make some decisions about how you want to live from here. How might you now distribute your time and other resources on the home and work fronts?
- Be kind to yourself
This is a truly difficult and confusing time. The entire world felt the shockwaves of this so be kind to yourself as you adjust. Show yourself compassion, a global health pandemic is an unbelievable time to live through.
- Take it day by day
Life will not return to normal overnight and it may never be the same. Try not to plan ahead too much or get caught up in the details of it all. Simply treat each day as a new day and do what you can. This is all we can do.
If you need to talk to someone call Time 2 Talk on 1300 022 966 for a chat.
Reaching out to find a counsellor, psychotherapist or psychologist can be one of the most important, and maybe even the hardest decision you’ve ever had to make.
We recognise how challenging it can be to find the right mental health professional. It can, in some ways, be even more intimidating than going on a date with someone you met online.
Just like in dating, some people you “click” with, and some you just don’t. This is normal. But a relationship with a therapist is not like a relationship with a partner or a friend. It’s a very unique relationship that depends upon the reason you came to therapy in the first place, and what you want out of it. You will be sharing parts of yourself you might not even share with your partner or friend. During an interaction so meaningful and vulnerable, you’d only expect to have some kind of connection to build upon.
Did you know: Research shows that a strong relationship between a client and psychologist is one of the most important factors in determining the success of therapy.
This is actually why Radiant was created. We wanted to solve this very problem because we know how challenging and intimidating it can be to find the right person. Our platform offers a filtering criteria to help you find your match.
How do I find the right therapist?
You can start by clicking ‘Find the right help now’. From there, enter in your location or select ‘online only’ if prefer to only see those with availability online. You can then being to select certain criteria that is important to you. For example whether this is for individual counselling, family or couples therapy, the preferred age and/or gender of the professional, the type (counsellor, psychologists, psychotherapist, social worker), available facilities, rebate options, the preferred religion and language options. After you choose what’s relevant to you, you will find a list of people to contact directly on the phone or through email.
What should I look for?
Just like any strong relationships, it’s important to feel comfortable around them. In order to build a foundation of trust and vulnerability, you need to first feel comfortable enough to be honest with them.
The age or gender of your therapist may not be a huge deal for some, but others may consider this to be an important factor in choosing a therapist.
As mentioned before, the best kind of therapy is built upon strong relationships. That, to some, might mean they can only feel comfortable around people of a certain age or gender. Perhaps some people welcome the fresh perspective of a younger therapist, while others prefer older therapists who have more life experience. Some might prefer to see someone who is the same gender as them, or has an understanding of any LGBTQI related issues.
While most therapists are trained in culturally diverse approaches, it might be important for you to be with someone who truly understands your cultural background in a more personal non-textbook way.
This can increase your feelings of trust towards your therapist and ultimately increase the chance of finding value and making genuine life-enhancing changes throughout therapy.
Religious and/or spiritual orientation
This is quite a big factor to many people. Particularly because religious and spiritual issues can be the very issues that prompted you to find treatment.
Perhaps this could be a conflict over religious values, crises of faith, feelings of alienation from one’s religion, or distortion of religious beliefs and practices. Each one of us have an opinion and/or belief around religious and spiritual matters. Finding a therapist who matches with you on this topic can be an immense source of strength or support to the session.
There are so many different types of schools of thought in therapy. If you are new to therapy you might not know what to look for. You also do not have to have an understanding of all the different approaches before commencing therapy.
It can however, be helpful to understand the different types.
Generally speaking, your therapist will draw from five broad categories:
- Psychodynamic therapies
This approach focuses on changing problematic behaviors, feelings, and thoughts by discovering unconscious meanings and motivations.
- Behavioral therapies
This approach focuses on learning’s role in developing both normal and abnormal behaviors. It can be particularly useful in dealing with phobias and irrational fears.
- Cognitive therapies
Cognitive therapists believe that dysfunctional thinking leads to dysfunctional emotions or behaviors. By changing their thoughts, people can change how they feel and what they do.
