As COVID-19 cases surge across Canada, the stress of the situation can once again begin to weigh on Canadians.
Dr. Shimi Kang, a mental health expert and clinical associate professor at the University of British Columbia, offered her top five tips for managing mental health during COVID-19’s second wave.
Kang believes the best way to handle your own mental health during a potential second lockdown is to take care of your body and mind.
“There is no health without mental health,” she told CTV National News. “Now is the time for us to of course pay attention to COVID guidelines, but really focus and prioritize our mental health.”
Her recommendations for self-care include proper sleep, routine exercise, positive social connections and mental stimulation.
“These are the ingredients of a healthy life,” Kang said. “We need them now more than ever.”
IDENTIFY, PRACTICE AND MASTER COPING SKILLS
Kang said it’s important for people to identify three specific things they can do to cope with high-stress situations.
“These are things that you do when you know the stress levels are going up and self-care isn’t enough,” she said. “For me, I do things like breathing, gratitude, a walk outside and nap, listen to my playlist. Find three and use them regularly.”
LEARN FROM THE FIRST WAVE
Kang suggests Canadians can use their experience during the initial wave to their advantage this time around.
“Back in March, we learnt about ourselves,” she said. “We learned what we did well to get through the stress of lockdown and we learned what we didn’t do so well.”
“Think back to that time and now be proactive, take those steps that you know you needed to do to help sustain you, whether that’s social connection or self-care or coping skills.”
HONOUR YOUR UNIQUE MENTAL HEALTH NEEDS
Kang said it’s important for Canadians to recognize that we are all different and we all require different strategies for handling our mental health.
She added that while some people might need regular exercise, others might need to relax with some quiet time.
“The human brain is like a fingerprint,” she said. “We are all so unique. What works for someone might not work for you and vice versa.”
MONITOR YOUR TECH DIET
In the event of another lockdown, Kang suggests people will once again be spending much more of their time in front of a screen, which can be harmful to their mental health.
According to a July study from Statistics Canada, more than 60 per cent of Canadians aged 20 and older reported watching more TV and using the internet more frequently during the first wave of COVID-19.
Kang said it’s important for people to manage their screen time and use that time in a productive manner.
“Choose online activities that are healthy tech, those are tech activities that lead to meaningful social connection, self-care, creativity and learning,” she said. “Limit and monitor that junk tech, that mindless scrolling and avoid negative toxic stressful online experiences.”