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Maintaining your mental health in uncertain times

Maintaining your mental health in uncertain times
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Thomas Desormeaux

Thomas Desormeaux

Thomas Desormeaux is a reporter and writer who lives close to the border of Oakville and Mississauga. He has lived in the GTA for his entire life and is interested in global events, politics and government. follow on twitter @TommyDesormeaux

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Obeying social distancing and stay-home guidelines is essential to stopping the spread of COVID-19. However, isolation can also lead to issues of mental health. Human beings are naturally social creatures and being stuck at home can be tough. It’s important to remember to take care of yourself and your mental health, even during times of crisis.

“We’re in this time of uncertainty,” says Oakville Social Worker and Therapist Alyse Nishimura. Nishimura has 10 years of experience as a therapist and works primarily with young people and families. “Uncertainty breeds anxiety. When people are anxious they are in a fight, flight or freeze mode.” The longer people stay at this heightened level of anxiety, according to Nishimura, the more effect it can have on the body.

Loneliness can be one of the troubles of living in the time of COVID-19. Nurse Vicki McAllister and the rest of Sheridan College’s student affairs staff have been conducting wellness checks by calling up the school’s student body. McAllister says that although the situation isn’t too dire, a lot of people they talk to are bored and anxious.

Some Sheridan students are experiencing boredom and anxiety during social isolation. Photo Credit Ross Cadranel.

It’s hard to know what to do sometimes during this pandemic. That being said, there a few things you can try that will take your mind off things and maintain your mental health.

 

Pay attention to your news consumption

There is a lot of important information coming out all the time during the pandemic. In order to know how to conduct yourself safely and hygienically it’s important to stay up to date. The problem is that, mixed in with news, there can also be a lot of rumour and misinformation.

Nurse McAllister advises that people pay strict attention to their media consumption. In order to make sure you respond correctly to this crisis, only get your news from reputable news and health organizations.

 

It is also important to avoid flooding yourself with too much negative coverage on COVID-19. McAllister says that constantly being reminded of the dangers of the pandemic can cause further anxiety. The COVID-19 pandemic is immense and getting bogged down in negative thought can breed negativity of its own. Try to focus on the positive things that remain in your life and pay attention to all the inspiring acts of kindness happening in Oakville and all over the world.

Focus on perspective

Nishimura believes that shifting your perspective can be really important. “A lot of people tend to use distraction as an easy method to deal with challenging situations,” she says and warns that that isn’t the best course of action. “You can’t avoid what’s going on. You can sleep all you want, but still when you wake up it’s going to be there.”

Coming up with positive ways to spend your time can be important. Take up a hobby. Structure your day in an organized way. Think about the things that you are grateful for and how others might be in a more difficult situation than you.

 

“Rather than looking at what are all the things that aren’t in your control, what are the things that you can control?” says Nishimura.

Physical Health

Although the province and the Town of Oakville are encouraging people to stay home as much as possible, this can be a great time to learn to play an instrument or start a new form of exercise.

Mental Health

There seems to be a surge in the amount of people in Oakville out exercising these days. Physical distancing by-laws are still in effect going forward but solitary exercise or physical activity with a member of your household is allowed.

Physical exertion is scientifically proven to improve mood and can relieve some tension if you’re stressed during the pandemic.

Keeping yourself in good physical health can also benefit mood. Sustaining good eating habits and sticking to a consistent sleep schedule is important.

“Making sure you’re getting good sleep and that you’re eating healthy. That you have a chance to do some physical activity, to get outside and get some fresh air. Those are all really important things right now,” Nishimura says.

 

Try to relax

At the same time, it can be beneficial to realize this is a difficult situation and not be too hard on yourself. It is not completely necessary to develop a new amazing skill. Focusing on taking care of yourself and helping the people you care can be enough to create some positivity during the pandemic.

 

Stay connected

It’s hard to be away from friends and family. Nishimura and Nurse McAllister agree that reaching out for conversations over the phone or through video chat is really important. Tonnes of businesses have began operating on platforms like Zoom and Google Hangouts.

mental health COVID-19

Town Council stays connected by having committee meetings through video chat.

“You need some sort of contact,” says Nurse McAllister. “Make sure you stay connected and ask for help.”

 

Ask for help

Mental health is of course a complex and serious issue. Not all problems can be solved with positivity and exercise. Relaxing isn’t always an option.

Nishimura says that there hasn’t been a dramatic increase in people contacting her for help, although the patients she does see confess experiencing issues due to isolation and quarantine. She feels like this might be due to embarrassment or that people are perhaps not aware of online therapy options.

 

Nurse McAllister, too, stresses the importance of reaching out if you feel like you need help. Whether to someone in your life or a health care professional trained for situations of anxiety and stress.

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