10 tips for mental health during the pandemic
Like many Canadians, you may be experiencing stress or anxiety as a result of the pandemic. It’s understandable. With physical distancing and isolation, we’re separated from each other, yet united by stress and worry. We worry about family, finances, keeping the pantry stocked, our jobs, you name it!
Even though multiple vaccines are in the works and we’ve learned a lot since the start about how to more successfully manage COVID-19 symptoms in patients, you may also be feeling scared, lonely, grieving or uncertain.1
What does anxiety feel like?
Some stress is normal. But when stress is sustained for a long period of time, and occurs at a high degree of intensity, This can result in anxiety, and symptoms such as:
- Increased heart rate and breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Chest pains
- Tingling in the extremities
- Outbursts of anger
- Difficulty sleeping
- Weight gain
- Feelings of impending doom
- Ruminating, going over the same thoughts in your head repeatedly.2
Yes, anxiety can do all that – and more. If you’re already prone to anxiety or depression, isolation can make it worse. But there is good news – there are ways to help you reduce stress and anxiety and improve your mental health. Now and after the pandemic.3
10 stress-busting tips
- Read the right stuff. Staying informed is great, but there is such a thing as information overload. Limit your news intake to one hour a day and choose reputable news sources. And how about a novel or other work of fiction? Books are back, you know!
- Keep things in perspective. If you feel your thoughts getting away from you, remember, we knocked down the numbers in Canada once before. We can do it again. Treatments are more successful, and many companies are in the final phases of vaccine trials. Verbalizing this out loud can avoid catastrophizing.
- Stay in touch. Stay connected with friends, family and co-workers with the help of video calling apps.
- Do good to feel good. There’s evidence to suggest that doing things for others, whether people or animals, has mental health benefits. See if neighbours or elderly relatives need help with errands or groceries.
- Get outdoors. Going outside for a walk, bike ride or run expands your horizons and gives you a break. Be sure to social distance and wear a mask when approaching or with others.
- Catch your zzzzzzz’s. Never underestimate the power of sleep! It rejuvenates and can help you to feel more positive. Practice good sleep hygiene: keep your room dark and cool, and turn off your devices before bed. No cheating!
- Mind what you eat. And drink. During times of stress we can seek comfort in food, which can cause weight gain and make us crave foods that don’t make our bodies feel better in the long run. Eat healthy, fresh foods and appropriate portions. Take care not to overconsume alcohol – it’s a depressant, not a stimulant – and over time can make you feel worse, not better.
- Work it out! Missing that feel-good hit of endorphins you normally get after working out at the gym? Work out on home equipment instead, check out online exercise videos, walk up and down the stairs briskly, go for a run or do yard work like raking, cleaning, digging and shovelling.
- Breathe… deeply. Deep breathing exercises help slow down your physiological stress responses, making you feel calmer and reducing anxiety. Try 5 or 6 deep breaths per minute for about 15 minutes each day.
- Get into organizing. Uncertainty about the future can cause you to feel a lack of control. Doing things that give you control, like organizing a room, closet or area, can focus your attention on something positive, be rewarding, and have positive mental health benefits.4
Still feeling overwhelmed? Reach out to The Canadian Mental Health Association and their BounceBack® skills program https://bouncebackontario.ca/, which teaches skills to help manage depression and anxiety.5
1, 2 Consumer Reports, How to Ease Stress During the Coronavirus Pandemic, 2020, https://www.consumerreports.org/stress/ease-stress-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic/
3, 4, 5 Canadian Mental Health Association, 10 things you can do right now to reduce anxiety, stress, worry related to COVID-19, 2020, https://bouncebackontario.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/BounceBack-Tip-Sheet-Covid19-EN.pdf