Over the past month, it is safe to say that the times have changed. Our world has been flipped upside down and shaken. To quote James Bond, “Martini, shaken not stirred”. There are resources everywhere on how to keep kids busy and a massive shift to move everything online. But we do not want to talk about the elephants in the room: ANXIETY and WORRY. We are focused on our children and maintaining our work for those able to do so from home. Those pesky worries and rising anxiety creep in with constantly hearing the latest change, the increase in numbers, or the financial strain. That catch in your throat, the sinking feeling in your gut, the tightness in your chest, not sleeping, high tempers; these are all signs of anxiety; the hidden elephant. In these times, having anxiety and worry is completely understandable. We have suddenly been forced to completely change our way of living, including forced isolation. In general, this is not a natural human instinct; we are social beings and have needed to be for survival. Now we are told to be anti-social and hermits for our survival, this massive change happened almost overnight. How do we manage and progress from here? To start with, we need to be open and honest and label what is going on; label the pit in your stomach, the sleepless nights, the constant thoughts. Label them as what they are: Anxiety. With a label, we can progress to help manage the concern and to hold it off. There is a lot of information available that is constantly changing; how do you make sense of it all? How do you cope with anxiety and the pandemic? Below I have condensed the information and tools into 5 points that I find to be of the most help. 1) Get off Facebook, internet, away from the news: There is a point of too much information. Constant vigilant watching for the next change only increases anxiety and fear. Rather, set a time each day to do a check in and see if there have been any major changes that you need to be aware of. 2) Find ways to decrease isolation: We do not need to physically touch to be social. Pick up the phone and call your friend – yes CALL, not text. If/when we have nice days, go on your back deck and talk with you neighbour. If you do not know your neighbour, leave them a note on their door with a planned time to chat from your decks. 3) Get outside: Fresh air is incredibly important right now. When you are out, sit in your backyard, start spring cleaning, prepare a garden, or even read a book on your deck. If the pathways are available, go for a walk or bike ride taking a wide berth around other users. 4) Give your time purpose: Find activities that are both enjoyable but also help you feel purpose or that you have accomplished something. One of the biggest downfalls to being out of work is a lack of purpose. Get yourself moving by cleaning that closet that you have been ignoring, or start sewing/knitting/crocheting, weed the flower beds, start a garden, paint or draw. The goal is to be able to look at what you were doing after and see a change – a sense of accomplishment. 5) Take time for relaxation and to calm the mind: This can be through yoga, meditation, breathing, reading, watching a favourite show, having a bath. The idea is to allow your body to reset and enter a state of relaxation – bring down the high alert state in the autonomic nervous system and slow the body down. Be mindful of how fast you are breathing, where your shoulders are positioned, and your heartrate. The goal with these steps is to help your body relax and to help your mind relax and move away from the hyper aroused state around the current environment. We will survive this; humanity has a funny habit of doing it. We are too stubborn to give up and roll over and this situation is no different. Things are going to be hard and different, but we will make it through. Take time to relax and employ some of the above strategies. Please if you are struggling, do not hesitate to reach out. The Psychologists Association of Alberta (PAA) has set up a Disaster Relief Network to help individuals work through these tough and uncertain times with Covid-19. Call 1-888-424-0297 or e-mail email@example.com. This is not a crisis line, rather an intake to get individuals screened and set up with psychologist’s who are volunteering their time for up to 3 sessions pro bono to maintain the mental health of Albertans in this time. Tiffany Mitchell, Provisional Psychologist
I am a Registered Provisional Psychologist located in Strathmore. I reside in town with my husband, three kids, and our cat and dog. I am an active volunteer with the Community Therapy Dogs Society, going into schools and different community events with my dog Jezzie. I am also active with the Special Olympics Airdrie club, volunteering as the Secretary and coaching the young athletes (3-8) programs. When I’m not working, I can be found reading, usually psychology material, playing with my kids at home or at the park, or out with our dog enjoying the beautiful pathways in town.