With school returning this week, it’s a stressful time for Sydney parents. We’re all navigating territory I think we all assumed we left behind in 2020.
If this lockdown is to continue, as the Premier is indicating, our collective mental health will be tested like never before.
As the father of three daughters in a busy job, with a wife who is also working long hours, it can be a struggle. And I say this knowing I am undoubtedly one of the very lucky ones. My wife and I can work from home.
There are so many among us less fortunate. Essential workers who put themselves on the community frontline, ensuring it continues to function. Health workers, bus and train drivers, police, ambulance and fire service crews. The thousands of carers who are looking after our most vulnerable, the elderly and the disabled.
For them there is no home office. As Pope Francis would say, their mission is out there in the field hospital after battle.
But even those of us who have the option to retreat into our private sanctuaries should perhaps think twice. If we have learned one thing about COVID it is that we work best when working together to help each other. Giving to others is a powerful antidote to the drain on our mental health.
So let’s try to help the local businesses doing it tough. They need you now more than ever to help them through. Buying local can really help cement a sense of belonging. Helping people can help maintain a sense of your own wellbeing.
If we have learned one thing about COVID it is that we work best when working together
to help each other
Think of those I mentioned earlier – the people for whom there is no such refuge. Treat them with kindness and show them your appreciation. All too often we take for granted the people whose mission in life has been to serve.
Dr Mike Millard of St Vincent’s Health Sydney’s This Way Up program tells me that since COVID he has seen a 1000 per cent increase in demand for the online services they offer to treat anxiety and depression disorders. Little surprise there.
Dr Millard’s broad advice? Rather than feeling anxious about feeling anxious we should learn to accept it as normal. He says we should feel comfortable with the right level of anxiety. Too little and you are a danger to the community because you are not following the advice, examples of which we have seen far too many of in the past week. Too much anxiety, however, and you’re paralysed by fear.
Take one day at a time, know that you can’t control everything, and keep doing the things you usually do. Most importantly, keen doing the things that are meaningful to you — that give you joy.
For me that’s taking advantage of going outside and soaking up the breathtaking beauty of our natural environment. A surf or even a swim for those close to water is also restorative. Meditation or yoga is great if the temperature of the ocean is too daunting.
We know the way out of this pandemic lies with the vaccine rollout program gradually getting underway. But its success will depend not solely on the supply of the vaccines, but the community’s confidence in their efficacy.
Let’s stay resilient in this moment. But if we want to get back to ‘normal’ and help our collective mental health, we need to get vaccinated.