Published Thursday 16 April 2020
- Disability and Mental Health
Paul Reis, Fundraising General Manager Wesley Mission QLD, Suicide Prevention Facilitator and Mental Health First Aid Officer, tells us how he's been coping during isolation due to COVID-19.
With the world spinning faster than it usually does, it is good to stop, breathe and check in on our mental health.
Here are a few things that are helping me during this isolation period:
1. STAY CONNECTED- WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER
Most of the time the issues and anxieties of our lives are very personal and individual. While our reactions will be different, there is a huge comfort right now knowing that everyone is doing this together: all facing change, facing uncertainty and facing fear. I’ve said hello, smiled and connected with people I’ve never met before ‘the Rona ‘and felt huge waves of mutual connection.
Now is an important time to keep your phone charged and stay connected to the outside world that understands each other.
2. LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS
Dealing with change requires heaps of energy and focus and is super exhausting at the same time.
You need to cut yourself some slack and lower expectations of what you can do in a day. Just getting your head around what’s happening and how its affecting you is a huge job in itself. Manage and focus on what you can control and leave the rest to land where it will.
3. FIND YOUR FUNNY BONE
The old saying that” Laughter is the Best Medicine “is a good one to grab right now. With many voices around us being negative and fearful its healthy to find the things that make you laugh. Whether its dogs singing, putting out bin photos or the guy that built the action gym in his loungeroom – there’s plenty out there right now to make us laugh. Finding humour is not denial of going through a challenging time, it is a strategy for coping and its good for the soul and the body. Trust me, I’m a funeral celebrant and there is always a time for a good laugh.
4. SOCIAL MEDIA PRESSURE
Learn a language, build a patio, join a choir, do a course, bake new cakes, learn the Zumba, join celebrity workouts, plant a garden and write a book -all social media advice I’ve received in my feed in the last 7 days ! It’s a bit overwhelming and unrealistic for me and for you or for anyone! You might feel like you’ve done well just to feed the people around you and to make sure they are clothed by the end of the day. And you know what…….that’s ok ! Trying a “new” thing is good fun and healthy but don’t feel the pressure of feeling like everyone is out there exploring new universes and skills. Do what you can and celebrate that.
5. WHAT DAY IS IT ?
I’ve been home for some weeks now and I have to look at a screen somewhere most days to check what day of the week it is. During iso it is easy for the “same of the same” to kick in with hours and days and weeks just rolling together in a big ball of life. I’ve set myself some routines and activities to break this and placed them in my diary. Walk at 6am, Breakfast at 7.30am, News Headlines at 8am, Lunch at 12 etc…. I’ve even got a big puzzle on the dining room table to add a few pieces here and there with no deadlines for completion. Routine can give us a sense of control and security especially when the outside world is changing. Set some tasks and activities and stick to them which will help you have a sense of self worth and achievement at the end of the day……whatever that day is ?
6. PRIORITIZE SLEEP
We could talk about the important need for rest or avoiding late night binges of Netflix or Stan! …. but I want to take another angle.
I’ve always had very energetic active dreams, but I’ve noticed more of them lately. Maybe because I’m at home like everyone else and that my bin goes out more than me? No matter what the reason is - dreams can take you places you can’t go at the moment. I find myself looking forward to where my dreams might take me which promotes my love of travel and adventure and connection. Sometimes like everybody else they are totally weird but the blessing of sleep can give you rest for the body and adventure for the mind at the same time.
7. DELIBERATE ACTS OF KINDNESS
I heard recently “now is not the time of random acts of kindness BUT deliberate acts of kindness.”
I totally agree. When we can give to others beyond our own needs our soul is refreshed and restored and it feels really awesome. Make an effort and a plan and go deliberately towards acts of kindness rather than just taking spontaneous opportunities. A few weeks ago I bought a box of chocolates for a travel agent that has always given us amazing service. He was really touched by the action but in many ways it helped me bring balance back to my life to get beyond my own circumstances. If you are looking for kindness - you’ll find it every time if you are giving it.
8. BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF
While we are in a very important time of history we are also in a unique time of “openness” to each other. I’ve been in many Skype meetings were there seems to be “permission” to speak how you feel rather than just do the usual throw away “I’m fine”. If you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, fearful there are more listening ears now than ever before. Be honest with how you are feeling……….reach out and connect with someone because they will be able to identify with your pain because of their pain. Maybe when we all get through to our new “normal”( whatever that looks like) the permission to be honest with each other and ourselves will be a gift that will be live on past The Rona.
9. LITTLE THINGS MATTER
Each morning since iso I’ve tried to do an early morning walk and catch the sunrise, take a photo and share it on a FB post saying” that the sun is still shining. “
Wow – I’ve seen the most amazing sunrises over the past few weeks- every one of them painting the sky differently. Before iso the sun rose every morning but I didn’t really take the time to take it in…..something that I hope now I will notice for a long time to come. During this time- appreciate the little things around you, the fresh air, your friends and family, your pet family rather than the things that have been taken away. This simple action has the ability to give your mind peace and joy during difficult times.
10. IT’S A SEASON
Just like there was a time before The Rona there is a time that will be after The Rona – it is a season. Like all seasons it has a beginning and an end. Right now- we are in it and we are all suffering levels of loss, some much more than others. On the other side life will be different, we will be washing our hands more, more aware of crowds, more appreciative of teachers and nurses and the elderly and have a laugh with complete strangers when we buy a 12 pack of toilet paper. For many loss of work, rent, health, family will look very different for you on the other side- but it is a season.
Myself like many others will have a greater understanding of empathy for you and all mankind.
We are all in this together.
Mental Health First Aider
Suicide Prevention Facilitator
Fundraising General Manager Wesley Mission Qld.