Professional and Performance Mental Health Services
One in four people on earth are currently in lockdown related to the spread of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. In many countries, this effective social isolation is planned to be sustained for weeks or months. Isolation, and the loneliness that can come with it, is a major concern for mental health.
Social isolation and poor mental health are strongly linked, in studies of both the elderly and young people. As such, plenty research has gone into formulating strategies to help people in isolation better manage their mental health.
One centre involved in the study of these issues is the Órama Institute for Mental Health, Wellbeing and Neuroscience at Flinders University. Mike Kyrios, the Institute’s director and also a professor, vice president and executive dean of Flinders’ College of Education, Psychology and Social Work, recently outlined a six-point acronym named STREAM that he says can be followed by anyone quarantining or working from home.
What is STREAM?
- S is for Social networking. Kyrios maintains that whilst the physical distancing involved in isolation is critical for our health, social networking should still be kept up, using social media, skype or phone calls.
- T is for Time out. Whilst some families may initially relish the chance to catch up, Kyrios points out that separating from each other when you are stuck together in the home for long periods is important. Timetabling periods of time out, Kyrios says, can be useful to reduce the stress of being confined with others in a small space.
- R is for Relaxation, mindfulness or yoga strategies. Kyrios says that relaxation strategies can be really helpful to manage anxiety. These include breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxations, dancing, yoga and playing musical instruments.
- E is for Exercise and Entertainment. Whilst some lockdowns include strict regulation on exercise, other countries allow daily runs or cycles. Kyrios says that burning energy can be done outside, in a yard if you have one, or inside using online exercise videos or classes. Entertaining yourself is also essential, be it through reading, playing digital or board games, or other hobbies. Flicking through your phone to look at more coronavirus-related news does not count as a hobby.
- A is for Alternative thinking. Kyrios says that the novelty and uncertainty that the current pandemic present will cause increased tension and stress. If you are becoming angry or anxious, says Kyrios, ask yourself whether your fears are likely to come to pass, whether your responses are reasonable, and whether there are better ways to tackle your underlying feelings. Thinking things through or talking to a friend or counsellor may help with this.
- M is for being Mindful of others. Kyrios advises to remind yourself that the current crisis is a short-term situation that will be overcome. He says that checking on vulnerable neighbours, when proper hygiene practices and government restrictions are observed, is important.
By following STREAM, alongside the excellent advice from the sources below, a period of several weeks’ isolation should become more manageable. Kyrios finishes with a simple reminder: “Never forget that simple acts of kindness make us feel good about ourselves, the world and the future.”