SAXONS cyclists have their own 'pedal bubbles' of sorts in what they have found a vital way to better check in on each other.
Cycling has remained one of the only permitted ways to exercise outside the home amid rolling lockdowns but with restrictions. Gone is the bunch and the sit-down post workout recovery coffee that cyclists say is a key part of looking out for each other.
The Saxons have created a buddy system, pairing up cyclists to ride with each other and keep up safe face-to-face contact with each other as best they can.
Some members have taken to long solo rides: Ian Wightwick has been clocking up about 500 kilometres each week for a sense of freedom from house-bound isolataion each day; buddy Gary Hucker has been riding 250 to 300km.
Riding in pairs, as permitted, offers the chance to chat and for a taste of bicycle banter that emails and online catch-ups fail to properly capture.
Saxon Jamie Govan said most members averaged 30kmh, so were spending a long time out on their bikes.
"It's been pretty difficult. We have a few members with mental health concerns, like anxiety, and we want to make sure they're going okay because there is the propensity for this to worsen in the pandemic," Mr Govan said.
"We're staying in contact with all members virtually, by email, but buddying up in pairs and going on long rides helps to keep people motivated.
"Most say they're missing the bunch and the mateship it brings, but they're still about to get out. Many have been taking an extra layer to grab a coffee and drink it safely near each other when they finish."
People in regional Victoria have been able to exercise in pairs in stage three lockdowns.
From Monday, this will increase to five people from two households allowed to meet for outside exercise. There will also be provision for single people who live alone to form a 'social bubble' with one other adult, who can visit their home.
The number of people allowed to gather for outdoor non-contact exercise will increase to 10 adults when regional Victoria reaches step three in the government's move to a COVID normal.
In order to advance to the 'third step', there needs to be less than five cases per day on a rolling 14-day average and no mystery cases in the regions for a fortnight.
The Saxons set up a treasure hunt to find old Bills' horse troughs about the region in the first pandemic but that had worn out a little.
Mr Govan said having pairs for social rides helped spur motivation and add purpose to rides.
Burst your bubble, ask the question
INVEST time in others and you will likely find your own personal troubles feel lighter, a Federation University psychology expert says.
FedUni lecturer Ashley Humphrey said RU OK? Day, on Thursday, should be a reminder to push aside social media fatigue and break out of your isolation bubble to really check in on others.
Dr Humphrey and Victoria University psychologist Glen Hosking said this question was more important than ever as people grow wary and withdraw more in ongoing lockdowns or put a brave face on for screen time.
Dr Hosking said usual visual and verbal queues we might get from others that all might not be well tended to be lost online.
"We can tend to make concessions things are not the same and wouldn't always notice changes online," Dr Hosking said.
"There is a risk in limiting contact to text and emails. It is important to keep up video and telephone calls and really listen."
Listening does not mean we need to be a mental health expert either.
Dr Hosking said often trying to offer advice or solutions invalidated a person's worries. He said it would be more powerful to show empathy and acknowledge feelings while also being supporting and normalising a chance to seek professional help if needed.
Meanwhile, Dr Humphrey said regional Victorians were fortunate they could meet up and exercise with another person and this was a great way to keep up social connectivity as the pandemic played out. He said RU OK? Day was a great reminder of this.
Right now it's very easy to be self-absorbed but checking on someone else and supporting them can also help you feel less alone.Dr Ashley Humphrey, Federation University
"Right now it's very easy to be self-absorbed but checking on someone else and supporting them can also help you feel less alone," Dr Humphrey said.
Some signs someone is struggling to cope include:
- Feeling unwilling to contact friends or family
- Putting up barriers between themselves and those close to them
- Lack of motivation
- An unwillingness to plan for the future
Dr Humphrey encouraged people to "control the controllables" by taking time to achieve a personal goal and find purpose, like finishing a series of books, learning a new language or playing guitar.
He said friends and family could play a role in encouraging each other on this.
You need to think ahead and recognise that normal life will resume, and you should consider where you want to be when everything opens up.Dr Ashley Humphrey, Federation University
"We need to think of social connectedness as a health metric - just like exercise, it's really important we give a certain amount of time to nurturing it throughout our lives," Dr Humphrey said.
"Make yourself do things you don't want to do in the moment, but which will pay dividends in the future. Give your friend a call or organise to catch up. You need to think ahead and recognise that normal life will resume, and you should consider where you want to be when everything opens up."
If you or someone you know is in need of crisis support, phone Lifeline 13 11 14.
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