SURREY – Many sacrifices are being made during the pandemic to help bend the curve of COVID-19. This prolonged period of physical distancing and social disconnection, especially during the holiday season, has left many stressed and lonely.
“It’s normal to feel anxious and afraid. Some of us are struggling more than others. We have to recognize that none of us are the same person we were prior to the pandemic,” says Dr. Marietta Van Den Berg, psychiatrist and physician quality lead for Fraser Health. “But, we have to remember we are not the first generation to experience a pandemic, crisis or war, and we will get through this together.”
The pandemic and these measures will not last forever but during this time, Fraser Health physicians have a few tips to help you stay mentally well.
Maintaining social connections with people important to us is vital. When those connections cease, there is a profound sense of sadness and loss which can lead to depression and thoughts of suicide.
Social isolation cuts across all demographic boundaries, but those most affected include seniors in long term care and assisted living, families that are separated, and the unemployed, under-employed and those who don’t have permanent homes. “We are social beings and we need to stay connected in any way possible, whether it’s by telephone, virtually, in person with physical distancing or by other means,” says Dr. Anson Koo, Fraser Health’s medical director for Mental Health and Substance Use.
Connecting with ourselves as individuals is also a key piece of self care. Listen to your body. A sinking feeling in the chest or tense shoulders may be a signal that something is wrong emotionally. Be mindful of jumping to worst-case scenarios, overreacting and being overly negative.
Having the capacity to care for ourselves and others involves pacing. We need to be ruthlessly frank about what we can and cannot do. The chronic stress of the pandemic has fatigued us, and we need to balance the need to push ourselves to do what we need to, but also take a break.
Taking an emotional break or resting looks different for everyone. Some people get mental relief from running or exercise, while others are content reading a book, looking out a window, enjoying music or chatting with friends. Find what works for you and incorporate it into your daily routine as often as possible.
We can find bits of hope everyday, even in small doses. For example, we can pledge to comfort someone or get through the work day without any problems. “The vaccine gives us hope,” says Dr. Van Den Berg. “Remember that everything ends, difficult feelings, wars and pandemics, they all end.”
If you’re feeling lonely or overwhelmed, the 24/7 Fraser Health Crisis Line (604-951-8855 or toll-free at 1-877-820–7444) provides immediate, free and anonymous emotional support, crisis intervention and community resource information, 24 hours a day, every day.
People of all ages can call the Fraser Health Crisis Line if they are experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings, mental health challenges, substance use issues, family violence, abuse, relationship conflicts, or loss. Trained volunteers are willing to help and listen. They can provide connections to services and resources.