Dealing with mental health in a changing world

20 May 2020
Keeping healthy in times of uncertainty
Youth mental health expert Samuel Hockey provides some basic tips and advice on how to look after your mental health during these times of crisis and uncertainty.

2020 has been a tough year for all of us. It’s hard enough dealing with day to day tasks without having to worry about bushfires and global pandemics. Fortunately, there are a number of easy ways to look after yourself during these difficult times. Youth mental health pro, Samuel Hockey, from the University’s Brain and Mind Centre talks about how you can combat anxiety, stress and depression.

Talk to someone

It can’t be stressed enough how important this step is. It’s never been more imperative to continue to maintain social connections and communicate with other people.

“It is important to try to socialise. If you would normally study with a group, continue to; but over digital platforms rather than in person. The more we can stay connected with each other and our regular social patterns, the ability to cope, in what has been an unpredictable situation, will increase," says Samuel. 

Focus on talking to people who make you feel good, whether they are friends, parents, classmates or siblings. Talking to someone can reduce feelings of anxiety and will help you feel motivated and connected.

If you are worried about your mental health, it could also be beneficial to book an appointment with a mental health professional or doctor. The University’s Student Counselling Services or headspace Camperdown at the Brain and Mind Centre are good places to start if you need to talk to someone.

Maintain a routine, no matter how small

To install some sense of normality and structure to your life, Samuel recommends trying to create as much of a routine as possible, no matter how small. 

"For most of us, our regular morning routines have been horribly disrupted. This can result in feeling a lack of drive or care to start the day and its tasks ahead. However, implementing a small morning routine (i.e. light exercise, breakfast, shower) will help with our mindset, cognitive function, and sense of achievement."

Get some sleep

It’s been proven that getting a good night’s rest can have positive effects on mental health.

"Going to bed and waking at the same times every day helps provide a stable routine for our body to lean on. Making sure you are achieving between seven and nine hours of sleep a night will also ensure you are getting the rest your body needs — particularly during this stressful time."

For some, the real challenge is falling asleep when you are dealing with anxiety or depression. If you are having trouble sleeping, there are a few steps you can take to help you sleep.

“Practice breathing deeply. Try visualising a peaceful place and focus on how relaxed you feel when you are there. Or maybe try picturing a favourite activity and how it makes you feel.”

It’s also a good idea to try and avoid napping during the day. This can disrupt your sleep cycle, and prevent you from falling asleep easily in the evening. Avoid having caffeine in the afternoon is also a good idea.

Get your heart racing

You don’t need to become a fitness buff, but maintaining a basic exercise routine is good for your mind as well as your body.

"Exercise provides many benefits to our mind and body. Light exercise of around 20 minutes every day helps to not only keep us active, but also to circulate more oxygen to our brains; helping us function better during times of stress."

Get offline once in a while

The Internet has recently been more vital than ever to maintain contact with our friends and family, keeping us up to date with the latest news and allowing students to continue their studies. But by spending all our time online, we risk information overload and a constant influx of news and opinions can end up making us more anxious. To combat this, Samuel says it’s a good idea to occasionally get offline.

"Being online is the only way for some of us to connect at the moment; however, we must look out for our health and wellbeing when doing so. Taking small breaks and going for a walk, or reading a book, or journaling, are great ways to engage with an offline world that is productive and equally beneficial."

Know that this will pass

Stress and anxiety in times of crisis are to be expected, but try and remember that this is temporary. It’s normal to experience disruption to your life and normal routines, and this can be upsetting to our mental health. But putting things into perspective and accepting that these disruptions aren’t your fault will help.

“We’ve recently seen our daily interaction with friends, colleagues, and even our baristas drastically change as a result of world events. And this means we might be experiencing creative blocks, have an inability to focus, or feel a lack of care in daily tasks and university study. These reactions from our brains are normal, as they are working overtime to process stress and a lack of normal routine. Just know what we are feeling is temporary and will not last forever."