COVID-19 and Us

Have you thought about what these measures are going to mean for you personally? Even if we avoid the need for self-isolation, we will all need to practice social distancing for possibly 6-12 months until we can all be vaccinated, or until we have developed immunity through exposure to the virus.

If you need help, please call

  • Lifeline- 13 11 14
  • BeyondBlue - 1300 22 4636
  • Suicide Call Back Service - 1300 659 467
Suicide Call Back Service Online Chat

Isn’t it ironic that, just when mental health practitioners are ramping up their discussion about social isolation and its really potent impact on mental health and wellbeing, a nasty little virus comes along that asks us all to adopt a lifestyle of social distancing for the sake of our health and that of our community.

Weathering the storm

What can we do to help people rise to the challenge of self-isolation and social distancing without it impacting on their wellbeing?

First of all there are two distinct issues here. Self-isolation means an arduous 14 days (maybe more) of trying to find something to keep our minds off whatever financial hardship our isolation is creating and keep ourselves amused at home without the company of friends, workmates or family members - thank goodness for modern technology to help us with that! Social distancing really is a different thing altogether.

Have you thought about what these measures are going to mean for you personally? Even if we avoid the need for self-isolation, we will all need to practice social distancing for possibly 6-12 months until we can all be vaccinated, or until we have developed immunity through exposure to the virus.

No more hugs!

No hugging and hand shaking may be the least of it! There may be no more family gatherings and celebrations, no yoga and pilates classes, no more dinners in nice restaurants or chats with friends over coffee in cafes, no more concerts and plays, no more cricket or footy, no more professional meetings and conferences and, of course, no more air travel. All the things that sit in place to enrich our lives and keep us mentally healthy will require careful consideration of the risks before we undertake them.

Part of me wishes I could just get a nice mild dose of the virus and develop some natural immunity and get on with my life – but at the moment we don’t even know if getting the infection does make you immune. Besides, whilst the probability of a mild dose is high, the chance of a not so mild, possibly even fatal experience, remains. Worse still is the thought of not being very sick myself but giving the infection to someone who dies from it.

You can see that I am well motivated for some social distancing!

What “distance” is enough?

Some conferences are actually going ahead at the moment, but they are providing additional guidelines and resources to allow people to attend to infection control and stay away from each other.  There’s alcohol gel in conference bags and all around the venue, food in individually wrapped containers and extra auditorium space so that people can sit at least two seats from their nearest neighbour. It all shows serious commitment to having the show go on! But no one really knows if these measures are enough.

GPs are being told that they don’t need to worry unless they have been less than a metre away from a suspected case for 15 minutes or more, but I’m not sure what the evidence is to support that advice.

What can we do then?

That brings me back to how we should manage our own wellbeing in these strange times, and help others manage theirs. Really this is just another life challenge that we are being asked to meet. Cognitive flexibility is sure to win the day.

We don’t have to go hungry while the supermarkets and take away restaurants still deliver. (If it goes on long enough, we may even have enough time to start growing a few vegetable and herbs ourselves). How about a dinner party where everyone stays in their own home, orders in or cooks and sets a place at the table for the computer, joining friends virtually for the meal?

Why not watch TV or a sporting fixture with friends in a virtual space, talking via phone or Skype or some other platform while we all watch the same event or program. 

The people who provide the Down Dog yoga app were quick off the mark to begin a publicity campaign to remind people that it is possible to do your yoga practice at home at times when going to the studio is not OK. Apps (like Smiling Mind and Insight Timer) for meditation can do the same. There are, no doubt, any number of online exercise programs as well. 

And as for work, there will definitely be some businesses and jobs that find workarounds hard to achieve, but how good it is going to be for quality of life for many when more businesses allow employees to work from home and have meetings online rather than face-to face.

And then what?

This thing isn’t going to last forever but it might go on for a while but necessity, the famous mother of invention, might provide us with some new ideas that will enrich our lives after the crisis is over.

Perhaps for some of us this is might be a small gift to help us experiment with behavioural change that could just make life better in the long run.

Join Black Dog Institute’s Mental Health Community of Practice to stay connected with other health professionals during physical distancing: www.blackdog.org.au/CoP 

{{commentCount}} comment(s). You must be logged in and AHPRA verified to view and comment. Login here.

Dr Jan Orman

Jan is Sydney GP, private psychological medicine practitioner in Sydney’s inner west and a GP educator for Black Dog Institute.

The latest healthcare news from medcast

Aging Well – a personal perspective
Aging Well – a personal perspective

At 65 and a half (yes, it’s come to that. I’m actually counting the months again!) I find myself reluctantly looking down the barrel of a shotgun labelled “old age”.  It’s OK, don’t panic – I’m not unwell. It’s just that my body hurts and people k...

The CHIME GP study
The CHIME GP study

looking at rational prescribing and test ordering in general practice to improve

Muuuum, I’m bored!!!!
Muuuum, I’m bored!!!!

