Coping With Our New, Weird "Normal"
How to handle stress and anxiety during the pandemic.
It seems hard to believe, but just a few weeks ago we were all going to classes, the library, work, getting together with friends, hitting the gym, visiting restaurants and stores. Now... things are very, very different! If you feel like your head is spinning and you've been dropped into a Black Mirror or Twilight Zone episode, you're not alone! We're all going through a unique and stressful experience, so if you feel disoriented, anxious, lonely, angry or upset, that makes sense. There is no right or wrong way to feel during a pandemic. It's important to remind ourselves that a range of reactions, thoughts and feelings is normal.
You may be wondering how best to cope. You've heard lots of advice: some of it perhaps even conflicting. How to best cope will vary a lot from person to person. We all need to remember to be kind and gentle with both ourselves and others during these unusual times.
Some Tips on Coping
Seek information from credible sources
With practically every news source and website offering updates on COVID-19, it's easy to get caught up in information overload. However, some of this information is not based entirely on facts and is not credible. Limit which news sources you trust. This can include checking sources such as the Public Health Agency of Canada or the World Health Organization.
Set boundaries on news consumption
This can look like setting a limit of only checking the news a certain number of times a day, or setting time limits on watching news. You might declare certain times of the day "news free zones" or even "screen free zones." It's easy to be connected to the news all day every day, but it's important to set boundaries on how much we consume. This allows for our minds to take a break and focus on other things in our lives, such as studying or connecting with family.
Follow a schedule
Being home all day can make it easy to set up on the couch and push work away. Plan to work during the time you would normally be in class or at the library working. Get dressed, eat meals and go to bed and get up at regular times, if possible mimic your "old, usual" schedule.
Focus on basic self-care
Get enough rest, exercise, and eat healthily. These, along with connection with others, are pillars for mental wellness.
Social distancing doesn't mean you can't still talk to your friends and family! Schedule a video chat with your friends or call someone you haven't talked to in a while. Think particularly of people who live alone or have few contacts. They may be particularly vulnerable to feelings of isolation right now.
Keep worry in perspective
Catastrophizing is a result of anxiety. Anxiety will often cause us to think of the worst-case scenario and think that it's going to happen to us. In these moments, remind yourself of a time in the past when you've overcome adversity. Use this as a reminder that you will be able to get through it.
Remember that everyone is responding to the pandemic in different ways
Some of your friends and family might be more scared about it, while some might only want to focus on the positive aspects of the situation. Validate your reaction to yourself, as this is uncharted territory for all of us. Accept that some fear and anxiety is normal, and that you might be having trouble focusing right now. Understand that others' reactions are coming from a place of fear and worry too.
Use this time to pick up a project that you've been meaning to do for a while
Whether it's reading that book that's been collecting dust on your shelf, learning a new language, or even starting a family tree where you can research and connect with family members about your history, do your best to appreciate the extra time you have.
Check out some interesting mental health and wellness resources online
Some great examples include:
Reach out for help when needed
To learn about resources in Ontario, call ConnexOntario at 1-866-531-2600. Across the country, you can reach Crisis Services Canada toll free at 1-833-456-4566, or try the Canadian Crisis Hotline at 1-888-353-2273.
By Jenna Froebelius, MSW student at King's University College and Joanna Bedggood, Manager of Student Wellness at King's University College