Mentally Preparing For Another Lockdown

Mentally Preparing For Another Lockdown

As states around Australia are experiencing different levels of COVID restrictions, many of us are now fearful of the potential of a second wave and the resulting lockdown.

Lockdown was a uniquely challenging time for everyone, whether it was job loss, isolation, feeling anxious, or the fear of losing loved ones. Most of us have not lived through such an extreme worldwide threat and sudden change to our way of life.

There is little doubt that COVID-19 and lockdown in Australia will impact Australian’s mental health. Common impacts currently reported are increased anxiety, depression, trauma reactions, and eating difficulties. Therefore, with a second lockdown potentially around the corner, we will look at how to mentally prepare for another lockdown.

What are the common impacts of COVID?

Positive Impacts

For some Australians, the restrictions put in place to combat COVID-19 have led to:

  • Strengthened and more connected relationships with family
  • Better work-life balance
  • Less stress
  • Reduced commuting times
  • Healthier exercise and diet regimes
  • Re-prioritising what is important in life and a reconnection to values e.g. family, self-care, quality time

Negative Impacts

However, for many Australians COVID-19 restrictions led to harmful impacts that people are still suffering with. These include:

  • Exhaustion/Burnout: Feeling drained, without any energy left, not wanting to do the things you used to enjoy. This can result from long-term stress without very little rest or self-care.
  • Alcohol MisuseDrinking more than 10 standard alcoholic drinks per week to try to cope with feelings such as anxiety, boredom, sadness.
  • Trauma Exposure/Reactions: Experiencing a traumatic event where you or someone else’s safety or life is threatened. This leads to feeling anxious, on edge, experiencing mood swings, not sleeping and having flashing memories, nightmares or intrusive thoughts about the traumatic event.
  • Increased Stress, Anxiety & Panic Attacks: Feeling nervous, anxious, on edge, worrying and feeling a sense of dread. Also, physical sensations like heart palpitations, shaking, digestive issues and headaches.
  • Loneliness: Feeling alone and isolated from family and friends.
  • Low mood: feeling down, depressed or hopeless.
  • Eating difficulties: Either eating too much, eating comfort foods or restricting food intake often to feel more in control or feel comforted.
  • Increased conflict: Feeling more irritable and angry than usual, resulting in arguments between you and colleagues, family members or friends.
  • Financial Stress: Worrying about money, feeling stressed about how to make ends meet whether due to loss of income, job or financial security.

At-risk groups:

It is very natural that COVID-19 will have had negative impacts on people’s mental health. However, there are particular groups that are more at-risk of having damaged mental health than others.

These are:

  • People with pre-existing mental health conditions before COVID-19 such as health anxiety, depression, anxiety or PTSD.
  • Health care workers (e.g. nurses, doctors, healthcare assistants) due to high levels of trauma exposure.
  • People who have needed to shield or quarantine due to pre-existing health conditions.
  • People who are unemployed due to high levels of financial stress.
  • Teenagers – peer relationships are vital to social development during adolescence so teenagers are likely to suffer more after lockdown.

How to Mentally Prepare For Another Lockdown

Step 1: Reflect on the last lockdown

  • Set aside some time to reflect on how the last 4 months have been for you. What have been the challenges, what have you enjoyed, and how do you feel? Writing this down or talking it through with a friend or family member can be helpful.

Step 2: Assess how the first lockdown impacted your mental health

  • Look at the list of common impacts of COVID-19 from above and ask yourself whether you have been impacted in this way.
  • If you’re not sure – you can do a depression self-test on Black Dog Institute’s website here.
  • Black Dog also have anxiety tests and more information about common mental health issues.

Step 3: Make a mental health plan

  • Now you have reflected on the impacts, make a plan about how you can tackle these impacts. Try to continue what went well and consider different strategies for what didn’t from below.

Top Tips for Making Your Mental Health Plan

  1. Pick your goals: When not in lockdown, make a plan about what you would like to do if you are put into another lockdown. E.g. learn a language/musical instrument, or write a memoir
  2. Identify your support network: When we feel lonely or isolated, it helps to reach out to our support networks whether on the phone, video or in person. Make a list of all the people that are in your support network and keep working to build those relationships in preparation.
  3. Make a regular exercise schedule: Exercise is proven to help with the stress, anxiety and low mood that comes with lockdown. Make sure you are already starting to exercise 30 minutes every day and think of how you can adapt this in lockdown if quarantined e.g. video workouts.
  4. Routine: Make sure you have plenty of regular routine around what time you get up, go to sleep, eat lunch etc. and try not to change this if you go back into lockdown.
  5. Plan refundable trips: Don’t let your life be on pause just in case another lockdown hits. Try to book some refundable or low-cost trips to give you something to look forward to but that won’t be costly if cancelled.
  6. Get your working from home set up ready: Make sure that you are all set up and ready to work from home if needed. Investing in creating a relaxing and effective home office means that you can easily transition back to working from home.
  7. Increase your savings: Financial stress was one of the worst parts of lockdown for many of us. If you are able to, carry out a financial review of your spending and aim to create a pot of savings in case lockdown hits again.
  8. Stock up on self-care activities: Make sure you have a collection of things you can do at home, such as musical instruments, books, jigsaw puzzles, yoga mats or home craft sets.
  9. Accept that change is inevitable: Although the idea of another lockdown is scary, accept that the only guarantee in life is change. Try not to cling on to the idea of predicting the future but being flexible when change inevitably comes your way.
  10. Remind yourself that you were able to get through the last lockdown: Remember that, although it was hard, you have already gone through one lockdown. This means that you will be much more prepared for a second one and that you can draw from the resilience you used last time to get through.

Final words...

The idea of a second lockdown is scary, unsettling and worrying for everyone. It is okay to need some extra support now more than ever. Talking to a therapist about your fears around lockdown and how to cope can help in as little as one session. 

Contact your EAP, Acacia EAP on 1300 364 273 (24/7) to gain access to free psychological support.

If you or someone close to you needs support, contact Acacia EAP for an appointment.

P: 1300 364 273 (24/7) | SMS or Live Chat: 0401 337 711 | W: acaciaconnection.com

"The safety and wellbeing of our clients and staff is always our top priority. Acacia EAP is currently operating under normal conditions. Due to the pandemic status of COVID-19, some locations may move from face-to-face counselling to secure video or phone. All counselling services are able to be provided 24/7, as always. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and act quickly on the advice of health authorities."