As Sydneysiders and those living in Greater Sydney continue to be in the midst of another lockdown due to multiple outbreaks of COVID-19, our mental health and ability to juggle family and working life from home is again being put to the test.
The original two-week lockdown of Greater Sydney, Wollongong, Shellharbour, Blue Mountains and the Central Coast that was originally scheduled to end on Friday, July 9, was extended by an additional week until midnight on Friday, July 16 (7News 2021). However, as case numbers continue to climb over 100 (as of July 12, 2021) including large numbers of active cases in the community, the lockdown now has no end in sight unless case numbers are reduced significantly.
Just when it felt like things were going back to ‘normal’, stay-at-home orders are back in place, our face masks are back on, non-essential businesses are closed, many Sydney schools have not returned in a face-to-face capacity this term, and working from home is expected if possible until further notice (NSW Government 2021). This was challenging the first and second time around, but with each new lockdown comes new compounding challenges, stressors and effects on our mental health.
Chief Executive of the Australian Psychological Society, Zena Burgess, says that people can expect to feel upset, anxious, frustrated, fatigued irritable and exhausted by the news of enduring another lockdown (ABC 2021).
While the public health measures that have been enforced are necessary to curb the spread of COVID-19, the impacts of uncertainty and isolation can cause loneliness, stress and anxiety and have already seen the rates of psychological distress, anxiety, and depression symptoms rise among adults in Australia during the peak of the pandemic (Dr. Mandal 2020).
Life at the best of times can be busy and stressful, but the expectation of being able to balance working from home with kids who aren’t at school can be extremely challenging.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a number of ways to cope with stress associated with the effects of lockdowns on our lives including the following:
- Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories. While it’s good to be informed, hearing about the pandemic constantly can be upsetting.
- Take care of your body including exercising regularly, getting plenty of sleep, maintain a healthy diet, and avoiding excessive alcohol, tobacco, and substance use.
- Make time to unwind by doing some activities you enjoy.
- Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling (CDC 2021).
Anyone worried about their mental health, loneliness, finances, family, or other circumstances should be reassured that help is available and accessible and can contact the Beyond Blue Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service for free advice and counseling on 1800 512 348 or online. Immediate advice and support is also available through Lifeline (13 11 14) or Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800) (Department of Health 2021).
ABC Everyday 2021 – Managing your mental health when facing a new COVID-19 Lockdown – https://www.abc.net.au/everyday/managing-mental-health-in-new-covid-lockdown/100169688
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021 – Coping with Stress – https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html
Department of Health, 2021 – Looking after your mental health during coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions – https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/ongoing-support-during-coronavirus-covid-19/looking-after-your-mental-health-during-coronavirus-covid-19-restrictions
Dr Mandal. A, 2020 – Mental health problems peak alongside COVID-19 in Australia – https://www.news-medical.net/news/20200729/Mental-health-problems-peak-alongside-COVID-19-in-Australia.aspx
NSW Government – Additional Restrictions for NSW, 2021 https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/rules/greater-sydney
7News 2021 – Why Sydney students won’t be returning to classrooms next week – https://7news.com.au/lifestyle/health-wellbeing/nsw-schools-regional-students-to-return-to-classrooms-while-those-in-greater-sydney-to-work-remotely–c-3331951
7NEWS 2021 – NSW records 27 new COVID cases as Greater Sydney lockdown is extended – https://7news.com.au/lifestyle/health-wellbeing/nsw-records-rise-in-covid-cases-as-sydney-lockdown-is-extended-c-3331119