CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses mental health issues.

It feels like we’re all at the end of our tethers at this point of the pandemic, and as another week of Groundhog Day energies face us, right? As a large swathe of the country’s population is still in some form of lockdown and very much feeling it, a Melbourne-based psychologist has been sharing some pearls of wisdom about the emotions we’re battling every day, and how we can process those emotions.

You’ve probably seen Chris Cheers‘ posts shared on a friend’s Instagram stories over the last 18 months –  his notes on trying to process lockdown #6 in Victoria got shared like mad when that all kicked off. In that popular post, he wrote about the concept of the “stress cycle”, which encompasses what we’re all feeling in varying degrees last week, yesterday, today, and most likely tomorrow, too.

Chris’ post addressed the immediate feelings we’re likely all having as we ride the depressing merry-go-round of yet another lockdown – something that’s so out of our control. He wrote that our bodies are likely in an emotional state of stress, reverting back to a “fight or flight” mentality and wanting a distraction from the stressor (ahem, lockdowns that get extended over and over).

He said that when we’re presented with invisible and uncontrollable stressors like this, we get stuck in the emotion attached to it because we can’t fight it, nor can we run away. This means the stress cycle can’t be completed, and we’re unable to reset back to a calm state.

So what’s a stress cycle? Women’s Health explained it as the moment when our bodies learn that after facing a certain danger threat, we’ve returned to safety. You go from panicked, to fight or flight, to realising you’re safe, and then resetting. But considering the current Delta variant situation in Australia, we’re unable to reset.

“If we don’t [complete the stress cycle], our bodies stay stuck in the stress, which can lead to burnt out and exhaustion,” Chris told PEDESTRIAN.TV.

“When we process our emotions it returns our body to a state where we can more fully engage with our lives and the people around us.”

In the post about the stress cycle, Chris wrote that by focusing on things we’re actually able to control (like exercise, being creative, or physical connection with a loved one), we’re able to help our bodies complete the cycle without changing the initial stressor.

These things help us to focus on taking action on things in our lives that we can actively, and easily, control.

“There is so much uncertainty and restrictions that are beyond our control right now,” Chris said.

“At these times it’s helpful to focus on what is in your control. Which means achievable, self-care behaviours like daily routine, sleep, exercise, and connecting to others.

“But it’s important when we talk about self care to also recognise that it’s not easy. It’s about setting boundaries and saying no.

“Sometimes it’s about acting against your patterns of behaviour or habits. Just because you know something is good for you, doesn’t mean it’s easy to do.”

So what does a psychologist personally like to do when he’s feeling overwhelmed, or those initial emotions of burnout?

“A slow deep breath,” Chris said.

“And a walk with a favourite song.”


If you need mental health support, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or chat online

Under 25? You can reach Kids Helpline at 1800 55 1800 or chat online.

If you require immediate assistance, please call 000.

Image: FX / It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia