New South Wales Chief Psychiatrist Dr Murray Wright is the latest health expert to make a cameo at the state’s daily coronavirus press conferences, and he shared some really helpful (but slightly overdue) advice on how to cope with the stress of lockdown.

It comes after NSW recorded 345 local COVID-19 cases overnight. Right now, large swathes of the state are under various lockdown restrictions, including Greater Sydney, Newcastle and the Upper Hunter region, Byron Bay and the surrounding LGAs, Tamworth, Armidale, and a huge chunk of Northwest NSW which encompasses several Aboriginal communities.

“We all know from a public health perspective that the lockdown is for the purposes of reducing the spread of the virus during the pandemic,” Dr Wright said.

“But it is really important for me to take this opportunity to remind everyone that this is probably the most sustained and serious stress that many of us are going to face in our lifetimes, and how this impacts on us and how we manage it is going to be really important in minimising the well-being and mental health impacts of the stress.”

One of the biggest tips he gave was to just cut everyone some slack right now. We’re all stressed, and we’re all in this mess together.

Now’s the time to be kind and patient with one another, knowing full well that we have been living in ~unprecedented times~ for a good year-and-a-half now.

“It is helpful to assume that everyone you come into contact with is also dealing with stress and may not be responding to the things around them in their usual way,” Dr Wright said.

“If at all possible, cut them a bit of slack on that basis.”

The NSW Chief Psychiatrist went on to outline some “fairly simple and straightforward” things to keep in mind in order to deal with the daily stress of being in lockdown during a global pandemic.

The biggest tip here is to keep the structure in our everyday lives, even if everything else messed up by the pandemic.

“That includes having regular daily exercise of some kind, having contact with the people who are important in your life, and talking about meaningful things including how they are coping and how you are coping. It is important to monitor things like your diet, like your sleep, like your alcohol intake, and also to set goals every day and review that,” he said.

In Greater Sydney, outdoor exercise is currently allowed with a 10km radius from your home. A single’s bubble also applies to people who live alone.

“None of us always execute the perfect plan, but it’s important to review it and renew it on a daily basis,” Dr Wright added.

“If things are not working – and the signs of things not working include difficulties with sleep, difficulties with concentration, feeling unduly fatigued, feeling overwhelmed, irritable, or consuming too much alcohol – if any of those things are happening either to you or the people around you, you should make it a subject of consideration.

“What can I do to change how I am approaching the day or do I need help? Ask people if they are OK. That never does harm, it often does a world of good and making it a regular subject, as well as talking about the pandemic and talking about well-being is really critical for all of us.”

Mental health services like Beyond Blue have been adapting to the lockdown, and they’re very much still there for anyone who needs them.

“We don’t want people to stay away [from these services] on the basis of the pandemic if they are struggling, and we expect that people will struggle from time to time,” Dr Wright said.

“Look out for the people around you, talk about what you are doing about it and reach out for help if you need it.”

Let’s end this article on some good news: Over 106,000 people got vaccinated in NSW in the past 24 hours, which is a new record. You can find out where to get vaccinated here.


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: Nine