The Delta variant is currently circulating in Australia. Parts of NSW, Victoria and ACT are currently in lockdown. We could all use some lockdown tips!
Lockdowns will likely be a necessary part of life until we reach the target of having 70 per cent of our population vaccinated against COVID-19.
But this isn’t our first time faced with the prospect of prolonged lockdown measures. Last year, Victoria endured four months of strict measures which ultimately contained the virus and saved thousands of lives.
COVID-19: A psychological pandemic
Our behavioural scientists have been studying the psychological impact COVID-19 has had on Australia since the pandemic began in 2020.
Millions of people in NSW are bunkering down for what could be another long lockdown. Other states have introduced snap restrictions to control the virus. Our behavioural scientist Dr Jillian Ryan shares her research and some lockdown tips for remaining resilient.
In early 2020, as Australia's first lockdown began, Jillian and our research team mobilised quickly. They wanted to get a snapshot of how living with COVID-19 containment measures impacted Australians’ wellbeing.
They’ve recently published the findings in a report. It examines the impact of COVID-19 on social and professional roles and identity, emotion, behavioural regulation, and social influences.
Jillian said the survey found that interruptions to our social, health, and fitness routines (aspects within our behavioural regulation domain) were felt to have the most negative impact.
"Our health, fitness and social routines keep us healthy and happy. But closures to pools, gyms, sports centres and social distancing measures disrupt them. It can be challenging to bounce back from those disruptions," Jillian said.
“Additionally, people commonly shared that changes to their usual healthy eating patterns and an increase in their alcohol consumption was a negative consequence of life in lockdown.”
Some silver linings
Broadly across the survey, 20 per cent of respondents could find a silver lining in at least some of the changes pandemic lockdowns bring to our lives. Many other respondents shared that they enjoyed the slower pace of life as the obligations of life faded, and a greater sense of cohesion in their neighbourhood emerged.
“The survey responses speak to all of us really and it helps to know what you’re feeling is a common reaction," Jillian said.
“It's important to acknowledge, while the lockdown may be lengthy, it's a temporary disruption. So, if your children have too much screen time on a rainy day, or you struggle to get in your normal amount of fruit and veggies, it's okay. It's something you will be able to correct when restrictions ease."
Survival tips: Livin’ la vida lockdown
Overall, there is only one rule for living well in lockdown – be kind to yourself. Don’t stress if you're not acing it. And, if you have any energy leftover, try some of the lockdown tips below.
The main things we can do to protect our wellbeing during times of uncertainty is to take steps towards controlling what we can control. Maintaining a regular routine, staying active, and avoiding too much alcohol will help to protect our physical and mental health including sleep quality.
Here are some ideas for how to achieve this.
1. Set specific, daily goals related to health and physical activity
Think 10,000 steps per day, five alcohol-free days per week, six takeaway-free days, two litres of water, or five serves of vegetables each day. Write your goals down and tick them off each day. Maintaining healthy habits is enormously helpful for ensuring that we get a good night's sleep and have positive mental health.
2. Use technology to stay connected
While normally too much screen time is not recommended, recent evidence shows that staying connected to loved ones via digital means can help to combat lockdown loneliness. Technology can be used to have video chats and meetings, messaging, and playing social games to maintain connection.
3. Maintain a daily routine
Sticking to a routine is important for staving off stress and boredom, and the start-of-day events are critical. When you wake up, make sure you shower straight away and get dressed in clean clothes (trackies are A-OK!). And make your bed immediately to remove the temptation to fall back into it.
A daily routine will help you to feel in control of your environment and reduce stress throughout the day.
4. Set clear boundaries while working from home
You might be noticing that work-from-home creep: work hours can get increasingly longer or weirder, and this lack of separation can be bad for our mental health.
Spend some time configuring your work computer and smartphone to mute all work-related alerts and notifications on software that you use for work between 5pm and 9am each day.
This includes programs like Teams, email, or Slack, for example. If possible, use your work office or desk only for work – don’t mix uses so that you can physically turn off the computer and step away from the desk when the workday is over.
5. Start a new project
Starting a new project can help us to remain positive while in lockdown. While you don’t need to take on a major home renovation, try to start a simple project. This could be a new puzzle, reading a book, enrolling in an online class, or cooking a few new recipes each week. Share your successes and failures with friends and family.