batyr speakers share their COVID-19 experiences
Well, here we are, in the thick of the COVID-19 lockdown in Australia.
We know this time has been challenging for young people, particularly those with existing mental ill-health.
However, we have also seen many examples of our Herd practising gratitude, offering support to others and showing some incredible resilience. Here are just some of our speakers and their experience with the strange times we’re living in.
The hardest aspect of self isolation has definitely been keeping myself busy and stimulated. I’m trying to get myself into healthy habits to maintain self care and healthy emotional outlets. My major outlet is through art, which is also a source of income for me. I will sit down and draw for a few hours or so, I try to go outside each day and take a short walk or do my daily pull up goal. Getting dressed each morning is another thing I’m aiming to do each day to try to create a sense of normality. I also talk to my boyfriend and his family about everything going on and I find that’s a really good way to debrief. He’s been supportive, loving and patient through all the freak outs, the boredom and the art making.
Luckily, I got to see my counsellor before the more intense lockdown rules were put in place and she gave me some goals to try to achieve. She sent me resources for guided meditation. I also have the luxury of being able to communicate with my counsellor through email so if I really need to talk to her I can quite easily request a phone meeting (hopefully a video call because she has a really cute dog that I get to pat during sessions).
During the lockdown, I find myself moving slower, more mindful of those around me. There seems to be an abundance of care and awareness of space that I hope endures. My life is feeling full instead of busy, and I am filled with appreciation for the people I live with, my neighbours, and my surroundings.
My self-care practices look very similar to before – yoga, pranayama, meditation, journaling, talking and laughing with friends, going outside, and staying hydrated. I know that social comparison is not good for my mental health, so I have been deleting apps and leaving my phone in another room and just focusing on what is right in front of me, when I can often become absorbed with what is happening in lives that I am not living.
I am learning and experimenting with practical skills in the garden, and impractical skills such as playing the spoons.
I am fortunate to live with some of my closest friends, and have been staying in touch and reconnecting with outside and interstate/overseas friends through phone calls and one on one video calls. I have various anchor people to call on for support, depending on circumstances and how I am feeling. Everyone has a unique perspective or lived experience to offer.
I enjoy social distancing because it gives me time to breathe and take care of myself. I have more time for my health, self-reflection, self-development, and creative work. I have much less drink catch-ups and parties which has relieved me from some social pressure.
I don’t read news everyday. I’ve set a limit so I won’t be overwhelmed. I also try to limit my time spent with people who are extremely stressed, including online chat, on the phone and at home.
What I really love doing is cooking healthy food and decorating it. I particularly like cooking with beans, nuts, flour, noodles, rice paper, dehydrated food and frozen vegetables, fermented tomatoes and olives – certainly lasts much longer than fresh food. I buy stuff that many people won’t probably bother to cook or don’t know how to cook.
I enjoy reading postcards and gift cards I’ve collected at markets and festivals, and ones my friends have sent to me. Postcards from the past and I’m waiting for my new postcards. I never had the time to read all of them but now I do!
Jeremy (Logan City, QLD)
What once was a frantic need to escape the speed of daily life has now become a slow, steady practice. One of the ways I have adjusted is to pray or meditate first thing in the morning.
I noticed having my phone on the bedside table was becoming an easy way to start the day in a bad mood. Now, I sleep without my phone, making it easier to slow my mornings down. Making a cup of tea or coffee, reading through 10 pages of a book, and baking bread are just some of the ways I’m able to spend my mornings now, as opposed to spending hours on my phone in bed. More generally, I’m using this time to write music.
I’m connecting with my extended family via video call where we have dinner together at the same time once a week. My friends and I also catch up during the week over video call, using apps like Tabletopia, Jackbox TV, and Houseparty.
The main anchor in my life is my Christian faith with which I’m part of a community of wildly different people, all united by the same journey as everyone else. I would encourage those going through similar circumstances to not feel shame or guilt over any decisions you need to make that may be perceived as ‘failing’ or ‘not being enough’ in the eyes of society. This is a time where radical decisions are having to be made and your wellbeing needs to be prioritised over your social status. It’s okay not to be okay, reach out to your trusted loved ones.
I am trying to look at all the positives of the situation –it’s helping everyone to learn to slow down, in our society we are always busy, running the rat race, and trying to fill in our time. So this is a great opportunity to slow down, unwind, relax, and reflect on what is most important in life.
I make sure that I end my study at 5pm so that I can separate study time from relaxation time. Then in the afternoon I can focus on new hobbies or prepare yummy meals for dinner or do a nice yoga class to quieten down my mind after staring at a computer doing research all day. It’s also been such a good opportunity to get a proper 8-hour sleep and recharge my batteries.
I definitely never spent much time in the kitchen before. I’d just eat on the go and cook whatever was most convenient. Now I have the time, I’m definitely experimenting more in the kitchen which is lots of fun. I made pasta from scratch – there was flour everywhere! The self-isolation time has enabled me to focus more on my research in my honours year of psychology without trying to juggle work and other things as well. My brother and I have also decided to learn a language together – ciao mi chiamo Meg (hello, my name is Meg).
My anchor person during this bizarre situation is my grandma. She is 90-years-old and because of the COVID-19 situation has to stay inside all the time. She has always shown unwavering love and support. When I was in the depths of my eating disorder she would go to the library and read books so that she could be better informed on what to say that would be helpful rather than triggering for me during my recovery.
Now, during this situation, I call her every day to make sure she doesn’t feel lonely and she in turn is always checking in to make sure I am going okay. My daily phone calls with her always make me feel grounded. I like to listen to her stories of when she was growing up and hearing how she went through struggles such as during the wartime, and what they did to keep themselves entertained.
The last time I saw my psychologist was still in person but we did talk about moving to virtual sessions. I was nervous about this and didn’t like the idea of having to talk in my bedroom whilst my family is in the house. However, I know that not seeing her would be a lot worse for my mental health. I am very grateful that there is all this extra technology such as email and zoom calls because it makes me not feel alone during this time and I know that I am always supported.
If you’re in need of mental health support, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.
For resources and up-to-date information for COVID-19 in Australia, check out health.gov.au, call the Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080 or speak to your GP.