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Mental health in a global pandemic.
Mental health in a global pandemic.

Mental health in a global pandemic.

Here are some tips on how we can look out for our mental and physical health as we navigate tough times, together.
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How to look out for our mental health during COVID-19

March 17, 2020

As a mental health organization, we’re acutely aware of the impact that COVID-19 will have on the mental health of many in our community. Feelings of distress, fear, and anxiety are normal responses to COVID-19 and the impact it may have on our local and global communities. Please remember that we need to care for our mental health just as we do our physical health. Let’s take action to look out for ourselves and the people we love. Here are some tips on how we can best look out for both our mental and physical health as we navigate tough times, together. 

Feel free to tune out. 

The 24 hour news-cycle can be trying at the best of times. If you find that the coverage of COVID-19 is making you feel anxious or depressed, take a break from it. While it can be tempting to think that staying on top of every update is important, looking after yourself is more essential. While it’s okay to tune in, it’s equally okay to tune out. Do what works best for you. 

When and if you tune in, stick to reliable sources of information like Public Health Canada and the World Health Organization for your updates. Avoid speculation and make sure you don’t spread misinformation. If you come across a health claim with no information on the source, treat it with a healthy dose of skepticism. When you come across reliable information or practices that may help others, share with anyone you think might benefit from the information. Spreading real information is remarkably helpful! 

Adapt your mental health routines. 

It's so important to stay connected to your mental health routines and tweak them where necessary. If you see a counsellor or therapist, consider asking if they’re open to online or phone sessions for the next little while. Make a list of your usual self-care and mental health strategies. Your routines will probably be disrupted (e.g. your gym closes temporarily), so throw up that YouTube video, maybe try to get outside in nature, or experiment in the kitchen. Think about how you can find different outlets to take care of yourself. If you’re up for it, help out by sharing what is, and isn’t, working for you. Changing your routine can be challenging and fun. It’s an opportunity to try something new! You’ll likely have some extra time to yourself—use it in a way that feels good. 

Don’t forget to play. 

Most of us will have some more time on our hands, so let’s not forget to channel it into something great. You can decompress by picking up a new skill (fresh pasta anyone?), playing games (there are a bunch of great ones online these days), or plain old getting your body moving (dance like no one is watching or go for a walk). Finding ways to play is always important, but especially when times are tough. If you find something that’s really giving you joy, let people know.

Look out for the people you love.

In the coming weeks and months, many people will understandably experience elevated levels of distress and anxiety. Check in with those around you and talk about what your plans might look like for managing loneliness and the disruption of daily routines. If you think that either of you may feel isolated, create a remote check-in plan. It’s never been easier to connect with people online—make the most of it.

Be mindful that COVID-19 has been dominating our daily news and day-to-day conversations and that likely won’t change for the next little while. When you’re checking in with your friends and family, try to ask about the other things that are going on in their lives too.

If you’re concerned about someone and think they might be going through a mental health struggle, BeThere.org can help you navigate how to support them while also taking care of your own mental health. 

Help others.

There is so much data out there to support the idea that helping others is good for our mental health. There’s a ton of evidence that demonstrating compassion for others actually helps calm our own minds. And while toilet paper may currently be in short supply, there is no shortage of ways you can make a positive impact. We’re all in different positions, which means times like this are tougher on some of us than others. Lend a hand if you can.  

  • Look into volunteering opportunities in your area—this might be delivering or preparing meals for people, volunteering your time with a hotline, or helping out vulnerable populations in your area. Everyone has a part to play. 
  • Look into how you can help your local food bank. Some people aren’t able to stock up on supplies at their grocery store. Food banks provide an essential service and donating to them or volunteering your time can help everyone stay safe and healthy.
  • Kids Help Phone is focusing on offering mental health support during COVID-19. They’ve seen a 50% increase in young people calling and texting the service. We can help make sure they have the volunteers they need to support young people all across Canada. If you’re 18+ and want to volunteer, you can do so here.
  • Next time you're washing your hands for twenty seconds, think of someone you know who might be part of a vulnerable population or may be struggling. Is there a neighbour you can check in on? Do you normally frequent a business that may be struggling more right now? What can you do to help them this week? We’re all in this together, so let’s look out for each other.
  • Follow some positive social accounts, share the positivity when you find it! We can all use an extra boost right now.

Embrace the good.

While the last few weeks have been especially difficult, we can take heart in knowing that health officials, governments, and institutions are proactively working to slow the spread of COVID-19 and minimize the harm it will do (read Jack.org’s action plan here). Canada is still considered low risk, and the most competent health professionals in the world are receiving the resources they need to address the pandemic and take aid to where it’s most needed. Even more inspiring is the way people have mobilized en masse to look out for one another.

Reach out for help if you need it.

Kids Help Phone is there for youth anywhere in Canada. You can contact them 24/7 via phone, text or online chat. It’s free and completely confidential.  

As always, if you or someone you know is in crisis, call 911 or visit your local emergency room immediately.

If you have any other tips that you think would be helpful for us to share, please send them to us at dosomething@jack.org. We’re always looking to share new ways that we can take care of ourselves and look out for one another.