PROTECTING YOUR MENTAL HEALTH DURING A PANDEMIC

Text by Sarah Rickli

Is mental health a real issue during the pandemic? If so, what strategies can we follow to increase and protect ourselves?

  • The research and statistics clearly show that the mental health discussion is more relevant than ever in these unprecedented times.
  • Understanding and being aware that all age groups can be affected is the first step in being able to offer the right strategies and mechanisms to support yourself and your loved ones.

PROTECTING YOUR MENTAL HEALTH DURING THE PANDEMIC

In line waiting to enter a half-empty grocery store, you hear someone cough. Suddenly, your mind evaluates if you are distanced enough with this stranger. You consider whether people around you are wearing their face masks and you might even disinfect your hands right away. The global pandemic has had a ripple effect on our health where even the smallest things such as giving a hug to a loved one have become uncomfortable.

What happens when we realize, wearing a mask and following all the sanitary guidelines will not protect our mental health?

The research and statistics clearly show that the mental health discussion is more relevant than ever in these unprecedented times. Understanding and being aware that all can be affected is the first step in being able to offer the right strategies and mechanisms to support yourself and your loved ones.

MENTAL HEALTH DURING THE PANDEMIC

How many times have we heard the expression “our new normal” going around? Change, in general, causes higher levels of stress and anxiety where individuals attempt to find their bearings and adapt to the new circumstances. The changes related to the pandemic have affected the  mental health of all different demographic groups. According the OPQ (Ordre des psychologues du Québec), the increase of anxiety during the pandemic is related to the fear of being contaminated, to social isolation, and the possibility of not having access to basic necessities (Dozois, 2020). In addition, research has shown that physical distancing and isolation measures have caused accrued psychological distress even when they are for a short period of time (Best et al., 2020). Psychological distress can be known as panic disorder, motional disorders and depression.

– A University of Sherbrooke research showed that 1 adult in 5 had symptoms consistent with generalized anxiety disorder or major depression during the pandemic. (La santé mentale des Québécois durement touchée par la pandémie, 2020).

– The distress in adults has increased and even more in young adults between the ages of 18 and 34.

– For children and teenagers, the fact that their routines and school schedules have changed dramatically has also increased the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

– The elderly population is not only faced with higher risk for their physical health, their demographic is the most at risk for permanent negative psychological effects even after the pandemic has passed due to the confinement and social isolation (Cabrera et al., 2020).

STRATEGIES TO PROTECT YOUR WELL- BEING

Here are some strategies to cope with stress during this pandemic that the government authorities as well as health professionals have been proposing:

1. Create a healthy routine with a structure

With change, the desire for normality is greater which is why it is recommended to create a structured routine for you and your family. A suggestion is to make sure to limit the amount of time that you spend watching, listening or following the news as it can highly increase stress levels. You can even try to schedule a time once per day to completely disconnect from all your electronic devices to have a break.

2. Eat healthy and keep moving whether it is inside or outside your home

It is known that exercising helps to evacuate stress and eliminate some tension build-up. Also, eating healthy can contribute to having more energy and increased levels of happiness. Unfortunately, when we are stressed we have the reflex to eat comfort foods that are often rich and fatty which decrease our energy.

3. Be in-tune with your emotions and physical state

Allow yourself to express your emotions to family, friends or in other creative ways such as writing. Doing so can help you remove a lot of weight from your shoulders and reduce stress. Moreover, we are all very familiar with taking sick days when we physically ill but less with the aspect of taking some time off to mentally rest. Make sure to take time-off if needed. You must be aware of your mental state to be able to set your limits and accept help from others.

You can always call the government’s Psychosocial telephone advice and referral: Info-Social 811

In this context, it is natural to feel a lack of balance in life and it can become harder to manage thoughts and emotions which is why it is essential for us to take care of ourselves as well as our family and friends. Normalizing the discussions around mental health will help reduce the stigma around it and allow for individuals going through difficult times to feel supported and to increase awareness of the different resources available to them.

SARAH RICKLI, BIO

Sarah Rickli is a recent graduate from John Molson School of Business specializing in Human Resource Management and a minor in International Business. She  is  currently working for  Fednav Limited, Canada’s largest bulk shipping company, in  the  Talent Development  and Evolution department. She is also a Certified Human Resources Professional and a member of l’Ordre des conseillers en ressources humaines agréés.