Since restrictions have started to lift countrywide, we’ve all caught a glimpse of what “normal” life would look like once again.
Fitness fanatics are back to making gains at boot camp, restaurants are taking sit-ins, sitting in the park to DnM with a mate is okay again – it kind of feels like life exists in this weird middle ground area right now where we can almost taste the other side.
Even though these activities are back on, considering we’re in the midst of one of the most immense global changes in history, for some of us, life won’t feel “normal” for a while – and that’s totally okay.
Experiencing change is a constant in life, but it’s fair to say no one predicted or was prepared for what we’d be in for this year. After going through it ~all~, there are aspects of our lives that may never be the same or, might take an extended period to feel right again.
According to ReachOut, compared to the same time last year they’ve seen over 239,000 more visitors to their youth, parents and schools services, so it’s clear that young people have faced some pretty heavy stuff recently.
Because of this, taking extra care of our mental health has never been more crucial – what’s going on in your head is of utmost importance, and understanding why you might be feeling certain ways could be the key to getting back on track to feeling a lil’ more hopeful.
“As restrictions begin to ease we are seeing that the situation is getting better for young people but levels of distress are still high and many struggling are to return to ‘normal’,” said Ashley de Silva, CEO of ReachOut.
So, here’s a dive into why you might not feel like life is back to “normal” even though things are starting to look normal again.
You May Be Job Hunting (Or Have Lost Your Job)
Job loss has proven one of the most widespread impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the ABS, around 2.7 million Aussies (or one in every five people) employed in March had either left employment or had their hours reduced between March and April.
Considering there are currently more than 1.3 million Aussies on JobSeeker, it’s likely there’s someone in your personal network who might be struggling with unemployment at the moment.
Job hunting can be mentally taxing at the best of times and being in the market for a new role right now when so many industries are still closed and businesses are struggling is extremely difficult. It might be tough to really feel like life is back on if you’re enduring the lengthy process in between applications and interviews, so don’t be too hard on yourself.
“Job hunting can be hard at the best of times, and we often have to deal with things like feedback and rejection during the process. Young people are not alone and these are very difficult times,” said de Silva.
If you’ve lost your job, you might feel embarrassed, shameful or lack self-confidence right now – remember, you’re in the same boat as so many other Aussies.
“Some people might really benefit from taking time to work out some new goals that fit in with our ‘new normal’ and planning how they are going to achieve them,” said de Silva.
Although job loss can be met with confusion and difficulty, it could even be the opp to delve into a new career path or explore an area you’re passionate about that you’ve never had the chance to before.
It may also be the case that you’re keeping a closer eye on your bank account if you’re without a job right now – if you’ve got a mate who might be in this position it could be best to refrain from putting pressure on them to go out, so make plans for fund-free activities to catch up instead.
“To look after your mental health while you are looking for work it’s important to schedule time for the things you love so that you can relax and recharge.”
“Simple things like planning a weekly walk with a friend can make a huge difference to our mood and ability to cope with stress. Also, if you feel like the stress is getting too much help is available,” added de Silva.
You’re Worried About A Potential Second Wave Of COVID
Although Australia’s confirmed numbers of COVID cases are staying low, the looming threat of a second wave of COVID-19 hitting is real.
Now that some restrictions have lifted and more people are out and about, anxiety over transmission could be heightened – you might be worried about contracting the disease or a loved one getting it. On top of that, there’s also the worry that a second wave could lead to another lockdown which would absolutely not be fun.
If you have any symptoms at all – even mild cold symptoms like a sore throat or runny nose it’s crucial to get tested immediately and avoid contact with others by isolate at home until you receive your test result.
You’re Still Grieving Your Lost 2020 Plans
2020 was looking good. My Chemical Romance reunited and had announced Australian tour dates. Beyoncé launched her Ivy Park x Adidas capsule. It truly felt like we were on the right path and then this all happened.
Some of us have had huge plans cancelled for the foreseeable future – overseas trips we’ve been saving up for years for, finally moving out of home, or scoring your first post-uni job were all 2020 life-changing moves that have been put on the back burner for the time being.
“So many aspects of our lives have changed in 2020 and it’s hard to plan for the future at the moment. For a lot of young people this means missing out on things like birthday celebrations, travelling, school formal or learning to drive,” noted de Silva.
I know I definitely sense there’s a prevailing feeling that “life is on hold” – we really do only have a taste of what life usually is right now and we’re still yearning for what could’ve been, and according to de Silva it is “natural and valid” to feel this way right now.
“It might help to share those feelings with someone they trust, or they might even want to connect with other people who are going through similar experiences.”
“It can also help to take a practical and proactive approach to the situation. For example, hiking in the Himalayas could change to hiking in one of Australia’s great national parks, a birthday party could change to a smaller gathering.”
You Could Feel Super Unmotivated
Since most unis and workplaces will remain online for the time being, you could start to feel like your usual “zest” for life is currently on a slow burner.
“Motivation is what drives us to make things happen – but staying motivated isn’t always easy, especially right now when we are dealing with things like constant change. If you’re feeling unmotivated it’s important to consider what impact this is having on your life right now,” said de Silva.
Having to watch lectures online or endure tedious work tasks without the “pay-off” of getting to hang out with friends after or see your career progressing in real-time might start to feel draining, leading to a lack of motivation all round.
According to de Silva, although staying motivated can be difficult, extended periods of this can be a sign of deteriorating mental health, so seeking help online or talking to a professional may be beneficial.
Losing the social element of work or education is a massive cut so make sure you’re scheduling regular Zooms with your workmates/classmates or opt to catch up (in a socially distant manner) to check in on each other too.
There’s Heaps Of Pressure To “Go Out”
Chances are if you weren’t really the rager-type before COVID, even after lockdown you’ll probably still fancy yourself a quiet night in every so often.
“Iso brought with it so many different experiences and emotions – and some of these were positive! Some young people have been telling us that they found more time for things like exercise and hobbies which helped them chill out,” said de Silva.
Since going out has been off the cards for a while there’s absolutely going to be a surge of people hell-bent on having the greatest night of their life every time they go out now. And good for them, have fun party people.
However, this doesn’t mean you have to join in if you’re uncomfortable and it’s not entirely your vibe, especially when peer pressure is going to be high.
“As restrictions are lifted there can be a sense of nervousness which might be related to the virus directly or that we might have just become less used to interacting with people,” said de Silva, so you’re absolutely not alone in feeling a little out of sorts when it comes to socialising again.
On the flip side, we totally get that since you’ve probably gone a while without going out with a bunch of mates, you’re going to want to soak up spending as much time as possible with them. But, if you’re in need of a night of self-care or feel as though it’d be best for your mental health if you didn’t head out, there is absolutely no shame in staying home.
“You might also want to reassess these boundaries every couple of weeks to see if they are still working for you. If you’re feeling a high level of stress or anxiety about returning to socialising it’s important to seek help,” added de Silva.
Old Priorities Might Be Reassessed
Amidst everything happening this year (and with iso-induced extra thinking time), you may have found yourself reassessing all your priorities in life. And that’s a good thing. Huge changes like this are great for personal development so claps for self-reflection, we love to see it!
This could be the catalyst moment you’ve been waiting for – if you’ve re-evaluated what’s important to your life since the pandemic, start to make those changes. It could be as simple as making visiting your parents once a week a priority or taking the steps to become a volunteer at a great cause you’re passionate about.
It’ll help you feel more fulfilled all-round which is a great thing.