This past May, the UBC School of Nursing, in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), performed a vital study. Three-thousand Canadian adults were surveyed, all of whom were randomly invited by a national polling vendor. All participants had been in quarantine as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and were asked to respond to a series of questions online between May 14th and May 29th, only a few months into the first wave of the virus. The results of the study showed that those who went through the period of self-isolation were two times as likely to experience suicidal thoughts compared to those who did not.
In these unprecedented times, physical health and safety are of high priority. However, an equally important issue is often neglected: mental health. With the evidence found in this study, it becomes obvious how vital mental health is in ensuring the well-being of society. In quarantine, it became next to impossible to interact with friends and family members outside of your household, not to mention dangerous. Now that we are back in school and are getting used to the “new normal,” some level of social interaction has been introduced back into our daily lives. That being said, I’m sure we can all agree it is simply not the same. On top of the lack of face-to-face communication, the anxiety of becoming sick or even worse, passing the virus on to an at-risk individual, has cast a dark cloud over the minds of many. This is the reason mental health should be at the forefront of our minds during this period of uncertainty. At this time, there are steps you can take to restore a positive mindset and help you to emerge stronger on the other side. I have compiled a list of ideas for you to cope with anxiety and stress during COVID-19 with the goal of improving your mental health.
Take Time for Yourself:
Take this time as an opportunity to work on yourself. Practice self-love, and remember, self-care is not selfish. Being at one with yourself allows you to send positive energy out into the world and attract the same energy. Practicing mindfulness is a productive way to improve your overall mental health. Try this exercise to ground yourself when you are feeling stressed or anxious:
1. Look around the room and list five things you can see.
2. Focus on and list four things you can feel.
3. Name three things you can hear.
4. Notice two things you can smell.
5. Lastly, focus on one thing you can taste.
Take Time Away from Social Media:
Being socially connected can ease anxiety and stress, boost self-worth, and provide comfort. However, in this day and age, many of us rely on social media to provide this connection. While the internet has its benefits, we all must remember social media is not a replacement for in-person connection. Research proves social media is linked to depression, loneliness, and self-harm. All content we view on social media is edited, and even if we are aware of this manipulation, it can still make us feel insecure about ourselves and our own lives. Taking even an hour a day to step away from social media is proven to improve mental health. Try turning your phone off for a while and see what happens.
Allow Time for Creativity:
Creative expression can often help clear your head of intrusive and anxious thoughts. Personally, when I’m feeling stressed, I write down my thoughts and almost always create something I am proud of. Creativity leads to not only an improvement in mental health but can also help you discover something you are passionate about. Whether it be writing, dancing, singing, drawing, try to use creative expression to implement a more creative lifestyle into your daily life.
At the end of every day, I try to take some time to express gratitude, a habit that has changed my life in a way I could have never imagined. Being grateful for all the experiences and opportunities in my life has allowed me to realize how truly lucky I am to be alive. Expressing gratitude is an incredible way to improve overall well-being and mental health, aiding in the development of a more optimistic attitude. I encourage you to note three things you are grateful for every night before you go to sleep. This will help you to focus on the good aspects of your life and reduce stress and anxiety, rather than dwell on the troubles you are facing.
If you are in need of assistance regarding mental health, please use the following resources for help.
- Mental Health Support Line: 310-6789 (available 24/7)
- Visit: crisiscentrechat.ca (available from noon to 1:00 AM every day)
- Canadian Suicide Prevention Service: 833-456-4566 (available 24/7 for calls, 4:00 PM – 12:00 AM ET for texts)
- Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-784-2433 (available 24/7)
- Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 (available 24/7) (or text CONNECT to 686868)
Written by Maddie Falk