Has anyone heard that or a variation of it recently? I’ll bet you have! Many years ago, before I had kids of my own, I used to hear my brother-in-law saying to his bored and whining kids “Come on then, I’ll give you a job. I’ve got plenty for y...

What’s your COVID number? A simple way to keep everyone safe and comfortable
What’s your COVID number? A simple way to keep everyone safe and comfortable

A friend mentioned a really great way for managing this which I have been using and sharing with others. As people are going to have different comfort levels when it comes to spending time together, she told me about sharing her COVID social comfo...

Being Well in Difficult Times - Talah
Being Well in Difficult Times - Talah

It’s always helpful to hear how other people cope.  Over the next few weeks we are dedicating the Being Well blog to a series called Being Well in Difficult Times.  In this blog post we speak to Talah - a a Gumbaynggirr/Yaegl young person who shar...

We’re listening at last to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voices in Mental Health
We’re listening at last to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voices in Mental Health

Whilst significant progress has been made in incorporating these voices generally, there is a call for diversity in these Lived Experience voices, namely Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lived Experience.

Being Well in Difficult Times- Zoe
Being Well in Difficult Times- Zoe

Zoe is a registered nurse working in theatres. She has elderly parents and a young son. How is she staying so positive in the face of CoVID-19?

Eating Disorders in Adults: Assessment & Treatment Options
Eating Disorders in Adults: Assessment & Treatment Options

Eating disorders, broadly defined by disturbances in eating behaviour and distress centred on food, eating, and body image, affect nearly one million Australians. This blog covers the assessment and treatment options for various conditions.

Being Well in Difficult Times - Gordon
Being Well in Difficult Times - Gordon

Gordon* is a thirty something rural proceduralist GP. Gordon contributed to the national guidelines for the management of COVID-19. Would being in his shoes change your thinking about the pandemic?

Being Well in Difficult Times - Sally
Being Well in Difficult Times - Sally

Sally* is the director of new urban private practice. She is a generalist psychologist & qualified teacher in her mid-forties with two ‘tween girls, and vulnerable (but fit) parents. Her clients include young children, teenagers, university studen...

Being Well in Difficult Times - Margot
Being Well in Difficult Times - Margot

It’s always helpful to hear how other people cope with life's challenges. Over the next few weeks we are dedicating the Being Well blog to a series called Being Well in Difficult Times. We've asked a range of health professionals 3 big questions t...

Being Well in Difficult Times- Elizabeth
Being Well in Difficult Times- Elizabeth

How would you feel if you were pregnant right now? It would probably add a whole other dimension to your concern. What if, to add to the puzzle, your work made you responsible for the mental health of others? Elizabeth* is a thirty-something s...

Being Well in Difficult Times - Dr Vered Gordon
Being Well in Difficult Times - Dr Vered Gordon

Dr Vered Gordon is a GP in Sydney’s Northern Beaches with a special interest in perinatal mental health. For more than a decade Vered developed Black Dog Institute’s highly regarded Professional Education workshops.

Being Well in Difficult Times- Michael Kidd
Being Well in Difficult Times- Michael Kidd

It’s always helpful to hear how other people cope with life's challenges. Over the next few weeks we are dedicating the Being Well blog to a series called Being Well in Difficult Times. Michael's CoVID-19 job responsibilities are huge and his...

Communication in the time of COVID-19
Communication in the time of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a massive, and almost overnight, transformation in Australian general practice, most notably with the rapid rise in telehealth. What does effective communication via telehealth look like?

KISS - COVID-19 Primary Care Assessment & Management
KISS - COVID-19 Primary Care Assessment & Management

This Keep It Simple Summary (KISS) covers the treatment and management of COVID-19 in the Primary Care environment. Stages of the disease will be explained, followed by a succinct summary risk factors, symptoms, complications, treatment, respirato...

Reframing Isolation
Reframing Isolation

I keep wondering about what we can learn from all these people who live in isolation or confinement. What strategies were put in place and what might the long-term impact of their isolation have been?

Non-drug Approaches to Chronic Pain Management
Non-drug Approaches to Chronic Pain Management

Living with chronic pain is a complex health issue that affects over 3.2 million Australians, with close to 68% of those affected being of working age. As we know, chronic pain can have significant implications on daily functions and quality of l...

Telehealth: How does it work In Practice
Telehealth: How does it work In Practice

We are all starting to do telehealth in the current climate to protect us, our staff and our patients. Many of us feel slightly out of our depth. Here are some quick tips to help you in your practice.

COVID-19 and Us
COVID-19 and Us

Have you thought about what these measures are going to mean for you personally? Even if we avoid the need for self-isolation, we will all need to practice social distancing for possibly 6-12 months until we can all be vaccinated, or until we have...

Join Medcast. It's free and you'll get instant access to essential healthcare news, research and more.

Already a member? Sign-in