In the wake of COVID-19, Canadians are facing a new reality of social distancing, self-quarantining and isolation in order to protect public health and safety. These new circumstances may lead individuals with mental health concerns into heightened symptoms of anxiety and depression.
For individuals with mental health concerns who have a tendency to socially isolate themselves already, it’s important to understand that social distancing doesn’t mean to cut yourself off from connection. Rather, physically distancing yourself from others as a means to prevent contagion of the virus is the sole intention of the direction coming from experts and officials.
At a time when we’re being encouraged to physically distance ourselves and stay away from public areas and crowds unless absolutely necessary, it’s more important now more than ever to connect socially, especially for people who isolate as a symptom of a mental health concern such as anxiety or depression.
Social inclusion is considered one of three particularly significant social determinants of health related to mental health. Research suggests that when people don’t feel they belong socially, their mental health is often affected.
Therefore, while we’re being advised to participate in “social distancing,” it’s important for our mental health to remain socially connected while maintaining a physical distance. Whether you’re someone prone to regular self-isolation, or you know someone who is, make sure you’re checking in with others, whether by phone, text, video call, or your preferred social media platforms.
In what may be a difficult time for many, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is offering some basic tips to help people remain calm and balanced as this public health situation unfolds:
1. Considering the level of attention and seriousness being paid to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s normal to feel anxious. Try not to avoid, ignore or suppress anxious thoughts. Instead, be aware of your anxiety and accept that you’re feeling anxious in this situation. Try to keep things in perspective; notice and challenge your thoughts that may be extreme or unhelpful.
2. Self-care is critically important at this time, as worries can be made worse if we aren’t taking care of ourselves. Lean on social supports, try to get enough sleep, eat healthy, exercise and engage in enjoyable activities. Do the things you would typically do to support your health, and be sure to use caution and follow health and safety guidelines while doing them.
3. Seek information from reliable news sources only. Limit checking in on the latest news to short, defined periods, and refrain from setting related push notifications on your device. Appropriate information consumption may be calming and can lessen the sense of danger.
4. Take the recommended precautions as outlined by Health Canada and other credible health agencies. Remain focused on the factors within your control, such as washing hands, covering your mouth during coughs and sneezes, avoiding non-essential travel, etc.
5. If you’re noticing that your symptoms of anxiety (in association with COVID-19 or otherwise) are causing you significant distress or are interfering with your ability to function normally, reach out for formal mental health supports from a recognized agency. View our Quick Guide to find the appropriate supports.