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Follow sound advice to manage your mental health amid pandemic

'Self-care is critically important at this time, as worries can be made worse if we aren’t taking care of ourselves,' says Phyllis O'Connor, executive director of the CMHA Saskatchewan Division
Stress 02142020
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The COVID-19 coronavirus is stressing out many people and negatively affecting their mental health, so the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Saskatchewan Division has offered several tips to manage this anxiety.

It’s normal to feel anxious, especially since there is a heightened level of attention being paid to the pandemic, said executive director Phyllis O’Connor. You should not avoid, ignore or suppress any anxious thoughts. Instead, you should be aware of your anxiety and accept that this is what you are feeling in this situation.

Instead, you should keep things in perspective, while you should notice and challenge those thoughts that might be extreme or unhelpful.

“Self-care is critically important at this time, as worries can be made worse if we aren’t taking care of ourselves,” O’Connor said.

You should lean on social supports, attempt to get enough sleep, eat healthily, exercise every day even if it’s simply going for a walk, and engage in enjoyable activities. O’Connor suggested doing the things you would typically do to support your health, while you should use caution and follow health and safety guidelines while doing them.

Take seriously the recommended precautions from Health Canada, the Saskatchewan Health Authority and other credible health agencies.

You should remain focused on the factors within your control, such as washing hands, covering your mouth while coughing or sneezing, immediately tossing in the garbage used facial tissues, and avoiding non-essential travel.

Perhaps most importantly, you should seek information from reliable news sources only, she continued. You should limit how much you check the news to short, defined periods, while you should refrain from setting related push notifications to your device. Mute certain words or accounts on your social media feeds that might set you off.

“Appropriate information consumption may be calming and can lessen the sense of danger,” O’Connor said.

Advice from other sources suggests you should limit your time on social media, and instead, attempt to talk to people face-to-face or in some verbal form as much as possible. Watch non-news TV shows, watch a movie, listen to a podcast or read a book.

Journalling can be of value, while praying or meditating is also important.

The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests you should seek out information mainly to take practical steps to prepare your plans and protect yourself and your loved ones. You should also seek information updates at specific times once or twice a day.

“The sudden and near-constant stream of news reports about an outbreak can cause anyone to feel worried,” the WHO added.

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people who may respond more strongly to stress include:

  • Older people and people with chronic diseases who are at higher risk for COVID-19;
  • Children and teens;
  • People who help with the response to COVID-19, such as doctors, health-care providers, or first responders;
  • People who have mental health conditions including problems with substance use.

Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include:

  • Fear and worry about your health and the health of your loved ones;
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns;
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating;
  • Worsening of chronic health problems;
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.

“Sharing the facts about COVID-19 and understanding the actual risk to yourself and people you care about can make an outbreak less stressful,” the CDC added. “When you share accurate information about COVID-19, you can help make people feel less stressed and allow you to connect with them.”

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