Written by: Brittany Singh
Due to COVID-19, much of the world has been in quarantine over three months. In Canada, we have seen measures put into place such as the closing of malls, sit-in restaurants, parks, and the limiting of people that you can socially interact with. COVID-19 has taken a toll on many aspects of our life and for myself and many others, it has particularly impacted mental health.
As a young Guyanese-Canadian woman who is balancing graduate school while also having a diagnosed mental health disorder, my mental health has suffered quite a bit because of COVID-19.
I had to write my exams online and did not do as well as anticipated, had an abrupt end to the school year, had my legal summer job affected to the point where I now work remotely, and I am unable to see my friends and family like I usually do. Even going to the grocery store has become a nightmare that gives me major anxiety, as it is so hard to manoeuvre crowded aisles and I am too scared to touch anything with the pandemic on the loose.
With all of these changes, fears, and self-isolation, I have learned some tips and tricks along the way that can hopefully help you too in up-keeping your mental health during COVID-19.
1) Take time to relax and don’t feel guilty.
With many people off of work and school, COVID-19 provides the perfect opportunity to catch up on some rest and relax. Enjoy this time, unwine, watch some TV, and take some naps. Please do not feel guilty about resting and taking it easy. This is a stressful time for everyone and taking time to ease your mind, body, and soul can do wonders for your mental health. Throw on a Bollywood flick, Netflix, or Disney Plus!
2) Gyaff with your family and friends.
While you may have to self-isolate because of the pandemic, you can still keep in contact with your friends and family by Facetiming, calling or messaging them. While it is a bit different from physically being there, keeping in contact with your family and friends can provide you with the peace of mind that everyone is doing okay and hear about what’s going on in their lives. I have been on walks during Facetime calls with my friends or my brother and sister, and this has really helped my mental health over the past couple of weeks.
3) Get outside and get some fresh air.
While many parks are closed for playing, most are still open for the public to walk through. While COVID-19 is scary, you can still enjoy going outside while taking precautions such as maintaining social distancing, washing your hands, wearing a mask, and not touching your face. Going on walks around where I live in Ottawa has been really nice, especially since I work every day 9-5 from home. The weather is beautiful these days, the flowers are blooming, and it’s the perfect time to catch some sun while you walk. The warmth, fresh air, and physical exercise are guaranteed to boost your mood.
4) Try something new!
I have found that trying something new has really lifted my spirits during this time. I completed a 3D puzzle of the Parliament and that made me so happy. I’ve been colouring pages I print off of the internet— I even coloured the 6ix God himself (see picture). I tried painting and felt satisfied when I completed my portrait, even though I am not the greatest at art. I think that COVID-19 presents an opportunity for you to try new things, especially in the comfort of your own homes.
5) Try yoga.
I found yoga to be the perfect exercise for me with the gyms closed and being stuck at home. There are so many helpful videos on YouTube and all that you need is a mat and some water. Yoga can be excellent for stretching, helping you to relax, and is even meditative. With the struggles that I have had to face, and struggles that many other Indo-Caribbean women face, I found @transcendingtraumawithyoga and her practice of trauma-informed yoga to be very helpful for mental health.
6) Try some new recipes.
With dine-in restaurants closed, this is the perfect time for you to try some new recipes! There are so many recipes available on the internet. Whether you want to try making jerk chicken for the first time, some bake and saltfish, or something simpler like tacos or pasta— cooking a dish and having it taste ‘oh so good’ can really make you feel accomplished.
7) Take time to reflect and journal.
I always have a lot going on and the pandemic has given me some time to slow down and reflect. I have begun journaling to help process some of my feelings and thoughts. This has allowed me to put things into perspective a little better and to understand what I need to work on. I also try to start my day by writing down 5 things that I am grateful for, 5 things I would like to accomplish, and 5 things I am proud of myself for. This has helped me to start my day on a more positive note during these questionable times.
8) If you can, rise earlier and have a set routine.
If I compare my mental health to the little break I had after exams to now when I am working remotely with a set schedule, my mental health is significantly better. I find that getting up earlier, not being stuck in the bed all day, getting showered and dressed, and having more of a routine can help to improve your mental health.
9) Spend some time with your pets.
I bet that all of our furry friends are ecstatic that we are home more often. It can be very good for our mental health to spend some time with them, play with them, and even cuddle them. I have a Himalayan cat and petting him and cuddling him always makes me feel better when I am extremely stressed. So spend some time with your cuddly fur babies if you are feeling stressed or anxious during these times!
10) Listen to yourself!
Listening to your own mind, body, and soul is key in up-keeping your mental health. Be sure to be aware of how you are feeling and to listen to what your body is telling you. If you are feeling anxious, try to take a few deep breaths and do some yoga. If you are feeling stressed, maybe sit down and watch a show.
With things beginning to open up again soon, I think it is also important to set your own boundaries. Just because something is opened does not mean that you necessarily have to go. I know that crowds can make me more anxious and stressed right now because of the pandemic. If you are like that too, it is okay to want to quarantine and take precautions for a bit longer.
Stay safe and take care of yourself <3