Mental health experts say major public health events can be especially troublesome for those already living with conditions like anxiety and OCD. These uncertain times can take a toll on people’s lives causing stress and anxiety which can manifest both physically and mentally. These are normal and valid reactions to a health crisis. Being proactive about your health will benefit your mind and body in the long run.

We are living in a time of uncertainty which can cause anxiety and stress. Knowing that this pandemic is global reminds us that we are all in this together. There is strength in numbers, we know this. Together we can be stronger and collectively move forward. There is no playbook written for current times however we do have advisories and cautions in place to follow. 

Social distancing is important to adhere to as per our official’s recommendations. It means to keep a physical distance but it doesn’t have to mean to be less social, in fact this is a time where we need connection, kindness and support from one another. This is a time for reaching out, checking in and offering a helping hand. 

Stress management during an epidemic

It’s also a time to focus on our health both physically and mentally to take care of ourselves. The following are strategies and techniques to invite more calm and certainty into our lives:

Reach out: Connect with others by phone, e-mail, and online/virtual apps. 
Check in with others, talk about your concerns and be heard. Listen to others and offer support as well. 

Recognize what you can control: Focus on the things you can control such as how much of the news cycle you consume and how you choose to decrease your individual risk of getting sick. Make a list of what you can control; the act of writing it out helps to make it visual and easier to follow. 

Breathing techniques: Among the chaos and confusion we’re faced with right now, our breath can be used as a self-regulation tool. It’s always with us to use to come back to the present moment. Allow yourself to follow the inhale and exhale, deepening and lengthening each breath. Noticing our breath can calm our nervous system and allow for opportunities to ease any tension in our body that might be held from stress.  For a breathing technique try an equal breath of 5 counts in and 5 counts out, repeat 5 times. 

Practice gratitude: Looking for what you are thankful for in life helps to bring about more joy in your life especially during difficult situations. Studies cited in Psychology Today highlight that people practicing gratitude improves both physical and psychological health and are more resilient in overcoming trauma and stress. 

Remind yourself of your priorities: Think about what is most important and bring your attention to those aspects of your life in ways that help you to feel calmer, more in control and soothed.

Build upon your healthy habits: Eat nourishing food, proper sleep hygiene, keep a regular daily routine or create comforting rituals, stay active through exercise and regular home activities, hydrate and reduce your stress through meditation and/or mindfulness. A body scan guided meditation is a great choice for a mindfulness practice.  This practice guides you into present moment through paying attention to bodily sensations and helps to make the mind-body connection.

Do what you enjoy (and do it often): Infuse fun into your day with activities you enjoy! Read, work on a puzzle, write, draw, dance, listen to music, mindful movement, etc. 

Limit media: Setting limits on your media for the time and type you consume.  Ensuring your sources are credible and accurate to reduce any misinformation to further mitigate fear.

Pause and Reflect: There is power in pausing. Instead of reacting and panicking you can choose to pause, think and respond in your own way when you’re ready. Reflect on how your body is feeling and what thoughts you have to be able to make informed decisions that are best for your long-term health.

Seek a professional: Reach out to a Mental Health professional to have further discussion about your concerns. Check out this link for help.

These are the tools and strategies you can add into your every day routine. Together we can put them to work to build our inner calm to tame the thoughts of the unknowns to come.

It’s true we are in the middle of a time where changes to our landscape and lives are occurring at lightning speed. It’s also true that during this health crisis, that it can spark more of our leadership, compassion, creativity and deep kindness towards others. Even though we are in times of uncertainty, we can always be certain that we can make the choice to take a whole health approach moving forward and support each other through these evolving times. 

Some resources for those in crisis in Canada:

Crisis Services Canada: 1-833-456-4566 or text 45645; 1-866-277-3553 (from Quebec):

Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868

First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line: 1-855-242-3310

Native Youth Crisis Hotline: 1-877-209-1266

eMentalHealth.ca: https://www.ementalhealth.ca/

More Insight: Check out this great article on how to manage your digital health during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Author: Doris Ward is a nationally recognized fitness professional, workshop facilitator, and an award-winning personal trainer. As a coach and yoga instructor, she also leads body image and goal-setting workshops and yoga classes for chronic pain management and for those recovering from trauma. She is trained in Mindfulness, Yoga for Trauma, Coaching, Body Positivity, Peer Support Group Facilitation, and Mental Health First Aid. She has been certified as a Yoga Instructor, Pilates Instructor, Personal Trainer, Schwinn Cycling Instructor, and Group Fitness Instructor. Doris is a regular contributor of OptiMYz magazine.

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