The return of Covid-19 in the community has set New Zealanders on an emotional rollercoaster.
Whether it was anger, depression, anxiety, grief, sadness or frustration, everyone in the country had some kind of reaction to the shock news last week.
The sudden return of Covid – and a lightning-quick second lockdown for Aucklanders – will be harder for some people the second time around.
There was a "collective damn" across the whole nation when we found out the virus was back, Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson told the Herald.
"We suddenly realised we're not finished yet and that Covid-19 is not as easy to completely eradicate as perhaps all of us might have hoped after the lockdown," he said.
"It's not like another isolated event, this is going to bring up feelings of 'when will this end' and 'my goodness, what is this going to mean financially'.
"I think the constant change is very stressful for everybody."
Meanwhile, clinical psychologist Jacqui Maguire said Kiwis may be looking to the likes of Melbourne and its surging case numbers.
"There's fear that we don't want to head down that path," she said.
"I think a lot of people will be on edge."
Changing Minds CEO Taimi Allan said the country was quite resilient during the first lockdown.
"It was the first time it happened so there were as many positives as negatives that came out of it in the sense with those with existing mental health issues that we knew about found for the first time the rest of the world could relate to them," she said.
But the news of community transmission has caused a resurgence of anxiety — which she said could be expressing itself in ways people may not expect.
"Including physically such as getting sick, having tummy upset or feeling pain in your body," she said.
"It [can be] a physical manifestation of concern, worry and stress. Our bodies hold trauma and what we are going through is a collective trauma. So it's really hard to put our hands up and say 'we're the only one experiencing that'."
Robinson, Maguire and Allan have shared their top tips on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle as Kiwis face a second wave of Covid-19.
Be okay with not being okay
Both Robinson and Allan said that people should acknowledge their emotions, whether good or bad.
"The constant change is very stressful for everybody," Robinson said.
"We would need to let ourselves off the hook and think, it's okay to have those feelings.
"One of the worst thing about this is to try to fight the emotional responses we have and to deny those feelings.
"Admitting that we might be struggling, angry or sad to ourselves is a very important first step."
Allan added: "We are in a period of uncertainty and we are in a state of collective trauma.
"So acknowledging that it's okay to feel anxious and okay to feel a bit down, it's okay to feel stressed, it gives ourselves permission to work out what can we learn from this or what did we learn last time we want to implement this time.
"It's using that as an awareness and a way of growing."
Allan added that people should observe their own emotions and see how it may be impacting others in their life.
"Ask yourself 'where am I wearing the stress, how am I relating to others'," she said.
" 'How am I relating with my work colleagues - how can I tone it down a bit?' "
She said once people acknowledge their emotions, they should try to manage the stress and then spend some quality time with their family or friends.
Robinson, Allan and Maguire said people should continue to stay connected to close friends and family during this time.
"Stay well connected to people who are important to you. Which means proactively reaching out and checking on how other people are," Maguire said.
Allan added that people should take the lessons they learned in the first lockdown and use them again this time.
"One of the wonderful things that came out of lockdown the first time was people found new ways to connect."
That included people meeting at ends of driveways, having a Zoom coffee meeting, or having Friday night cocktails on video chats.
"Those are the sorts of things we never did before lockdown. We did occasional phone calls and text messages but we never actually made a scheduled time to catch up online and connect with others as we did in lockdown."
Keep to a routine
Robinson and Maguire mentioned that people should keep to a routine to maintain a healthy wellbeing.
"Even though you might not be at work and you're working from home, try to go to bed at regular times, get up at regular times, eat at regular times, try to eat healthy food as much as you can and get good sleep," Robinson said.
"Do all those basic things that keep our bodies and our minds in a healthy routine."
Maguire agreed, urging people to keep to their basics including eating well, exercising, sleeping well and limiting their screen time.
Robinson said keeping active is not just for people's physical health, but for their mental health and wellbeing.
"Keep physical activity going."
He said people found ways to do this during the level 4 lockdown last time, which included going for walks and bike rides in their community and downloading yoga and exercise apps.
"You don't have to do a lot, but a little bit of exercise every day helps."
Giving and kindness
Robinson and Allan emphasised that giving and kindness can go a long way to not only helping others, but helping boost your own mental wellbeing.
"Helping someone makes you feel good. That's the bottom line," Robinson said.
"It makes you feel worthwhile and helps you connect with others."
He said to think about who around you may need a little bit of help, whether it's encouragement or buying groceries for those in need.
Allan added that people should be kind to themselves as much as they are kind to others.
"There's an enormous amount of research about what kindness does to serotonins and dopamines in our brains," she said.
"By being kind to ourselves and others, we're actually increasing our happy hormones. It's something we must do as a daily practice."
Limit your access to the news and social media
Robinson said the amount of misinformation online can really rev up that sense of anxiety.
