A WAVE of mental ill-health may be the next phase of the COVID-19 crisis for Victorians, Bendigo health workers have warned.
It comes as Victoria experiences a spike in COVID-19 cases, and the government heightens Melbourne restrictions.
Headspace Bendigo team leader Lindsay Rose said tightening of restrictions might lead to anxiety and despair for some people.
Mr Rose said uncertainty around new restrictions and continued COVID-19 spread could affect people's mental health.
He said most people would experience some degree of frustration about the situation, meaning it was important to keep tabs on mental health and maintain healthy habits.
"Some of us had probably thought that the worst was over, and knowing that it's not, that it is sticking around for a while yet ... will lead to some of that anxiety and frustration about how we live our lives in the coming months," Mr Rose said.
"We need to continue to look after our mental health and we need to stay connected with those around us.
"We need to set and keep routines around eating, sleeping and exercising regularly, ensuring that we keep on top of our mental health."
Bendigo psychologist Ivan Honey urged people to avoid panic. He suggested acknowledging painful feelings and fears, but also trying to pull back.
Mr Honey said being able to retreat from stress was critical to surviving the mental health effects of the pandemic.
He warned a wave of mental ill health was likely to be the next big wave of the COVID-19 crisis.
Mr Honey said people should remember to take take deep breaths and relax when they felt panic.
He suggested building resilience involved self-care, which could be as simple as doing something useful, such as caring for a child or housework.
Learning to recognise dread, panic, fear or anxiety, slow down and pull back, also built resilience, he said.
Mr Honey said this could mean doing a crossword, or going for a walk.
"If we want to be in control we've got to avoid just reacting to the situation we're in," he said.
"We've got to remind ourselves of the fact that we're alive, that we're well, that we still have options, that we're never stuck, that we can work out different ways to solve problems, and ... we live in a country where people care of us."
Mr Honey said isolation went against basic human needs, such as connecting with other people, and being free.
He said people's responses to the pandemic came in extremes: some tried to pretend everything was okay, becoming complacent. Others panicked, he said.
"We see it manifest in the toilet paper in the supermarkets," he said.
"People panic, they feel there's one little thing they can control, and that is the amount of toilet paper they have. It gives them that sense of security."
Mr Honey said it was okay to struggle, but if it was prolonged people should speak with Lifeline, a counselling organisation or a psychologist.
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