A Whangārei psychotherapist says the biggest way to traverse through loneliness and social isolation is by talking to people.
With the country going into lockdown on Thursday, registered psychotherapist Aimi Weaver, from Shore Therapy, said isolation was new for most people so no matter how they were feeling - those feelings were normal.
"A lot of what we have taken for granted is going to be removed and it is going to be a shock," she said.
"We have to deal with what life is going to be like for the next four weeks at least. This is not an easy time, and it's okay to find it difficult - you're going to find it difficult."
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Weaver said social isolation creates a sense of loneliness, even when you're with your family unit.
"You're used to having heaps of people to deal with and sometimes some people's work environment is their escape from whatever is at home. So, when you no longer have that escape, you have to find different ways to be able to feel like that."
Weaver said people will feel down and out and super anxious and some might feel like the first few days are a holiday and struggle after that - this was normal.
"You need to shake things up if you're feeling down and out for an extended period, or if you're feeling super anxious for an extended period. This is a scary time, you're going to feel like that, it's normal to feel like that. It's if you get stuck feeling like that for a long long time - you need to reach out to someone."
She said there were some warning signs people could look out for which may indicate a decline in mental health - like sleep disturbances, mood changes, appetite changes and behaviour changes.
"If you feel like you're at any type of risk you need to reach out to somebody. I don't care if it's a friend or a family remember, reach out to someone. If you don't think you can talk to them you need to reach out to someone like lifeline or depression line."
She said it was important for people to talk during this time.
"The biggest way to traverse through loneliness and social isolation is talking to people. And I know we can't talk to people and give them a hug and bump into someone at the supermarket - that's not how this works. But Facetime, call someone, just hearing someone's voice can be enough to shift us out of wherever we're at," she said.
TIPS TO GET THROUGH ISOLATION
• Use technology such as video call apps (WhatsApp/Skype/SnapChat/FaceTime) to keep in touch with family and friends
• Try and remain in as much of a routine as possible – Have a wake up time, organise an activity each day, get dressed and showered (do not remain in your pyjamas). If we maintain some sort of routine, it helps us feel more in control which helps us feel less anxious. If we feel out of control, we feel chaotic.
• If you are working from home, try to make a space completely separate from the rest of the house (and outside your bedroom) where you can 'go to work'. This will help you psychologically put barriers in place so that work stays at work and separate from home. Wearing work clothes while in work mode can also add more of a separation.
• If you have children, while there is a focus on children still having to 'learn' while at home, the priority is that you and your children stay safe – which includes mentally safe. Finding activities or projects around the house that the kids can get involved in can be really helpful to quell the boredom.
• Find activities to keep you occupied, like learn a new skill - painting, knitting, gardening, weight training etc.
• Remember, this is going to be hard, it is okay to feel worried, overwhelmed, grumpy. When we get stressed, we flick into our primitive brain, and we struggle to connect with the rational part of the brain so we can feel a bit chaotic. It is important to take a moment, take a deep breath and mindfully focus on something in your environment.
• If you feel you are not coping, it is important to talk with a health professional. For support with grief, anxiety, distress or mental wellbeing, you can call or text 1737 – free, anytime, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – to talk with a trained counsellor.
WHERE TO GET HELP
If you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call 111.
If you need to talk to someone, the following free helplines operate 24/7
LIFELINE: 0800 543 354
NEED TO TALK? Call or text 1737
SAMARITANS: 0800 726 666
YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633 or text 234