With communities around Australia living with the pressures of COVID-19, and nearly half our population in lockdown the Fortem team has moved quickly to fill our Wellbeing Activities Calendar with a host of virtual activities to keep first responder families connected, positive, active, and learning.
“I think maintaining good mental health and wellbeing is more important than ever while in lockdown, and during uncertain times. There is definitely a need for these virtual activities,” says Caroline Lockyer, one of Fortem’s Sydney based Activities Officers.
Melbourne based Activities Officer, Suzanne Williamson knows the strains of lockdown all too well, “lockdown can be a very stressful time as your world can be thrown upside down, with home schooling, working from home, and for some, it may mean a loss of employment for their family members.”
“It can also be a lonely time, especially those who live by themselves. It’s important to offer virtual opportunities so that people can reach out and connect and hear from others who are going through a similar position.”
From virtual yoga classes to sketching, trivia, Greek cooking, and mindfulness there are a host of activities to get involved with through July and August, with more listings every week.
“For our last virtual cooking session, we had a first responder who was deployed to Darwin, but her husband and kids were able to join from Victoria and they were all cooking together online,” Suzanne says.
“Also, cooking is a great mindful activity as it can help people stay present and have a break from thinking and worrying about the lockdown, as it encourages people to concentrate on the activity at hand.”
Caroline says while people miss the regular face-to-face Fortem activities, the values and research that underpin our work are still at play, “it’s different from a face-to-face activity, but there are still many benefits in the virtual activities.”
“It’s still an opportunity to feel connected with people outside your home, and to reduce feelings of isolation, which is particularly important for those in lockdown.
“As all our activities, including our virtual ones, are based on the ‘5 Ways to Wellbeing’, there are still plenty of benefits to mental health – you can get active with our online yoga classes, keep learning while you master a new recipe with our online cooking classes, get creative with our drawing classes, learn the skills of mindfulness in an online workshop, and connect with your family and others in our virtual trivia nights.”
The day-to-day work of a first responder is busy and potentially traumatic enough without the fears and added risks and requirements around COVID-19 over an extended period of time.
Concerns around catching the virus, or bringing it home to loved ones are real, as are the increased anxiety levels first responders are seeing in those they are tasked to help.
“It’s an extremely busy and stressful time for our first responders, they are putting themselves at risk to keep the community safe, and for some first responders, there is the added pressure of more call outs and ensuring that people adhered to the restrictions,” Suzanne says.
Fortem offers an effective way to improve mental health and wellbeing during these challenging times, our upcoming virtual activities can play a key role in your fitness and are available free to first responders and their family members.
To get involved check our Wellbeing Activities Calendar, you’ll also find mental health tips, reading and research in the Fortem Resource Library and via Peak Fortem. Fortem Australia also offers psychology support for eligible first responders and family members. Call 1300 33 95 94 to find out more.
Your participation is also good for the mental health of the Fortem team, “I’m currently in lockdown in Sydney and yes this definitely helps us too,” Caroline says.
“It keeps us focused on something, other than the outbreaks, and it’s great to still be able to offer a variety of activities to people, even though we need to stay at home. Shifting our focus onto virtual activities means we can still keep doing what we love, and create positive experiences for our Fortem community.”