Caring For Yourself and Those Around You During a Pandemic
By Lisa Malowany, Program Manager and Trainer
Without a doubt, we are facing a time in our world that we have never seen before with the COVID-19 pandemic. There are so many things happening and the news and updates seem to come at us at lightning speed. This can produce feelings of anxiety in many of us and we may be left wondering what to do. Then, just when you think you have something figured out, new information or new sanctions are put in place, feeling like you are back at square one.
It is like a roller coaster ride and, at times, it feels like it is never going to end. But it will end. We may not yet know when, but it will. What we need to focus on is what we can do to help us stay healthy, both physically and mentally, until it does.
Practice Safe Social Distancing to Keep Yourself and Others Safe
One of the biggest things you can do to help relieve feelings of anxiety is to take care of yourself, and everyone else in our society, by paying attention to the professionals and take all measures you can to not spread this virus. You may have heard this many times in the past weeks, but as a reminder, this includes:
- Frequent washing of hands
- Avoid touching your face
- Frequent cleaning/disinfecting of surfaces that are common touch points (light switches, door knobs, counters, coffee pots, etc.)
- Social distancing – staying 6 feet away from anyone outside of your home
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow
- If you are feeling sick, stay at home
- Getting some exercise – exercise is known to help keep your immunity strong and it can be as simple as going for a walk
These measures can help to take care of your physical health and avoid spreading the virus, but what about our mental health?
Taking Care of Your Mental Health will Impact Your Overall Health
When it comes to supporting your mental health, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following to help support your mental health care of yourself during this pandemic:
- Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
- Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs.
- Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
- Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
Although we are all called on to practice social distancing, that doesn’t mean avoiding all contact with others. In the technological world we live in, there is no shortage of electronic means to keep in touch with others. Plan to have a video chat with someone you haven’t seen in a while. Take an opportunity to connect with people and have meaningful conversations that can help get us all through this.
It is important to note that if you have pre-existing mental health diagnoses, it is important to continue with your treatment during a pandemic. If you feel your symptoms are worsening, call your health care professional and discuss it with them.
How to Continue to Support Others During a Pandemic
In addition to dealing with our own feelings around COVID-19, SARC Members are also supporting people experiencing disability through this time. For some of them, there are questions about what is going on, some may not understand why things are now different, and others people may be expressing their concerns or confusion in various ways. Use the internet as a resource. There are a lot of people posting ideas of what to do with people at home when you are not able to leave the home. This could include playing a game, watching a funny movie, cooking a favourite meal, or going for a walk outside. Also, don’t be shy to reach out to a colleague in the SARC Member Network for advice, hear their perspective, or discuss ways that you could be working together (if applicable).
We are having conversations that we have never had to have before. It is important to be open with the people you support and provide information to them to help ease their anxiety. It is also a good idea to be honest with the people you support by telling them that things are a bit uncertain but what is certain is that we will all get through it together. For information about COVID-19 and vulnerable populations, please see the Government of Canada website here.
SARC’s Learning Central also has many resources about health and wellness that may be helpful for you at this time and there are many resources on the internet that can be helpful as well.
Stay healthy, everyone.