Supporting international students and workers through COVID-19
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Maintaining work, friend and family connections during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic isn’t as simple as it used to be. As we protect ourselves and others, it’s important we follow the government's advice on social distancing and public gathering limits.
But when your usual routine is gone, you’re not heading into the office, your normal hobbies are called off and you can’t meet up with loved ones, it can be difficult to feel connected to others.
Psychologist and author, Dr Marny Lishman, says this can be really hard for us because humans are ‘pack animals’.
“I think on that primal level, when we don’t have a connection and we’re isolated, we can feel really vulnerable and uneasy,” Marny says.
Many of us may feel lonely at this time, which can be a risk to both our physical and mental health. So how can we stay connected while social distancing?
Now’s the time to up your app game, Marny suggests. Try using Zoom or Houseparty for group video chats, sending quirky photos on Snapchat, video-calling friends and family using WhatsApp or Skype or finding your neighbourhood’s community page on Facebook.
Use social media to contact friends but don’t get stuck scrolling mindlessly for too long. Check out our suggestions to protect yourself from social media overload.
We have lots of ways to keep in touch, but not everyone likes the same method of communication – or is free when you are. Marny says we need to figure out how our friends like to communicate.
“We’re going to have to be a little bit more intuitive or use our emotional intelligence to get the gist of how they want to still talk. [Sometimes] it might be just sending funny memes to make an impact on someone’s day.”
If your friend or family member doesn’t have access to a smartphone or the internet, give them a call on their landline or send them a good old-fashioned letter, Marny suggests.
When we catch up with friends and family, we usually have dinner together, go for a walk or watch a movie. Now that everyone’s routine is simplified, you may feel like you quickly run out of exciting things to say. But we can still have dinner or watch a movie at the same time as a friend, while chatting to them on the phone. Doing the same activity while you’re chatting means you’ll spend some quality time together in a relaxed way.
Hobbies provide a welcome distraction in a stressful time. Are you missing your gym? Join an online fitness class. Longing for a girls’ night? Schedule a group chat. Wish you could hear some live music? Lots of artists are livestreaming.
“If we can retain as much of normality as possible and adjust where we have to, I think we’ll ride through this time of distancing a lot better,” says Marny.
If you can’t keep up your regular hobby from home, it might be time to start a new one, such as painting by numbers or learning a new language.
If you’re working from home, you may miss being able to bounce ideas around with your colleagues easily. But with the right set-up, you can create a good home-office vibe.
It’s important to ask for help when you need it. You may feel lonely, overwhelmed or stressed by the changes in your life during this time. Check out Beyond Blue’s advice on coping during the coronavirus outbreak or if you have an urgent need for help with your mental health - contact one of the helplines below.
Looking after your mental health and wellbeing is essential, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why we’ve extended psychology benefits to all nib members with Extras cover until 30 June. For more information, visit our COVID-19 mental health support page.
Members now also have the option of accessing telehealth consultations via phone or video calls on a range of services, including psychology, so you can continue to prioritise your health needs while staying at home.