If somebody told me last year that we would be facing a major health challenge that is impacting the whole world, it would have been unimaginable. Yet here we are.
At the end of 2019, when I first heard about Coronavirus, I did not think too much about it. Fast forward a couple of months to mid-February, returning home from a trip down south, and I recognized it was becoming a larger health issue based on the precautions being taken at the airport, but again, I did not think it would be something that impacted me. At the beginning of March, when there were more positive cases coming into the area, just days before a global-wide pandemic was announced, I still was believing this was not something that would impact me, making plans for seeing friends and family, and believing that this was being “blown out of proportion”. Days later, the global pandemic is in full-force, and first hand seeing the drastic changes and guidelines being implemented for our safety, I was sitting with these constant thoughts of “what is this going to look like? How is this going to impact me?” That is when it hit me – we are facing unprecedented change.
Fast forward, we are going into week 12 of this pandemic. Ten weeks ago, I could not have imagined where we are now. There has been plenty of feelings, and I have been seeing how this is impacting people so differently. I know myself; I have been feeling anxiety for myself and my family in terms of our health. Myself, as well as my close family members, are still going into work every day, so there is always that risk. But it is not just the anxiety of contracting the virus, it is also the fear and uncertainty about what is happening to society, what is happening to the economy, what is happening to our friends and relatives. One of the biggest questions I wonder is when I will be able to hug my family and friends again.
In addition to the anxiety, there has been a lot of grief. We have all lost something through this. We have lost our normal day-to-day interactions and routine. We have lost our ability to connect with people, and these restrictions make it more challenging to socially connect with people. We have also lost that sense of certainty. The sense of uncertainty about the future generates a strong threat or alert in our limbic system. Our brain detects that there is something wrong, and we lose our ability to focus. It’s a type of pain or distress we want to avoid. Our need to feel in control and to know what is coming next makes us feel secure, it is essentially a survival mechanism. So obviously, with all the uncertainty with this pandemic, it makes sense that there is an increase in the unpleasant feelings.
For many people, myself included, the uncertainty surrounding this challenge is the hardest thing to handle. We might not have control over this virus or the impact it is having, but we can challenge ourselves to control the way we are responding to what is happening. There are many things we can do – even in the face of this unique crisis – to manage anxiety and fears.
Taking care of yourself is so important in order to be able to take care and help out your friends and family. Set time each day to engage in a self-care or self-soothing activity (i.e., music you enjoy, spending time in nature, journaling, baths, meditation, practicing gratitude, distraction activities, meditation, etc.)
Taking care of your physical health, including eating well-balanced meals, regular sleep, physical activity, maintaining personal hygiene, and physical distance.
Connecting with friends, family, and co-workers. Just because we physically isolate, does not mean we socially isolate! There are many options with modern technology to keep us connected
Keeping routines as consistent as you can and setting goals for yourself
Cutting back on social media. Not all the information on there is accurate, so use reputable sources for staying informed.
Being kind to yourself. Be mindful of the inner critic and remind yourself that you can only do the best you can.
I also think reframing goes a long way too. We are learning something about ourselves through this. Resilience is a powerful word. It doesn’t mean that we don’t experience stress, emotional upheaval, or suffering, but rather our ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from the challenging times. We learn to get through difficult life events. History has shown us time and again that our strength is how we create, survive, and prosper during the worst of times.
These circumstances have provided us all an opportunity to become resilient, to learn more about ourselves and how we can grow, and prove our ability to come together and respond in an emergency in a way that is thoughtful, caring and contributes to improving the situation for all of us. Living through this experience is allowing us to learn about ourselves, and gaining perspective around what is really important in the world.
Here 24/7 – Crisis Support – 1-844-437-3247 Homewood Health for Mental Health and Substance Use Support – 1-866-585-0445 ConnexOntario – Addiction, Mental Health, and Problem Gambling Services – 1-866-531-2600 Narcotics Anonymous – online meetings: https://virtual-na.org/ Alcoholics Anonymous – online meetings: https://aa-intergroup.org/