In the midst of a second wave of the coronavirus and in the start of a new year, it is understandable that Canadians are experiencing fatigue, mixing hope because of the vaccine and tiredness of lockdowns and lack of social interaction. Mental health and wellness has never been so discussed and talked about by the media and among individuals. And I my daily practice I have been inquired about how to cope with the uncertainty, anxiety and depression that the situation causes.
From a professional standpoint, I must mention that one good think of the pandemic is that mental health has been slowly destigmatized. People are seeking help, individuals are talking about their struggles and employers had finally recognized the importance to invest in employees’ wellbeing. Maintaining one’s mental health during times of uncertainty is deemed essential to face this crisis, and to come out stronger from it.
It is a fact that the coronavirus outbreak continues to dominate the news. It is also true that with vaccination schedule getting delayed and the lack of control experienced by the population, one gets to pay more attention to their mental health.
It is important to say that situations like the pandemic oftentimes ignite fear and anxiety, as well as grief responses to many of us. And when fear takes over, the nervous system (more so the emotional brain) gets overwhelmed. Reacting on emotions leads individuals to the inability to make thoughtful decisions. What usually happens when one ‘flips the lead’ is the tendency to engage in cognitive distortions and to activate the fight, flee or freeze response, commonly experienced when facing a threat.
For individuals with a history of mental health, with previous diagnosis of anxiety disorder or anxiety, for example, those responses can get even stronger. So, if you happen to be feeling anxious, frustrated, angry or confused lately, it is important to know that you are not alone. The fact is that the pandemic brought us all together. For that reason, we brought some tips and suggestions that might help you feel more grounded.
- Decrease the exposure to social media and to the news. You can also personalized your social media feeds by following pages focused on wellbeing and that tends to increase your mood. Keep in mind that it is your brain’sgoal to solve problems. And when you are already afraid, it is natural to look for information in the environment that reinforces and justifies that feeling. This is you trying to make sense of the world and to confirm and make sense of your emotions.
- Accumulate positive emotions. Think about small things that you like to do (and that you can still do) during the pandemic. Consider your mood as a piggy bank that you need to add tokens (positive feelings) on a daily basis. When we feel frustrated or sad, it is likely that the balance in your pig bank leans more towards negative emotions than positive. And it is your responsibility to revert that! Activities that tend to boost your mood should be practice daily, even when you don’t ‘really feel like’. Consider those small steps towards taking control over your mood.
- Keep a routine to yourself. It is important to focus on what is under your control and build an action plan on how to work on them.
- Add movement to your routine. As mind and body are connected, physical activity helps relieve anxiety and works on improving your mood, as it produces stress relief hormones. In other words, exercising can increase your happiness!
- Take care of your food intake. When feeling anxious, it is possible that you feel like eating foods with high sugar level or trans fat. Although it may sound like comfort food to many people, they can increase the stress and irritability. It is better to choose food with high protein and potassium concentration; they can help with your mood.