As millions of Australians find themselves in lockdown, mental health experts are reminding people to take steps to look after their wellbeing and to reach out for help if they need it.
Practising self-compassion, allowing yourself to feel how you feel, trying to eat healthy foods, doing something active, talking to friends and family and seeking professional help are among the tips experts are sharing.
The impact COVID-19 is having on mental health is being felt as people across the country face varying lockdowns and restrictions, with Lifeline recording its highest number of calls in the organisation's 58-year history with 3,345 callers on Monday alone.
However, the organisation said it was a good thing that people were reaching out for help.
Queensland Lifeline's general manager, Luke Lindsay, said there was a huge variety of impacts that people were experiencing as many people were trying to balance working from home with children at home learning or unable to attend childcare, "which can be very stressful and chaotic".
"For others, it's the opposite, and they are isolated and feeling very alone, which can lead to feeling very low," Mr Lindsay said.
"Financial concerns weigh heavily, too, with businesses stressed [about] how they will cope and employees worried about losing work.
Mr Lindsay encouraged everyone to practise self-compassion — to be kind to themselves and to recognise that it was a challenging time, and "it's OK not to be feeling OK".
And, he said, while acknowledging emotions was important, it was the next step — reaching out and implementing some changes — that counts.
For those feeling stressed, Lifeline has a video of some useful tips on breathing exercises on Instagram.
Self- care tips:
Mr Lindsay said self-care was different for everyone but that some of these practical steps could have a positive impact:
- Giving yourself some positive feedback for all the things you are doing, think of it as giving yourself praise as you do to others
- Fuelling your body with nutritious food
- Reaching out to friends and family, a conversation can be a mood-booster
- Finding time to be active each day.
Beyond Blue also has some excellent tips on Instagram for looking after your mental health during lockdowns.
Helping young people cope
Kids Helpline said with homes going into lockdown across the nation, many stressors have potentially been felt by children and young people, putting them at risk of mental ill-health.
The national counselling service says while social isolation and loneliness are different things both can be harmful to your physical health and mental wellbeing.
Dealing with change, too, can present issues for children and young people, according to Kids Helpline.
The service recommends young people can stream music together, exercise together on video calls, host a virtual games night or a virtual dinner catch-up or even a movie night.
Yourtown chief executive Tracy Adams said that the "upheaval and stress" that Australian children and young people were experiencing from the pandemic was "a cause for concern".
For children, teens and their parents, Kids Helpline has developed some helpful resources on coping during lockdowns or quarantine.
Risks for people with eating disorders
Butterfly Foundation Helpline team leader Chris Fowler said isolation, changes to food and exercise routines, uncertainty around changing restrictions, and lack of social connection had placed immense pressure and added stress on those living with eating disorders.
For someone who has experienced an eating disorder, these feelings can contribute to a return of eating disorder thinking and behaviours resurfacing or in some cases causing a relapse, Mr Fowler said.
"Eating disorders often develop as a way to cope with intense and negative experiences and emotions and for some people, this time can trigger hard feelings and emotions also," he said.
"Mr Fowler said people whether it be Anorexia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, Bulimia, or Other Feeding and Eating Disorders (OSFED), every eating disorder presentation is likely to be impacted by the pandemic."
Dealing with the development of an eating disorder or relapse in lockdown:
Warning signs of a developing eating disorder may include; an over-preoccupation with food, eating or an increase in health-ifying all foods, Mr Fowler said.
Restricting or over-eating behaviours to manage stressors or anxiety, an increase in other mental health problems, a focus or increasing obsession with exercise, getting "healthy" or "fit" and just generally being preoccupied with food, exercise, the body.
"Talking helps and if someone is feeling isolated and alone, it can be challenging to know if thinking is 'healthy' and ok or is in fact something more serious," Mr Fowler said.
Mr Fowler said it is important to stay alert and aware for any signs during challenging times and to seek support, sooner rather than later.
He said that, if someone was concerned that they were experiencing a relapse or worried about their thinking and behaviours, it was important to reach out to access support or they might want to self-assess by completing an online assessment tool, such as these: