Taking Care of your Mental Health During the COVID-19 Outbreak
Any medical emergency can be stressful for your mental health. The current COVID-19 Outbreak, which has now been declared a pandemic, is a serious virus, that although can be harmful physically to us, can have an impact on our mental health.
One of the greatest challenges to our mental health, is our lack of control over the situation. We have to place a great amount of trust in health officials and government, to do all that they can to both protect us, and inform us on how to keep ourselves safe. Because we can’t see the virus, we don’t know where it is, and this makes us feel helpless. With so much mixed information about what to do to keep ourselves safe, we can easily become overwhelmed with worry and stress about our health and the health of our loved ones. When we feel intense fear, our bodies can go into flight or fight protection mode, putting us on high alert for any sign that something is wrong. Being in flight or fight mode unnecessarily or for too long, can lead to a strain on our body.
Signs that you may be having a hard time coping with the the COVID-19 pandemic, can be any of the following symptoms or a combination of the these symptoms:
- – Constant worry and thought rumination over your health and the health of others
- – Difficulty or significant changes in your sleeping, eating
- – Anger, irritability or intense feelings of fear or sadness
- – Significantly reduced interest in doing the things that you typically enjoy
- – Feeling anxious most of the time or having episodes of heightened anxiety or panic
- – Withdrawing from others unnecessarily or disinterest in social connection
There are several steps that you can take, to care for your mental health, during this COVID-19 outbreak. Take a look at the following five steps below and implement them as part of your daily routine.
Understand & Be Informed
Psychologically, being informed and learning about the Virus, as well as precautionary methods to protect yourself, is helpful. Learning from official sources is key, in Ottawa, our best source of credible information comes from: Ottawa Public Health, Public Health Agency of Canada, Health Canada, and the World Health Organization. Keep yourself up to date daily. But don’t over do it. Reading too much, and being constantly exposed to information on the virus can be overwhelming and lead to overthinking and increased worry. Set limits for yourself, checking in 1-2x a day for online or televised updates, for 15 minutes at a time maximum.
Take Good Care of your Physical Health
To prevent getting the virus, follow recommended guidelines from Ottawa Public Health, such as frequent hand washing, avoiding touching your face, work from home if you can, reschedule all non-essential outings, limit travel, work from home if you can, and ensure social distancing as much as possible. To find out more information on protecting yourself from the virus, recognizing symptoms of the virus and preventing the spread of COVID-19, visit Ottawa Public Health
Also, take steps to get your health in good shape. Set personal goals each day, like 30-minutes of active exercise, taking a brisk walk, preparing healthy meals that have immune boosting foods, and getting a good amount of sleep, up to 8 hours, each night. Stay active in the house, by doing some some “spring cleaning” or home organization tasks that are on your “to-do” list.
Start a daily self-care routine
Rest and relaxation are key components to physical and mental health. Spend time listening to your body and giving it what it needs. Practice deep breathing and mindfulness to reduce tension in your body. Journal write throughout the day, about how you are feeling and to help keep your thoughts realistic. Take a warm bath or get cozy and read a good novel. Taking the time you need to unwind during this stressful time is important.
Another key component of good self-care is doing things that you enjoy. Do something that makes you feel happy or that makes you feel energized and accomplished. With many of us staying home right now, we can easily start to feel sluggish and bored at home. Make a schedule or routine for yourself for the day, that includes a combination of the following categories: self-care moments, physical activity, good nutrition and cooking, a task that makes you feel accomplished, a household cleaning task and some social interaction time.
Social Distancing & Staying Social
Social support is key to psychological well-being. Health officials have recommended that we stay-home, as much as possible, and only go out for essential reasons only. This can be socially isolating for us. Especially those of us that live alone. Stay connected to friends and family. Video call loved ones, start fun group chats over text, or plan a date night with another couple over video.
Set up an Appointment with a Psychotherapist for Telephone or Video Counselling
If you are noticing signs that your mental health is suffering or if you have concerns about your psychological well-being during the COVID-19 outbreak, you may benefit from speaking to a psychotherapist or psychologist. Contact a psychotherapist or psychologist to set up an appointment for counselling at a distance, such a telephone counselling, video counselling or e-counselling.
The benefits of video & telephone counselling include: The convenience of not leaving your home during this uncertain time, you will receiving focused one-on-one care with a non-judgemental and compassionate psychotherapist, your psychotherapist is just a call away and more easily accessible to you, and feeling safe and secure because you know you are getting the care you need while not putting yourself at risk to the virus. Your therapist can send psychology readings and mental health exercises via e-mail and have you complete online symptom assessments, so that the two of you will have everything you need to complete a session at a distance.
Sometimes, we can feel apprehensive about starting telephone or video counselling. We might be concerned that it will not be as effective as an in-person session. Or perhaps we are worried about the security of our information or don’t feel we can find privacy in our home from other family members. Most individuals find that, once they try e-counselling, it can be an effective and a helpful method. Clients typically get accustomed to the method of counselling once they have had a few sessions. Your therapist will take measures to ensure your sessions are confidential, such as using secure video calling software or a private telephone line. Video counselling software uses secure end-to-end encryption to ensure that your psychotherapy sessions remain private and confidential. Finding privacy at home can be created by using a room with a closed door and playing music or a white noise machine outside the door, setting up an appointment time after children’s bedtimes, or as the weather gets warmer, setting up outside on your porch or backyard or going for a walk and finding a park bench.
Taking these five steps to improve your mental health during the COVID-19 outbreak will help improve your mental well-being. Especially, if the situation is ongoing. Taking good care of yourself now is important and you deserve to feel as comfortable and safe as possible during this time.
At Senta Counselling Services, we are available to you, to help you cope with the COVID-19 outbreak. We understand that psychological services are still needed and we are providing psychotherapy treatment via telephone counselling and video counselling. We are offering reduced rate fees to anyone has experienced financial hardship during this time, with no medical or employer note required.
Contact your psychotherapist at Senta Counselling Services or fill out a New Appointment Request Form to get in touch to schedule an appointment for telephone psychotherapy or video psychotherapy.
Article written by Cassandra Petrella, MA, Registered Psychotherapist & Clinical Director, at Senta Counselling Services.