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Physical distancing + social connection: making the most of the virtual world.

Community Manager

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There’s something inherently frustrating about being human.

It’s not the fact that a good dollop of smashed avocado is $17 at your local café, or that one guy at your gym who insists on loudly using his mobile phone your entire workout. It isn’t even your mother-in-law’s passive aggressive remarks about how irresponsible it is to have multiple superannuation accounts (thanks, Susan). Beyond everything, one of the most frustrating realities of human life is the fact that everything in this world is completely impermanent.

 

The current COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us that, as a society, we need to be prepared for change. In fact, change in itself is our only constant, the only consistent experience that we can all integrate and lean on together. Now, I myself am not a formidable wordsmith when it comes to profound quotes, but I am very good at copying and pasting legitimate wisdom from Google. The insightful British Lecturer Allan Watts once said,

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”

Now more than ever, this notion is a wonderful mantra to bring into our lives. Of course, when managing complex mental health issues, many symptoms may come into play during times of change. But if we can pivot our understanding of togetherness throughout all of this, we may come out the other side stronger than ever. The most incredible thing about the COVID-19 pandemic is that it is unifying us as Australians more than any other global event in the last fifty years. You and I are not alone, in fact we are equals in this journey. No one is exempt, and thanks to technology, there are incredible ways to collaborate and weather this storm together.

 

One of the key things to remember as we make our way through the COVID-19 pandemic is that technology is a game changer in terms of managing our mental health during self-isolation, or physical distancing. There are tried & tested avenues for support that can be accessed during the time we’re required to spend indoors. Below is a list of ways we can all engage positively with the internet in a bid to live a life with less media fuelled anxiousness and more facts to help us to move forward with practical steps.

1. Online Forums

 

Talk to people that ‘get it’. Online peer support communities are open 24/7 and many have health professionals in the background making sure everything is safe and supported. Whilst Facebook and Instagram can serve as great tools to help us feel connected, a lot of misinformation can still make its way through these platforms. Managing media consumption is a really important factor in keeping our emotional health in check. Many of the online mental health forums in Australia are moderated by professionals, and can provide a great space to get feedback and ideas for your peers. Check out this thread we have on unpacking COVID19 here on the SANE Forums.


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2. Virtual social connection to family & friends

My WhatsApp notifications have been going off since we all started staying inside! Even though we can’t physically be with people, we can still connect. Hopping online to chat to friends, or making an evening call to parents a standing evening activity, really helps to ensure people feel connected during this time. With so many apps now offering text and video chats, you could end up seeing more of your friends and family than before!

 

The new kid on the block is ‘House Party’ which is a video chat that includes trivia, heads up and heaps of fun games to keep everyone entertained. Skype and Facetime are great ways to check in with your friends during your downtime and WhatsApp and Messenger allow you to send short updates to your nearest and dearest throughout the day.

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3.Telehealth

 

Many of the helplines available for mental health support are continuing to operate from remote locations. Sometimes we need more than general advice from friends, or insight from peers online. Counsellors that work on behalf of the services below are professionally trained to support you, and can be really helpful in working through more practical and sustainable strategies during this period of self-isolation and physical distancing – you can webchat with them or call in.

SANE Help Centre 1800 18 7263 (10am-10pm Mon-Fri)

BeyondBlue 1300 22 4636 

Mensline 1300 78 99 78

Blueknot Foundation 1300 657 380 (9am-5pm 7 days)

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4. Online Apps & Courses

 

This period of staying indoors may actually prove a very helpful time for many of us to get into a rhythm and routine with our emotional health. There are some incredibly engaging platforms available to help retrain the neuroplasticity inside of your wonderful brain; enabling you to get back on track with your mental health. Below is a list of some really solid services that will help you build a brain stronger than Dwayne Johnson’s biceps!

 

Smiling Mind
Everyone’s favourite free mindfulness and meditation app, Smiling Mind! Run right here in Australia. Check out the programs available here.

 

Made4Me

For those wanting to really challenge themselves and get some integrated strategies in place, there’s self-directed CBT modules you can take online here via Swinburne University. This course can be done in your own time so you still have a few hours in the day for a good book and a packet of Tim Tams.

 

InsightTimer

Whilst the unlimited feature requires a paid membership, the free subscription has plenty of 5 and 10-minute meditations that serve as quick grounding tools throughout your day. These are especially helpful if you feel your thoughts are quickly racing ahead of you. Check out the website here.

 

If you know of any other great online tools, we’d love for you to comment below this blog post with your ideas! Remember, in addition to some of these technological supports, our SANE Forums are a very welcoming and engaging community, moderated by professionals 24/7, you can sign up right here at a time convenient to you! During this time, we must treat ourselves with gentle kindness, exploring the art of patience, and where possible dimming the noise of the outside world (inclusive of media consumption). For all COVID19 updates, we recommend checking in via the Australian Government’s communication channels.

 

 

15 Comments
Community Guide

That's a great list @nashy .

 

i have a couple that are not mental health based and are at the more academic level if anyone is interested

Coursera offer free online courses from many universities. There are a range of subjects. I've done one course and it was really good. 

https://www.coursera.org/courses?query=free

 

There are some websites/apps that you can learn a language online for free. My family has used Duolingo in the past 

https://www.duolingo.com/

 

And YouTube has and endless supply of tutorials for learning new things. 

