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Stress, Anxiety, Fear – OTMH’s Head of Psychiatry provides guidance

Stress, Anxiety, Fear –  OTMH’s Head of Psychiatry provides guidance

It’s becoming repetitive to say that all over the world and now in Canada we are going through a very stressful period because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We experience “stress” when demands placed upon us begin to max out or overwhelm our resilience to cope.

This can lead to anxiety – the fear of something unpleasant occurring or depression- a loss of joy in our everyday lives. Learning to manage stress more effectively is a necessary skill at any time but particularly when we are facing an acute and perhaps an ongoing crisis like we are right now.

Research tells us that we can all learn strategies to improve our capacity to manage stress and to become more resilient. I’ll summarize them under the following categories;


  1. Physical:
  • Get adequate sleep: 9 to 10 hours up to the age of 22, then 7 to 8 hrs.
  • Take time to relax i.e. don’t become preoccupied with the news all day, turn it off and concentrate your mind on more pleasant things.
  • Eat Healthy
  • Exercise up to one hour a day, 4 to 5 days a week, especially cardio. You may not have access to a gym but you can walk (but practice physical distancing).
  1. Emotional:
  • Pay attention to what you are feeling and label it. If it’s pleasant then enjoy it. If it’s not, then utilize coping strategies e.g. Slow deep breathing for 1-2 minutes. Imaging- Imagine yourself in a peaceful place. Utilize all your senses to anchor yourself in that safe place. What would you see? hear? smell? or feel if you were there.
  • Share your feelings with someone you trust and cares about you.
  • Remember feelings are not necessarily facts. Sometimes feelings are irrational reactions to what we are experiencing. Does the evidence tell us the feeling is rational or irrational (an overreaction)?
  1. Intellectual:
  • Pursue areas of interest, be curious, research and learn more about these areas. Share your knowledge with others. Remember you don’t have to be in school to learn.
  1. Social:
  • Don’t stop caring for others. With today’s physical distancing, use social media to stay in touch with friends and family. Support each other but, if you don’t have something nice to say then don’t say anything at all. Keep up your daily routines. Our social role dictates to us what we need to do as a mother, father, student or worker etc.
  1. Spiritual:
  • Look for the beauty in our lives. Look at what you have not what you don’t have. Let yourself be nourished by the love you share with others, with the wonderful beauty around us in the world. Listen to music, watch a film, read some literature etc. Take the time to wonder and share it with others. You don’t have to be a yogi to meditate. Take 10 minutes to be quite with yourself each day. Get comfortable and close your eyes and let your mind go blank.

History and science tell us this stressful transitional time we are going through will pass. If you are alone and feeling overwhelmed, contact the crisis line (1-877-825-9011) or Kid’s Help Line (1-800-668-6868), where there are people trained to listen and support us.

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