The last few months have been fraught with anxiety and stress for many around the globe due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, but as case numbers continue to fall restrictions have started to ease and life is slowly returning to normal.
Aussies can now visit loved ones, eat out at a café, get their nails done and travel within their state. But, that doesn’t mean all the anxiety has slipped away, because let’s face it, everyday life looks a little different now. Social distancing rules mean people still have to be 1.5 metres apart and strict hygiene measures are in place.
While some are eager to say goodbye to self-isolation, others are still on edge about their health and safety, or perhaps that of an elderly loved one who is at high risk of contracting the virus. According to psychiatrist Dr Neil Jeyasingam this worry is completely normal given the current situation. However, if it starts to take over your life, that’s when it becomes a problem.
“Let’s say you’re anxious about getting back into society,” Jeyasingam says. “It would probably make you want to be cautious, watching what the government guidelines say, keeping social distancing going, wearing a mask where appropriate, visiting restaurants and cafes, but not in large groups.
“After a while, if guidelines don’t change and case numbers stay low, you’d probably do more – go out more often, meet up with more people. This is what a normal anxiety-related response looks like. Anxiety is a good thing, it’s there to protect us. If it interferes with our quality of life, that’s when it needs to be dealt with.”
For Baby Boomers, there’s a fairly even split between those who’re feeling anxious about returning to ‘normal’ life compared to those who feel completely fine going back to their lives before the pandemic began. A recent poll carried out by Starts at 60 found just over half of respondents aren’t anxious at all about life after Covid-19, however, there are still quite a lot who’re cautious about the move away from self-isolation.
“I don’t feel anxious for myself, but I do feel for the people who are diabetic etc. as we don’t really know how many people would have suffered if we hadn’t gone into lockdown,” Judy Barlett said. “I’ve read a great deal of material from both sides of the debate and only hope for all our sakes that we don’t get a second wave with the winter months yet to come.”
“Praying no second wave due to being winter months here,” Genene Cain agreed. “Annoyance at those who don’t adhere to safe distancing and lack of hygiene rules by some.”
While Brian Lee said: “I think they are just moving too fast. Don’t forget this virus is going on being fully active until a vaccine is made. Until then we are all in danger! The fact that we are learning to dodge the beast doesn’t alter that situation, none of us are perfect.”
Meanwhile, other over-60s only have positive thoughts and feelings about restrictions being eased now that the immediate threat of Covid-19 has passed. For Karen Dee, life didn’t change too much during the lockdown, however, there are some things she’s looking forward to doing in the coming weeks.
“Life didn’t change much, still went to work, couple of times a week to the shops,” she said. “Missed not getting my nails and hair done, but I can live with that. Missed seeing my kids in the flesh but that didn’t last more than a few weeks. Might be different if I had grandkids.”
Shona Earnest agreed, saying: “My life hasn’t changed much with the virus anyway. Now I’ll be able to go and have a coffee and talk to my friends.” While David Valvo simply asked: “What’s to be anxious about?”
However, for those who’re feeling the stress and anxiety coming out of isolation, Jeyasingam said it’s not a bad thing, and can help us reach our goals. It’s a normal response to a threat, and it’s supposed to motivate us and spur us on to do something. But, the difficulty is when people don’t respond to it and the anxiety starts to overtake.
Anxiety can have a detrimental effect on a person’s health, both mentally and physically. According to Beyond Blue, older people may experience digestive upsets, significant weight loss, unexplained headaches and memory problems, just to name a few. If the anxiety gets to this stage Jeyasingam suggest consulting a doctor immediately.
“If that worry remains, without change in our behaviour, without improving over time, or with impact on our functioning such as sleep or appetite, then that isn’t normal and one should talk to their doctor or trusted clinician,” he said. “Sleep is a really important marker of good mental health — if you’re having difficulty sleeping for more than three nights in a row, a mental health issue may be happening and it’s important to seek help. Exercise is also one of the most effective tools for controlling anxiety.”
Overall, Jeyasingam said Aussies should trust the government is doing the right thing and follow the advice being provided by officials. While it’s a scary time for some, Australia is coming out the other side and taking caution is often a smart way to go about things.
“I know it’s not particularly Australian to say so, but our politicians seem on the whole to be making sensible recommendations based on sound scientific advice,” he said. “It looks like things are getting better and doing things slowly is not a bad way to go. And to put things in perspective, let’s be honest, you’ve been through worse.”
IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.
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