It’s an odd time. For many of us, this is the first time in our life time which we, as a society, have experienced such an unpredictable present and future. During this time, it is important to remember that it’s OK to not be OK. Millions of people across Canada (and the world!) are facing the same worries and challenges that you are. Feeling anxiety or depression is a common reaction in times of uncertainty or when there’s a perception of danger. The COVID-19 situation certainly qualifies as such a time. This is something new and worrying that we are all facing together. And while it is OK to not be feeling OK, it is also important to take care of your mental health.
Here is a list of some steps that can help reduce the feelings of depression and anxiety, and still maintain spatial distancing:
- Eat healthy to keep your body in top working order. Healthy eating has been linked with positive impact on our mental health and immune system.
- Exercise reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety. You don’t need to go to the gym, you can work out at home or go for a solo jog around the neighborhood.
- Practice relaxation therapy. Focusing on tensing and relaxing muscle groups can help you relax voluntarily when feeling overwhelmed, stressed or anxious.
- Practice healing postures which focus on breathing. Lie on your back, knees up, and put arms out to side with arms in a gentle W. Place a pillow under your head. Make sure you are comfortable, and feel no pain. Breathe gently into top of rib cage, middle rib cage, back, and then lower into your diaphragm.
- Let light in. For some people, increased exposure to light can improve symptoms of depression. If you can, open the shades and let more sunlight in.
- Be kind to yourself! Treat yourself with the same compassion you would a friend/your child/your beloved pet.
- Stay connected. Even if you can’t get together face-to-face, you can stay connected to friends, family and neighbours with phone calls, text messages, video chats and social media. If you’re feeling lonely, sad or anxious, reach out to your social support networks. Share what you are feeling and offer to listen to friends or family members about their feelings. We are all experiencing this scary and uncertain time together.
- Monitor media consumption. While you might want to stay up-to the minute with COVID-19 news, too much exposure can be overwhelming. Balance media consumption with other activities you enjoy, such as reading, cooking or listening to music.
- Count on your own strengths. Remind yourself of winning strategies you used in the past to get through difficult times.
- Learn to delegate. Let others help you. Don’t take all the responsibility of your household upon yourself.
- Routine is key. Write yourself a schedule. Make a new routine on your own or with your family, depending on your situation. Make sure to give yourself a different schedule for Saturday and Sunday.
- Find things that make you happy – just because you can’t date/go to the gym/go to the coffee shop etc, doesn’t mean that there aren’t things at home that can make you happy. Get creative! Find one activity that gives you joy every day. Be curious about what excites you! Allow yourself life’s little pleasures such as listening to music, taking a warm bath, reading, etc.
- Writing – This is a great time to start a journal. Some studies indicate that journaling can bring you into a state of mindfulness; a mental state where past frustrations and future anxieties lose their edge in the present moment. Writing can call a wandering mind to attention, from passivity to actively engaging with your thoughts. If you are not into writing, you can at least do a gratitude journal. Write 3 things a day that you are grateful for. Research has shown that gratitude journals can increase positivity, self esteem and even sleep!
This is a time to sustain. To find ease where we can in a world which is rapidly placing us into chaos of frequent change and unknown. Very few of us sees maintenance and care as productive. But we absolutely need to see self-care as a productive act.
The coming weeks need to be a time to focus on ourselves, our communities, and our loved ones. It should be a time to move slowly, deliberately and consciously – without feelings of guilt. It is a time that we need to make time and space for ourselves. Self-care doesn’t require you to go outside or spend a lot of money. Adding small changes to your routine can make a big difference to your overall mood and well-being. Make your health your priority!