Tips for taking care of your mental health through COVID-19 and beyond
This article is presented in partnership with Youth Employment Services (YES).
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected many of us in our day-to-day lives, and it will likely leave a lasting impact after it ends. As provinces roll out their plans to begin loosening restrictions and returning to "normal," you might feel uncertain or nervous about what the future will bring. It's important to take care of your mental health during this challenging time. Here are some tips that might help:
- Limit the information you're taking in about COVID-19. Choose a couple of credible sources of pandemic-related information (like the Government of Canada, the World Health Organization, or your local public health authority) and focus on those. Taking in too much information from sources that might not be credible can cause unnecessary stress and confusion.
- Experiment with different stress reduction techniques. If you're feeling particularly anxious, deep breathing and grounding exercises can help. Consider trying one of these methods:
- Box breathing — breathe in slowly for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of four, breathe out for a count of four, and repeat
- Counting your breaths (i.e., "inhale one, exhale one, inhale two, exhale two…")
- Practicing the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique — name five things you see around you, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste
- Reach out to a trusted friend or look into virtual stress management tools and resources. Many mental health organizations are offering free support and resources online. Check with your local branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association to find out what's available to you. If you're experiencing a mental health crisis and need support right away, contact Crisis Services Canada any time.
- Focus most on what you can control and look for support with the things you can't. When you're feeling anxious or worried, write down a list of the things you're worried about, then categorize that list into "things I can control" and "things I can't control." For the items you can't control yourself, think about what external supports you need to help you manage them. For example, if you're worried about catching the virus when you go back to work, acknowledge that you can control your own actions (i.e., washing your hands often and limiting physical interactions) and consider asking your employer what measures they plan on taking to help keep you safe when you return to work.
- Prepare meals and snacks in bulk for days you don't feel like cooking. Some days you'll feel better than others. If you feel up to it, consider batch-prepping meals and snacks that are easily freezable, like lasagna, soups, stews, casseroles, meatballs, pizzas, muffins, and protein balls. On a day when you aren't feeling like cooking, you can easily thaw and reheat one of your pre-prepared dishes.
- If you've been working from home and you're anxious about returning to work, take some steps to make your transition as smooth as possible. Consider these tips:
- Think about all the things you normally enjoy about going to work, like seeing your coworkers or listening to a podcast on your commute
- Start getting back into your daily routine ahead of returning to work (e.g., adjust your bedtime, start eating meals at regular mealtimes, etc.)
- Plan out your journey to limit face-to-face interactions with others (e.g., make coffee at home instead of buying it on your way to work; pack your own hand sanitizer or find out where sanitizer is available at your workplace; wash your hands before you leave for work, when you get there, before you leave, when you get home, and frequently throughout the day)
- If you've lost your job as a result of the pandemic and you're feeling stressed about job hunting, take some steps to ease your nerves. Try the following:
- Tell your family, friends, and references that you're looking for work — they're on your side, and they can help provide moral support through the job hunt process or keep you in mind if they hear of potential opportunities
- Look for virtual support from an employment service or career counselor so you don't feel like you're alone in your search
- Ask a friend or family member if they can help you practice for virtual interviews, as many employers may use these while social distancing rules are in place
Remember, it's normal to feel stressed or worried right now, and you are not alone. For more ways to ease your mind during this challenging time, check out these tips from the Canadian Mental Health Association.
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