Prioritising wellbeing during lockdown

In response to the current COVID-19 outbreak, in NSW, Greater Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Central Coast and Wollongong regions enter a two-week lockdown and other States across the country tighten their restrictions. Many of us are struggling to calm the chatter in our minds around the severity of this new strain of COVID-19, and how it will impact us and those around us. With officials making new recommendations almost every day, it can feel like an emotional tug-of-war in our minds. For those in Greater Sydney, who are required to lockdown for the next 2 weeks, this may have brought up feelings of panic and anxiety around when you do interact with others.

Managing feelings of panic

During this time, an essential strategy for keeping your stress-response in check and reducing feelings of panic, is to identify the extent to which we have personal control or influence over these events. When we have little or no control over an external situation, it can result in us worrying or getting stressed about something that we cannot influence, which can become extremely frustrating and overwhelming.

But, when we focus on what we can control in a situation, we can respond in a proactive way. In relation to COVID-19 you cannot control the actions of others, how far or wide the COVID-19 spreads, or other people’s emotional reactions. What you can control:

  • Self-isolating if you are unwell
  • Working from home to reduce social interactions
  • Practicing good hygiene
  • Only buying what you genuinely need from the shops (not panic buying)
  • Only listening to updates from government sites or reputable sources
  • Reducing your social media / technology use
Engage in your wellbeing strategies

During lockdown, prioritising your wellbeing will ensure that you are in the best position to ride-out the uncertainty and come out with your mental health intact. This is often the time that we often let our wellbeing fall to the wayside, so here are some recommendations for how to maintain your wellbeing throughout this changing world:

  1. Maintain a good sleep routine. Your brain needs to regenerate after periods of stress, and it does this while you sleep! Aim to go to bed at the same time every night and get 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Developing good sleep hygiene will ensure that you get the best quality sleep possible.
  2. Remember to breathe. Did you know 70% of cortisol can be removed from our bodies by simple breathing? If you notice your breathing starts to shallow during times of stress, practice a breathing exercise such as Box Breathing, to practice and get into the habit of deep breathing.
  3. Take time out to exercise. Exercise is the body’s natural antidepressant! Find what works for you and keeps you motivated to get active. Start small and work your way up. Hate running? Why not try pilates. Make the most of the sunshine and go for a walk during lunchtime, or before work.
  4. Stay connected. While you may not be able to socialise face-to-face right now, stay connected via phone or video-calls. If you’re feeling stressed, talk it out with a friend or colleague. Debriefing with someone releases the stress hormone oxytocin.
  5. Practice gratitude. Reflect on and engage in activities that give you purpose and meaning. Enjoy the “small moments” each day. Wellbeing is balanced when the positive to negative emotion ratio is 3:1. Be active to get hits of positive emotion.
  6. Plan your weekend. Give yourself something to look forward to, even if it is just a small around the house. Plan a movie night, cook something exotic, finish that DIY home project that fell by the wayside or even just organise for a family walk if the sun is out!
  7. Manage your news feeds. The average smartphone user checks their device 221 times a day 95%of people use their tech in bed. If you are finding yourself becoming anxious every time your phone “dings”, turn off the notifications for news or why not do a social media detox?
  8. Practice creativity and mindfulness. Mindfulness matters…whether you try yoga, meditation, colouring-in, creating something, or just reading…staying present in changing times helps rest and repair.
  9. Speak with an expert. Sometimes getting expert advice is what we need to get through this next period. Ask your GP for a referral to speak with a professional and encourage your family to do so too if needed.

As we navigate through this lockdown and period of uncertainty, prioritise your wellbeing to help you get through this next period with your mental health intact. If you are struggling, reach out to an expert for support.