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COVID Mental Health Tips

Amanda Prokopwicz, Psychiatric Nurse Woodstock General Hospital offers a wealth of experience and professional advice. I first met Amanda as a client. Both her and her fiance trusted in me to assist them with their first home purchase. I am happy to say they have decided to make their first home in Ingersoll in a beautiful older century home that will easily accommodate them plus Amanda’s son. After meeting and getting to know Amanda I learned that she was a Psychiatric Nurse and worked locally at the Woodstock General Hospital.

Amanda was easily a great fit to give some wonderful tips and suggestions to help us all cope during this very unprecedented time. Social distancing is something new to us and our communities across the globe. This time may be causing many uncertainties, emotions and anxiety. I reached out to

Amanda to provide us with some helpful tips to keep ourselves feeling more balanced and aware of how we are coping. I hope you find her information as useful as I did. Sometimes its the little things we do that keep us feeling somewhat “normal” in and “not-so-normal” time. 

Ensure you are maintaining regular routine. Whether it is maintaining a working from home schedule, travel to work, home-schooling schedule, or adapting to life with young children in the home. Ensure you attending to a regular schedule of work, play and home routine, along with self care. If you find yourself stuck in a rut in terms of motivation to maintain routine, research behavioral activation tips and examples online.

You owe it to yourself to freshen up each morning. Shower, take a hot bath, use a hair mask, moisturize, try on those outfits that you “never wear”. Spend time on a new self care routine for yourself with this extra time.

There is truly nothing more refreshing than taking in some good ol’ vitamin D. Make a routine to ensure you are getting outside for an hour a day. If you are high risk, or unable to access the outdoors at this time, sit near a open window, or opt for a “sun lamp”. Vitamin D is crucial not only for bone health but for proper brain development and functioning. Low levels of vitamin D are associated with depression, anxiety and seasonal defective disorder.

Spend a few minutes a day moving your body- whether it’s dance or exercising. An activity such as dance or exercising increases your heart rate and causes a release of feel-good endorphins into the bloodstream. Exercise also releases cortisol, which is a stress hormone. Shake what your mama gave ya! If you are unsure where to start, there are many exercise videos such as Zumba, and dance routines uploaded onto Youtube.

During this time, it may be easy to find yourself stuck in poor eating habits, forgetting or avoiding to eat. Research has shown links from poor diet including high levels of saturated fat, refined carbohydrates and processed food products to depression and anxiety. Seek a diet rich in Omega 3, Fruits and Vegetables- and support local if you can and challenge yourself to that recipe you have been dying to try! Lastly, be mindful of your fluid intake, the 8 cup a day rule still applies, but I’m sure you can challenge yourself to 10!

Keep in touch with your support system! Frequency is more important than duration, regardless if it is a quick visit with your grandparents through their front window, Facetime with wine with the girls, a Friday night zoom chat with the boys, a phone call to your niece to say goodnight, or a conference call with your colleagues. That friend from college that you haven’t spoke to in years? Reach out to her, chances are she sees your Facebook posts of your kids, and is wondering how you are doing as well! There is truly no time like the present. Stay connected, and don’t be afraid to be raw with verbalizing your emotions. Although struggle looks different for us all at this time, change of routine, and isolation will impact even the strongest link. And lastly, don’t forget to keep dating your partner! Whether you are quarantined together or apart, make a habit to engage in simple, home based (or virtual) date nights together.

Self care! We hear it over and over again, but do we really have time to practice it as much as we would like? We owe it to ourselves to show our bodies extra kindness right now! Studies have shown, successful, and simple self care start with a sensory component- you know, the stuff you were so focused on researching for your toddler. Engage with something you can see, hear, smell, touch, or taste! Whether it’s a photo of
your vegetable garden from last year, your favorite podcast, lavender essential oil, a soft blanket, or an ice cream cone. Studies have further shown cold sensations can aid anxiety, reducing overwhelming feelings or impulsive actions.

Find your space! This cannot be stressed enough. Allowing yourself a comforting space to unwind and unload and practice self care, especially during this time where space is of the essence can truly make an impact on your mental health. These spaces can be as simple as a cozy corner of the couch, or a backyard hammock.

Spend time with your children; expect behavioral issues and respond gently and effectively. Just as you, children thrive on regular routine, and prediction to feel safe. Continue to check in with your children, and allow for a “safe place” to unload emotion. Children historically struggle to endorse emotions verbally, therefore pay extra attention to behaviors. Provide reassurance and validation to their concerns, aid with homework as you can, and stick to a schedule. Provide as much certainty in this uncertain time as you can.

Be good, and see the good. Help others as you can- support small businesses, front line workers, reach out to assist the elderly, isolated, and those with poor supports at this time. Understand the struggles of co-parenting and parenting at this time, and develop a parenting schedule while rotating duties and emotionally checking in to ensure the physical and emotional load of isolation is well managed at this time. A kind reminder that this may be the times where your parenting partner requires extra support, and roles may fluctuate from 50-50. Remember, we cannot control the
circumstances, but we can control how we respond and manage.

It seems news articles are being issued hourly, and information changes rapidly. Find a trusted resource to relay on for a daily update, and set a daily time limit on how much you consume.

Utilize your supports! Many doctors, counselors, psychiatrists and several community based supports (such as Canadian Mental Health Association, Walk in Counseling of Oxford County, Narcotics anonymous, Alcoholics anonymous) are offering support by phone or video call. HERE 24/7(Waterloo Wellington) 1-844-437-3247 and REACH OUT (Oxford) 1-866-933-2023 are local mental health, crisis and addiction services to access or explore options for support for yourself or a loved one. Other helpful mental health supports include Bounce Back Ontario and Big White Wall – which can both be accessed online for free. Parents- continue to connect with each other to share home schooling successes and failures. Local food resources can be accessed through Salvation Army or Inn out of the cold.

Although we are distant, oxford county has ensured the community remains more supported now than ever.

The uncertainty of this time can cause heightened anxieties, frustrations, and confusions. It is important to focus on what we can control, live in the moment while slowly preparing for the future, and reflect on what we have learned from this experience and how we can utilize that knowledge to promote change. A kind reminder that this pandemic is temporary, but growth is permanent.