I’m worried about you. I’m worried about all of us. As winter sets in and the days get darker, COVID-19 numbers continue to rise in our community and around the world. As this happens, our collective stress level also rises, impacting our wellbeing. We are all grieving. Some of us are grieving the loss of freedom to live carefree, or the loss of a lifestyle we took for granted. We are grieving the loss of personal connections with friends and family. For some, grief is more substantial, grieving the loss of a loved one.
Our future is uncertain. When will our borders open to travel? When will restrictions be removed? When will a vaccine be available? When will we be able to hug one another again? Our world has changed in a matter of months and while we can do our part to stay safe, there is much about this virus that remains unknown and outside our realm of control.
What worries me just as much as the spread of COVID is the impact this pandemic is having on our mental health and wellbeing. You probably don’t have to look too far to find a co-worker, friend or family member paralyzed by fear. It only takes a few short minutes of social media to find people turning on one another, with conflicting opinions about appropriate health and safety measures to combat this pandemic.
Psychologist Elisabeth Kubler-Ros claims there are only two true emotions, love and fear. All positive emotions stem from love and all negative emotions stem from fear. The anxiety of this pandemic is rooted in fear. To protect our sense of wellbeing, we need to take intentional steps, rooted in love, to positively impact our mental health.
Here are some simple strategies and reminders to lean-in, support one another and practice self care.
- Show Gratitude. People who practice gratitude as a daily ritual are happier and healthier. Take a few minutes at the end of each day to write down five things you are grateful for.
- Random Acts of Kindness. Remember, we are fighting a disease, not each other. Take a few moments for simple random acts of kindness. The simple act of paying for a stranger’s cup of coffee may be enough to make their day.
- Say Thank-You. Everyone is stressed. Take time to thank those around you – retail workers, health care professionals, educators, and service providers. A quick note or words of appreciation can go a long way.
- Get Outside. Not only are the outdoors safer, a brisk, winter walk is a great way to re-energize and remain grounded.
- Breathe. Give yourself permission to slow down. Stop and take a few deep breaths. Download the Calm App for some simple breathing strategies.
- Exercise. While indoor classes may be cancelled, there are plenty of online classes available to help you get your sweat on. Just thirty minutes of exercise releases enough serotonin to improve your mood and your quality of sleep.
- Find Joy. Take time each week to do something that brings you joy. Read a book, build something new, or watch your favourite movies. Whatever it is that makes you happy, do that.
- Limit Social Media / News: Give yourself a time limit each day so that you do not become overwhelmed with stories related to COVID-19.
- Connect With Loved Ones. We may not be able to visit in person, but we can phone, email or Zoom. This may be the perfect time to pick up a pen and paper and mail someone a handwritten note to let them know you are thinking of them.
- Have Hope. This too, shall pass. Choose love. You are worth it.