"I think we can really trust our Government and Ministry of Health to give us good information in New Zealand," he said.
"For me, I limit myself to looking at what the Government is saying each day. And in terms of overseas, I look at one source once every couple of days.
"I don't sit there and binge on it."
Keep your mind active
Robinson said keeping our minds active and continuous learning is important as that is what the brain is designed to do.
He said it's not about enrolling in a course but finding things people can do around the home to keep their brain going.
Examples included listening to podcasts, reading books, watching interesting documentaries, or watching a food series and learning about cooking.
Take some time to slow down and be in the moment
Robinson said people need to take notice of the good things that are happening in the present, whether it's noticing something your kids are doing or something about nature.
"It's very good for our brains to bring us into that present moment and give our brains a rest from thinking about the past, planning for the future, which we do so much of."
He recommended people do some deep breathing or guided mindfulness meditation in order to slow down.
He said another good way of slowing down is for people to write down five things that they really appreciated each day to remind themselves about the good things they have.
Maguire added that people should do one thing every day that brings them positive emotion and to take one day at a time.
"If you look too far into the future, it raises anxiety when there are no clear answers," she said.
Allan said distracting yourself takes people away from the stress, pain and worry.
"It's okay to binge-watch Netflix and it's okay to take the dog out the back and throw the ball to him a few times," she said.
"Distraction is a very useful tool we all have available to us. It's a self-care thing."
Try out these free wellbeing sessions
The Ministry of Health has set up free virtual wellbeing sessions that anyone can join.
"Register now to access a range of sessions held in real-time, with people who have 'been there, lived that'," the website reads.
"These diverse sessions invite you to connect with others, learn and practise new skills, and start to look at things differently – one conversation at a time, all from the comfort of your own space."
How do we know if someone is struggling?
Robinson and Maguire said dramatic changes can indicate that someone may be struggling with mental health and that the signs for each person are different.
"It's noticing differences in people's behaviour, their thought process and how they're interacting with you," Maguire said.
"So if somebody is normally extroverted and they withdrawal that would be a sign of concern.
"If somebody is talking about their worries or buying into conspiracy theories, or they are unable to shift their thinking off Covid that would be a sign of concern.
"You're looking for differences from somebody's baseline."
Robinson said the best thing to do to help others is to check-in and ask how they're going.
"You don't have to have all the answers if they say 'I'm not doing so well', you don't have to try to solve it. In fact, trying to solve it is usually the worst thing you can do."
He said the best thing for people to do is offer their support and let the other person know there are professional avenues to go to get help.
"It's not about forcing people to [get help], but it's offering to be there with them when they do that call. Or saying 'I'll find out where you can get that help'," he said.
"Walking alongside someone is the image I always provide because knowing that someone cares about you enough and accepts you, even if you're not feeling good, that's a very powerful thing."
Maguire added that not all signs are external and that it's important to always ask how people are doing.
"Some people's signs are silent, especially with males for example," she said.
"They might not overtly show that they are distressed but if you're aware if they have lost their job or have financial difficulty or they've got family members that are stressed ... there are external factors to look for to see people are struggling so I always recommended people to check-in."
How do we know we are struggling ourselves?
Allan and Maguire both said being in tune with your body, both physically and mentally will allow people to realise they are going through a difficult time with their own mental health.
"It's about being really in tune with your body and where you may be holding physical signs of stress," Allan said.
"Some people feel it like a lock-in their chest, a hollowness in their stomach, or tightness in their shoulder in the neck, or headaches."
She added people who have a negative bias, or what she dubs "inner Trump" in their head, may also be a sign of problems.
"When we get into a cycle of stress and worry we automatically think negatively about the world. We start blaming others, we start thinking in terms of hopelessness. And it's a bit of a spiral," she said.
"So it's about being really aware of the inner critic because that can be really damaging and that can be a big sign of distress.
"When I hear that little voice inside my head saying those really negative things I think 'if Trump was standing in front me saying those things would I believe it? No. Would I follow those instructions? Probably not'."
Maguire added people should check-in with themselves multiple times a day and ask themselves what am I thinking and what am I feeling?
"If your thoughts or emotions are becoming persistently negative, that would be a sign to be 'hey, am I doing okay? Or is this something to go and get support around'," she said.
"I think certain levels of anxiety, worry, sadness - that's really normal. We don't want to say normal levels of emotional reactions should be squashed, but we do want to say if they're starting to take over your life and get in the way of being able to get on with your daily activities, that's when you need to start to take notice."
WHERE TO GET HELP:
If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.
OR IF YOU NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE ELSE:
• 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP) (available 24/7)
• YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
• KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757 or TEXT 4202
• NATIONAL ANXIETY 24 HR HELPLINE: 0800 269 438