In this time of unprecedented concern about our collective health and livelihoods, it is more important than ever to remain socially connected. Especially while we practice physical distancing protocols or 'social distancing'.
According to one of the world's longest running studies, the Harvard Study of Adult Development spanning almost 80 years, the key to a healthy life is social connection. Researchers say that the study tracking the health of people, and their children, from the Great Depression in 1938 to now proves that "embracing community helps us live longer, and be happier."
Embracing community helps us live longer
It is safe, rational and an act of compassion to limit our exposure to COVID19 (corona virus), by not participating in large gatherings and social activities. 'Flattening the pandemic curve' is vital for protecting people at risk and to ensure those needing medical assistance can be treated. But how do you stay healthy while business is not at all usual?
Routine is your friend
Look after your health by sticking as much as possible to routines such as eating healthy meals at the same time as you would on a working day, sleeping at the same time as you would normally and not indulging in activity or substances that could compromise your immunity or effect your mental health, such as food or alcohol bingeing.
The relationship between alcohol and drug use and mental health is a complex one. Just like physical health, your mental health and wellbeing can have a huge impact on all aspects of life. If you notice that your alcohol or drug use is negatively effecting your mood and impacting on your life, it may be time to reach out for help.
To track and reduce your alcohol use, download the NSW Health
Drinks Meter app. Drinks Meter is a free app that provides confidential and personalised feedback based on advice from doctors and the Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol. Track your alcohol intake, set weekly goals and use an interactive standard drinks pouring tool to test your knowledge on standard drink sizes.
For immediate support on alcohol and other drug issues, you can give an Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) counsellor a call on 1800 250 015, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
"Self-isolation doesn't mean shutting ourselves off from the rest of the world. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Isolation can cause emotional distress if social connection isn't maintained in non-physical ways." –
Tips for keeping connected
How do you stay connected when being in close contact is a risk? It's time to get creative to stave off the negative impacts of social isolation.
Lend a hand, but no touching! - If you are not ill and are not required to quarantine or self-isolate, consider helping out a neighbour who is. Many people across Australia are doing small kind acts like connecting with neighbours via text and picking up essential items or picking up a coffee for them when they do their shop and leaving it on their doorstep. Even a nice note or call could lift someone's spirits.
Phone / Tech facilitated playdates - Stream together, book club together, play virtual scrabble or watch TV together, there are many ways to connect without needing to be face to face. Lifeline provides other
suggestions on ways to non-physically connect.
Talking on the phone - In case you didn't notice us humans can talk, so follow your biological destiny and have a chat (audio or video). For those who are on the introversion side of the scale, we challenge you to talk to at least one person each day. Maybe it's time to show those you look up to and care about how much they mean, like these people did in an
experiment in gratitude.
Tele-help – For people who are frail, aged, have a disability and or housebound, Red Cross' Telecross service provides a daily call to check on their wellbeing. Find out more at
Seniors, connect and keep healthy
Like people of any age, people aged 65 years and over can experience problems with their mental health, particularly where there is social isolation. Engaging in regular social activity, exercise, eating healthy and mental stimulation reduces the risk of falls, injuries and chronic disease.
Even if people aren't able to attend an activity, the NSW Health
Active and Healthy website offers tutorials on how to
Exercise at Home, along with handy resources like the
Home Safety Checklist and
Healthy Eating guide.
Social media pages and online groups such as the following, help older people remain connected:
Older Women's Network NSW,
NSW Seniors Festival and
Seniors Card NSW. For a list of more services and programs for people aged 65 years and over, read NSW Health's 'Wellbeing in later life: Your guide to programs and activities' (PDF).
Beyond Blue and their online forums such as
Coping during the Coronavirus outbreak can help people of any age with feelings of isolation and anxiety.
Supporting people with drug and alcohol use issues
While most people don't experience substance dependence, some people can struggle with significant harms related to alcohol or drug use. When it comes to seeking support for issues, partners, friends and family members play a key role in helping people. The
R U OK? campaign provides four practical steps you can take to start a conversation and look out for others.
Family Drug Support (FDS) provides support and assistance on 1300 368 186, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to families experiencing difficulty with a family member using alcohol or other drugs.
In partnership with NSW Health, ACON —Australia's leading community-based organisation specialising in HIV and LGBTQ health— has recently redeveloped 'Partners, Friends and Family: A resource to support LGBTQ people affected by drug or alcohol use' (PDF). This important communication tool has been written by and for LGBTQ people and provides information, practical tips and advice for supporting or caring for someone affected by alcohol and other drugs.
For free and confidential advice 24/7 call Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) on 1800 250 015. Counsellors are available to provide counselling, information, referrals, and support. Or start a Web Chat with an ADIS counsellor online Monday to Friday, 8.30am – 5:00pm.