We may soon be out of lockdown, but our freedom could be curtailed at any time if an active COVID-19 case emerges.
That is the reality of living with the virus as it moves from being pandemic to becoming something endemic to our lives.
And in these uncertain times of on-and-off-again isolation, it is even more important to ask the question 'RUOK?' of those around you, says the director of the UNE Psychology Clinic, Dr Daivia Newby.
"RUOK? Day is a day that encourages people to connect with their social support, which is so important for dealing with life's events and personal difficulties," Dr Newby said.
"COVID-19 has brought so much disruption to people's lives, so much uncertainty which is impacting daily routines, and social isolation for people in lots of different shapes and forms. The pressures have been extreme in the last year."
We must look at how we can still build these social support connections when we have so many restrictions, Dr Daivia said, and people should think about what they can and can't control.
"There are about eight people a day dying from suicide in Australia, and social support is such an important resource for mental health and life quality," she said.
"So while we can't control when COVID-19 will end, or what others are doing, we can control our attitudes and actions. And constantly listening to COVID-19 news can be incredibly stressful."
People should focus their energy on creating new routines and harness the opportunities presented by technology Dr Newby said.
"Look at online resources and maybe do some creative activities or online study or yoga," she said.
"A lot of different organisations provide free classes online."
Connecting with people and creating new engagements in the virtual world is something everyone should try too. Community and social groups should not stop meeting, and volunteering can still be done virtually.
"We just have to be creative," Dr Newby said.
"One of the most beautiful things about us is that we are so resilient and creative.
"This is the time when we need to be increasing these activities so hold a virtual meeting, host a virtual dinner party or a virtual book club, and share photos online with your family and friends - use video, phone, and email and be a bit creative."
And social media is a reality that we need to use to connect but seeing someone's face is a more profound connection, according to Dr Newby - so use the video functionality.
"I think that is the closest substitute to face-to-face contact we have," Dr Newby said.
"But don't underestimate the power of a phone call or a posted card or letter. I don't think it is old-fashioned; taking the time to write and post something to someone is very individual and special. It is a beautiful gesture."
And finally, take the time to look after yourself and learn to recognise the signs of when you need to get professional help.
"What we know from research is that eating regular meals, getting regular exercise, and good sleep hygiene not only improves mental health but strengthens your immune system, which puts your body in a better position to deal with any physical illness that might come your way," Dr Newby said.
"Because of the prolonged pandemic, a lot of people are really struggling and doing the best they can to just get through the day and stay resilient.
"But if you are not eating and sleeping properly and are anxious most of the day, then I encourage you to contact your GP and look at how you can connect with a therapist.
"Family and friends can also call upon these services for advice and assistance on how to support someone who is struggling with life."
R U OK? inspire and empower everyone to meaningfully connect with the people around them and start a conversation with those in their world who may be struggling with life.
You don't need to be an expert to reach out - just a good friend and a great listener.
Use these four steps and have a conversation that could change a life: 1. Ask R U OK? 2. Listen 3. Encourage action 4. Check in
- Lifeline on 13 11 14.Call 24/7 for crisis support and suicide prevention services
- Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636 Call 24/7 for advice, referral and support from a trained mental health professional
- headspace1800 650 890 Support and information for young people aged 12 to 25
If you are concerned for your safety or the safety of others, seek immediate assistance by calling Triple Zero (000).
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