- Humanistic therapies
This approach emphasises people’s capacity to make rational choices and develop to their maximum potential. Concern and respect for others are also important themes.
- Integrative/Holistic therapies
These therapists don’t tie themselves to any one approach. Instead, they blend elements from different approaches and tailor their treatment according to each client’s needs.
Remember: you don’t owe anyone anything
If you aren’t comfortable with the mental health professional you’ve chosen, don’t feel bad about changing. It does take time to find ‘the one’.
The important thing is to keep looking until you feel you find someone that matches with you. This might take a few sessions, but it is so worth it.
It takes a lot of courage to go to therapy so make sure you devote enough time and energy in finding the right one for you. You’ll be so much happier you did.
We’re here to help you on this journey.
For some, being cooped up all day long with your hubby can be a dream come true. While for others it can be well, an incredibly challenging experience.
Here are some tips to ease the strain this may be causing on your relationship.
Take care of yourself
If you’ve ever been on an airplane you will have been told that in the case of an emergency you have to put your own oxygen mask first before helping others with theirs. This is a great metaphor for life too. We need to take care of ourselves first before we can take care of others. For some, this might seem selfish but the truth is, putting your own oxygen mask first does not show a lack of love or care for the others – it shows care and love for oneself. Essentially, looking after yourself isn’t just for you.
In the case of a pandemic, we are all feeling some degree of anxiety and concern. This is normal. But stress and anxiety drain us of our patience and energy. How are you filling yourself back up each day?
Nurturing your relationship with your partner, or your children, has to start with nurturing yourself. Find ways to help calm and soothe your mind and the world will be better for it.
Develop a routine
In normal pre-COVID days, families managed to juggle busy schedules and always had a ‘break’ from each other. Now there is no ‘normal’ schedule. Everyone is in the same space, under the same roof, all the time.
As easy as it might be to allow one day to roll into the next without leaving the house, develop an exercise schedule you can stick to. Take a break and go outside for a breath of fresh air. Alone time is so important for anyone, especially in times like these.
Maintain open communication
Just because you’re physically together doesn’t mean you’re spending that time communication. It can be easy to ‘veg out’ and watch endless shows on Netflix without addressing the elephant in the room. We all respond differently to stress and in unprecedented times like these, it’s important to talk openly with your partner about how this is affecting you and how you can help each other through this.
You can do this by intentionally sitting down with your partner without any distractions or phones around. Choose the right time and be ready to talk openly and honestly. Be accepting of their points as well as your own.
Think about the big picture
Coronavirus is an incredible time in history, and one that we will probably forever change the way we are as human beings in the world. There will be stories and tales of these times together, what will yours be?
Our patience is certainly going to be tested, and there may be days that we struggle but sometimes it helps to zoom out of the details and into the big picture. Right now is a perfect opportunity to enjoy uninterrupted time together and take advantage of it as much as you can.
However, there is a definitely a limit and sometimes even when we try our best, a relationship keeps clashing. That’s okay too. There is nothing to be ashamed about and we can help you find a professional that suits you.
If you are looking for a mental health professional to help your relationship get back on track then check out our ‘Fostering Better Relationships‘ page.
The following article was written by Russ Harris, an internationally acclaimed acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) trainer and author of the best-selling ACT-based self-help book The Happiness Trap.
If you are new to this form of therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) aims to maximise human potential for a rich, full and meaningful life by:
a) Teaching you psychological skills to deal with painful thoughts and feelings effectively – in such a way that they have much less impact and influence over you (these are known as mindfulness skills).
b) Helping you to clarify what is truly important and meaningful to you – i.e your values – then use that knowledge to guide, inspire and motivate you to change your life for the better.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy gets its name from one of its core messages: accept what is out of your personal control, and commit to action that improves and enriches your life. It’s a perfect time right now to use A.C.T. to cope with the Coronavirus crisis and the effect it has on our well-being.
