When the government, news, and community are urging us to stay home and a large number of us have been laid off, it’s easy to get stuck in a funk of Netflix and junk food. What people may not realize is the effect this can have on our mental health and overall wellbeing. This is the time when we need to take advantage of having some time at home, and shift our focus on taking care of ourselves both physically and mentally.
Maintain a sense of normalcy
Every morning, take the time to adhere to your normal routine. Get up at your regular time, take a shower, brush your teeth, cook breakfast for yourself or your family, and then plan your day from there. Try to eat your meals at the same time you normally would, and continue (or start) your exercise routine from home. Many gyms are offering home workout videos on social media, and there are hundreds of tutorials you can follow on sites such as Youtube for free. Keeping our routines as normal as possible can help keep us on track and assist us in feeling like we have more control over our lives as things unfold.
Limit social media “news”
At this point, news surrounding COVID-19 is everywhere you look on social networking sites. Social media can be great in terms of having communication with our community, but it’s no secret that incorrect information can be shared very quickly through sites like Facebook or Twitter. Try to limit your time surfing these sites and make sure you obtain your information from reputable sources such as the Government of Canada website or the World Health Organization.
Reach out to loved ones
Right now, a lot of us may be starting to feel lonely and isolated, but it doesn’t need to be this way. Pick up the phone and call, text or FaceTime your loved ones. A simple hello can make someone’s day, especially if they are feeling alone. Don’t forget about any elderly relatives or friends you may have that could need some extra help in times like this. Offer to pick up and deliver some groceries to their door, if you are able. Just remember to practice social distancing to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
Take this as an opportunity to do what you’ve been putting off
We almost always have the excuse, “I don’t have time to do X, Y & Z right now.” Well, now is as good a time as ever to break out that new book you’ve been wanting to read, or that canvas you’ve been wanting to paint. Being creative is a great way to raise your spirits in this rather upsetting time. Now is also a great time to get caught up on any chores around the house you’ve been putting off. Clean out your closet, deep clean your kitchen, or rearrange your living room. We aren’t sure how long this is going to last, so we may as well try to use the time we have away from work and the outside world in a positive way.
We had a comment on one of our posts recently from someone who has chosen to start some free online classes with their time off of work. This is a great way to spend your time in a productive way- doing something that we normally wouldn’t have time to do. Websites such as Coursera or edX offer college and university classes for free. There are lots of unconventional ways to learn online as well; Skillshare offers online learning classes for a wide variety of categories, and sites such as GeoGuessr allow you to see the world from the comfort of your own home. Many museums also offer virtual tours that you can take for free, which is a great and educational activity for the whole family.
The reality of the world at the moment is not great, but it is really important that we try to look for the positives in every situation. If things are really hard for you right now, reach out to someone. Our need for a sense of community right now is heightened, and resources have been put in place to meet with mental health professionals from home in order to follow social distancing guidelines. If you do not have a therapist, reach out to a friend or family member, or the crisis line (Ottawa 613-722-6914, outside of Ottawa 1-866-996-0991) We’re all in this together.
With all the uncertainty that the world is dealing with, it’s safe to assume that our little ones are going to start asking questions if they haven’t already. Whether they’ve overheard news coverage or kids chatting about it on the playground at school, chances are they have heard of the coronavirus. It is important to have a conversation with your kids about what COVID-19 is, but in a way that kids can understand. The goal is not to scare them about the virus, but to educate them on the importance of why almost everyone is staying at home for the most part and why we all need to make an extra effort to wash our hands more often.
Use Words They Will Understand
Chances are, a 5-year-old will not understand what “social distancing” means, so try explaining it more simply. Try telling them “we can’t see your friends right now, because we need to make sure we aren’t sharing germs with anyone so we and they don’t get sick.” A typical 5-year-old response maybe, “but I’m not sick”; to which a simple response as, “germs travel on all of us and we do not have to be sick to spread them, they are sneaky little things”. Children do no need to know the risk factors, as it can cause their imaginations to run wild, and can cause unneeded stress. Use your judgement based on your child’s age to gauge how much information needs to be delivered. There is a great video online showing how soap can repel germs using a bowl of water, pepper and soap. You can show your kids this video to show them the importance of keeping our hands clean.
