We may have escaped the ravages of Covid that have maimed nations elsewhere, but Australians have still endured its consequences through lengthy, disruptive lockdowns.
Nowhere is this as intimately understood than in Melbourne, which is now in its fifth lockdown. And as our fellows in Sydney stare down a potentially long road stuck at home, we thought it useful this week to invite Melburnians to offer tips on how best to cope.
Thousands answered our Instagram Story callout. No, they weren’t mostly QAnon or anti-vaxxers. Both groups, and those taking political pot shots, fell into the minority of responses. Most people genuinely tried to offer practical ideas, to help their neighbours to the north soldier through this gruelling period.
It was heartening indeed to see that beneath the surface of political bickering, many are eager to offer support.
Of course, the unpredictability of Covid meant that a day after the callout was sent, Victoria itself re-entered lockdown. But we still thought it worthwhile to share tips from the community as Australia’s two largest cities find themselves in lockdown this weekend.
Several answers focused on the importance of mindset and accepting the reality of our times.
“Just let it wash over you, the control over your life that is, it’s for the greater good.”
That may be easier said than done as the uncertainty of how long lockdown will last heightens anxiety. The pandemic has, as Prof Gill Straker and Dr Jacqui Winship write, confronted us with an “existential fragility”.
None of us had intended our lives to be so rudely paused by an external force completely beyond our control. And yet here we sit, patiently awaiting the resumption of normalcy as time continues to tick … time we will never retrieve.
All the more reason, perhaps, that suggestions focused on taking control of what we can:
“Embrace the change of pace.”
“Enjoy the little things, the slow pace and quality time with people you live with.”
“Try to think of all the times you wanted, more time, time to slow down, time with family, time.”
“Be kind and gentle on yourself & check in on your neighbours. Just shout over the fence!”
“Don’t say lockdown, say special state holiday.”
Three months into Melbourne’s second lockdown last year, a group video call I had that included mothers of young children descended into a mental breakdown.
“I can’t cope,” one disclosed, no longer able to withhold her anguish. It prompted another woman, a mother of three, to break down in tears. The added pressure of home duties is real, and in my experience, friends can serve as the soundboard that provides an outlet to struggling parents who dare not display their emotional turmoil in front of their children or partners.
Advice from our Instagram callout also alluded to the stress of homeschooling:
“Accept you can’t work full-time AND homeschool. Not well anyway.”
“Do NOT stress about homeschool. Do what you can. If it turns into arguing, stop.”
The fitness tips – “get fit”, “exercise”, “get a routine” – were expected.
With gyms and sporting clubs closed, however, there’s the added layer of discovering new exercise routines to do with only nature at our disposal.
I, for one, began doing sprint drills and bodyweight workouts at the local footy oval and athletics track. Others I saw brought fitness equipment and speakers to parks to do their own workouts.
There’s also comfort in doing nothing. The beauty of lockdown is you have ample time to exercise and spend hours on the couch.
Or as one person put it: “Be the lazy sloth you always wanted to be.”
Reacquainting with parks and discovering nature trails hidden in suburbia are indeed perks of lockdown and boons for mental health – particularly if you’ve been sitting at home in front of a computer all day.
“Go outside for a walk every day.”
“If you’re able to walk outside with one person a day do it, set a routine, stick to routine.”
“Use your hour getting outdoors. It’s so good for your mental health.”
“Walk, podcasts, read, make a schedule and give yourself things to look forward to!!!”
“Get out of your pyjamas.”
“Actually get dressed every day.”
Or, if you’re like me and want to strike the balance between comfort and maintaining a routine for mental health purposes, buy a set of passable hoodies and tracksuit pants and alternate.
Acquiring new skills or finishing a project helps turn lockdown into a productive endeavour. Since the pandemic began to spread last year, I’ve improved my Arabic courtesy of an online tutor and developed gardening skills.
“Lots of craft activities like paint by numbers.”
“Start a personal project; build a table, start a small business, master a new skill.”
“Start a hobby – sewing, painting, a language!”
“Don’t doomsday scroll & living around press conferences. Turn it off for a while.”
“Stop looking at the news (sorry Guardian).”
Don’t be! Even for journalists, covering depressing news daily takes its toll. While it’s important to stay informed (especially with regard to ever-changing restrictions), if the world is overwhelming, take a break from it.
“Binge watch ‘the Office’.”
It’s fair to say at lockdown no 5, I have run out of shows to watch and rewatch. But it is a good time to rediscover past loves or new genres. I would add books and podcasts to the mix as well.
There’s no shirking it: lockdown is tough. It is tough to find daily motivation, and there will be days and weeks where we lapse into a mode of nothingness. But the ideas above may help lift us up when we feel like we’re sinking.
And if you’re doing it extra tough, please reach out to the support services available, such as Lifeline at 13 11 14.