Chances are, your life today looks vastly different than it did a couple of months ago. As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc in Canada and most other countries in the world, these wildly new and rapidly evolving circumstances are taking a toll on us in many ways – socially, financially and with respect to our mental health. Many Canadians who hadn’t previously experienced mental health problems are now struggling. People who had been effectively managing long-term mental health issues prior to the global pandemic are now spiraling, finding their previously effective strategies inadequate. Those with chronic mental illness who were having a difficult time before are now on the brink of, or at the point of crisis. If you’re feeling the impact of COVID-19 with respect to your psychological wellbeing, take heed of these five things.
1. Don’t be afraid to talk about it
It seems like a no-brainer, but if you’re struggling you might be apprehensive about reaching out for help right now. Sure, everyone is stressed – but that doesn’t take away from your own struggle. Don’t compare the way what feeling to what others are going through. If you need a little extra support, speak up and let someone you trust know what’s going on.
2. Take care of yourself
When you’re going through a rough time with your mental health it can feel like you’re a hostage to the way you’re feeling. This sense of not being in control can perpetuate the negative. On top of that, the world at large is at the mercy of spread of coronavirus. It’s true that there’s much beyond our control right now. Take inventory of what you can control: one of those things is prioritizing self care by tapping in to what you need and carving out the time for it. Go for a walk in nature. Connect with a friend who makes you laugh through technology. Be kind, gentle and forgiving with yourself during these strange, stressful times.
3. Finding effective help might take some patience and perseverance
You won’t feel “back to normal” overnight. No matter which intervention(s) you choose, none will be quick fixes. When it comes to treating mental distress an element of trial and error can be expected, too. If medication is a slice of the pie your health care provider may have to tweak the type and/or dose to get the best results. Ditto for counselling interventions – every talk therapist has their own approach and it’s vital to find someone you really click with. It can be a frustrating journey but the end result – feeling like YOU again – is worth it.
4. If you need support from your workplace, don’t be afraid to ask for it
Workplaces are required to protect the psychological health and safety of their people, and to reasonably accommodate employees who are struggling with mental health conditions. Just about all employers recognize that these are not ordinary times. Get acquainted with your EFAP (Employer and Family Assistance Program) if you have one and consider making use of one of the many resources it gives you access to at no cost. If you feel a modification to your duties is necessary to do your job and/or maintain your mental wellbeing, talk to your Human Resource Manager about what that might look like.
5. The way you feel right now isn’t the way you’ll always feel
This, too, shall pass – it might pass like a kidney stone but yes, it will pass! Just like our current circumstances with regards to COVID-19 won’t last forever, it’s important to remember that the burden of the extra stress it’s caused will eventually wane as well. Take it one day at a time rather than fixating on the “what ifs” of the future.
These points will (hopefully) be helpful for those who are having a hard time right now but let’s also remember to look out for one another. Keep your eye out for possible signs that those in your life might be struggling. Check in regularly with your work teammates, friends and family members. Talking about mental health is hard, so if you’re worried about someone don’t wait for them to come forward and ask for help. Be the initiator. The more we talk about mental health, the less scary it is.
Stay well, my friends!
Elizabeth Eldridge is a Psychological Health & Safety Consultant based in southern New Brunswick, Canada. In addition to frequent keynote speaking and corporate training on mental health she is the owner/operator of Arpeggio Health Services, Atlantic Canada’s largest provider of public mental health trainings. Learn more at elizabetheldridge.com, summitcorporatewellness.com and arpeggiohealthservices.com.