This is a stressful time and it’s natural to feel anxious about COVID-19. Worries about the virus, physical distancing and increased isolation from others can all contribute to deteriorating mental health.
While we may feel stressed, it’s important that we all do what we can to create a positive frame of mind and take care of our mental health and well-being – and remember to pay attention to the mental health and well-being of others. For many people living with acquired brain injury, isolation is an everyday challenge. It’s stressful and lonely. With more and more accessible and virtual options being developed during the pandemic, survivors now have more options for connections. It’s important to remember this when physical/social distancing measures are lifted.
To support mental health and well-being, we’ve created this guide to help.
Tips to take care of your mental health
1. Take breaks from news and social media
It’s important to be aware of COVID-19, how to protect yourself, and any updates in your area. But the constant stream of news and social media posts can be overwhelming. If necessary, you can unfollow news social media accounts and take breaks from scrolling.
If you want to fill your newsfeed with something a little more cheerful, The Happy Broadcast focuses on positive news around the world, including updates about COVID-19.
2. Get your facts about COVID-19 from the right sources
When you do want more information about COVID-19, it’s important to get it from reliable sources. Sources include:
For some basic information about COVID-19, check out our article on social (physical) distancing, isolation, and quarantine.
It might seem like a cliché, but deep breathing and meditation can be an excellent way to clear your mind, take up some time, and improve your mood. We suggest trying guided meditations – these give you something to focus on and walk you through each step.
4. Create a structure for your day
When you spend the majority of your day at home, it’s easy to stop keeping some sort of schedule. Creating a structure to your day will help both your to-do list and your mental health. Break big tasks up into smaller ones, and write down what you’re going to do each day.
To help you create a daily schedule, we’ve created this downloadable daily planner.
5. Exercise and get outdoors
We feel good when we are active and get fresh air. As long as you stay 6 feet away from people who don’t live in your household, you can go on as many walks as you want. Walking is a great form of exercise and a great way to clear your mind and focus on positive feelings. You can make it even more entertaining by listening to music, an audio book or a podcast while you do it.
If you want a bit more of a workout, YouTube has several videos you can use as a guide. If you’re working with a physical therapist, you can do the exercises you have learned from them as well.
6. Eat a healthy diet
As tempting as it is to dive into junk food, we feel better when we eat well. One of the ways you can plan out a healthy diet and stick to it is by creating a meal plan. A meal plan will not only take the guesswork out of what you’re making for dinner, but it will help you create a grocery list. A grocery list is a must-have when practicing physical distancing, as it can eliminate multiple trips. Meal planning is also a great way to practice your organization skills.
To help you create a meal plan, we’ve created this handy downloadable template with room for a week’s worth of meals. You can print it and put it on your fridge.
7. Limit caffeine and alcohol
Caffeine can make it difficult for you to fall asleep and lead to increased feelings of restlessness and anxiety.
Alcohol can also cause problems with sleep. It’s also not a healthy or effective coping method for stress – it can actually make symptoms associated with your mental health worse (Source: Alberta Health Services).
8. Do things that make you happy
Physical distancing means we’re spending a lot of time alone or with the other members of our households. This can lead to bouts of boredom and inactivity, which can contribute to feelings of melancholy and depression. It’s easy during this time to feel guilty about not being productive, especially if you’re comparing your experience at home to other people. But you don’t have to be productive during quarantine – you should instead focus on doing what you enjoy.
9. Connect socially
Public health officials are recommending that instead of calling staying home social distancing, we call it physical distancing. That’s because while we need to stay physically apart, we shouldn’t stop being social with each other. We just have to come up with alternatives. Video chats, phone calls, texting and email are all great ways to stay socially connected while staying safe.
Many local brain injury associations are now offering services online. They may not be exactly the same as in-person services, but they are a great way to stay connected and stay informed.
10. Let yourself feel disappointed or frustrated – but don’t dwell on those feelings
This is a trying time – trips and outings will be cancelled, events will be missed, and a lot of services are closed. As important as these measures are for public health and safety, it’s disappointing and frustrating.
Let yourself feel frustrated and disappointed, but try to process those feelings as constructively as possible. Acknowledge you’re frustrated, but then also think about how you are going to move on and what positive steps you’ll take.
This is also great to do if you’re trying to speak with kids about COVID-19 as well. They will take their lead from you, and if you talk about your feelings and positive coping strategies, the kids will attempt to do the same.
Tips to support others during quarantine
Even though we have to stay 6 feet apart, there are still ways we can support others during this difficult time.
1. Make donations
Local food banks and other organizations are struggling to keep up with the demand as people become more and more dependent on their services. This is incredibly stressful for both workers and community members who need access to food and other services. If you are able to, a monetary donation can help support the community.
2. Support local business
Many local restaurants, shops, and services have had to close because of COVID-19. While this is important for public safety, it’s incredibly hard for the business owners who have lost their source of income.
If you are able to, try and support these local businesses during physical distancing. For example, some places are still selling gift cards and some restaurants are offering food delivery. Your support will make them feel appreciated and help them as they cope with this stressful time.
3. Reach out to people
Many of us are lucky enough to have family and friends we can speak with in person or virtually. Not everyone has someone they are closely connected to, and that can be hard when you spend long periods of time alone.
Take some time and reach out to people you know but maybe don’t talk to very often. Or post in a community group on platforms like Facebook that you’re here to talk if anyone needs it. Seeing those messages and knowing people are there to support them can really help people who are struggling right now.
4. Offer an ear – and some resources
If someone does need to talk about how they’re feeling, why not offer them an ear? It’s a great way to help someone out, and it helps you stay connected with others. However, it’s important to talk about how you feel is well: for example, if you don’t feel able to talk about COVID-19 right now or don’t want to engage in negative conversations, make sure you share that with the person. You need to take care of your own mental health as well.
If the person is open to it, offer them some resources with more information that could help them.
Resources on mental health and COVID-19
Please note: we cannot guarantee the accessibility of the sites to which we link.
- Frequently asked questions and information about COVID-19 from the Canadian Association of Mental Health
- COVID-19 and Your Mental Health: a resource from Alberta Health Services
- Information on COVID-19 from the Government of Canada
- Mental health considerations during COVID-19 from the World Health Organization
- The World Health Organization’s tips on coping with stress