With metropolitan Melbourne again in lockdown in an attempt to stem the renewed outbreak of coronavirus, many residents and business owners are feeling frustrated and despondent. It has also been a stark reminder to the rest of the nation that we’re not out of the woods yet.
Feelings of anxiety, 'adjustment fatigue' and even exhaustion are very common at the moment. What’s also common, is sweeping these feelings under the rug until they become overwhelming.
The strong established links between good mental and physical health mean that body activity combined with simple, short mental practices will enable us to achieve a balanced approach that keeps our whole selves in good working order.
Mark Dean founder of En Masse, a workplace behavior change consulting firm, provides some simple but effective things everyone can do to de-stress and look after themselves:
- Exercise – just 30 minutes per day will help burn off stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) and build positive emotion. This could be as simple as a brisk half hour walk.
- Keep to a healthy, balanced diet. This doesn’t have to mean cutting kilojoules (though that helps) but it does mean having a varied diet with a mixture of fruit, vegies, carbs, protein and fibre. Did you know gut health can also play a significant role in improving mental health?
- Get enough sleep - for most adults this is 7-8 hours per night. Help the process by creating a sleep sanctuary in your bedroom - a cool, dark, uncluttered environment works best. Avoid looking at backlit screens for at least an hour before going to bed, and keep devices out of the bedroom so you’re not tempted to check those messages one more time.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine consumption. Both can lead to a more restless night, creating further anxiety and exacerbating sleep problems.
- Practice mindfulness with a short meditation. This is becoming widely popular, and there are many free apps that make it easy. It’s a good way to build up your happy neurochemicals, help you to think more logically, and improve your concentration. Just carve out 10 minutes in a quiet spot and tune in to a daily practice.
- Accept the uncomfortable emotions - feelings of anxiety are normal, especially in these times. Talking about your feelings with supportive friends or family members can help you to de-catastrophise and get things in perspective.
- Practice gratitude daily – one simple technique is to make a habit of thinking of three things you’re grateful for, at a particular time each day, such as when brushing your teeth. It could be something significant like your family, or something small, like sharing a joke with a neighbour.
- Make an effort to build and enhance your positive, supportive relationships - these are integral to our mental and physical health.
- Adopt a flexible mindset and focus on the learning opportunities that come with challenges. Despite all the downsides, physical distancing measures and high levels of uncertainty can also provide amazing opportunities to learn new skills, adopt healthier lifestyle habits and to become more self-aware in the process.
- Seek help and advice when you need it from your GP or another qualified health professional.