As Victrorians emerge from their fifth lockdown businesses and mental health services report increasing feelings of tiredness and uncertainty.
Central Victorians have been hit with a bad case of 'COVID fatigue' as they continue to yo-yo between freedom and tight restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Constant grind and fatigue
Be.Bendigo chief executive Dennis Bice said the wellbeing of businesses owners and their staff was always a high priority and he was noticing COVID fatigue more and more.
"One thing we are finding at the moment with businesses is struggles not only with the financial side of things but it's also the impact lockdown has on the wellbeing of our business owners, their families and their staff," he said.
"The COVID fatigue has impacted on business owners and we have to ensure we are supporting businesses wherever we can, so they feel supported and have the ability to clear their minds and make good decisions around their business.
"I think there has been a huge impact around productivity with COVID fatigue and we have seen a bit of that impacts of going in and out of lockdown all the time.
We are really concerned about hearing stories of the consent grind and fatigue and the talk about future lockdowns, we really need to build some resilience in the community.Dennis Bice
"We have just signed a new agreement with our wellbeing program for a further 12 months and that is a real positive in terms of being able to offer that service free of charge."
Star Cinema Eaglehawk business manager Martin Myles said coming in and out of lockdowns was taxing on personal lives as well as for businesses.
"There is this cellular emotion and anxiety that kicks in every time there is a whisper of a lockdown so that was initially felt," he said.
"It's very taxing and the amount of work that it creates is enormous, every single lockdown creates so much more work but it also creates an enormous amount of time to become profitable again.
"Even if a lockdown is five days, it takes four to five weeks before the region becomes profitable again and it's the legacy of a lockdown that is very hard-hitting."
As a business manager, Mr Myles said it was always important to remain positive, but that was getting harder and harder.
I do try and put on a brave face and check in with the staff and make sure they are in a good place but with each lockdown my resilience gets less and less and I am sure everybody in my position will tell you the exact same story.Martin Myles
Mental health experts weigh in
Bendigo headspace team leader Lindsay Rose said the yo-yoing lockdown announcements since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic had led many young people to feel a sense of uncertainty about their futures.
"Most of us base our lives on routine and like to plan out how things will go. The yo-yoing has affected our abilities to plan," he said.
"We've seen a large increase in people identifying they're tired, they want things to return to the way they were and coupled with the knowledge things won't go back to normal soon has left them feeling disheartened.
"As the pandemic has progressed, we have seen a continuous increase in people seeking support and that's clearly evident in our increase month on month."
Mr Rose said there was a number of steps headspace recommends to help people tackle their mental health concerns.
"First of all it's so important to acknowledge that it's ok not to be ok," he said. "Once you've done that you can put in the steps to address it.
"This can include increasing physical exercise, healthy eating, easing off alcohol and drugs, getting plenty of sleep, connecting with those around, engaging in new hobbies, and doing the things you find enjoyable.
"Some of these habits may have eased off throughout the pandemic."
Goldfields Psychology psychologist Ciaran Pier said lockdown fatigue can be different for all types of people.
"Lockdown fatigue could be low mood, low motivation, fatigue, trouble concentrating, it could be anxiety.," she said.
Dr Pier suggested some helpful and practical steps people can take to care for their mental health:
- Acknowledging the feelings first: Knowing it's okay to have those feelings, telling someone about them, calling or even writing them down.
- Routine: Keeping up healthy sleep and eating routines, limiting screen time, exercise routines. Some people who are working from home may have their routines changed so I think that it is so important for our physical and mental health to keep a structured routine. If you have some extra time during lockdown, use it to try something new.
- Enjoyment: A lot of people are low during lockdown fatigue, motivation can be low so enjoyment is so important. It might be trying something new and small things each day for enjoyment.
- Exercise: Exercising outside can be so important for our mental health.
- Social connectedness: Social connection is so important for humans so even if it's a phone call, talking to the check out person at the supermarket, try and engage with anyone you come across.
Dr Pier said over the past 18 months and more recently during the state's fifth lockdown, she had seen many clients experiencing lockdown fatigue.
"A lot of our clients like most people did suffer last year during there heavy lockdown but actually talking to people recently, they are saying this fifth lockdown has been the hardest for them," she said.
"What happens with a lot of people, when there is a lockdown announcement, it triggers the feelings felt in the previous lockdowns.
"If they struggled previously, those same feelings they felt in the previous lockdowns might come up and burn out symptoms can be really common."