 

 

Community Guide

Well written with some excellent tips and ideas.

Senior Contributor

Excellent post @nashy 

Thanks 💜

Community Manager

@Teej ! I love this. Now is the perfect time for some academic hustling Smiley Happy Wonderful thanks so much.

@Snowie You are most welcome Heart I hope it helped a bit. And thank you @eth!

Senior Contributor

Hi @nashy 

 

thank you for starting this conversation!

My ideas or things I started doing.
I record voice or video messages with my family and friends (f&f) overseas as it's often difficult to get the timing right to talk. And I get more voice or video messages, as like you said, people have more time.
Some apps are starting to give free access during COVID-19, examples are Sanvello (mental health, meditation etc.), FitBit is giving access to premium content, phone providers are giving free extra data (Telstra's deadline for registering is 31/03, so we've got to be quick).
I share activities I do with f&f and check up on them what their plans are. I'm one of a few f&f who live with mental illness so I try to share with them what anxiety is, techniques that help me cope etc.
We also exchange ideas, movies & series we watch, books we read.
I'm making new friends in online Trans & LGBTIQ+ communities (again, everyone has more time to connect).
I heard that museums offer online tours (probably on the forum), but haven't checked that out yet.
Free language and other courses are great @Teej 
I like arts and crafts and some of my local groups are starting online get togethers.
I think we are in a lucky situation that we have online access, not only for keeping in touch, but also to know (limited and controlled) what's happening around us.

Senior Contributor

Regarding your choice of photo @nashy :

Online cooking tutorials on youtube or other channels. A lot of shelves were empty when I did my shopping but as I scanned the left-overs I realised there is more than sufficient food still left for all of us. I have a veggie garden so I am used to looking up all different varieties of cooking, preserving and freezing food when we have a bumper crop, people will be amazed how many different things they can cook with limited ingredients. I just needed to be adventurous Smiley Happy

Youtube and other platforms in general have many tutorials. I want to learn how to paint sunsets with acrylics and learn how to use my oil pastels, there are heaps of videos on youtube.

Contributor

Thank you. Really needed those numbers right now @nashy  and much needed suggestions from all of you. 

 

Really down today. As someone with mental illness there were strategies put in place in order for me to cope with life and parenting my 3 young children aged 7, 5 and 4 on my own. Childcare access, school and once a week respite. Due to the virus restrictions those things are no longer available. I feel selfish in a way for feeling regretful about all that is going on. I'm scared I will fall back into an episode or the possibility of suicidal ideation coming back 😪.

 

I'm trying by teaching them how to garden, plant veggies, small walks teddy bear hunting and small bike rides. Still scared people and hospitalisation would be out of the question right now.  

Thank you for hearing me out who ever is reading this. 

Community Guide

Another fab blog @nashy . Thanks for the helpful tips. I've sent a link to House Party to my teenager who is missing her friends (I had a look at it and felt so old 😆). She might enjoy connecting with her people this way. 

 

One of my hopes when we are past this crisis is that we will continue to expand telehealth services and support so they are more accessible to many. Seeing what's being done in this way gives me hope that we can learn from it and use technology beyond this time to allow more people to be supported more flexibly 🤞

 

@Amberlulu I read your post above and really wanted to reply. I hear you. I am a single parent to three too and need the routine and break that school offers. We have a lot of support through our school (particularly the primary school) and without it it's going to be really hard. My big one had just auditioned for a play and the little two had just started club sport before this happened - both of those things were helping so much by giving them extra activities to focus on and burn energy with. It's full on without the normal things we rely on. 

 

Your post reminded me of the idea that "it takes a village to raise a child". It's hard when that village is missing. There's a "virtual village" discussion here on the forum that I'll bump up. Maybe us parents and kid carers can connect over there. 

 

Take care ❤

Community Guide

@Amberlulu   try this The Virtual Village - a space for parenting 'stuff'   Hope the forums are helpful for you.

Community Guide

Hi all

@nashy @eth @CheerBear @Amberlulu @Aeiou @Teej @Snowy 

I have been listening to podcasts: Brene Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert, Shaun Achor.

TOP 20 Brené Brown Quotes - YouTube

Community Guide

@nashy @frog @CheerBear @Amberlulu @Aeiou   I've been having video get togethers with the local disability alliance folk through Zoom.  It's easy to download and installs itself.  You can have bigger gatherings on there than you can with fb.  We had a karaoke night on Saturday!

 

Wondering how we can boost this blog so that more people see it?

Community Guide

Sorry, @Snowie 

 

Re: above comment   https://zoom.us/  

Senior Contributor

Hi @eth 

 

thank you. If I donwnload zoom, how do I find groups?

 

Community Manager

Hey there @Aeiou I think you usually need to be sent a request to join a meeting (they're typically for online meetings/workshops) but am wondering if you check out eventbrite or meetup, if any of the groups are moving to Zoom? I think a lot of peer groups will be moving online now! Which might make it easier for people to attend Smiley Happy 

Community Guide

@nashy is right @Aeiou   A group you are in will tell you if they are meeting on zoom and usually send you a link to the meeting.  You can initiate your own meetings but I haven't done it yet, don't know how to create a group.