Limit their exposure to the news
As adults, we understand that the news focuses on negative events, and the growing number of confirmed cases of COVID-19. While it’s important for us to stay informed, it’s also important to shield our children from information that may be too much for them to understand. Young children do not fully know how to process news like this, and that’s okay. If you can, watch press conferences and news segments on your phone with headphones plugged in. This way you can stay informed, but the children won’t be left to try to process things that they may overhear. As well, children can be very sneaky if at all possible limit exposure to live streaming, television which has short segment new casts or banners and opt for media sources as Netflix, Disney +, Crave, or other sources that all you to control the exposure to news and media updates regarding Covid19.
Make Hand Washing Fun
Children will be much more excited about washing their hands more often if you make it fun for them. A great video has surfaced recently of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson washing his daughter’s hands while singing part of his song in Moana. Find something your kids enjoy, whether it be a short video or their favourite song and make hand washing fun for them. Even better, make a video of yourselves being creative and post it on social media with the hashtag #inthistogether.
Try to focus on the positives with your kids
Even though you may be more stressed and anxious than usual, it’s important to not transfer that stress onto your children. Take the time you have at home with your kids to make some memories. Go for a long walk together, do some crafts that they’ve been asking you to do, build a blanket fort in your living room, or have a movie night. Once this is all over, you and your kids will be able to look back on the extra time you were able to spend together. Embrace the opportunity to use this time for family bonding. Our typical world is so hectic that it is easy to disconnect, this pandemic may turn into a gift for many who are able to reconnect and reengage in what truly matters, family and our human connection.
This is not an easy time for anyone, but protecting our kids from unneeded stress can make things just a little bit easier for them. If you have more suggestions on how to speak with our kids about COVID-19, feel free to share them in the comments below!
Stay well and remember we are all in this together, let’s continue to support one another.
With the recent pandemic that is COVID19, it’s no surprise that more and more people are becoming anxious surrounding the unknown future of the virus and our community. While it may be important to isolate, it is also important to support one another, albeit from a distance. Here are a few tips to help protect yourself both physically and mentally from COVID19.
1. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly
This one is a given, and we’ve been hearing it for weeks, but it truly is one of the easiest ways to
prevent the virus from spreading. Start making a habit of washing your hands any time you
arrive at home or work, and as frequently as you can throughout the day especially if you work
with the public. It is recommended to wash your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds; many
articles and photos have surfaced lately on how you can spend those 20 seconds by humming
different songs; my personal favorite - Gloria Gaynor - I will survive.
2. Don’t touch your face
This is a tough habit to break, but it is important not to touch your face as much as possible.
Many of us do this without even realizing it, as it can be a nervous habit for many people. It may
be time to dig out your fidget spinner from 2018 and carry that around to keep your hands busy-
just make sure to sanitize it regularly.
3. Turn off news notifications on your phone
COVID19 is at the top of most of our minds on a daily if not hourly basis- the last thing we need
right now is even more reminders that the virus is spreading. While it is important to stay
updated on the current situation, it’s also important not to allow the news to stress you out
even more. Turning off the push notifications to news apps can help prevent the constant
reminders from interrupting your day. In order to stay informed, be sure to get your information
from reputable sources such as the World Health Organization or the Government of Canada
website rather than social media outlets like Facebook or Twitter.
4. Avoid non-essential outings
We’ve been hearing this for weeks, but it can be beneficial to not only your physical health, but
your mental health as well. It’s common to become paranoid in situations like this which can be
detrimental to our mental health. Don’t stress yourself out by going into public. Try to plan your
meals ahead and go to the grocery store once a week, rather than every couple of days. When
you are out, make sure you use the sanitizing wipes on shopping carts that grocery stores
supply. Opt for a verbal greeting and bypass the handshakes or hugs, and you can always keep
hula hoop distance from others (airing on the side of caution).
5. Ask for phone or video options
Many workplaces have asked their employees to work from home, and it is looking like more
situations like this will be coming in the near future. If you have appointments such as therapy
or appointments with the bank, ask if they offer either telephone or video conferencing options.
Many companies will offer this option, and it will help to prevent anticipatory anxiety, while still
allowing life to go on.
6. Focus on the positives
Obviously, this is a tough situation, and it’s something we need to deal with. One way we can
keep our mental health in a good place is by focusing on the positive parts of our lives. If you
have been asked to work from home, maybe you get to spend more time with your family or
We would love to hear how you are staying positive in this pandemic. Let us know in the comments below or on our social media platforms. Now is the time to genuinely support one another as a community. Thank you for being kind and respectful of one another’s concerns and feelings.
Dr. Diana Garcia
Dr. Diana Garcia has over 20 years of experience in the field of psychology. She has provided psychological and counseling services in Ontario, and the states of Pennsylvania, and Florida