The WHO has described the coronavirus pandemic as the defining health crisis of our time. Despite the serious risks of COVID-19 to our physical health, the emotional toll of this deadly outbreak is just as hard. With Canada’s Prime Minister speculating that social distancing measures could go on for months, mental health professionals across the country are preparing for a spike in demand.
As schools remain closed and more businesses shut down, the resulting isolation can be overwhelming. The goal of social distancing is to reduce physical opportunities for the virus to spread throughout our communities. Unfortunately, this critical health intervention can make people feel lonely and emotionally isolated.
If the global pandemic has you feeling anxious, you’re not alone. Everyone reacts differently to various stresses, but there are coping strategies to help mitigate the effects on your mental health.
Establish control over your schedule
There’s often a misconception that staying home means ditching routines. But one of the best ways to stay productive is to maintain as much of your normal schedule as possible. Get dressed for the day, even if your only outing is to the gas station. If you normally jump on your treadmill before heading to the office, squeeze in a home workout before opening your laptop.
We thrive in a routine-oriented environment where we know what’s coming up next. But in these unprecedented times, it’s important to remain extra conscious of how you’ll spend your days. Periodically ask yourself: What are some things I can do to feel a sense of control? Whether that means cleaning the bedsheets or playing the guitar, anchor your day with tasks and activities that give you a sense of accomplishment.
Use distractions to combat anxiety
The COVID-19 crisis has many Canadians not only worried about their own health, but the well-being of others. If you live with aging parents or loved ones who are immuno-compromised, it can be stressful always wondering if they’ll get sick. Small distractions can help you, and they don’t have to be grand. Create a group chat with your weekly book club, or go for a walk in an open space. A few engaging activities will give you opportunities to break negative thought cycles and reframe your perspective, even if it’s just for a moment.
Create a space you want to be in
With so many of us working from home and avoiding all social scenarios, we’re certainly spending a ton of time indoors. That’s why it’s important to be in a space that makes you feel secure and comfortable. As they say, one’s physical surroundings is often a reflection of the mind. You don’t need to mobilize a home reno though to create rooms you enjoy. Sometimes just clearing out the clutter or re-arranging the furniture is enough to rejuvenate any space.
Understand the mind-body connection
Research has shown that taking care of your physical well-being can reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Your physical body reacts to the way you feel, and vice versa. So it only makes sense that key changes in your exercise and dietary habits can impact your mental health.
Although it may be difficult to get a massage or go to the pool, look for ways to stay active in this time of social distancing. Use your exercise bike, go for long hikes or see if your yoga instructor is holding virtual sessions. Also, make each trip to the grocery store count. Avoid stocking up on sweets and empty calories. Instead, look for mood-elevating foods such as salmon, nuts and leafy greens. The mind-body connection is a concept that especially deserves attention now more than ever.
There’s no doubt Canadians are finally realizing the enormity of the coronavirus pandemic. And as we make day-to-day decisions about the safety of our families, many of us will continue to struggle with the anxiety of the unknown. But the Physiomed community is here to help you. Our online blog strives to be a resource of information for yourself and loved ones and we also have a virtual care program available for patients who need to continue care or who need guidance on staying active.