Taking care of your mental health during social distancing or isolation

Photo Amanda Jones

As we begin to spend more time alone or work from home to practise responsible social distancing it can take a toll on our mental health. A media cycle filled with information on the COVID-19 pandemic can also become overwhelming and we don’t know exactly when it will end.

Karen Lara, of locally based Antares Counselling, said fear and anxiety can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in both adults and children.

“When we don’t manage stress well, our immune system’s ability to fight off antigens is reduced, making us more susceptible to infections,” she said. “The stress hormone cortisol can decrease the effectiveness of the immune system, particularly when it is suppressed chronically (long term). Effective stress management strategies are integral to maintaining personal wellness, as our mind-body connection is so powerful.”

Lara said a stress response may look like fear and worry about your health or the health of others, changes in sleeping and eating patterns, difficulty concentrating, worsening of chronic health problems or increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs.

We asked SPIN readers and friends what they are doing to take care of their mental health during this trying time. See below for ideas to get started and keep yourself as mentally strong and healthy as possible.

Indoors

Cooking
Didn’t get to the grocery store in time to buy your regular groceries? Challenge yourself to make a delicious meal from just items in your pantry. When you’re done try tweeting a photo at Gordon Ramsey to be rated.

Deep clean
Spring cleaning can be easy to delay, take advantage of more time at home by deep cleaning around the house. We’re starting on our pantries and closets. If you want even more good feelings, organize items which you can donate to charity when social distancing is no longer needed.

Study
No better time to learn a new subject. Apps like Duolingo can help you pick up a new language or students can take the time to nail a topic, exam or project.

Knitting
Always wanted to learn but never made the time? Pick up those needles and start out with some simple YouTube tutorials.

Spend time in the sunlight
Even if you just move your chair in front of your house’s brightest window! Decreased sun exposure has been linked with a drop in serotonin levels.

Workout from home
Endless workout classes from HIIT to yoga can be found on YouTube. Pvolve, fitness classes based in New York City, are also offering three streamed classes a day for free.

Meditation
The act of meditating has been proven to reduce stress, control anxiety and improve sleep. It’s also very easy to start. Guided meditation videos are available online or through apps like Headspace, which is currently offering free resources.

Facetime a friend
Catch up with a friend, from a distance! Schedule video chats with friends or family, especially those who are older or immuno-comprimsed and may feel even more isolated or anxious.

Journaling
This activity doesn’t have to be like your middle school diary. Try a stream of consciousness free write to get the heavy thoughts out of your head, list five things you’re grateful for each day or open up Pinterest for some bullet journaling inspiration.

Read a book
You know the one that has been on your bedside table collecting dust for months. If you don’t have any books at home try openlibrary.org, buy an e-book on Amazon or look at digital libraries through the Thompson Nicola Regional Libraries.

Take a virtual museum tour
Museums around the globe offer virtual tours. Some standouts are the British Museum, Guggenheim Museum, Musée d’Orsay and the Louvre. Even the Sydney Opera House has an online tour.

Play video games
Disconnect from it all by streaming video games online or playing on consoles you already own.

Netflix
Old faithful. A new series called Pandemic gives an accurate depiction of what’s happening on a global scale right now. Want to forget about viruses? In February Netflix Canada added Narcos: Mexico season two and Locke & Key. For the romantic they added Crazy, Stupid, Love and P.S. I Love You.

Puzzles and games
Dust off your stack of games and puzzles and play with your roommates or family!

Renew your Spotify
Focus on all the fun to come when this storm has passed by perfecting your playlists. We will be working one for chilling out, one for cleaning and one for blasting on summer adventures.

Outdoors

Bike Rides
Spring has arrived in Kamloops and is on it’s way in Sun Peaks. The perfect time to dust off your bike and get some fresh air. Just wait for the go ahead from local riding associations that the trails are dry enough.

Walk with your dog or kids
Challenge yourself to walk the entire Valley Trail loop in one day or head to Kamloops where hiking trails like Battle Bluff are ready for the hiking season.

Snowshoe
There are lots of areas in and around Sun Peaks which will have enough snow to snowshoe for a while to come. Explore a new area or return to an old favourite.

Teach your dog a new trick
With more time spent with our four-legged friends there is no better chance to teach fido that trick you’ve always wanted to master. See how long they can sit and stay for or look at local trainer Sarah Rose’s Canine Mobility Project Facebook page for ideas on keeping your dog active and healthy

Mental Health Resources
BC’s non-medical hotline for COVID-19 questions 1-888-COVID19
Crisis Services Canada 1-833-456-4566 or text 45645
Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868
ementalhealth.ca

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