The Cabinet must meet today to decide on any lockdown expansions or lower alarm levels for parts of the country.
Dunedin School of Medicine consulting psychiatrist and senior lecturer Dr. Chris Gale said, according to surveys conducted last year, people experienced increased anxiety and low mood during lockdown.
“We know that the weaker your social network is, the worse your overall mental heat is, and the worse your physical heat is.”
For some people, sitting at home, reading and researching, was their idea of “heaven,” he said.
But everyone needed some social contact to maintain healthy mental health.
The uncertainty that came with going in and out of lockdown could also take its course.
The longer the lockdown, the less likely it was that people would use adaptive ways of coping, instead opting for maladaptive coping mechanisms, he said.
It can include substance abuse, aggression, and moving in a state of anxiety, fear, and despair.
However, there were steps people could take to take care of themselves and others in an unprecedented time.
Those who could should avoid being alone, Dr Gale said.
“I’m very aware that there are some people who have no choice. But if you have a choice, then make your bubble a little bit bigger.
“Having someone else to talk to who you trust is great.”
Like having contact with people in a way that provided as much interaction as possible, he said.
“Video conferencing, like FaceTime or messenger, beats phone calls. Phone calls beats emails. Emails beat texts, and texts are better than nothing.”
Those who lived alone should regularly have some form of human contact, he said.
“This means that for some regular visits to their pharmacy or to them [supermarket] will be needed to avoid isolation, loneliness and despair. “
Dr Gale said it was also important to plan training and get creative about what the exercise looked like.
He warned that over-consumption of media would do no good to people’s mental health, and he did not advise people to plan their day around the government’s Covid-19 updates.
“Do not spend all your time on social media looking at the beautiful pictures of people abroad having fun. It will lead you into a terrible state.
“You control what you can control.”
Dr. Gale said that while there were many mechanisms people could use to prevent their mental health from slipping, “it was to sit in the morning with a piece of paper, make a list of things you can do today, and tick them off,” while walking “was as good as anyone.
On the other hand, those who could work from home were generally kept busy.
But Zoom and team meetings can be tiring, he said.
“You need some screen time, and then you have to go outside, walk, stretch, make a cup of coffee.
“Here’s a tendency for people to just work and then move on to a Zoom meeting.
“I do not think we can expect the same level of team productivity [in lockdown]. “
For those who had children and partners at home, it was good to try to work from a separate room where possible, Dr Gale said.
“But if not, the people you are around should have priority.”
Stay mentally fit
Dr Chris Gale’s Tips for Prioritizing Mental Health During Lockdown:
• Avoid being alone where possible.
For those living alone, more regular trips to the supermarket for human contact may be necessary.
• Choose more interactive communication forms such as video calls, over phone calls, emails or texts.
• Plan training and get creative with training.
• Avoid overuse of media and social media.
• Do not plan your day around Covid-19 announcements.
• Write daily to-do lists.
• Take regular breaks if you work from home.
• Accept that labor productivity may decline.
• Work in a separate room from partners and / or children where possible.
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