Managing Your Mental Health During COVID-19
Written by Shay of ShadyApe.
With concerns around the spread of coronavirus, Alberta rolling out social distancing measures, and the general environment being very tense, we’re all being forced to face a new reality – quickly. Considering everything going on, and our need as humans for social connection, it’s not surprising that many of us are feeling much more anxious and less mental wellness than usual. For the sake of our health care systems, our community, and our most vulnerable, it’s important that we take public health recommendations seriously, but there are some ways we can improve our mental health during this crisis.
6 Ways to support your mental health during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Reach out and check in on others who may need it.
Lend a helping hand where you can. This is especially important for those around us that are particularly vulnerable during this time: elderly people, people who are immunocompromised, moms at home all of a sudden having to pretend to be a teacher too, those who have to self-isolate, and people who’ve lost their job or small businesses who have little to no revenue coming in. It feels good to be kind, and there are many opportunities to be kind right now. If you’re able, you can drop groceries off for someone, order food from a local food establishment, be a virtual shoulder to cry on for someone who needs to be heard.
Take time to connect with others.
There are countless ways we can still connect: Facetime, video chat on social platforms, a phone call, even a text. Humans are innovative. We’re already seeing viewing parties and virtual group workouts and yoga classes happening. Maintaining social connection and community in any way you can is really important right now.
Remember that this too shall pass.
COVID-19 is a serious but temporary illness for most people. Eventually, life will return to normal.
Limit your intake of the news.
Should you stay informed about what’s going on? Yes. Do you need to spend all day scrolling through story after story around the pandemic? No. Take a few minutes a day to check in with reliable news from your local health authority. Alberta Health Services has a website with frequent, factual updates that spares you from sensationalized headlines and fear-inducing predictions. Avoid excessive news or scrolling through social media, where facts can be exaggerated (like, really exaggerated).
Keep up healthy behaviours that you know work for you.
Move your body, eat well, getting enough sleep (serious, so much time to sleep), and make sure you laugh. Maintain routine as much as possible.
Practice mindfulness and mediation.
I couldn’t resist – I teach it. Research has shown that mindfulness and mediation have the ability to calm our nervous system and bring us out of ‘fight or flight’. You can engage in a formal practice of meditation or simply incorporate mindfulness into what you’re already doing.
· Meditation: there are a lot of great apps that can help get you started. Insight Timer, Headspace, and the Calm app are all good options. You can also join our Live meditations on Instagram or Facebook live – just follow @shadyapeyeg on Instagram to learn when we will be going live. Shady Ape’s other half April is also offering additional live meditations throughout the day via @8_elements. There are a tonne of great resources out there for people who are new to meditation. If you already have a practice, take this time to deepen it. Your plans are cancelled and you’re probably going stir crazy, what better time to go inward.
· Mindfulness. Mindfulness and meditation are often used interchangeably, but they aren’t necessarily the same thing. Mindfulness is the practice of present moment awareness, without being overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. Meditation is a specific practice that helps to develop the faculty of mindfulness. You can practice mindfulness in almost every moment: while doing the dishes, eating a meal, sipping your morning cup of coffee, through meditation, or by intentionally tuning into the body and sensations while moving throughout your home (among many other ways). Simply be present, and you can calm your mind and nervous system, think more clearly, and attuned to the things you have to be grateful for all around you. If there are emotions or thoughts coming up, simply practice noting - acknowledge what’s come up for what is it, ‘thought’ or ‘nervousness’, and try come back to presence.
If you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed and don’t know where to go, there are some great resources available in Alberta:
Mental Health Helpline: 1-877-303-2642
Provincial 211 – provides referrals for community, government and social services
Employee and Family Assistance Program – contact your Human Resources (HR) or your employer’s provider
Kids and teens can call the Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868
Small business support: Business Link 1-800-272-9675