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Mental health and wellbeing in tough times

Across the country, and indeed the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted how we live, work and interact with the people around us. Each of us will respond differently to challenging situations, stressors or worries. During these times, it is important to take care of both our mental health and general wellbeing, and find new ways to connect.  

Robert Price, Achieve’s Regional Manager for the Inner West, says that for the people we support it has also been a challenging time. The people we support enjoy getting out into the community to socialise, play sport, eat out and go to work,” says Rob. “To not be able to do this for an extended period of time has been difficult.” 

The first step in getting through these difficult times is by developing self-awareness and finding out what some of your triggers might be and what helps you. 

Signs to look for 
You may notice some of these signs or symptoms in yourself, or someone you know, during difficult times: 

  • Feeling stressed or anxious 
  • Sad, worried or angry 
  • Isolated and lonely
  • Not sleeping 
  • Headaches or aches and pains 
  • Digestive problems 

Rob explains that for people with disability it is no different, and there is no doubt that there is an impact on mental health for everyone at this time.

“For the people we support, it can show itself in many different ways, and could be subtle changes to mood, behaviour and general wellbeing,” he says.  

This is why it is more important than ever that we listen and understand the needs of others. We need to be prepared to support people according to their individual needs and refer to specialised support, where required, says Rob.  

Staying connected and active 
For many families and friends, it has also been difficult. COVID-19 restrictions have meant that, in recent times, Achieve homes had to limit visiting to protect the health and wellbeing of clients, staff and the community. “Many family and friends visit and engage with clients often and to have isolation restrictions imposed on them during this period has impacted us all,” says Rob.  

Everyone has been understanding, though, and we have continued to work with families on ways to connect. We’ve been supporting the use of technology to stay in touch and some families and friends are cooking meals for clients as a way to stay connected.”  

As part of the new My Life at Home program introduced during COVID-19, many of the people we support have had the opportunity to continue with existing creative projects, start up new hobbies or build new skills, all in the comfort of home.  

“Not only has this program reduced the impact of isolation for many people, but many clients have also realised or gained new strengths and abilities by participating and engaging in things they have not done previously.” 

So far, Rob says that some of the most popular activities have been getting creative and keeping busy in the kitchen. “Art and cooking appear to be the favourites people are engaging in. The range of ways people can engage in art means everyone has the ability to create something.” 

With original artworks on display at home and new recipes to tempt the tastebuds, there are many different ways to get through difficult times. It’s best to find out what works for you as everyone is unique in their preferences and needs.  

Tips for coping during COVID-19  

  • Manage how often you watch news coverage Choose a time of day to stay up to date with news coverage as too much news can increase fear and anxiety. Refer only to reliable news sources and follow the Australian Government’s advice and guidelines 
  • Create a daily routine Create a routine that works for you and your family. Do things that you enjoy or that you have wanted to do for a while, but have not had the time to do 
  • Manage your own wellbeing Eat a balanced and nutritious diet, stay active and keep moving, get a good night’s sleep, and ask for help if you need it. Take up a new hobby or learn a new skill to keep your mind active. See our feature on staying active at home for more ideas.  
  • Check in on family and friends Think about different ways to connect with friends and family through phone calls, text messages, and video chat, or even hand write a card or letter to someone you love. Check on elderly neighbours or people you know who live alone to see if they need any support.  
  • Practise mindfulness and keep moving – Explore gentle exercise such as tai chi, walking, Pilates or yoga. Learn how to breathe or practice some meditation. Headspace has a 5-minute meditation for free. Visit: headspace.com/meditation/5-minute-meditation 

Where to get help  
If you are experiencing stress, worry or anxiety at this time, know that this is a normal reaction and you are not alone. “It’s more important than ever to be patient with each other, make time to listen and talk with each other, and don’t be afraid to ask for help,” says Rob.  

If it feels too much, you might think about:  

  • Talking to someone who can support you. Family, friends, colleagues, your support worker or other informal networks can be a good place to start.  
  • Accessing professional services such as a psychologist or counsellor. You can enquire with your GP to about Medicare rebates. 
  • Families and clients can reach out to Achieve Australia for additional support and advice 

There is no doubt that this has been challenging time for everyone, but together we can get through it by looking after each other and our own wellbeing. Remember, if you need more support or if it feels too much, reach out for help. 

For more information or supports 

Beyond Blue   

  • 1800 512 348 
  • coronavirus.beyondblue.org.au 

Lifeline 

  • 13 11 14 
  • lifeline.org.au 

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