Many of us are dealing with the very real challenges of associated with a global infectious illness, overwhelmed healthcare systems, economic fallout, job loss and financial problems, and major interruptions to virtually all aspects of life. When facing a crisis its normal to feel fear and anxiety. These are natural responses to challenging situations filled with danger and uncertainty. It’s easy to get lost in worrying and ruminating about all sorts of things that are out of our control. However, while it’s completely natural to get worries, it’s not useful or helpful.
The acronym ‘FACE COVID’ offers a set of practical steps for responding effectively to the Corona crisis, using the principles of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT).
F = Focus on what’s in your control
A = Acknowledge your thoughts & feelings
C = Come back into your body
E = Engage in what you’re doing
C = Committed action
O = Opening up
V = Values
I = Identify resources
D = Disinfect & distance
F = Focus on what’s in your control
The more we focus on what’s not in our control, the more hopeless or anxious we’re likely to feel. The single most useful thing anyone can do in any type of crisis is to focus on what’s in our control. You can’t control what happens in the future. You can’t control Coronavirus or the world economy or how the leaders of countries are managing. You also can’t magically control your feelings, eliminating all that perfectly natural fear and anxiety.
But you can control what you do – here and now.
The reality is, we have more control over our behaviour, than we do over our thoughts and feelings. Therefore, our number one aim is to take control of our behaviour to respond effectively to this crisis. This involves both dealing with our inner world – all of those difficult thoughts and feelings – and our outer world – all the real problems we are facing.
How do we do this? Well, when a big storm blows up, the boats in the harbour drop anchor – because if they don’t, they’ll get swept out to sea. Dropping anchor doesn’t make the storm go away (anchors can’t control the weather) – but it can hold a boat steady in the harbour, until the storm passes in its own good time. Similarly, in an ongoing crisis, we’re all going to experience ‘emotional storms’: unhelpful thoughts spinning inside our head, and painful feelings whirling around our body. And if we’re swept away by that storm inside us, there’s nothing effective we can do. So the first practical step is to ‘drop anchor’.
A = Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings
This step is extremely important. All you need to do is acknowledge whatever is ‘showing up’ inside you: thoughts, feelings, emotions, memories, sensation, urges. Instead of resisting it, observe what’s going on in your inner world. As you do this, often it’s helpful to put this into words, and silently say to yourself something like, ‘I’m noticing anxiety’, or ‘I’m experiencing feelings of depression’, or ‘There’s my mind worrying’ or ‘I’m having thoughts about getting sick’. And while continuing to acknowledge your thoughts and feelings.
C = Come back into your body
Come back into and connect with your physical body. Here are some ideas you could try:
• Slowly pushing your feet hard into the floor.
• Slowly straightening up your back and spine; if sitting, sitting upright and forward in your chair.
• Slowly pressing your fingertips together
• Slowly stretching your arms or neck, shrugging your shoulders.
• Slowly breathing
Note: you are not trying to turn away from, escape, avoid or distract yourself from what is happening in your inner world. The aim is to remain aware of your thoughts and feelings, continue to acknowledge their presence and at the same time, connect with your body, and actively move it. Why? So you can gain as much control as possible over your physical actions, even though you can’t control your feelings. (Remember, F = Focus on what’s in your control)
E = Engage in what you’re doing
Get a sense of where you are and refocus your attention on the activity you are doing. Find your own way of doing this. You could try some or all of the following suggestions, or find your own methods:
• Look around the room and notice 5 things you can see.
• Notice 3 or 4 things you can hear.
• Notice what you can smell or taste or sense in your nose and mouth
• Notice what you are doing
• End the exercise by giving your full attention to the task or activity at hand.
Please don’t skip the A of ACE; it’s so important to keep acknowledging the thoughts and feelings present, especially if they are difficult or uncomfortable. If you skip the A, this exercise will turn into a distraction technique – which it’s not supposed to be.
Now for the COVID part:
C = Committed Action
Committed action means take effective action guided by your core values. This is action you take because it’s truly important to you, even if it brings up difficult thoughts and feelings. Once you have dropped anchor, using the ACE formula, you will have a lot of control over your actions – so this makes it easier to do the things that truly matter.
