Lockdowns are not easy. They’re inconvenient and stressful times for most people. Many people living with HIV are feeling we face a time of uncertainty and even isolation. Here in NSW as we head into an extended lockdown period, we suggest the following four ways to get through this time.
1. Take control over your wellbeing
Lockdowns are times when our sense of control feels less secure. It can help to take some time to reflect on the things you can control. Prioritising our own personal wellbeing or self-care offers a way to regain a sense of control over what’s happening. Build your own personal list of what it means to prioritise your own wellbeing by adding one thing a day to do for yourself. Whatever your ‘something’ is will be different to someone else’s.
This might be something as simple as choosing to take a warm shower or heating up some leftovers for an evening meal. It can be taking a walk around a local park; just being in a calm green environment can be helpful. Time spent moving your body, alone or with a friend, can also move your emotions and your mood. It can be as small as taking your mask off inside in your own home. Even though these might feel like activities you do all the time without much thought, the act of focusing on what you choose to do, and acknowledging these, reminds you that some things are entirely within your control.
2. Turn down the ‘noise’
The COVID-related news cycle is specifically created to keep people coming back to see if they’ve missed anything. Constantly being exposed to the hype, drama and uncertainty can be draining. While some of this news is super-important to hear, such as the latest NSW Health guidelines on what we can and can’t do, much of the alarmist and fear-based news at the moment are all forms of ‘click bait’.
Constantly exposing yourself to the drama, fears and speculation about the virus can be almost addictive. It raises your heartrate, blood pressure, and stress levels. Your mind can start spiralling off down a rabbit hole of ‘what ifs’.
Instead, be your own best friend and reduce your exposure to the feeds, images and ‘latest news’, especially on social media, TV, or radio for most of each day. Maybe allow yourself only a quick ten-minute check in each morning by reading information only from websites that end with www.nsw.gov.au or www.health.nsw.gov.au or other reliable news sources. In this way you’re not going to miss any really important piece of news you need to know, and your exposure to the flow of the news cycle is limited.
3. ‘Don’t downplay what’s playing on your mind’
This handy saying from Beyond Blue is a good way to remind yourself and others that wellbeing starts with your mind. It’s important to reach out sooner rather than later for any support.
If COVID-19 or restrictions are bugging you or you’re finding your thoughts are cycling or repetitive, the Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support service might be just the thing. That’s a free Beyond Blue service you can call anytime day or night to have a chat on 1800 512 348.
Beyond Blue’s general support line is free on 1300 224 636 and can also link you up with trained mental health counsellors. If online chat is more your thing, then check out the Beyond Blue online chatline that opens at 1pm to midnight everyday. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, then their New Access service might be useful to you with six free sessions that are completely confidential. If you’re looking for a specifically GLBTI peer support line, Q-life is open from 3pm to midnight every day, either by phone or webchat.
If you notice you’re not feeling like yourself or you’re sleeping more or feeling mentally exhausted, please raise this with your GP. This could mean you’re eligible for up to 20 sessions each calendar year with a mental health professional such as a psychologist or counsellor. You can also call the NSW Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511 (available 24/7). Reaching out for this kind of support is a sign of strength and care for your own wellbeing.
4. Keep up your routines
We all have routines in our daily lives. For example, we tend to get up at a certain time, brush our teeth in a certain way, get ready for the day’s activities, and follow many other routines until we go to sleep at night.
Our emotional health is strongly affected by regular routines, which not only help to get us organised but also give us a sense of achievement and accomplishment. Think about the routines that are important to you and those around you, for example, family mealtimes or get-togethers with friends. See if you can find some clever and safe ways to keep up these routines or create new ones. You could call a friend or a family member at an agreed time, daily or once a week, to check in with each other. Another idea is having a meal once a week while on zoom together.
Our friends are usually the people we lean the most on when we need it. Over this lockdown, especially if your friends are also going through the same experience, spread out some of the ‘heavy lifting’. Sometimes that nameless faceless voice on the other end of a phone line can be hugely supportive. There’s a number of free support lines you can use to ‘talk it out’.
You’re probably hearing already hearing a lot of messages about staying active, eating right, and watching the drinks. Rather than getting swept up in all the ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’, if you can make your own personal wellbeing your main priority, usually everything else often falls into line with little extra effort. Doing the little things that contribute to your own wellbeing day by day can boost you for the long haul as these add up.
If you have other useful positive suggestions about getting through lockdown to add to this list, please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear them and even share them.