HELP AT HAND: Veteran cricketer and mental health advocate Mike Nowlan encourages people to seek help if feeling anxious, overwhelmed or depressed. Picture: Contributed
HELP AT HAND: Veteran cricketer and mental health advocate Mike Nowlan encourages people to seek help if feeling anxious, overwhelmed or depressed. Picture: Contributed

How to look after your mental health during Covid-19

IN the 1960s the phenomenon of war came into our lounge rooms via the TV with nightly reports of actions and casualties from the Vietnam conflict. For the first time we were confronted with the images of war almost as the action occurred, with body counts reported each night. These images helped to change the thinking of a generation.

Over the past 12 months, Australia has been going through a rugged time. The impact of a long and severe drought was beamed into our homes daily with the soul-destroying images of ravaged countryside, rotting animals and the distraught owners of those animals.

Then came some of the worst bushfires ever experienced, with the horrific intensity of the bushfires following us into our lounge rooms. Colours of fire so vivid, one could almost feel the heat coming through the TV screen. Areas larger than many countries were being burnt out, and the suffering and mental anguish of those caught up in the holocaust of the fires was obvious to us all.

Welcome rain then followed, with floods in some areas. While the rain dealt with the fires, floods brought their own anguish, with property damage and precious top soil washed away.

And finally the Gift of the Virus. Only a world war could have a more devastating impact than this virus. In fact, a war would not or did not in the past impact on the economy and way of life as this virus has. Not since 1919 has this country known a phenomenon which has impacted as severely on the lives of all Australians. Daily body counts from around the world are shown daily on our TVs, just like the Vietnam experience.

Our visual media outlets overwhelm us with information, which is at times conflicting, creating further doubt and uncertainty in our minds. Some elderly people are overreacting by isolating themselves from contact with their normal support services, such as Blue Care, because of their fear. They are also isolated from the younger generations of their families.

With all sports and other activities postponed, outlets that allow for relief of stress and even depression are restricted. Overexposure to all these images can lead to severe anxiety and even depression.

 

Step 1: Use the TV to keep yourself up to date only. Turn it off if you find yourself struggling with what is reported. Stop feeding your anxiety.

Step 2: Get outside in the sun. Fresh air and exercise can do wonders.

Step 3: Do all that stuff at home that you complained you didn't have time to do before. Get creative with hobbies. Or explore new ones.

Step 4: Write out a gratitude list and add to it every day. It can be the simplest of things, but make the effort to look for things to appreciate. Other people have it much worse than you.

Step 5: Try to keep conversations positive when people start the gloom and doom talk. Remember, this catastrophe will end.

 

However, if you suffer from anxiety or depression, what is going on around us may be just too much for you to handle by yourself. All this pressure may cause you to emotionally withdraw into yourself, where your thinking becomes negative and destructive. This can lead you to the black depths of depression.

The good news is that the healthcare sector supports people with mental health issues and have set up telehealth and phone consultations to support the patient where they can ring in to the doctor and a consultation can be organised via phone, Skype or whatever the patient desires. Most psychologists and psychiatrists offer these methods of consultations with no-gap charges so these methods can be used and encouraged in this period of time.

Patients who have depression or anxiety issues are encouraged to ring their GP practice and they will be assisted to talk to the GP, first over the phone and then, if they need further support, the psychologist takes over via video or phone contact, which is working at this stage. The patient still feels supported and not left in the lurch.

Always remember that you are not the only one with these issues, because the times in which we live are almost unprecedented for the visual traumas inflicted on us, but you need to deal with them. Professional help, even from the local GP practice nurse, can make all the difference to your wellbeing. Have the courage to recognise that you may have a problem, and deal with it. Remember, it is not what goes wrong in your life that counts: it is how you deal with it that matters.


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