That includes all those protective measures against Coronavirus (frequent handwashing, social distancing, and so on). But in addition to those fundamentals of effective action, consider: What are simple ways to look after yourself, those you live with, and those you can realistically help? What kind, caring, supportive deeds can you do? Can you say some kind words to someone in distress – in person or via a phone call or text message? Can you help someone out with a task or a chore, or cook a meal, or hold someone’s hand, or play a game with a young child? Can you comfort and soothe someone who is sick? Or in the most serious of cases, nurse them and access whatever medical assistance is available? And if you’re spending a lot more time at home, through self-isolation or forced quarantine, or social distancing, what are the most effective ways to spend that time? You may want to consider physical exercise to stay fit, cooking (as) healthy food (as possible, given restrictions), and doing meaningful activities by yourself or with others.
Repeatedly throughout the day, ask yourself ‘What can I do right now – no matter how small it may be – that improves life for myself or others I live with, or people in my community?’ And whatever the answer is – do it, and engage in it fully.
O = Opening Up
Opening up means making room for difficult feelings and being kind to yourself. Difficult feelings are guaranteed to keep on showing up as this crisis unfolds: fear, anxiety, anger, sadness, guilt, loneliness, frustration, confusion, and many more. We can’t stop them from arising; they’re normal reactions. But we can open up and make room for them: acknowledge they are normal, allow them to be there (even though they hurt), and treat ourselves kindly.
Remember, self-kindness is essential if you want to cope well with this crisis – especially if you are in a caregiver role. If you’ve ever flown on a plane, you’ve heard this message: ‘In event of an emergency, put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.’ Well, self-kindness is your own oxygen mask; if you need to look after others, you’ll do it a whole lot better if you’re also taking good care of yourself.
So ask yourself, ‘If someone I loved was going through this experience, feeling what I am feeling – if I wanted to be kind and caring towards them, how would I treat them? How would I behave towards them? What might I say or do?’ Then try treating yourself the same way.
V = Values
Your values might include love, respect, humour, patience, courage, honesty, caring, openness, kindness, or numerous others. Look for ways to ‘sprinkle’ these values into your day. Let them guide and motivate your committed action. Of course, as this crisis unfolds, there will be all sorts of obstacles in your life; goals you can’t achieve, things you can’t do, problems for which there are no simple solutions. But you can still live your values in a myriad of different ways, even in the face of all those challenges. Especially come back to your values of kindness and caring.
Consider: What are kind, caring ways you can treat yourself as you go through this? What are kind words you can say to yourself, kind deeds you can do for yourself? What are kind ways you can treat others who are suffering? What are kind, caring ways of contributing to the wellbeing of your community? What can you say and do that will enable you to look back in years to come and feel proud of your response?
I = Identify Resources
Identify resources for help, assistance, support, and advice. This includes friends, family, neighbours, health professionals, emergency services. And make sure you know the emergency helpline phone numbers, including psychological help if required. Also reach out to your social networks. And if you are able to offer support to others, let them know. You can be a resource for other people, just as they can for you. One very important aspect of this process involves finding a reliable and trustworthy source of information for updates on the crisis and guidelines for responding to it. The World Health Organisation website is the leading source of such information as well as the website of your country’s government health department. Use this information to develop your own resources: action plans to protect yourself and others, and to prepare in advance for quarantine or emergency.
D = Disinfect
This has been said many times, but it’s worth repeating: disinfect your hands regularly and practice as much social distancing as realistically possible, for the greater good of your community. And remember, we’re talking about physical distancing – not cutting off emotionally.
There are still ways to connect with friends and family, it will just have to be virtually for now.
If you need to talk to someone, you can find help on Radiant now.
This article originally appeared on Relationships Australia website.
As a result of the Coronavirus outbreak, schools and work places are closing indefinitely around Australia. Which means a lot of us will be working from home for the next few weeks. Many would not choose to work at home because of the interruptions, the value of seeing their team each day and the difficulty staying in “work mode”. Others will relish the opportunity to try a different approach.
