Australians are well-versed in the symptoms of COVID-19 but assessing our mental well-being after weeks of lockdown is less well-known.

Dr Jennifer Boddy’s research focuses on domestic and family violence and the impacts of natural disasters on vulnerable communities.

Griffith social work expert Dr Jennifer Boddy is concerned that as the novelty of our new normal wears thin despite relaxing restrictions, a wave of collective cabin fever may set in as we experience glimpses of pre-pandemic life.

She said cabin fever was a catch-all term for the feelings we experience after prolonged isolation.

“It can typically involve feeling bored, frustrated, lonely, anxious, depressed, angry, and so on.”

Losing the ability to control our actions affects our sense of autonomy and increases the likelihood of experiencing cabin fever according to Dr Boddy. Losing a job can also affect our sense of competence that comes from working.

“Making decisions over our day-to-day activities is lessened when we’re forced to socially isolate.”

Dr Boddy says our cabin fever can be aggravated by other stressors in our life.

“If we’re experiencing stress, and particularly financial stress as a result of being isolated, that can mean that we experience cabin fever worse than others.”

Social media can help connect but don’t over do it

Iso-baking has taken off under lockdown amplified by social media. Amateur bakers knead out their cabin fever with time consuming recipes.

Lacking access to good quality information about what is happening can also compound our feelings of isolation but excess use of social media is not the cure.

“It is really important to use social media wisely and to make sure that we don’t overdo it. We should also be careful about what sources of information we access.”

She said using social media to connect with friends and family helps reduce our feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Dr Boddy says the most critical thing we can do to survive the social distancing demands of the COVID-19 pandemic is to keep a routine and practise self-care.

“Keep structure to your day, if we’re continuing to work that is easier to do but even for people who no longer have employment, keeping structure and routine in your day is very important.”

“Keeping structure and routine in your day is very important.”

Tips for surviving the pandemic

  1. Keep a routine
  2. Exercise
  3. Get some sun
  4. Keep a diary
  5. Listen to music
  6. Focus on projects
  7. Connect and reflect with others
  8. Be mindful of challenges for others

Watch the New Normal with Dr Jennifer Boddy

Intended use of information

The advice in this article is not intended to replace professional or medical advice from your doctor or mental health professional. If you need to talk to someone you can contact Beyond Blue on 1800 512 348 or Lifeline on 13 11 14, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Healthdirect has a helpline directory for specialised support.

If you are a Griffith student who needs support, you can get free and confidential counselling by calling the Griffith Mental Wellbeing Support Line on 1300 785 442 or text 0488 884 146. Griffith staff can also access free and confidential counselling support.