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5 key lessons from the first wave of COVID-19

As Australia continues to battle its second wave of coronavirus, it’s a good time to remember some of the key lessons – both in terms of physical health and mental health – that we learned from the first wave.

In this article, we look at five key lessons from the first wave that we should all be applying to the second wave, with advice from the Australian Department of Health; mental health organisation BeyondBlue; and Trevor Rooney, general manager of Sofihub – an Australian technology company that develops and supplies adaptive care technologies, including the Home and Beacon – regarding mental health.

1. The importance of good physical habits

We’ve had them drilled into us for almost six months now, but it never hurts to be reminded of the physical habits that help to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The Australian Department of Health recommends:

  • Good hygiene, including washing your hands, covering your coughs and cleaning your home or workplace;
  • Physical distancing, ie. staying 1.5 metres away from others wherever possible;
  • Wearing masks both in public and in indoor settings where physical distancing is difficult to maintain (such as public transport or supermarkets);
  • And self-isolating if you test positive for, or show symptoms of, COVID-19.

* Please note health advice varies in each state and we recommend you refer to your relevant state / territory Department of Health website.

2. The importance of communication and companionship

While good physical habits are vital to controlling the spread, good mental habits cannot be understated either.

Among the most important of these are communication and companionship, which address our needs as social creatures.

Mental health organisation BeyondBlue recommends using your phone, social media and apps such as Skype, FaceTime and WhatsApp to stay in touch with family and friends as much as possible. Try to make a point of touching base with someone every single day.

“Staying in touch is important for a number of reasons. Recently, Wellbeing magazine reported that ‘social connection is a matter of a survival, not preference,’” Mr Rooney says.

“So, whether you’re checking in to say hi or confirming a loved one has taken their vital medication that day, simply hearing from someone directly can have a very positive impact.”

3. The importance of maintaining normality

When dealing with isolation, a solid routine can often be the difference between good and poor mental health.

BeyondBlue recommends focusing on eating well, getting enough exercise (such as going for a regular walk), and maintaining good-quality sleep. Take the time to cook from fresh, do online yoga or aerobics, and meditate.

Maintaining routines is one of the key reasons Sofihub developed the Home personal reminder device and the Beacon personal alarm.

“During these less-than-normal times, it’s important to remember our regular routines,” Mr Rooney says. “With so many changes and added anxieties in our daily lives, it’s easy to forget the processes and procedures of day-to-day life which, for the more mature, or those with disabilities or illness, can be harmful.

“It should be ensured that consistent, pre-set reminders are set up for key activities such as when to eat, take medication or even take the dog for a walk to help those at home stay independent and safe while they’re socially distancing.”

4.  The importance of dodging the panic

While it’s important to stay abreast of the latest news, it’s also important to ensure you don’t overexpose yourself.

In these days of 24/7 news cycles and social media, it’s easy to become – at best – overwhelmed and – at worst – depressed and subject to dangerous misinformation.

Make sure that you only consume your news from credible sources, such as newspapers and TV news, and do so in small doses.

Remember that social media feeds, including Facebook and Twitter, abound with misinformation that can result in panic. 

5. The importance of reaching out

If you do find that you are struggling during these times, don’t hesitate to reach out for help and support.

BeyondBlue has set up the Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service, with trained counsellors available to talk to you 24 hours a day, seven days a week via phone. The phone number is 1800 512 348. It also features an option to chat online.

Lifeline Australia also offers 24/7 support at its 13 11 14 phone number.

And of course, there is never a bad time to reach out to friends and loved ones. By the same token, if you have concerns about a friend or loved one of your own, don’t hesitate to reach out to them.