Here are some ways to care for your mental health during COVID-19 crisis, writes Melanie McGregor
Melanie McGregor. – Canadian Mental Health Association
While protecting our physical health during the COVID-19 pandemic is top of mind, we can’t forget about our mental health.
Many of us may be experiencing a high degree of uncertainty, worry, and stress about safety, finances, jobs, family members, and any number of things during this unprecedented time.
First of all, if you are feeling anxious, know that it is normal to feel that way. Our world has been turned upside down, and huge changes are bound to bring some anxiety. It’s a question of managing our feelings and doing what we can to limit the distress they may cause.
The following are some tips to keep in mind to care for our mental health and manage anxiety during this time:
• Accept the uncertainty. Often easier said than done, but finding ways to cope with the uncertainty is more productive than trying to change something that can’t be changed. Check in with your thoughts and feelings and acknowledge that they are okay, like, “I’m disappointed I can’t visit my friends” — no excuses, no dismissal, just recognizing and accepting how you feel.
• Prioritize your self-care. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, eating healthy, exercising in safe ways, and doing things you enjoy. Consider trying a new hobby if that excites you. Self-care is always important and becomes extra imperative during challenging times.
• Keep in touch. Social distancing should only mean we distance physically — emotional support is vital to our mental health. Reach out to others by phone, text, apps — whatever method you can think of. Stay connected regularly, not just when you or others may be struggling. For example, set up a video call and eat dinner together virtually with a group of friends or family.
• Be mindful about getting your information from reliable sources and limit how often you check the news. We are inundated with breaking updates, stats, and many details on all kinds of channels, which can lead to feeling overwhelmed, fearful and having trouble focusing on other things. Get the information you feel you need, not everything that’s available just because it’s available.
• Stay focused on what is within your control. Follow the precautions set out by health authorities, such as handwashing and social distancing. All we can control is our own behaviour — not others’ behaviour, not the pandemic timeline, not when school will be back in — and knowing that we’re doing everything possible can help us feel a bit more empowered.
If you’re experiencing more significant distress, seek help. Find out if and how your regular healthcare providers are offering services, or explore other supports. The Canadian Mental Health Association Halton Region Branch is providing free call-in counselling. Call 289-291-5396 and a counsellor will get back to you. If you are in crisis, call the 24-7 COAST Crisis Line at 1-877-825-9011.
Melanie McGregor is the communications and advancement specialist at the Canadian Mental Health Association Halton Region Branch, which provides mental health/addiction community support and education. Visit www.halton.cmha.ca for more information and follow @cmhahalton on Twitter.