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.
One in four Canadians will experience anxiety symptoms at some point in their lifetime. Anxiety can present in many different ways; as the anticipation of new or uncomfortable events, within social settings, obsessive compulsive thoughts, panic attacks, trauma or as a more generalized anxiety. Fortunately for those who experience the discomfort of anxiety, grounding techniques exist to eliminate or lessen the effects of the symptoms. There are many forms of grounding techniques, and not every technique will work for every person; however, if one solution does not work for you, do not be afraid to try out another, or develop your own technique that helps you refocus in an anxious situation.
1- 5,4,3,2,1 Method:
In this method, individuals are asked to combine slow breathing and recognizing their environment. Take a deep breath in for 5 seconds and then exhale for 5 seconds. Once your breath has been regulated, take the time to acknowledge 5 things around you that you can see, 4 things that you can feel, 3 things that you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste.
For example, practicing this method in an exam may look something like this:
Deep breath in
Deep breath out
See - pencil, pen, paper, desk, chair
Feel - denim jeans, wooden desk, plastic pen, cotton shirt
Hear - pencil on paper, pages flipping, clock ticking
Smell - perfume, fabric softener
Taste - coffee
2- Square Breathing:
This method of grounding is very helpful when you are suffering from panic attacks or simply beginning to feel overwhelmed in any situation. Regulating your breath is extremely helpful in overcoming the uncomfortable physical symptoms that often accompany anxiety and worry. In this method, you will be matching your breathing to the movement of your finger.
Place your finger in the center of your chest
Start taking a slow, deep breath and begin tracing a square on your chest
Aim to finish drawing the square at the end of your breath. This should take about 10-15 seconds.
Repeat this movement and breath cycle about 20 times until your breathing has been regulated.
A variation of this technique is to match your breathing with something moving slowly and steadily. This resource is a great starting point for anyone who needs to slow their breathing during a panic attack or episode.
3- Memory Game:
This method of grounding challenges you to recall as many objects in a category as possible. The aim is to reorient yourself back to the present moment and suppress any negative emotions or memories that are trying to push their way into your thoughts. For example:
List as many dog breeds as you can
Name as many countries as you can
List all of the streets nearby that you can
List as many colours as you can
Grounding techniques are great tools to have when you experience anxious thoughts or feelings. Share in the comments some techniques that you have to combat anxiety. As always, if you feel that your symptoms are too much to handle on your own, consult a mental health professional, or go directly to the nearest emergency room.
With the excitement of back to school come and gone, it’s time for reality to set in. For many teens, this means anxiety is starting to creep back into their everyday lives. We, as parents want to help our children as much as we can, but it’s often tricky to know what to say and how to handle a teen struggling with anxiety. Inspired by an article written by Dr. Marjory Phillips, here are a few tips to help tackle this task:
1. Listen before you try to solve their problems.
Sometimes, all your child needs is to have their voice heard. Give them the opportunity to say what they need to say, uninterrupted. Once they’ve had their chance to speak their mind, then you can offer your advice and try to walk them through solving their problems. If this is something you struggle with, perhaps have a notepad handy if you know the discussion is coming to jot down any thoughts you have as they are speaking.
2. Take them seriously.
Even if their concerns don’t seem like a big deal to you, it’s very real to them. Emotions run high in the teenage years, so it’s important to approach your child’s problems with encouragement and kindness. Be open with them when discussing their emotional strengths and ensure they know that you want to help.
3. Be prepared for your entire family to be affected.
Anxiety doesn’t just affect the individual struggling with it; it affects the whole family. There may be days that you have plans but anxiety is preventing your child from leaving the house. It takes time to guide them through overcoming these days, but patience is key.
4. Be there to listen.
Busy schedules are often rather hectic; between school drop off, work, groceries, school pick up, dance class, dinner, homework help and night time routines, it’s sometimes difficult to find time to sit down and talk with your children. When you have a child that is struggling with anxiety, it’s important to either make the time to spend with them 1-on-1, or find another way to keep the lines of communication open (texting, phone calls, video chats) and listen to what they are dealing with and how they are doing.
5. Offer your support.
When speaking with your child, remain calm and make sure you communicate with them that you understand they are struggling, and that you will do anything you need to to help them get better. Having a parent’s support is huge for a teenager dealing with anxiety. Keep your child’s problems on your mind, and make sure you check in with them on a regular basis.
6. Work with them to figure out their triggers.
Take time with your child to reflect on the times when anxiety is not affecting them. Are there any notable changes in friends they are spending time with recently? Shows they are watching? Amount of time spent with family? If any environmental changes have triggered their anxiety, try to make an effort to revert back to when things were more “normal” for them.
7. Resist the urge to pry for reasons.
Anxiety is a tricky feeling to explain. Sometimes it hits you for seemingly no reason at all. Teens will most likely struggle to answer the question “Why is xyz giving you anxiety now? It never used to.” Asking too many questions may lead to your teen feeling more anxious, so I would suggest trying to keep this type of question to a minimum.
8. Be Patient with them.
Even with the help of a therapist, it can take years for some individuals to overcome the overwhelming feelings of anxiety. Being patient and calm with your teen is extremely important to maintaining a positive, healthy relationship. They can’t prevent the feelings from coming, and pressure from their loved ones in their time of need is not going to help any situation.
9. Normalize it.
With the surge in social media usage among teens lately, it’s no secret that anxiety is an extremely normal thing for teens to deal with, and (in some cases) are open to share with strangers. Make sure your child knows that they are not alone in their struggle. Perhaps try to find local support groups for teens in your community if they are more social.
10. Enjoy some outdoor cell-phone free time.
These days, it’s rare to see a teen without a smart phone in their hands 24/7. The constant notifications with real-time views on how many people “like” their appearance or thoughts can be overwhelming on its own. Try to get your teen involved in a cell-phone free activity outdoors to clear their head of the social media avalanche that they deal with every day. After all, studies have shown links to sunlight lowering levels of anxiety as well as depression.
At the end of the day, there are no sure answers to how we can help our children overcome anxiety, but with these tips, you should be on your way to getting your teen the support that they need. If the anxiety is becoming too severe for your child to handle, seeing a psychotherapist, social worker, or psychologist is always a great option- an outside non-biased voice is extremely helpful for children, teens, and adults.
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