Coping with COVID-19 stress

You may not be sick with COVID-19, but you are absolutely affected by it — and your mental health is at risk too. Although this is a global event unmatched by anything we’ve seen before, you are not helpless and certainly shouldn’t be hopeless as we navigate the pandemic and face related uncertainty. There are many ways you can build resilience, and many things you can do to improve your ability to cope.

  1. Check the news no more than twice a day – and for short periods only.
  2. Get some fresh air, exercise and sunshine every day. Doing so releases stress, boosts your immune system and will improve your mood. Learn about Nature Therapy and its benefits.
  3. Connect virtually with family, friends and colleagues each day.
  4. Listen to music or learn/play an instrument every day.
  5. Cook healthy meals to boost your health – and try your hand at making the take-out dishes you may be missing.
  6. Get some exercise every day. A few mini workouts throughout the day and evening offer the same health benefits as one longer workout and can be more effective in countering the negatives of an otherwise sedentary day.
  7. Clean your home from top to bottom with safe-to-use ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, etc. Read about 10 simple ways to detox your home.
  8. Meditate or at least take some deep breaths every day. Learn about mindfulness here and Find tips for self-care here.
  9. Watch something funny and laugh every day – try some funny videos or a classic comedy.
  10. Do something kind for someone else each day. What will it be today?

Tips for maintaining mental health through COVID-19

The escalation of COVID-19 is leading to natural increases in stress, worry and anxiety in many people the world over. The uncertainty associated with the virus, the disruption to our usual routines, and the need to work from home or self-isolate can have significant impacts on well-being and mental health.

For individuals and communities who have to self-isolate, practice physical distancing, or who have otherwise been impacted by COVID-19, it’s natural to be experiencing increased levels of concern, anxiety, and fear.

Below are some basic tips on managing your mental health and well-being during this challenging time:

Managing stress and anxiety

  • Anxiety often involves having catastrophic thoughts about what might happen. Challenge these thoughts by stepping back from them, reminding yourself that your worst-case scenario will likely never unfold, and focus instead on what you can control in the present
  • Practice deep breathing exercises for stress relief when you notice yourself feeling anxious
  • Practice letting go of the emotions. Meditation and mindfulness can help. Click here for tips to help you build resilience
  • Practice breathing relaxation, yoga or meditation each day, using apps or online resources
  • Connect with others and share your fears –by way of phone or social media
  • Don’t ignore your anxiety; accept it as a natural response to what is happening and practice self care
  • Avoid media saturation about COVID-19 – keep informed once a day should be enough
  • Focus on the positive. There is good care available for those with COVID-19; people with COVID-19 are recovering, and this situation is temporary. Eventually things will return to normal
  • Avoid seeking advice and checking for health symptoms on the internet and be sure to obtain health information from reputable sources
  • Try to get enough sleep. Lack of sleep can make you feel overwhelmed, which will make it harder to cope during stressful times
  • Avoid or limit drinks with caffeine (e.g., pop, coffee, tea, energy drinks), they can make you feel anxious or restless and affect your sleep
  • If these strategies don’t provide relief, seek online therapy resources or telehealth counseling

Managing isolation

  • Maintain your regular routine as much as possible. Focus on what needs to happen today, and make a list of what you need to do in the next day or week to keep yourself safe and comfortable
  • Make time each day to connect with others
  • Get some exercise. A daily walk will do you good (but please adhere to applicable physical distancing and isolation guidelines you/your family/community
  • Schedule time for fun activities with the people you are living with
  • Unless they are sick, hug your people and pets
  • Set up social media times with friends for coffee chats, virtual lunches, or at-home workouts
  • Call people and help others stay connected

Walking: the new ‘superfood’ of exercise

From the time we’re just mere months old, we’re eager to get onto our feet and to move… and with good reason. Walking can help increase our fitness and keep us healthy; provides us with an ideal mode of transportation; helps us connect with nature; and offers simple enjoyment. As we practice social isolation and physical distancing, many Canadians have re-discovered walking, and some are enjoying it so much, that they’re pledging to make it part of their lives for good. They’re making a smart choice: walking more is likely the single best thing most Canadians can do to improve their health.

Exercise is medicine:
Walking lowers or reduces the risk of many health conditions, including: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and breast and colon cancers. Walking also improves muscle tone in the lower body and uses up calories (a 45-minute walk burns approx. 270 calories, based on a 150 lb woman). Walking is a safe, low-impact and easy way to take steps towards the physical activity you need each day.

Pick up the pace:
I encourage brisk walking, or periods of moderate pace walking, alternating with periods of higher intensity walking, jogging, running, or skipping to get the heart pumping more vigorously. I also encourage walkers to keep tabs on the intensity of their walking workouts using the easy “talk test” method. Simply put, if you can string together six to eight words in one breath while walking, you’re likely in your aerobic training zone. If you can speak more words than that, you’re likely not working out hard enough. If you find yourself gasping for air and struggling to get more than a word or two out, it’s time to reduce your pace.

Let’s talk technique:
Watch your stride length: To help avoid injury, focus on shorter, quicker steps instead of lengthening your stride.

Challenge yourself: If you’re already a fitness walker, challenge yourself with greater distances, hills, and uneven terrain. Want to increase the value of your walking workout further still?

1 – Alternate periods of walking with higher intensity intervals such as jumping rope, jumping jacks, or running.

2 – Walking an uneven trail for a balance challenge will burn 82 percent more calories while providing a change of scene from city streets.

3 – Use an app or even a simple pedometer to count your steps and track your distance. Strive for at least 10,000 steps (or about eight kilometres) per day.

4 – Use Nordic poles to get upper body muscles involved. In fact, Nordic walking, done properly, requires the use of over 90% of the muscles in the body.

Proper form and technique will ensure a better workout while reducing the odds of injury. Remember to stand tall and think about your alignment: ears over your shoulders, shoulders over hips, hips over knees and knees over feet. Try to keep your shoulders and hips relaxed and loose. Let your arms move with your steps, and keep them bent at a 90-degree angle without tensing upper back and shoulder muscles.

Need a little motivation?

1 – Keep a journal and record your workouts and progress.
2 – Wear a pedometer or use an app to track the number of steps you take each day.
3 – Walk with friends, family, or colleagues for company and support.
4 – Sign up for a charity walk, work towards your goal, and hold yourself accountable.
5 – Listen to a favorite playlist.
6 – Reward your progress.
8 – Be a role model and help others work towards their healthy lifestyle goals.
9 – Remind yourself how far you’ve come.