By Natalie Reilly – https://www.smh.com.au
This time last year, more than a few of us would be jetting off somewhere warm, or at least living vicariously through friends’ social media feeds who are on holiday.
‘No, not again. I can’t.’ Credit:Dionne Gain
Instead, Melburnians are in lockdown for six weeks after recording the country’s biggest increase in coronavirus cases.
Meanwhile NSW is doing its best to contain the clusters already popping up in Sydney’s south-west.
The official nickname is Lockdown 2.0, but that’s a jovial spin on hope deferred.
We thought we had COVID-19 licked; we packed the kids back off to school, resurrected our social calendars and made plans for the next family holiday. Only to be left instead with numb disappointment, mild panic and anxious frustration.
What does this sort of thing do to one’s mental state?
“If people assumed that they were done with the life-affecting, traumatic experience brought on by the pandemic and the lockdown, then finding out that it has returned would most likely cause more distress compared to last time,” says psychologist Dr Rowan Burckhardt.
Australia’s Black Dog Institute estimates that between 25 and 33 per cent of the community will experience significant anxiety and distress during the pandemic.
“It’s a bit like the difference between knowing we have eight days of hiking in front of us compared to believing that we’ve finished a four-day hike, only to be told we have another four days to go,” says Dr Burckhardt. “We prepare ourselves mentally and that creates expectations. When those expectations get violated, we are going to be affected more.”
During the first lockdown there was a unified feeling of ‘we’ll get through this’ – now that the curve has shot up again, Dr Burckhardt says it’s normal to feel depleted and a little out of control.
There is also added distress about economic outcomes and around those in charge, such as politicians, business owners and other decision makers, says Dr Burckhardt. “All of it contributes to heightened levels of anxiety and greater uncertainty for our future.”
In the US, where over 3 million people are currently battling the virus, they’ve recorded a six per cent rise in “Broken Heart Syndrome” where the traditional symptoms of a heart attack, such as shortness of breath, weakness and heart pain, are felt as a result of severe emotional and physical stress.
What’s to be done? “One thing that can help this time is actually using the lessons from last time,” says Dr Burckhardt. “In a sense, we got a practice run. We can reflect on what things we did that helped and do more of those and do less of the others.” But above all, he says “Remind yourself that it will pass, this is a temporary situation.”
Tips for staying motivated in lockdown
- Switch up your workout. “Being physically active is super important for mental health,” says Dr Burckhardt. “Try exercising with a friend, even if it is just a brisk walk.”
- Get out of your own head. “Talk with friends over the phone. Chat with neighbours.”
- Stop trying to be productive. Dr Burckhardt says there’s nothing wrong with using your time indoors to tackle something you’ve always wanted to do, but avoid putting any unnecessary pressure on yourself.
- Be your own cheerleader. “Remind yourself of the public good you are doing by staying in your house. You are literally saving lives.”
Natalie Reilly is freelance writer for The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, Brisbane Times and WAtoday.