There is no need to panic; there are ways you can avoid going stir-crazy, from setting up a good work space or encouraging constant conversation with your team. Here are our 5 tips on what you can do to stay productive while working from home, and maintain your own well-being:
1. Create a schedule
Trying to create a somewhat normal routine is not only important for you but also for your children (if you have kids). Setting a schedule that replicates a school day or a normal work day will be really beneficial. You should still wake up and get dressed as if it is a normal day, this will help with focus and productivity. It is important to still take a lunch break or coffee break and for kids it is still great for them to have a lunch hour, and in that time send them outside into the backyard to play. With your children/child set aside some time to write out all your schedules, you can have a reward system in place for whoever sticks to their schedules the best each day.
2. Keep up communication
Having regular chats with your colleagues is just as important as talking with your loved ones in this time. Being home over the next few weeks may get lonely for some, so having regular communication will not only keep morale high but is a good way to ensure you can stay focused, energised and productive. Most people will be trying to manage the same challenges e.g. work and life balance, so the best thing you can do is be open and honest with your team. If you’re jumping into a video conference it is okay to give them a “heads up” that a child may come into the room or be making some noise in the background.
You may have family members or a friend who lives alone, so make sure you check in on them and let them know you’re only one call away. It is also beneficial to you to have conversations with those outside your house and if necessary have a vent or chat about what is going on at home.
You may live in an apartment block or have elderly neighbours or someone with a compromised immune system. If you’re heading to the shops it could be nice to slip a note under their door or give them a call and ask if they need anything. You will be surprised how many people would appreciate these small gestures and return the favour. Maintaining our community is good for us all.
3. Set up a work space and work boundaries
As tempting as it is to stay in your pyjamas and send emails from bed, it won’t be beneficial in the long run. It is important to treat working at home like a real job. If you already have a desk or office that is great, but if you don’t, setting up a space that is specifically for you is important. Up until now you might work on the dining room table for an hour at night. If you are now based at home, you might need to create something more established and more private. Setting up something similar for your children and creating a space that is just for them where they can do their school work will help keep them on track.
It is also a good idea to set boundaries for the people you live with, if you have children let them know if parts of the day are “do not disturb” time. You can have a sign on your door or a little note on the table with “thumbs up” or “thumbs down.” If you know that parental responsibilities could affect your work time, speak up openly with your team about your plans to work flexibly. You might need to have more breaks and to then log in again after dinner if you have home distractions.
4. Stay active
Staying active while being at home can be tricky. We don’t know when or if the country will go into complete lockdown but it is good for your overall wellbeing to get out of the house. This may be a walk around the block before you start your work day or going for a walk/run in your lunch break. It is important to take breaks throughout the day, this could be as simple as sitting outside in your backyard for 10 minutes to get some sun or taking your dog for a walk after a long meeting. It is tempting to do some jobs like the washing or put on the dishwasher. That should be perfectly fine and is no different than at work; we need short breaks to stay fresh and alert.
If we do go into lockdown there are so many great videos on YouTube or Instagram that can help keep you active while in the house. From yoga and Pilates classes to high intensity interval training there is something for people of all fitness levels. You could also do some on-line professional development that would normally be on your long wish list; now is the time you could invest in yourself.
5. Plan out your weekend activities
With restaurants and cinemas closing down it is important to plan out your weekend activities to avoid the whole household from going crazy. Creating a bowl where each family writes on a piece of paper a different activity you can do is a fun way of keeping yourselves entertained. A few ideas that are good ways to pass the time whether you’re a family or a couple are:
- Board games
- Drawing or painting competitions
- Backyard sport – soccer, cricket, handball
- Movie marathons/start a new TV series
- Baking snacks for the week
- My Kitchen Rules home edition (split the family into groups and have one group cook entrée, the other main course)
If are feeling completely overwhelmed, there are people who can help you:
RANSW Counselling Services
Online Counselling Services