Here we go again, Melbournians. Lockdown 2.0. Six weeks of no visitors, gym; limited public gatherings; and the return to dreaded homeschooling. The tension of it all can cause no small amount of anxiety, and for those managing a family or a team, the tension can be palpable.
In March the World Health Organisation (WHO) released a 31 point guidance specifically designed to help people safeguard their mental health during the pandemic. We've condensed it into 5 important areas that will help you get through Lockdown 2.0 with your sanity intact.
1. Paying attention to what we need and how we feel
As guys we tend to bury our anxieties, vulnerabilities, and what we truly need, deep down. The problem with this outdated approach to life is that it just doesn't really work, and we become stunted emotional hermits without the ability to help those who need us most. Being on top of one's needs and emotions is especially important for us dads, but kids or no kids, being zen during times of crisis is what separates the wheat from the chaff and what people remember.
Thankfully, squaring away one's needs and feelings doesn't mean hugging next door's ornamental tree. All we need to do, according to WHO, is "engage in healthy activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly, keep regular sleep routines and eat healthy food. Keep things in perspective." It's not rocket science. Gyms might be closed, but getting out by yourself and/or with the family, doing what you enjoy, having YOU-time, is really important to avoid feeling 'trapped'.
2. Talk To Your Kids But Show By Doing
The advice from WHO is to discuss the lockdown with your children in "an honest and age-appropriate way." Talking about their concerns and addressing them together may ease their anxiety, which in turn may decrease their demands and attachment, common for children during times of stress.
According to WHO, children will observe their parents' behaviours and emotions as cues on how to manage their own emotions during difficult times. While managing your children, again, it's important to listen to your own needs and feelings. A survey of Australian parents in May found 29% of parents increased their alcohol consumption, associated with 'heightened feelings of anxiety and stress.' Remember, they observe what you do to inform their own behaviours.
3. Minimise News Intake
By the end of Lockdown 1.0, I was so tired of the unrelenting COVID-19 news coverage that I would not read, switch radio stations, turn off the TV. According to the WHO, a "near-constant stream of news reports about an outbreak can cause anyone to feel anxious or distressed."
WHO recommends minimising consumption of COVID-19 news that causes stress and anxiety. Stick to trusted sources, avoid outlets who like to sensationalise the news, seek information and updates at a specific time, and gather facts, not rumours or misinformation.
4. Support others.. the right way
People you know may be struggling. They may feel scared and uncertain about Lockdown 2.0 or COVID-19 in general. According to WHO, "assisting others in their time of need can benefit both the person receiving the support and the helper." This could be a simple telephone call to a neighbour, a zoom check-in with a neighbour, or a Facebook message to a mate (although talking is always recommended over chatting or messaging).
Be aware, however, that well-intentioned attempts to comfort people can sometimes come across as unhelpful or insensitive. In studying messaging during uncertain times, the University of Pennsylvania found that messages which validated people's feelings were seen as more effective and helpful than messages that tried to control how the other person felt. For example, instead of saying, 'Don't feel stressed, we'll all get through it eventually,' consider language that expresses sympathy, care, and concern; such as, 'I understand how you're feeling right now and I want you to know I'm thinking of you and I'm here if you need me.'
5. Stay connected and maintain your social networks
An area of mental health that really took a hit during lockdown 1.0 was 'connectedness,' our sense of being connected to others. According to WHO, it's important to keep to your daily routines going, and if that involves chatting with your favourite colleague over a coffee, get on Zoom and share the gossip. "If health authorities have recommended limiting your physical social contact to contain the outbreak, you can stay connected via telephone, e-mail, social media or video conference."
Don't suffer in silence. Lifeline is there if you need someone to talk to. Anyone experiencing depression, anxiety, or thoughts of suicide should contact Lifeline on 13 43 57.