OPINION

In times like these, put your mental health first

THE CHALLENGE: While things are less than ideal, the current situation might provide an opportunity to identify new pathways.
THE CHALLENGE: While things are less than ideal, the current situation might provide an opportunity to identify new pathways.

SHIT'S getting real. As I write this, pubs, clubs, cinemas and churches are being shut down.

Restaurants and cafes are restricted to take away. Schools are still open, but lots of parents are keeping their kids home to try and keep them safe.

Toilet paper is the new gold and everyone is digging through their pantries looking for pasta from 2014 to make for dinner.

It's not even desperate yet. I mean, Netflix still works, at least for now - stay tuned as the NBN crumbles under the new burden of everyone trying to stream How to Get Away With Murder at the same time while pretending to help kids with online schooling.

We aren't camping in the wilderness with strangers pilfering our supplies and painting our faces in the war paint of the blood of our enemies ... but we're close.

We're homeschooling. My husband and I have decided to keep our kids home from school, as we have a couple of health conditions in our household that make us a little more vulnerable than some.

So me being me, I created a colour coded timetable for the kids' homeschooling schedule and bought a tonne of arts and school supplies and resources on the weekend.

So far, it's not going to plan. There's a shocker.

My daughter spent the morning under her doona playing Minecraft while nibbling on Coco Chex and my 11-year-old son (who I swear is a teenager in disguise) has yet to emerge from his room.

I had some client meetings to do "remotely" (read on my laptop in the car in the carport, as my kids don't understand what "Mummy has a client meeting, do not interrupt me unless the house is on fire" actually means).

So when I returned, I was unsurprised if a little disappointed to discover that no progress had actually been made.

I read a post on Facebook this morning (therefore it must be true, right?) supposedly from a school principal, and it made me feel a little better about my apparent failure to keep all the balls in the air.

They said mental health is more important than anything right now.

That sticking to schedules is less important than making sure our kids are OK, handling the changes and finding new ways to have fun. I'm going with Minecraft under the doona with a Coco Chex supply counts as mental health management.

This experience has really hit home how important our teachers are.

The teachers at my kids' school have been so supportive, responding to messages around the clock, forwarding official statements and reassuring both students and their parents that we will all get through this together, while working extra hours to prepare workbooks and facilitate online learning for our kids.

Even if they are struggling to manage everything and are feeling a little freaked out by the whole apocalysey vibe that is going on right now.

Thinking creatively about how we can still earn an income is consuming much of my mental space at the moment.

Not just for me - although that is of course a consideration - but for all of us.

You can't build a house from your lounge room and you can't pour concrete from your front verandah. But is the answer to just throw our arms up in the air and give up?

One thing I've learned from being in business for 12 years is the importance of adaptability and innovation to overcome challenges that come our way.

Not all challenges can be overcome - but sometimes we can reframe the question to identify new pathways for us.

Ask yourself, what does the world need right now? What skills do we need? What can you do to solve a problem or support someone else?

It can be hard to think creatively when you feel like you are in mental lockdown as well as physical lockdown.

I think the principal's advice to parents is applicable to all of us - we need to take the time to take care of us too.

Of course money is vital, work is crucial, but without our mental health, we won't have the ability to think creatively, to innovate, to see opportunity which will lead us to work.

And remember, at least we haven't been invaded by aliens or taken over by zombies.

Zoë Wundenberg is a careers consultant and un/employment advocateat impressability.com.au