Interior Health says that maintaining a routine can help to normalize your day-to-day during social distancing amidst COVID-19. (Corey Bullock file)

Taking care of your mental health during COVID-19

Ways to cope with anxiety, stress and fear during these uncertain times.

The global coronavirus pandemic affects everyone, and many people may be feeling stressed, anxious or fearful at this time.

In a resource package from Interior Health, they offer advice on ways to manage anxiety around COVID-19, explaining that that it’s normal to be concerned and have questions.

A local psychologist, who spoke on the condition of remaining anonymous for privacy reasons, also says it’s important to take care of yourself during these uncertain times.

READ MORE: Resources to help cope during social distancing, COVID-19

Maintaining a routine can help to normalize your day-to-day, says IH.

“Stick to your normal activities as much as possible. Wake and [go to] sleep at your usual times, maintain regular meal schedules and adapt where needed (e.g. doing YouTube fitness videos at home when you would normally go to the gym),” IH recommends.

The local psychologist says it’s important to strategize and prioritize ways to take care of yourself.

“Anyone living in higher stress levels than normal tends to go in and out of fight or flight mode,” they said on a phone interview with the Townsman. “This may drive people to do things they normally wouldn’t do, like check the news and social media constantly. It’s important to be informed, but keep it appropriate. One way to keep that fear response at a normal level is to stay connected with the people in your life, whether over the phone or with a video chat app, and talk about things that aren’t related to this pandemic.”

Interior Health also recommends to stay connected with friends and family, while practicing social distancing, and give yourself a mental break.

Take advantage of downtime as well and tackle the to-do list. Clean out the garage or closets, do some yard work or simply enjoy some quiet time by reading a book or catching up on movies.

Another way to reduce your stress levels and calm your anxiety is through breath, says the psychologist.

“There are several things offered for free online that can help you slow your body down, like meditation apps or YouTube videos. One of the reasons we may feel panic or anxiety is when our cardiovascular system is heightened. Breath is the quickest way to slow your body down and get out of that fight or flight mode,” they explained. “Sometimes, a body-based intervention helps slow that system down as well. Something as simple as a forward fold, or short little yoga practices can make all the difference. You don’t need to be experienced or even all that flexible, just going through each movement with breath and purpose.”

They also pointed to an app called The Tapping Solution, which focuses on EFT (emotional freedom techniques) and using different tapping methods to reduce stress and anxiety. It’s a simple exercise in which you essentially tap certain points on your body.

Fresh air and exercise are important for your mental health as well. IH recommends going for a walk or a bike ride outside. Be sure that you are only doing so with members of your household, and that you remain at least six feet from anyone else you may pass by. Eating as healthy as you can, and taking care of your body can help lift your spirits.

If you’re struggling, it’s also important to get the support you need and talk to someone, whether it’s a loved one or seeking help through a phone-in help line.

“Everyone is experiencing this differently. It’s important to talk about how you feel, support is really important,” explained the psychologist. “Normalizing how you feel by saying what’s on your mind can really help. It helps you feel less ashamed of your feelings and releases you from the secrecy of it.”

READ MORE: Crisis Line Awareness Week lands during COVID-19 concerns while call volume increases

IH echoes that sentiment, saying how important it is to ask for help. There are many confidential help phones that are available 24/7. Some include the following:

– KUU-US (Nuu-chah-nulth) Indigenous Line: 1-800-558-8717

– Interior BC Crisis Line: 1-888-353-2273

– Provincial Crisis Line: 1-800-784-2433

– BC Mental Health Support Line: 310-6789

– Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868

– Suicide Hotline: 1-800-784-2433

Some online resources include Mind Health BC (www.mindhealthbc.ca), Bounce Back BC (www.bouncebackbc.ca), and Here to Help (www.heretohelp.ca).

Another way to manage any anxiety you may have around COVID-19 is to focus on your part in fighting the spread and flattening the curve. Wash your hands properly, stay home and practice social distancing, and trust that the public health and government officials are all working on their parts. Take pride in knowing that what you do today can save lives, too.



corey.bullock@cranbrooktownsman.com

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