Spring might have sprung but that doesn’t mean some of us aren’t still thinking bleak thoughts as a result of Covid.
Whether you’re living directly under the strict lockdowns currently in place across parts of Australia or you’ve been disadvantaged in one way or another by it; there is no doubt that limited access to family and friends, a downturn in finances, isolation, the fear of getting the virus or being vaccinated, are all having an impact on our mental health and our suicide rates.
It’s hard to believe we’ve been living with this pandemic for almost two years now and there seems to be no end in sight.
While we Aussies are a resilient lot as a rule, seemingly able to bounce back after bushfires and floods and droughts and mice plagues, that resolve is certainly being put to the test as we face this Delta variant, an even deadlier Covid strain.
In an opinion piece by the Federal Government’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Mental Health, Dr Ruth Vine recognises that while physical distancing is helping to prevent us from contracting coronavirus, it has also created other problems, including loneliness and anxiety.
Dr Vine says the actions of the Commonwealth, states and territories are being coordinated and consolidated by a National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan, with an estimated additional $500 million being channelled into mental health services.
This has led to several positive developments for those needing support. Most notably, clinical services have developed a greater capacity to use Telehealth and to reach out to those difficult to engage, as well as bolstering assertive aftercare.
If you feel you would benefit by accessing any of these services, your GP is the best place to start.
Mankind survived the last pandemic – the Spanish Flu of 1918 and we will get through Covid 19 as well, however, I believe it is incumbent on each and every one of us to make a conscious effort to try and stay positive.
One small positive thought in the morning can change your whole day. This positive thought can take many forms. It could be waking up and forcing yourself to smile. It could be reflecting on things you are grateful for. It could be kissing a loved one and letting them know they make you happy. It doesn’t need to be big. – Dalai Lama
If you’re not currently in a positive frame of mind, don’t despair, online disability-counsellor Emma West emphasises that whatever you are feeling at the moment is completely normal. She says, if you feel anxious, low, stressed or whatever, it doesn’t mean there’s something ‘wrong’ with you or that you have a mental ‘illness’.
Sometimes the best thing you can do is not think, not wonder, not imagine, not obsess. Just breathe and have faith that all will work out for the best – Anon
To only dwell on the negative aspects of Covid isn’t healthy for you or those around you.
Not being in a routine and having too much idle time on your hands is also a perfect recipe for breeding negative thoughts.
If you can’t calm these thoughts, Emma West encourages you to make a list of all the things that are worrying you. Then divide the list into; ‘things I can do something about’ and ‘things I can’t do anything about.’
With the things you can address, she suggests you work out what you can actually do to resolve them and then set about to do it. It is equally important to deal with the things you can’t do anything about, by accepting the fact that it’s out of your hands and let it go.
Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations – Zig Ziglar US Author & Motivational Speaker.
There are many ways to occupy your thoughts and distract you in order to put you in a more positive frame of mind; you just need to find things that will resonate with you and capture your full attention.
If jigsaw puzzles, crafts or cooking aren’t your thing or you’ve been spending far too much time on the lounge binge watching too many of your favourite shows, then you might want to consider using your time learning.
Adult Learners’ Week (1-8th Sept) celebrates its 26th year in Australia and their website emphasises that when we are given opportunities to engage or re-engage with learning that our society is the greatest beneficiary.
Learning gives us knowledge and can help us transform into something new – something better.
There are some very inspiring stories of adults who have challenged themselves and renewed their lives through a wide variety of learning and education programs on the Adult Learners’ Week website.
If you believe in the old adage, ‘you can’t teach old dog new tricks’ then think again.
One inspirational adult, who was also one of the guest speakers at the Adult Leaners’ Week launch, is former rugby league star turned actor Ian Roberts.
Ian became the first and only openly gay man to have played in the NRL but he has bravely revealed another big secret. Ian had difficulty reading and writing and it wasn’t until he was 37 years old that he found a mentor who gave him faith in his ability to learn. Since then, he’s never looked back.
Think about what you would like to learn. You might consider asking your children to teach you some computer skills or how to play their favourite computer games and then have some fun playing it together. Or maybe consider writing a journal or learning a language; your learning opportunities are endless.
Perhaps you’re keen on getting a more formal education by doing some online courses. It doesn’t always need to result in you getting a degree or a diploma.
If you put ‘free online courses’ into your search engine it will reveal a plethora of free courses on a wide variety of topics from respected teaching institutions, including Deakin University and The University of Adelaide.
Continuing to learn throughout our lifetime will not only help us to change the way we see ourselves and others, but it will help instil confidence and the shift in paradigm we need to stay positive, while at the same time help fill up the abundance of spare time we might have on our hands during this Covid madness.
If you choose to stay positive in a negative situation – you win! Success is a mindset – Jeremy McGilvrey US author & marketing consultant
If you’re experiencing any mental distress, you can seek immediate advice and support through Beyond Blue (1800 512 348), Lifeline (13 11 14), Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800), or the Government’s digital mental health gateway, Head to Health.
Keep smiling and stay strong and safe…cheers Susie
Susie Elelman AM – Broadcaster and Author