As COVID-19 continues and the new semester begins, there are new realities that we have gotten used to for almost a year now. As we approach the end of January, Bell Let’s Talk day is coming up on the 28th. This time encourages us to reach out and make sure our friends and family are okay, while fighting the stigma around mental health. With school being online, working from home, and a lack of physical contact between friends and family it is essential to look after your mental health and find ways of coping through the pandemic. You may have experienced changes in sleeping and/or eating patterns, fear for your own health or that of your loved ones, or excessive substance use. We have put together some advice that we hope you will find useful in coping with these feelings and getting help when you need it.
Create a routine
By keeping up with a daily routine each day may make these unusual days feel as normal as possible. Getting up out of bed at a similar time each morning will help your internal clock line up making you feel less tired. In addition, doing some sort of exercise right after you get up, or at least daily, will help release endorphins and clear your mind for a fresh start. This could include a walk around the block, a YouTube workout video, or even reserving a time to go skating at one of Ottawa’s public rinks. Another positive thing to add to your routine is eating healthy meals at regular times every day and decreasing consumption of alcohol and other drugs. This will fuel your body and mind as the start to a positive mental health is a positive physical health. It is also helpful to keep up with personal hygiene or even getting dressed up in more than sweatpants every once in a while. This will help your brain wake up as you get you ready to take on your day
Although this may be difficult with online classes, try to minimize screen time if you can. This can be done by taking regular breaks from your screens. You could go for a 15-minute walk outside, grab a snack, or read a book. In addition, taking breaks from social media has also shown to have a positive effect on mental health. It is also important to allocate time for work and school, but most importantly make time for doing things you enjoy. Could be baking your favourite desserts, knitting a new sweater, spending time with your pets, or even finding a whole new hobby.
Connect with others or create a social group
If you are living alone during these tough times, it is essential to maintain healthy relationships and keep in contact with those close to you. If you live alone, create a group of individuals willing to get together each week over an online channel, such as Zoom or Facetime, that you can chat with. You could simply be talking about your week or even turn it into a book group.
If you live with others, go for walks together or have a fun night where you all take turns cooking dinner for each other. Keep in mind that living with the same group of people for an extended period of time can, in some cases, be stressful, so make sure you are making time for yourself and understand what you need to do for your own mental health.
If you are experiencing extreme stress and anxiety reaching out to professionals for help is a sign of strength. Here are some hotlines that are available to you:
BounceBack – Call toll-free 1-866-345-0224 for free skill-building program managed by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).
Hope for Wellness Helpline – Call 1-855-242-3310, they offer immediate mental health counselling to all Indigenous people across Canada.
Togetherall – An online service (https://togetherall.com/en-ca/) providing access to millions with anxiety, depression, and other common mental health issues.
These sites are not intended for individuals in an emergency. If you are in a life-threatening situation, immediately dial 911.
During this time, we mustn't discriminate others for how they choose to
cope during this extremely stressful point in time. Be kind to each other and remember that COVID-19 has affected every individual in some way or another.
Stay Safe and Sprott Love.