The stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic may have been exacerbated for people who have previously experienced a mental health condition.
Having experienced depression in the past, Garry Mills is someone who can relate. As the Director of his own business, Gary Mills Peak Performance, he has been facing similar challenges to many sole traders across Australia.
Fortunately, Garry was able to draw on previous coping strategies to support himself both personally and professionally when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“I haven’t seen anything like COVID-19 or the disruption, the harm, the fears and the uncertainties it brought with it,” says Garry.
“I’ve been thinking about what people may be thinking and feeling as a result of COVID-19 and it’s impacts, and how that may be impacting their business and their wellbeing and their mental health.”
There are four simple strategies Garry recommends that can help people look after their mental health during the coronavirus.
Establish a routine
Garry believes that planning is important when it comes to setting up a routine.
“I build a routine into my phone. I put in core commitments, I time it because I know if I commit to something and have a schedule, I’m more likely to do it,” he says.
“I do know that if I don’t set the routine, I’m more likely to put things off, and that gets me frustrated or annoyed at myself.”
Gary finds the benefits of completing tasks, even if they seem small, is significant.
“The little wins I have from getting things done in my routine send a little chemical reaction to my brain and it makes me feel good. This is a really important part of ticking things as I get them done.”
Like many people experiencing a mental health condition, Garry found that exercise played an important role.
“It’s one thing I stuck to during the worst times of my depression. It has this really calming effect on my brain and my body,” he says.
Whether it’s completing a triathlon or simply going for a jog, the impact on his wellbeing was significant.
“I feel like I’m doing something really positive when I exercise. I feel energised, I feel alive.”
It was only a year ago that Garry decided to take up meditation. It didn’t take immediately, but now it’s just part of his daily self-care routine, and has proved a great tool for combatting stress during COVID-19.
“Just taking 10 minutes out of my day to relax and be calm has a really positive impact on my whole day. It helps me calm down my anxious thoughts,” he says.
“Mindfulness is about being present in the moment and just focusing on what you’re doing right then and there.”
This proved useful for Garry not only on a personal level, but a professional one too.
“Since I’ve been doing meditation and mindfulness, I’ve had a lot better focus. I feel a lot more at peace and finding decisions and solutions to my problems are things that come a lot easier from feeling like that,” he says.
Don’t wait to ask for help
Reflecting on his time with depression, Garry wishes he’d reached out for help earlier.
“When I was suffering from depression, I didn’t ask for help until I was at rock bottom. It was always there, all I had to do was ask for it,” he says.
“One of the things I’ve learnt that’s really stuck with me is that the earlier we ask for help, whatever our problem is, however we may be suffering or not coping, the quicker it is to finding the solution and finding a way forward.”