This an extremely challenging time with far more questions than answers about how we got here and where we’re headed next. It’s also put a renewed focus on mental health as people grapple with feelings of fear, stress and loneliness brought on by the pandemic and resulting social isolation measures.
To help provide support, I’ve offered some answers below to a handful of questions related to Covid-19 and mental health. I hope you find these responses informative and helpful.
1. How can I manage my feelings of loneliness while in self-isolation?
Loneliness can be a symptom of isolation so it’s perfectly reasonable to feel this way right now. An important thing to remember is that even though we’re being told by government and health officials to avoid physical contact, we can still find alternate ways of connecting with people and staying in touch with the world beyond our four walls. Some ideas include:
2. How do I cope with this new pressure to work, parent and homeschool all at once?
This is a common question from parents nowadays as they try and juggle the simultaneous demands of homelife, work life and school life all under one roof. It’s an unprecedented balancing act made all the more challenging because nobody knows how long this pandemic will last.
So how can parents manage?
The first and most important thing I want to emphasize is kindness — self-kindness, that is. Now is the time to be most compassionate with yourself and to let go of unrealistic expectations of “having it all”. Despite living in a society that values perfection, it’s simply unrealistic (read: impossible) to achieve that right now. These are stressful times, so take stock of some small changes you can make (e.g. allowing more screen time than normal or asking for a reduced workload) that will make life a little bit easier. This too shall pass.
3. How can I avoid passing my fear and stress onto my kids?
Fear and stress are legitimate emotions to be experiencing right now but it’s understandable to want to shield your children from feeling the same way. If you’re concerned about passing your current feelings of anxiety to the youngest members of your household, consider the following tips:
4. How can I pace myself for this 'new normal'?
I know it sounds cliché but there’s simply no better advice than to take it one day — or even one moment — at time. We’re all in survival mode right now and our bodies become exhausted when they’re constantly fending off fear or stress. For this reason, it’s important to stay attuned to our feelings and respond accordingly. If we’re having a low energy or “nothing” day, take some time to rest, recover and regroup. Likewise, consider spending a “good” day accomplishing one of those household tasks you’ve been putting off.
5. Self-isolation is creating tension and more conflict in my relationship: what should I do?
Our lives don’t typically involve the stress of pandemics or staying indoors 24/7, so it makes sense that our personal relationships are being tested right now. Two keys to making it through this time with your significant other are compassion and communication.
As humans we thrive on consistency, so when something like the Covid-19 crisis hits, it can cause us to feel many different emotions, including panic. Panic is a healthy and perfectly appropriate reaction to the uncertainty swirling around us right now so rather than pushing it away, try to acknowledge it with compassion. Remember that your whole day is likely not filled with panic so use that as a reminder that this state of fear is only temporary.
7. I'm feeling fear, but I'm also experiencing feelings of grief. Is that normal?
Yes. This pandemic has disrupted our sense of normalcy so it’s perfectly natural to be grieving your way of life B.C. (before Covid-19). While some people may be sad over their loss of freedom and daily routines, others may be grieving a lost job or missed celebrations with family and friends. Grief typically comes in stages (e.g. denial, anger, acceptance), so try and be patient and kind with yourself knowing that your feelings are reasonable and appropriate at this time.
8. What if I or someone I care for needs mental health support but don't currently have a therapist?
Many therapy professionals are making themselves available to new clients and have adapted their practices by shifting to virtual or telephone counselling. This is a very challenging time and speaking with a mental health practitioner is a healthy way of coping with the stress and fear you may be feeling right now. I encourage you to reach out to a therapy professional if you or a loved one is in need of extra support.
Lindsay Ross, MSW RSW, is a clinical social worker in private practice in Toronto, Ontario.