Working together for a healthy community

Just checking in | Lockdown 6.0 | By Sabine McKenzie

Just as we all thought we were about to start reconnecting again with family and friends at home – another lockdown has put a stop to this.

With this lockdown, feelings of frustration, anxiety and loneliness might come to the surface again and in times like these our family and friends are more important than ever to talk to and helps us understand our own views and feelings.

An important reminder is that the same phone we have been using to check into the shops we visit, can be used to check in to loved ones, which will also assist in checking in on yourself.

While we’re all being advised to stay at home and self-isolate, you can make the most of social media and apps such as Skype and FaceTime, or simply chat over the phone – to stay in touch and check in with loved ones.

If you think somebody in the community might be struggling, please pick up the phone and check in. There’s no right or wrong way to go about checking in with someone who’s having a hard time with their mental health and wellbeing but it’s important that you choose a way that feels comfortable.

Here are three easy steps from Beyond Blue:

Ask if they want to talk about things with you first. It might be that they don’t want to and that’s OK too. Maybe you’re not the right person for them to talk to, but you can make some suggestions.

Listen silence may seem awkward at first but think of it as a chance for both of you to gather your thoughts. If you’re finding it difficult to understand what they’re talking about, it’s okay to ask them to explain further.

Support  is the most important thing you can offer and if they refuse, help them explore their options for how they could begin to feel better.

While it is important to check in on others, it is just as important to check in on ourselves as well. If we don’t look after ourselves, we sure can’t look after others.

The Black Dog Institute has some suggestions on how you can personally check-in on a weekly basis and to track them on an easy-to-use template

One of them is choosing a check-in buddy. This may be your partner, housemate, or even a friend or colleague you’re keeping in touch with via video messaging. Be honest about how you are coping.

Remember that you are in physical isolation, not social isolation. When we’re at home, we may need to be creative about adapting the strategies we normally use. For example, if socialising helps your mood, schedule a virtual coffee. If going to the gym helps you reduce stress, try an online workout. If taking time out helps, find a quiet place, take a few deep breaths or listen to music. Whatever helps to settle your mind.

Try to do some physical activity or get some fresh air each day, based on the current rules you can still get out for daily exercise. Even just an hour of exercise a week has been proven to lower depression and anxiety. Or try to do something that gives you a sense of pleasure and/or achievement each day. This could include eating a nice meal, reading a book, joking with friends, listening to music, tidying up around home, or work tasks.

Lifeline Tel: 131 114
Beyondblue Tel: 1300 224 636
Suicide call back service Tel: 1300 659 467
1800RESPECT Tel: 1800 737 732
If someone’s life is in danger, call Triple Zero (000)

As we journey through the difficult times, we can find meaning in caring for, and offering hope to, each other, our families and communities. It is a reminder of what we do have, it reconnects us to one another and reminds us that we are all in this together. There is a newfound appreciation for living in a small community where there is overwhelming compassion and support for one another.

We often know people in the community well enough to recognise they are struggling, but there are not always tell-tale signs.

Everyone deals with challenging times differently and we can reach out to each other and ask “R U OK?.” That simple question and a conversation has the power to change someone’s life for the better. We can be a listening ear and a (virtual) shoulder to lean on.

Please continue to be mindful of yourself and others, mentally and physically. Let’s make time to look out for one another, be kind and stay connected.


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