March 24, 2020
By Jordan Cryderman & Dr. Christina Dobson
Our world has entered a new and ever-changing situation with the outbreak of COVID-19. This can certainly cause an increase in stress in some people as we worry about what the future holds.
With health officials and governments updating citizens daily and urging everyone to stay home and isolate themselves to practice physical distancing, it can present challenges to maintaining your mental wellbeing. Physical distancing can feel like our sense of community is uprooted, but it does not have to mean social isolation.
So how do you combat worry, practice physical isolation while staying socially connected, and maintain feeling emotionally health?
Understanding worry and stress:
Stress is a normal part of our everyday world. Good stress is motivating. It is the kind of stress that makes you get out of bed in the morning to get things done like get the kids to school or yourself to work. In the old days, it was stress that motivated us to hunt, fish, and berry pick (even if we didn’t feel like it) to keep our families fed.
Stress ranges from good stress to distress. Excessive worry can lead to distress. The problem with our brains is that it can’t tell the difference between what we should worry about, or “real worry” (getting food in our homes), and “hypothetical worry” (what might happen if the pandemic becomes worse).
Excessive stress, regardless if it is real or hypothetical, will have a negative impact on our whole being. As we move through this situation, it will be helpful for you to determine if you are experiencing excessive hypothetical worry. If you are spending a lot of time talking and thinking about the worst-case scenario (hypothetical worry) you should try to reduce this for the good of your mental health.
COVID-19 has, essentially, taken over newsfeeds. It seems like every news article is about COVID-19 and depressing facts and statistics associated with the virus. And while, yes, it is important to stay informed, too much information can be overwhelming. Finding times to disconnect is important in maintaining a healthy mental state, as getting too absorbed in news and social media can have negative effects. It is also important to verify that the news outlet you get your updates from is a reliable one.
A note about control:
Humans do not like to feel that they cannot control things in our world, particularly if something is seemingly outside of our control threatens the wellbeing of us or our loved ones. Recognizing what we can control and reducing worrying about what we can’t control goes a long way in supporting our mental health. This psychological need to control is what has contributed to the hoarding of toilet paper and other products, many of which are in fact counterproductive to the management of this situation.
Physical distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation:
Although staying home all day may not feel like your regular routine, trying to maintain your regular schedule will help with a sense of normality. Humans like routine! Would you normally wake up during the week at 7:00am and have a coffee? Try continuing that trend, even if you don’t necessarily have to wake up that early.
Living a healthy lifestyle can also help with your mental wellbeing. Make sure to prioritize sleep, healthy eating (eat your greens), avoid alcohol, and be sure to move around regularly; better yet, find a home exercise routine that works for you. If you have a balcony or a yard, take advantage and sit outside. Just avoid public places and stay 6 feet away from your neighbours.
During this COVID-19 crisis, health officials and governments are emphasizing that people avoid crowds, but that doesn’t mean you can’t stay connected with people. Thankfully in today’s world, we have social media, texting, emailing, and things like FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, or any other video call apps you may use. Use this extra time you have to connect with those you may not be able to see in person, such as Elders. Think of ways to “get together” without being in the same place; Facetime a friend over coffee or have a drum group play along over Zoom. Take examples from Italy and other places around the world that have done musical performances and group singalongs from their balconies and door steps.
With extra time at home, take a break and ease your mind. Watch that movie you’ve put off for so long, or play that video game that’s burning a hole in your backlog, or read that daunting book series that you all of a sudden have time for.
Meditating is another great way to give your mind a break, which you can do on your own, or there’s numerous apps available that you can try on your smartphone or tablet.
It is vital for the health of not only yourself, but for your family and your community, that we all practice these healthy coping mechanisms for our mental wellbeing. Caring for ourselves will allow us to care for others more, and our community will be stronger on the other side of this COVID-19 crisis.
Last modified: Wednesday 27-Sep-17 04:14:39 PDT