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Making mental health a priority during COVID-19

mental health
Sticking to a normal routine, staying in touch with friends and family, and practicing self-care are some of the tips experts offered to help focus on mental health during the coronavirus. File photo.

BONNYVILLE – Whether it's worry about the coronavirus or stress about the financial implications, it's more important than ever to make your mental health a priority.

“I think people are going to feel anxiety, stress, overwhelmed, and some of that can lead to depression,” explained registered psychologist Stephanie Mang, with TLC Counselling and Psychology Services in Bonnyville.

Dr. Nicholas Mitchell, Alberta Health Services (AHS) provincial medical director for addictions and mental health, noted it’s “pretty normal” to feel this way.

“That’s expected and that’s okay. I think a lot of folks are also worried because we see things change so rapidly, and we have a feeling that we don’t know what’s going to happen next. That’s typical, normal, and expected in a situation where we’ve had so much interruption to our daily lives.”

Mitchell said acknowledging how you’re feeling is important during this time.

Making self-care part of a routine and focusing on your own needs are some of the suggestions Mang offered to keep your mind healthy. 

“Making sure that they’re eating healthy, staying connected with family and friends through video calls, stay active, stick to normal routines like getting up at the same time every day, and going to bed at the same time.”

Mitchell added, “Try to avoid things like alcohol and processed and sugary foods that really cause your blood sugar to fluctuate, and reach out to your support networks. That might look different, you might not be able to talk to people in person, but maintaining connections with people you can trust and talk to and that will listen to you.”

For families with children, Mang and Mitchell agreed sticking to the usual daily routines will help give them a sense of normalcy.

“From Monday to Friday, we’re getting up for our day. You can make sure they’re staying active, that they’re eating properly, doing some school work, or focusing on different relaxation or mindfulness-type activities,” Mang added.

Taking time as a family to unplug and unwind by playing board games could help de-stress and get your mind off of the situation.

However, it's also important to acknowledge what's going on and answer any questions children have about the coronavirus. Sitting down to have an open and honest conversation will ensure youth are getting accurate information.

“A child might (not) have the same coping strategies or skills to deal with it. They might not know how to sort the information so they can evaluate what’s true and what isn’t,” detailed Mitchell. “It’s important that we engage with kids to help support them through it. It’s also to help them develop healthy habits through modelling it, but also through talking to them about what will work for them.”

He continued, “Figure out what they already know or what they believe about the situation and what they’re feeling about it. Really pay attention to what they’re expressing, not just in terms of their words but their emotions. You want them to talk about their feelings and their thoughts, and validate their thoughts, feelings, and concerns are real too.”

It's okay if you don't have all of the answers, Mitchell stressed. Instead, take the opportunity to look into it further.

Regardless of what situation you find yourself in, Mitchell said taking care of your physical and mental health is crucial.

“If stress goes unchecked and builds up, it can lead to difficulties with ongoing anxieties and depression,” he stated. “It's better to pay attention to your body, emotions, and reactions to deal with them early before they get to the point where they’re causing significant problems.”

Mang agreed, and encouraged anyone who’s “feeling their fears are becoming unmanageable, then they should seek the assistance of a psychologist or a professional.”

Follow our COVID-19 special section for the latest local and national news on the coronavirus pandemic, as well as resources, FAQs and more.

Robynne Henry, Bonnyville Nouvelle





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