What are signs you may not be coping?
These mental health struggles can also occur at ages across the board, from young people to adults; and particularly with men.
There may be ongoing standing traumas that many people already suffer from which were increased by the pandemic. Isolation, restriction from activities and global stress “can exacerbate this trauma exponentially,” says Buckby.
Michalow advises those who are struggling to seek help. If you are unsure, she says that “it can be helpful to listen to the signals our body is giving us to alert us that something is not quite right.”
Some issues may be “a fast heart rate, fatigue, headaches or an upset stomach, feeling helpless or hopeless, emotional outbursts, feeling more irritable than usual, increased use of alcohol or other drugs, changes in sleep patterns or appetite, withdrawing from others, or suicidal thoughts.”
What can I do to feel better?
While there is no miracle to ‘snapping out of it,’ Buckby says the best thing we can do is focus on what we can control, and try to let go of what we can’t.
“What can make people distressed is putting emotional energy into things they don’t have control over," he says. "When will masks go away? Will I need more and more boosters? When will everything go back to normal?”
While these questions are of course common and valid, they don’t do much for our well-being, because we don’t have control over the answer, which in turn, leads to more stress. Instead, both Buckby and Michalow advise that focusing on putting time, effort, and energy into things you can control – a healthy diet, getting back into exercise, sleep routines, and maintaining supportive relationships can assist in reducing stress and supporting our mental and physical wellbeing.
“Rather than focusing on things that may not come to fruition during this time, you will gain more fulfillment by living healthily and by your values,” says Buckby. “You can gain a greater sense of contentment by focusing on what is important to you, and how you want to live your life. While there may be things occurring outside of your control, you can focus on being the best version of yourself, or being a great dad, sister, friend, or colleague.”
It can also be helpful to take time at end of the day to practice gratitude, either through meditation, mindfulness, or a gratitude journal. Take time each day to calmly look at what is going well in your life, both internally and externally. It may be that you cooked a great meal, had a meaningful conversation with a family member, or saw some beautiful flowers on an afternoon walk.
How can I help someone else feeling this way?
Michalow advises that if you see signs someone is struggling, you can help them by checking in and being willing to listen. “Provide them with a safe space to open up and make sure to acknowledge their experience so they feel heard and understood,” she advises.
She also says it is important to encourage them to seek help wherever they most feel comfortable, and ask if they would like your support in this process.
“While checking in may seem like a difficult conversation to have, it could make all the difference,” she adds.
If you or someone you know feels overwhelmed or in need of support, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 at any time of the day or night.