It's been a crazy year of uncertainty and change, and whilst some of us are riding the wave or enjoying some time alone, others may be finding day to day life a little more difficult. It has been especially difficult for those with existing mental health conditions or those who live alone.
It can be hard to know how to support a friend or loved one when you can't physically be there to help out, give them a hug, or if you are finding things difficult yourself, so we have thought of a few ways to make their day just a little bit easier.
1. Reach out
This first step may sound simple but there are so many ways in today's technologically advanced world for us to connect online. If you know the way someone likes to interact, even just for a short time, it's always worth checking in. You can send them a text, an email, give them a call, facetime or even catch up at a safe distance for a walk if your regions restrictions allow.
If you don't know how often they would like to hear from you or how, it's always good to ask, and if you know if sufferings particularly hard, it's always good to ask the best steps to take if you don't hear back from them as planned to avoid any unnecessary worry.
Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity SANE, says: “It is far better to have too much contact than not enough.”
Don’t be put off if they’re not ready to open up yet, just being there for someone can make a huge difference and it might take a while before they feel able to talk about what’s going on.
2. Create a playlist or movie list for them to enjoy either alone or together
There's nothing better than snuggling up next to the heater with a hot choccie and a big bowl of popcorn to watch a new Netflix show or movie recommended by a friend. Making a curated movie list or playlist just for them, shows you care and pay attention to their likes and interests. It's a great way to show love, allowing them to make very little effort if they just aren't feeling up to it.
3. Gift a book you loved or send a small gift pack
Passing on a good book you loved and giving it a second home is a great way to help a friend pass the hours while locked down. While our lives are getting busier, lockdown can give some people a chance to slow down and pick up something they used to love doing - like reading.
Gifting a book you have read also provides a whole new topic of conversation, and you could have a zoom book club night and compare your thoughts!
Sometimes the best gifts aren't the ones that break the bank, just something small to let them know you are thinking of them, like a candle, a little gift pack, a card or a box of tea.
4. Start a menu share or cook together over zoom
A lot of your Victorian friends are probably missing café brunches and dinners out right now, so this is a great way to extend social eating across states. Simply decide on a menu, set a time, and enjoy cooking or eating the same meal together. If you want to be a little competitive, pick a winner for presentation and likeness, it will be like MasterChef!
5. Spread the joy by sending a card
Getting something in the mail right now can make all the difference when you are in lockdown. Whether it’s a simple card or handwritten letter, or an all-out care package, surprising your Victorian friends with a package in the mail will make their day. If you want to be super extra, try themed parcels – like chocolate and sweets, self care, personal pampering or memory boxes.
The reality of the situation is things really suck right now, and some of your friends probably aren’t coping as well as it may seem. It’s hard to tell how someone is really going when you can only talk to them on the phone or via text, so it’s super important you take the time to check in with your Victorian friends properly. It’s also important not to spring loaded questions about mental health on them unexpectedly. Instead, offer a time in the next few days to catch up properly via Zoom or FaceTime – try making time over a coffee in your lunch break, a wine after work, or during a walk on the weekend. Give them the space and time to really open up, and don’t forget to follow up in the days and weeks afterwards. If you’re worried about a friend, especially if they’re isolated, Better Health Vic has an extensive list of support services that can help people through some of the challenges they’re facing.