Staying ahead of a mental health pandemic: improving mental well-being during COVID-19

For decades to come, COVID-19 will be talked about as one of the most challenging times that humankind will have faced. While we all adjust to physical distancing, determining what the “new normal” looks like is different for everyone. For some, it has allowed families to reconnect by spending more time together, while for others, feelings of isolation and anxiety are more prominent than ever before.

To prevent the spread of the virus, the authorities all agree on one point – we need to stay home. Everyone is talking about the ways we can maintain our physical health. But there has not been as much information on how to maintain our mental health during this time.

At KLC, the mental wellness of our team, families and clients is extremely important to us. To help spread the word about mental health, we’ve compiled a list of resources and tips below.

Dealing with loneliness, the right way

First and foremost, it’s important to keep in mind that feelings of loneliness are warranted and likely shared by the important people in our lives. One of the quickest and most effective ways to combat loneliness is to reach out to friends and family to regain a sense of connection, while also ensuring that those close to you are also managing well. Knowing that your loved ones are healthy and happy can have a positive impact on your own mental health.

Our client Morneau Shepell, a leader in well-being and digital mental health, has provided some additional tips to feel better when faced with the uncertainty of COVID-19:

– Stick to the facts as communicated by public-health agencies or medical professionals, such as the World Health Organization and the Public Health Agency of Canada. Try to read beyond the headlines: you will often find valuable information that puts the facts into context, beyond what a 280-character tweet can covey.

– Try and keep it in perspective. Keep in mind that there’s a concerted global effort to try and contain this virus, and the World Health Organization is maintaining a webpage with answers to common questions.

– Follow prevention tips to stay healthy. Wash your hands often and properly and maintain a distance of six feet from others.

– Practice stress and anxiety management. There are many proven ways to reduce stress and anxiety: get enough sleep, eat a balanced diet and stay hydrated, exercise, talk about your fears and feelings with others, meditate, among others.

If and when stress becomes amplified, there are many free, online resources that provide effective strategies for managing mental well-being available to Canadians. Recently, corporate and community organizations – including Morneau Shepell – launched WellCan, a free collection of digital resources to support the mental health of all Canadians during COVID-19.

WellCan and other resources highlight that there is no shame in seeking help, especially during turbulent times. Canadians seeking support can also reach out to their employer about professional assistance programs available to them, such as an Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP). Access to these programs is anonymous.

With the area that we once knew as our relaxation space becoming our home office, it can be hard to “switch off”. Beyond professional and online resources, there are also some simple things you can do at home to help improve your mental well-being.

Make sure to schedule time for yourself throughout the day that reminds you why you love your home! Play a record, do stretches on your yoga mat or cozy up with your favourite book.

– Schedule a standing virtual lunch date with your friends. Physical distancing doesn’t mean that the weekly lunch you enjoyed with friends should come to an end! Grab your lunch, set up a digital call and vent about the day’s frustrations.

Join a positive online community. Before we began quarantine, many of us found a strong sense of community by discussing our passions with likeminded individuals – such as at wine tastings for the wine lover, boutique shops for the fashion lover and auto shows for the car lover. Online discussion groups on social media platforms, like Facebook or Reddit, can help to regain that sense of community, all from the comfort of your own home.

Take a break in a different space. The day’s frustrations can get the better of us, at one time or another. If you feel that you’re reaching your limit, go to a different space like your bedroom or couch, and take a breather. Scroll through Instagram, check out that sale, take that Buzzfeed quiz or just close your eyes. Whatever can take your mind off the causes of your stress will help you get back to the day with a fresh perspective.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help finding resources. As much as we hesitate to admit, dealing with mental health can still be a taboo or unknown subject, even among the closest friends. Sometimes the hardest step in starting your conversation with a professional is knowing where to start. If you have a friend who has been to a mental health professional in the past and feels comfortable discussing their experience, ask them how they got started. Resources like Maple, which allows people to instantly connect with Canadian doctors for virtual medical care, are a good start if you’d prefer to explore by yourself.

Loneliness and anxiety are two very serious and common feelings that people will experience throughout this stressful period of uncertainty. It’s never been more important to check in and understand how isolation is impacting our mental health – and what we can do to protect ourselves –  before it develops into a more serious issue.