Psychologist Stacy Shepherd reflects on Coast's tough time

REACH OUT: Feeling stressed after the past six months? You are not alone, says South Coast psychologist Stacy Shepherd.
REACH OUT: Feeling stressed after the past six months? You are not alone, says South Coast psychologist Stacy Shepherd.

To say that 2020 has been a difficult time for our community would be an understatement.

First we had the bushfires, then the flooding and now a global pandemic.

Just as we thought we would return to some normality post-bushfires, we got struck down again.

I don't know about you, but it's exhausting - physically and emotionally.

The stress and the lack of predictability can take a toll on a person. That's why now it is more important than ever to be aware of your mental health.

Just like we monitor our physical health and see the doctor if needed, it is important that we are watching how we are travelling mentally and seeking support if we feel like we are not coping.

So what is a normal response to all this chaos? We are all going to cope differently to the past six months.

We will have all been impacted in different ways and this will make a big difference in how we cope. We will all have our own histories, our own support networks and our own methods of coping. Humans are such complex creatures.

One thing I am seeing very often in my clients and in my personal and professional networks is that we are all tired - emotionally and physically exhausted.

It is so important to recognise this and take some time out to rest and recover.

This may look different for different people - you may need to schedule some down time, maybe a "stay-cation" (that's a holiday at home, global pandemic and all).

You might need to schedule some time off from the media coverage or social media. An internet detox can do wonders!

It is also important to keep connected socially - even with social distancing in place.

Having a cuppa with a mate and talking about how you are feeling can be so powerful.

Sharing experiences and reaching out for help may also be what you need.

Restrictions and social distancing may be in place but you can still get outside - even if just for a short walk, a stroll on the beach or a walk down to your local café for a coffee.

It is so important that we are getting outside, getting some sunlight and some fresh air.

Spend some time reflecting on what brings you joy, what you enjoy doing.

Maybe that is gardening, going to the beach or walking the dog. Make sure you are finding time to still do those things each day.

These things are so important for our mood. Life is meant to be enjoyable after all!

Sometimes in the stress and chaos of daily life, these are the things that gets pushed to the side, but now it is more important than ever to be engaging in these activities.

Check in on your sleep, your diet and your activity level.

Again, these things tend to get de-prioritised when we are stressed but we need them to cope and respond to stress.

Exercise is a great stress reliever.

So how do you know if you are not coping?

It might be that you are struggling to move on, feeling bogged down with memories or having more intense, unpleasant feelings than usual.

If you've been doing some of the things above but they just aren't enough or you just can't seem to get the initiative to get going, this might be a sign that you may need some extra support.

So what to do if you feel like you aren't coping?

The first port of call is your GP and they may want to refer you to a psychologist for additional support.

There are also many online resources that you may find helpful - including the Lifeline Bushfire Recovery service - 13 43 57 or check out Beyond Blue's website for further bushfire support.

The pandemic may have taken over the news headlines but we have not forgotten about the bushfires and the impact on our community.

Help is available - please reach out if you need support.

Stacy Shepherd is director and clinical psychologist at Broulee Psychology.

This story 'Emotionally and physically exhausted': Importance of mental health in uncertain times first appeared on Bay Post-Moruya Examiner.