One of the problems with COVID-19 is the increase in mental health problems that Australians face. You’re not alone – here’s our advice for getting through this.
We are just over halfway through 2020 and COVID-19 has affected everyone in one way or another, especially when it comes to mental health. With job losses, ongoing uncertainty about the future, business closures, and isolation in lockdown, it’s no surprise that people all over Australia have been struggling.
According to Beyond Blue, it’s estimated that 45% of people will experience mental health conditions in their lifetime. In any one year, around 1 million Australian adults have depression, and over 2 million have anxiety. And these statistics were recorded before COVID-19 struck the world.
With all of the forced office closures, the sudden lifestyle changes to the remote work landscape is likely to have an affect your mental health.
The best way to adapt to the new remote work environment is to set-up a formal workstation; remain active; increase telephone communication; stick to a daily routine; and manage your time accordingly.
Working from the couch may seem like the ultimate comfort for a day at work, but it’s not the ideal solution for your productivity or health. You will noticeably lose the motivation to remain productive and will increasingly lose comfort as the day goes on due to your poor posture. As productivity begins to slip, you begin to fall behind on your work, which will ultimately lead to you falling behind on due dates and increasing your stress levels. Poor posture will also result in restlessness, making it hard to focus and increasing your desire to stop working.
So, what’s the solution? Set up a formal workstation.
This means finding a permanent place for your work each day. Think of it like your desk in the office at your work, but just in the comfort of your home! You will ideally need a table, desk or bench, as well as a chair with adequate back support. You will be surprised how much more work you will get done from a desk, in comparison to sitting on the couch or on your bed.
This doesn’t mean it’s essential to have an intense workout every single day (unless that’s what you’re in to), but simply getting out of the house for a walk, run or bike ride to get away from the screen will have a strong positive effect on your mental health. A 30 minute walk each day is all you need to feel active and healthy as you spend every single day in your home. And even if you don’t talk to anyone while you’re out on your walk, just seeing other people out in the world will help ease the feeling of absolute isolation that comes with the strict COVID-19 lockdowns.
When you’re in the office at work, you talk to people all throughout the day, however, when you’re isolated at home, that’s not always an option. Instead of sending an email and spending the whole day talking to nobody, why not call your co-workers to discuss your work instead?
Additionally, call your friends and family – spend some time talking to them. You will feel a lot better throughout the day if you have some kind of interaction with someone, even if it’s only over the phone or via a video call.
The first thing that probably comes to your mind when you think about working from home is the fact that you can wear whatever you want. This doesn’t mean that you should live in your pyjamas or trackies all day though. Every now and then is fine – casual Friday, am I right?! But doing this every single day is going to make you feel a whole lot worse about the situation.
Stick to a routine every day and keep your days in check. What this means is get up at the same time each day; have your breakfast and lunch at the same time each day; log on to your work computer at the same time each day; and of course, sign off for the day at the same time each day. It will give you some consistency and normality as we push through the COVID-19 lockdowns.
You stick to a routine when you’re in the office, so keep it up while you’re working from home too.
I’ve spoken to a lot of corporate workers over the last couple of months as they shifted to remote work, and the one thing that I noticed with every one of them was that they were doing much more work than they typically would (and not in a good way). They would eat their lunch for 5-10 minutes and get straight back into the work; they wouldn’t get out for exercise; and, they would work way past their usual time, some people even working all the way into the night until they go to bed. Just to wake up and do it all over again tomorrow.
This isn’t a healthy pattern – you need rest and you need time away from work. There’s a whole world out there outside of your job, and it may not feel like it while we are in lockdown, but your work isn’t everything. Sign off at your usual time and turn the computer off; mute your emails overnight; and pick it all back up in the morning. Your work isn’t going anywhere – start focusing more on yourself.
If you are struggling with isolation during the lockdown period, the one thing that you should remember is that you are not alone.
Friends, family, organisations, co-workers and managers are all there to talk to if you need some help. Don’t bottle up your feelings inside, because it will only continue to build up until your mental health continues to worsen. Give them a call, send them an email, have a video meeting – do anything to interact with people. Talking does so much more than just keeping it to yourself. People care and it’s important to know that.
If things are starting to become serious, talk to your doctor. It’s their job to care for you, whether it is physical, mental or another kind of problem that you are having. They don’t specialise in everything, but they can refer you to the best source of help to assist with your problems, if they can’t assist on their own.
And if you need some help right how, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, or call Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636. They are there for you 24/7. If you don’t feel comfortable talking on the phone, start a live chat or send them an email on the Beyond Blue website instead.
You’re never alone and there is always support out there. Stay strong – we will get through these lockdowns soon enough 🙂
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