What You Should Know About Managing Your Mental Health Right Now
COVID-19 pandemic has globally been one of the most difficult times in many of our lives. As a society, we have struggled with job loss, isolation, financial stress, fear, and anxiety. Mental health issues have risen during this time, and we all want to return to normal. But, experts predict that we will have a mental health crisis after the pandemic, which can last for years.
We should enjoy and celebrate things opening up again. We should see our friends and loved ones in a responsible way. We should also watch our mental health closely as we get out of survival mode. Here are a few things to think about right now.
1. Manage your expectations
It’s normal to want everything to be the way it was before COVID-19 hit, but that is not likely the way things will go.
Many people will continue to be out of work, as some industries will rebound slower than others. A few industries may never return to the same level as they were before the pandemic. The unemployment rate will likely be high for a while after the pandemic is over.
The way we interact with each other may also continue to be different. Health agencies continue to suggest physical distancing rules. Many people will still be wearing gloves and masks when meeting with others. Meeting virtually may still be the norm for several months after.
These changes will cause stress and uncertainty, which will impact your mental health. Do some research and plan for some flexibility in your expectations.
2. Know your risk factors
Depression, anxiety, death by suicide, alcohol and drug abuse, and domestic violence have increased. People who are at higher risk of some of these things are:
- Health care workers (nurses, doctors, health care aides, nursing home aides, etc.)
- Grocery store workers
- Delivery people
- Other people considered essential workers
- People who currently struggle with anxiety or depression, or have in the past
- People currently struggling with suicidal thoughts, or have in the past
- People with a past addiction
- People who are unemployed
- Children and youth who had difficulty maintaining social connections during the pandemic
3. Pay attention to signs your mental health may be getting worse
Everyone has off days. Days where they are sad or lack motivation, days they feel lonely, and days where they don’t want to get out of bed. These are normal and expected, considering the stress and strain of life at the moment.
If off days increase, become more severe, and outnumber good days, your mental health is suffering. Here are some other signs to watch for:
- A decrease in the enjoyment of things you like
- A major change in your sleeping or eating habits
- An increase in thoughts of death and dying, or active thinking about suicide
- Continued self-isolation after government restrictions have ended
- Any major and sudden changes in personality or behaviour that are not usual for you
4. Develop good mental health strategies and habits before things get bad
There are many ways to increase your resilience. You don’t want to play catch up with your mental health down the road.
- Make your social connections more meaningful
- Use video chat instead of just phone calls so you can see non-verbals
- Talk about things that are important to you, things that give you joy, as well as things that worry you
- Play games virtually with each other, or do other activities online with each other
- Decrease your use of alcohol and drugs, even if they are not currently at unhealthy levels
- Focus on things you CAN do instead of things you CAN’T do
- Know the resources for your mental health, social connections, and activities
- Start relaxation and anti-anxiety habits such as deep breathing, physical exercise, and self-care
- Wellness Together Canada
- 20 of the best online activities to keep you connected while you're away from family and friends
- Apps: Calm, MyLife, Smiling Mind
- Counselling at The Family Centre
Mark Frederick, MC, CCC
Mental Health Therapist
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