One of the nation’s top anxiety and depression experts has warned Australian could be suffering with the mental health ramifications of COVID-19 for a long time to come – urging people to think of the pandemic as a marathon and not a sprint.
St Vincent’s Hospital and University of NSW’s Clinical Research Unit for Anxiety and Depression head Dr Mike Millard has created a report that outlines 10 tips for managing your mental health during COVID.
Mr Millard said he predicts the mental health impact of the pandemic will linger for a long time – likely even after a vaccine is found.
“What a lot of us thought of as a spring earlier on in the year is very much turning out to be a marathon. And it is a marathon without knowing the finishing line or when we will reach it,” Mr Millard said.
“We are in the second wave of the pandemic but the mental health aspects are going to be with us for quite a while.”
The report titled Tips for Getting Through the COVID-19 Marathon suggested planning one fun activity and one productive activity every day, monitoring the things you are reading and watching to ensure there is a balance between information and fun, be proactive about managing any health concerns and sticking to a routine for healthy eating and exercise.
Mr Millard said as the pandemic has gone on, it has been harder for people to stick to mental wellness activities like contacting family and friends and taking care of themselves.
“There are the people who have generally not had mental health difficulties before but are now suddenly forced with thinking about where their next meal comes from,” he said.
“We also have a sizeable proportion of people who had pre-existing mental health difficulties.”
Mr Millard said as time has gone on, the novelty of self-care activities like cooking, gardening and Zoom video calls has been lost for many people.
“We are seeing a lot less people posting photos of being home baking and those sorts of things we saw in the first lockdown,” he said.
“This is going to be with us for a while so let’s use the time to learn skills to manage our mental well-being.”
The report encouraged people to celebrate small wins each day and spent quality time with loves ones even if it has to be over the phone.