13 Apr 2020

Sarb Johal: Getting through lockdown with your sanity intact

From Easter Monday, 8:40 am on 13 April 2020
Psychologist Sarb Johal

Psychologist Sarb Johal Photo: Supplied

Heading into the third week of lockdown New Zealanders are really doing the hard yards, says psychologist Sarb Johal, but we need to finish the job and get through to the other side.

"We're tired and it's easy to take your foot off the accelerator so it's a bit of a danger point," he tells Karyn Hay.

It takes a mental toll when you have to keep stopping yourself doing the things you normally do and force yourself to do something different, says Sarb, who's also a disaster mental health specialist.

To normalise the struggles many of us are having, he's been posting two-minute videos on his YouTube channel theusefulpsychologist.

The world New Zealanders emerge into after this lockdown will be quite different, he says.

"What many people are feeling now is a sense of loss, of what it was we had before. That might be jobs, it might be the way we lived our lives. One of the things we have to do is figure out a way to cope with that – individually and nationally, too.

"We're gonna be washing our hands for quite a while, I think. And I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing because we are still under threat on a global basis. These behaviours are going to be quite normal … are we going to go back to hat-tipping or bowing or curtseying?

"This is potentially a really good opportunity to start to reinvent how it is that we are in the world and how it is we want to do things individually and collectively."

If you feel like worry is getting on top of you, some people find keeping a 'worry journal' useful for clearing the mind, Sarb says.

For five minutes a day, give yourself the task of worrying as much as you can and writing your worries down.

Afterwards, this can feel like you've left your worries on the page and alleviated your mind's stress.

That's because our brains are designed to make sure we don't forget the things we think are important, he says.

"By writing [your worries] down you're essentially reassuring your mind that you're not going to forget them. You've parked them now and your mind can start to get on with other things."

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