Making stronger connections with my family
I’ve focused the extra time I have from not travelling for work into my hobbies. Fishing at least weekly with my 75–year-old father at dawn or dusk has been a wonderful positive from COVID-19. I’ve also taken more time to work on the veggie patch so I can create interesting dishes for the family to feast on.
One of my greatest pleasures over this time has been spending almost every evening with my 15–year-old daughter cooking meals together. She’s developed a real interest in this area, which I love.
Finding time to do the things we love
I live in a family where I’m a husband, parent and carer. Living with a son with disability is a rewarding experience and a positive one in many ways, but the challenge is that time for me or with my partner has become a short commodity. The pressures of isolation and community and sports being cancelled pretty much removed my chance of downtime or time with my wife.
We realised that our family needed us to be fresher, so we committed to changing our routines. Surfing more than once a week become compulsory. Walking along the beach and swimming is my wife’s time, and the kids now need to do at least an hour’s walk, fish, rock climb or bike ride every other day. We also accessed support through the NDIS to ensure we could have time together.
It’s given me more energy to face the day–to–day and a positive side effect has been an increase in physical and mental wellbeing. We didn’t reinvent the wheel, we just made time to do the things we love to do.
Noticing the things that increase my anxiety
I’ve stopped reading lots of news articles and social media about COVID-19. At the peak of the crisis I was reading lots in the media and I found it was increasing my anxiety, and impacting on how I was reacting to things, at home and work.
I found myself trying to control something that I couldn’t – no one had all the answers. To help, I started to cherry pick what information I would read, making sure it was grounded in science.
Reaching out for help
My wife is in the high–risk category, and, together, we went to see her GP to talk through our concerns and get advice. Reaching out for help was very useful in reducing my anxiety.
Accept that you never get to the bottom of your to do list
2020 has taught me a lot about myself, but mostly how to relieve the anxiety I feel when I get overwhelmed by my to dos. I used to pride myself on staying on top of my work, taking care of my family and having a pretty great social life.
We rarely have downtime in our house, so COVID-19 has been a strange but therapeutic time for us. I needed the forced downtime to reflect on my priorities and relaxation is now something I’ve integrated into my life.
It’s okay not to do it all, and sometimes the best thing I can do for myself when I feel overwhelmed is stop, take a break and have some ‘me’ time to clear my head, without feeling pressure to use that time on someone else’s needs.
Looking for the unfamiliar
I’ve found it’s important to see and experience new things. At home everything is predictable and without novelty. The hours can melt together and it’s easy to get stuck in your own head. Going for a walk and watching the birds, turning down streets I don’t usually walk down and looking at the houses, and walking at different times of day… sunrise, morning, sunset, in light rain, overcast… these help me feel refreshed and give that day a point of difference to the others around it.
Finding out more about the people we love
I lost my Mum a couple of months ago. Not being able to travel home to say goodbye and not being able to be with my Dad when he needs me the most is tough. The thing that’s kept me together is to speak to my Dad every day.
He’s started opening up emotionally, something he’s never done before. I’ve started teaching him how to use the computer and roast veggies, he’s giving me tips on gardening and saving for the future. It’s like we’re forging a whole new father daughter relationship.
Watching things that make me feel good
I don’t let myself feel so guilty for wanting to consume more light-hearted entertainment – if it’s not good for your mind, you don’t have to watch the news every day. Do what’s best for you and what makes you feel good.
Getting the support you need
If you’re feeling more worried than usual, struggling to stay focused, or perhaps feeling hopeless at times, you might want to reach out for help. Here’s the support available for every Australian through health.gov.au:
Free 24/7 coronavirus mental wellbeing support service
Call 1800 512 348 or visit https://coronavirus.beyondblue.org.au/
Additional mental health services under Medicare
The Australian Government is providing 10 additional Medicare-subsidised psychological therapy sessions for Australians affected by the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. Just talk to your GP.
If you or anyone you know is in distress you can seek immediate advice and support through Lifeline (13 11 14) and Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800). The Suicide Call Back Service is also available (1300 659 467).
If you’ve been diagnosed with a mental health condition and need some extra support looking for work, you can register for our DES program here.