Delta-free life

Last Thursday marked a significant turning point in NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s political rhetoric about Covid-19, as two life-changing phrases were added to her daily briefing. She stated “Zero is no longer an option” and “We all have to learn to live with Delta”.

This means we won’t return to the golden period we previously enjoyed when we could travel with relative freedom within the country. Delta is here to stay in NSW, and we all need to get on board with this new reality. It’s time to think about how it will shape our lives and movements in a post-lockdown future. However, it’s not just those of us in NSW who need to understand the ramifications of the rapidly changing Delta landscape. This will eventually impact all of us in Australia. It may be in the weeks or months ahead, or even in a year’s time. At some point all of us in this country will hear that “Zero is no longer an option”, ending our final golden period of freedom.

Melbourne and parts of Victoria have spent more than 200 days in lockdown. In NSW, many people can’t imagine an end to our lockdown before December. We’re already afflicted with exhaustion, uncertainty, every form of insecurity, and mental health deterioration. Many also feel trapped, others feel paranoid, and police patrols can be seen as persecutory. We’re struggling. As an individual and couple psychotherapist, I’m seeing the psychological pressure and suffering. No one is fully immune from the impact of Covid lockdowns.

It’s too late for those of us in NSW: Delta is here. I’m not asking for pity; this is just our reality. And unfortunately, I believe everyone in Australia will be in the same situation one day. If you’re living in a state that is free of lockdowns, I want to share some advice that I’m giving my interstate clients. Please know that I’m not suggesting you haven’t been impacted by the pandemic at all. I just want you to know that from my vantage point, I can see that you have a wonderful window to make the most of life without Delta and the major restrictions that come with it.

In NSW, we didn’t know that we had a precious window and that our freedom would be curbed so significantly. Had we known that I think we’d have treated those freedoms as something more special. We all know the Delta strain is virulent. At some point, it’ll only take one undetected case over the border to end your golden period. However, for now, you can use your precious window wisely.

I have three top tips to help you make the most of this golden period of freedom:

  1. Meet up with loved ones. Create experiences with your friends and family. Hug them, for no other reason other than because you can. Go out together. Go to dinner. Go dancing or to the theatre. Invite friends and family to your home. Create celebrations whether birthdays, achievements or any minor event – just because you can. Have freedom gatherings. If you’re in a couple relationship, prioritise date nights and being intimate as anyone in lockdown knows, lockdown is just not that sexy.
  2. Travel far. Make the most of your ability to drive more than five kilometres from home. You’re free – go travel and do it as soon as possible. Don’t wait. Book that much longed-for Australian trip. Enjoy parks or beaches outside of your local area. Relish your freedom of movement.
  3. Grapple with Delta issues now. It is much better for your psychological health to have time to contemplate and prepare for life-changing situations, rather than having them suddenly thrust on you. One day, and for those of us in NSW that one day is getting closer, you’ll be living like those overseas who also live with Delta. Start imagining a Delta Australia with vaccine as the main healthcare strategy. Project into the future and contemplate how you may be impacted. The question is whether daycare centres or schools will allow unvaccinated children to attend. Will restaurants, hotels or workplaces require proof of vaccination? Qantas has already stated that all their flight crew must be vaccinated. And I think this position will only extend to other companies and industries.

This mental wrestling goes well beyond a debate of whether to vaccinate. All of us in the NSW lockdown know we won’t having freedom reinstated without reaching specific vaccination targets. We all need to grapple with the reality of living with Delta. I’ve even questioned whether it’ll be safe for me to see unvaccinated clients when I return to my clinic. What if they became seriously ill or died? How would I live with the knowledge that my therapeutic and healing space was harmful to someone? We will all need to navigate what living with Delta means to us. Having time to do this allows us to respond thoughtfully to the changes instead of simply reacting at the time with fear or anger.

Now you know what’s coming, make the most of your Delta-free lives. Here is your chance to truly seize the day.

Sydney-based Lissy Abrahams is an individual and couple psychotherapist. She’s the founder of the therapy clinic, Heath Group Practice, and Lissy Abrahams Courses for improving couple relationships.

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