Coping with lockdowns during the pandemic
The ongoing uncertainty of Melbourne’s lockdowns is causing a heightened state of anxiety in the community. State lockdowns are often unexpected and unpleasant for most of us. Consistent lockdowns have led to long term psychological effects such as anger, anxiety, boredom, loneliness and depression. We also may experience fear in regards to catching the virus, having inadequate information and resources as well as financial stress due to loss of employment.
It is normal to be experiencing fear and anxiety during this time. These feelings will typically subside once the pandemic is resolved; however we don’t know how long this will last and the current effects need to be managed to prevent prolonged anxiety and depression due to the pandemic.
Most of us will be experiencing a mix of emotions including; frustration, fear, anxiety, sadness, irritability, fatigue and exhaustion. It is normal to be feeling this way due to the uncertainty and isolation that comes along with the lockdowns. The longevity of going in and out of lockdown is becoming exhausting and most of us are losing motivation to get our daily tasks completed.
Below are some tips on managing your emotions during the ongoing lockdowns that we are facing.
- Focus on what we can control
It is important for us to focus on the things that we can control as most things feel like they are out of our hands during this time which can be overwhelming. It is quite unclear when things will go back to normal which can leave us feeling unsettled when plans are consistently cancelled or postponed and our sense of freedom feels taken away.
Anxiety and fear arises when we feel out of control. Working on the things that we can control in our environment is important to manage our mental health during the lockdown periods. This can include things like our eating habits, exercise, managing hygiene, having a self care routine, wearing masks and reaching out to family and friends for support.
Another important tip is to control our breathing! Our breath is the best free tool we have to reduce any feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, anger or fear. Whether you try following a meditation or doing a breathing exercise, this can be a very grounding tool to use to manage our emotions. One method of controlled breath is boxed breathing. This involves taking a deep inhale for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 4 seconds and then exhaling deeply for 4 seconds through the mouth. Repeat this several times and focus on your breath to calm yourself down at any given time.
- Feel your feelings
Acknowledging your feelings and allowing yourself to feel through it is an important way to manage your emotions. If you tend to block or avoid negative emotions they can come back at a later time in a more severe or intense way. It is important to listen to our mind and body, whether we feel like crying, releasing anger, or needing to relax due to feeling fatigued, try to give what your body needs. Remember that these emotions will pass and it is normal to be experiencing a mix of emotions during the lockdowns.
When these feelings get too overwhelming, go back to step 1 and focus on what you can control such as your breathing to manage these emotions.
Don’t forget to talk about your emotions. Speaking about how you feel during the pandemic is important. Remember that you are not alone; we are all going through this together. Although we have a physical restriction, reaching out to friends and family in the household or via phone or online will keep us feeling connected and supported.
- Limit your exposure to news and social media
Throughout the pandemic there are constant news updates and outbreaks which can often feel quite distressing to consume. Although it is important to be aware of what is going on, limiting your exposure to news is important for our mental health. Stick to reliable sources such as the Australian Government website or World Health Organisation. Mainstream media and news can often promote fear driven stories that exploit facts which can do more harm than good. Often this can lead to feelings of vulnerability or anxiety. Try to limit exposure to check in when necessary instead of being connected frequently. You might limit this to online reading only or 30 minutes of exposure a day.