Self-care in uncertain times07 January 2022
Looking after your mental health remains as important as ever during what has been a long stretch of uncertainty.
Many of us would have been hoping for a fresh start in 2022. 2021 was a full-on year with many COVID-19 developments, from vaccinations to border closures. However, the New Year has come and gone, and the global pandemic remains an unwelcome presence in our lives. Sadly, not one that’s likely to end anytime soon.
With that in mind, it remains as important as ever to look after your own mental health during what has been a long stretch of uncertainty. COVID-19 has upended our social and work routines, and the barrage of negative news coverage has been constant. It isn't a surprise then that many of us feel a sense of uninterrupted anxiety and stress.
It's not unusual to feel anxious when everyday life is derailed. But how can we manage those feelings and take better care of ourselves during challenging times?
things to remember
RSL Queensland's research partner, Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation (GMRF), points to three primary aspects to help look after our own mental health. The first is the ability to recognise the signs of anxiety. These could be physical manifestations, such as increased heart rate or muscle tension, headaches, or feeling uneasy in your stomach. Ask yourself, do you find it hard to wind down at night because of worry or constantly thinking of a worst-case scenario? Is the nonstop media coverage of COVID-19 making you irritable or frustrated with family and friends? Clinical Psychologist and Research Officer at GMRF, Dr Sarah Hampton says if you identify with some of these signs, it's essential to practise healthy coping mechanisms so your anxiety doesn't get the better of you.
Second, don't forget to stay active. Looking after yourself physically by exercising, eating well, staying hydrated and getting enough sleep is an effective and natural way to metabolise stress hormones in your body. Take a walk or go for a run! Getting out in the sunshine is a great way to boost your mood and get some vitamin D.
And finally, give yourself a break from COVID. The pandemic has been central to our lives these past years; it's led the news almost daily, it fills up our social media feeds, and it's what we talk about at home and work. Staying informed is essential, especially with constantly changing health advice and restriction updates. However, consuming too much news can be detrimental to your mental health. Always focusing on the negatives can contribute to a heightened state of anxiety. Try watching less TV or avoiding online news sites, and get the facts from established reputable sources, such as the Australian Government's website. We only need the facts, not the hype. Dr Hampton suggests that avoiding distressing topics and focusing on something else can better our long-term mental health.
Positivity can be a powerful force. Try to look on the bright side. As tough as it has been these past few years, there are always positive things in our lives. Friends, families, hobbies. If you find yourself spending more time at home than you otherwise would, ask yourself what’s the one thing you always wished you could do - and then do it. Is it to learn a new skill or to play an instrument? Is there a DIY project you've been putting off for too long?
Mark Albrecht, life coach at Veteran's Care Association, has a top tip for staying motivated during the long haul of COVID: sticking to a schedule. Without the routines of commuting, school pick up, and social engagements, we can sometimes feel unfocused and lost. By bringing routine to your daily life, you can create a sense of certainty during uncertain times.
If you are struggling and need help, please reach out. Get in touch with our Veteran Services team on 134 RSL during business hours. If you need urgent assistance after hours, please contact Open Arms on 1800 011 046. Their counsellors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
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