Coronavirus Canada Updates: How to protect your mental health during second wave

Coronavirus Canada Updates: Manitoba sees lowest COVID-19 case count since October
Coronavirus Canada Updates: Manitoba sees lowest COVID-19 case count since October

Oh no, here we go again.

If the onset of the pandemic’s second wave has you feeling overwhelmed, wondering how you’re going to make it through another lockdown let alone another winter, you’re not alone.

“The first thing we can do is to normalize our reactions,” said Geneviève Fecteau, director of the Montreal branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association. “It’s normal to feel an accumulation of frustration and moral fatigue, to be more anxious or even show more signs of dependency since the beginning of the pandemic. It doesn’t mean we’re sick for life, in terms of our mental health.”

We need to go easy on ourselves, according to Fecteau, to be understanding toward those around us and to remember that everyone is doing their best to cope in a difficult situation.

After a summer during which people got to relax and spend more time outside, the second wave has arrived quite suddenly.

“We haven’t had a lot of time to consolidate our strengths, develop our resilience and take note of all the tools we developed to get us through (the first wave),” Fecteau said.

Everyone is different, she noted; but sticking to a routine is essential, particularly for those working from home.

“It’s important to get up in the morning and get dressed like you’re going to the office,” she said. “It gives you reference points. Schedule break times, and make clear lines between work and personal life.

“See what you can do that feels good, to compensate for the activities you can’t do: gardening, going for a walk — these little things are different for each person. There’s no magic recipe.”

Psychotherapist Jeremy Wexler recommends outdoor exercise to keep your spirits up. He also emphasizes maintaining a regular bedtime and wake-up time.

“And staying connected to people, not through social media,” Wexler said. “I strongly urge my clients to reduce their social media, as I do find it anxiety-provoking.”

Wexler has his own practice and works with the Montreal Therapy Centre, which is dedicated to providing affordable mental health care, offering a sliding payment scale and services in 17 languages. He points to other resources such as the Argyle Institute, which also has a sliding scale, and to CLSCs, which “all have mental health services covered by the public system.”

Concordia psychology professor Jean-Philippe Gouin is the Canada Research Chair in Chronic Stress and Health.

“When we evaluate the impact of the pandemic on mental health, it’s important to highlight that there’s a wide range of responses,” he said. “People are experiencing the pandemic in different ways, depending on the resources they have access to.”

One general guideline that can help people through the upcoming confinement is to set professional and personal goals for the month, Gouin offered.

“Then it’s a question of how I can adjust my expectations in response to the situation I’m in currently, according to what is realistic.”

He suggested spending time with loved ones, virtually or in person, calling elderly parents and checking in on neighbours who live alone.

“Make sure you remain connected not just with people who make you feel good, but with people who might be in need,” he said, adding that “it can help maintain feelings of social integration.”

Ultimately, Gouin believes that despite the current difficulties, the majority of people will make it through the lockdown and the pandemic relatively OK.

“The average person will be resilient,” he said. “Most people who experience traumatic events, such as natural disasters, have a period of increased stress, then it goes back to normal. It reminds us that things will be better.

“Although it’s painful and difficult right now, it’s also temporary.”

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