Are you finding yourself feeling an increased sense of anxiety or depression during this time?
That is not an uncommon feeling during the COVID-19 Pandemic. COVID-19 can leave many of confused, unsure of the future or feeling lost which can result in anxiety, depression and feeling overwhelmed with emotions.
If you feel this way, please know that you are not alone. This is something that has disrupted all of our lives and is not easy to deal with. If you are feeling this way, we strongly encourage you to seek help to cope with this situation to keep your mental and emotional health strong.
At Capital Choice Counselling your mental and emotional health are our #1 priority.
COVID-19: How Massive Change & Heightened Threat Can Affect the Brain
Naturally the coronavirus has been a huge change for all of us. It has affected the way we go to school, run errands, communicate with others, our relationships and our day to day activities.
Major life changes, stressors and imminent threats can be known to cause a series of physiological and emotional responses to human beings.
You may be feeling and wondering about the future and asking yourself questions such as;
‘How do I maintain relationships with my friends during this time?’
‘Will I graduate from school on time?’
‘Will this have an impact on college or university applications?’
‘What will the future look like?’
‘What happens if my family or I get sick?’
Stress, anxiety, depressions and other mental and emotional health issues are common for human beings to experience during difficult times and can be managed through a variety of coping strategies.
How Your Brain Responds to the Situation at Hand
A common initial response for the human brain when coping with a difficult situation is denial and suppression. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us may have felt that the problem was distant and insignificant due to it possibly not having a direct impact on our day to day lives and the people around us. When cases started to build across the country in Canada, the issue became much more ‘real’ to many us. Once the government began to put measures in place to prevent the spread of cases, such as closing non-essential businesses, social-distancing and closing public places, the situation became scarier and had a direct impact on us all.
How the Brain Perceives the COVID-19 Pandemic as a Threat
Our brain is used to routine, predictability and situations that it feels like it can control. You may be a student going to school at the same time every day, participating in routine activities such as extracurricular programs, tutoring, sports, a job, or clubs. These all help us to create a day to day routine and help us work towards a goal. Many of these activities have been disrupted, altered or even cancelled to be accommodating of the new rules and regulations put in place by the government.
These changes to your day to day routine occurred seemingly overnight with more news and changes being announced every day.
This causes the human brain to feel threatened which can lead to an increase in stress, anxiety, depression, overeating and substance use as well as other detrimental human responses are common in negative situations.
What Your Brain Likes About Day to Day Routine
The human brain appreciates day to day routine since it feels like it is in a safe situation that it can control. When we participate in routine activities our brain has an expected outcome, since it has seen a similar result in the past.
Humans by nature have a tendency to:
- Calculate a situation and weigh the potential risk, reward & threat
- Respond to various threats by choosing to avoid them or eliminate them (a ‘fight or flight’ response)
- Take actions within our control
- Create a predictable and hopefully successful outcome
Due to COVID-19 our brain is unable to process how to handle the situation and prepare for the outcome since it is difficult for all of us to predict.
That being said, one thing that we can do is focus on strengthening our mental and emotional health during this time.
Mental and Emotional Response
Returning to the idea of a ‘Fight or Flight’ mode as mentioned above, many of us may feel helpless since the situation is so unknown to us. As a result of this we may find ourselves resorting to flight mode. This could in many people lead to feeling shutdown, unable to do anything productive to help the situation and cause us to look for ways to distract us from what has been going on.
If you find yourself:
- Finding decision making to be challenging
- Finding less enjoyment in activities
- Feeling irritable
- Finding tasks overwhelming
- Having difficulty remembering things
You may be dealing with anxiety or stress. These are all signs that you may be struggling to handle the situation. This is not an uncommon response. Speaking with a professional counsellor may help you create a routine and help you cope with the situation.
The Effect of Coronavirus on Diagnosed Mental Disorders / Clinical Depression / Clinical Anxiety
If you have already been diagnosed with or suffered from clinical depression, clinical anxiety or other mental health issues, in the past you may be having an even more difficult time due to COVID-19.
Please know that you are not alone during this time and that professional help is still available to help you get through this.
Coping Strategies for COVID-19
There are a number of healthy coping strategies that you can take to handle the pandemic and improve your overall mental and physical state. These strategies provide a healthy way to deal with the stress and uncertainties that arise as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Improving Your Sleep Regimen
Many people have reported experiencing difficulty sleeping and even nightmares or vivid dreams during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is suggested to be caused by stress and anxiety that occurs while you are awake. This is a challenging and difficult time that has disrupted our day to day lives leading to disrupted sleeping patterns.
Another potential cause of sleep issues are changes in sleep schedules. REM sleep and dreams are used to help humans process intense emotions, especially negative ones. Not being able to get a good night’s sleep can cause more stress and anxiety for your body and mind during the day since these emotions cannot get properly managed during your sleep.
Some tips to help improve sleep include:
- Practicing meditation or yoga
- Avoid eating close to bedtime
- Reducing your intake of caffeine & alcohol
- Eliminating screen-time close to bedtime
Improving your sleep can help you to improve your mental and emotional state and also help to promote a strong immune system.
Reduce Social Media Usage and News Exposure
Reducing the amount of time spent exposed to news and social media usage has been proven to improve mental health.
Consume media in small, spaced out doses. This will help to give your brain time to process the news that you are hearing and prevent getting overwhelmed by too much information.
Keep in Touch with Family & Friends
While you may not be able to see friends and family in person for the time being due to social distancing, you can still remain in touch over several different mediums of communications.
To keep in touch you can:
- Call each other over facetime
- Send packages or letters
- Text or call
- Chat with a group over zoom or house party
Try not to lose touch with the people that mean most to you in your lives during this time.
Everything in Moderation
During this time, you may find yourself easily giving in to temptations such as food, alcohol or caffeine. These can all have an overall effect on your physical and mental health.
Try your best to reduce giving into temptations, but still give yourself time to enjoy a treat or craving from time to time.
Staying fit and healthy, by consuming healthy, clean foods, staying hydrated and working out from home can all help your overall mental and physical state during this time.
Should I receive counselling during this time? Is it safe to get counselling right now?
You may be asking yourself these questions. Luckily many counsellors have offered a variety of options for safe counselling that include e-counselling, tele-therapy and phone counselling. All of these methods are approved by the College of Psychologist of Ontario ensuring that all of your private information is secure. Counselling is a great way to share your feelings and gain insight into your mental and emotional state right now.
Know that you are not alone during this challenging time and that we are all in this together.
If you are interested in online therapy or telehealth counselling, feel free to reach out to Capital Choice Counselling and we can help you find a counsellor that would be the right fit for you.