* I am not a healthcare professional and therefore, this article is for knowledge and in no way is it to be considered medical advice*
*Edited on May 14, 2020. New links added for teacher/student resources as well as links for applying to CESB and CERB in Canada*
It would be quite the understatement to say that the last few weeks have changed not only our lives but changed everything around the world. So far, sports, health, economics, and grocery shopping have all drastically changed. As I sit here writing this article, I think to myself what makes this experience different, and how are we helping ourselves and each other throughout this process? Are we checking in with ourselves and others? What are we doing to be productive?
This is not to say things will not become “normal” again, but how we manage in the meantime is important. So far, we have been asked to social distance/quarantine/isolate, sanitize and wash our hands (a practice that we should have been following before all this), coughing/sneezing in our sleeves (again, should be a common practice), and avoiding non-essential travel (Government of Canada, 2020). By following these precautionary guidelines, the number of infected will eventually decrease, but no end time for distancing is certain. Social distancing is isolating from physical contact but increased virtual correspondence has been a preferred choice.
That being said, if you show symptoms of fever (38°C/98.6°F or more), cough, and have a difficult time breathing, please isolate at home and call your family physician. Also, if you have travelled, isolate and ask your close networks to bring you food and supplies. Without realizing it, you could pass on the virus and infect many others. You can go 14 days with no signs or symptoms, and still be a carrier.
I implore you all, reach out to your family, friends, and various networks to avoid independent isolation. Social distancing requires physical isolation, but it does not mean you avoid social virtual contact. This is the time to connect with people you have not spoken to in a while; see how they are doing, what they have been up to, update people on your life etc. For example, researchers Eisenberger & Cole (2012) highlight the importance of social support:
Perceived social support or social connection (the perception that one is cared for, loved and valued by others) predicts better health outcomes, whereas loneliness or social disconnection (the perception that one is socially isolated or not connected to others) predicts poorer health outcomes (p.669)
We cannot physically be in our support circles, but we can virtually connect. If you notice someone you care about going through bouts of depression, anxiety, or any mental illness, check-in on them. But through it all do not forget about yourself and do not feel shy about reaching out. Make sure to call the older adults in your family to see how they are coping. The vulnerable population has been put under immense anxiety and stress and checking in on them would be thoughtful.
Another aspect of this to keep in mind is sleep deprivation. During this time sleep patterns can change which could negatively impact all aspects of health, including your mental health (Milojevich, H.M., & Lukowski, A.F., 2016). The importance of sleep and getting 7-9 hours a night can consolidate memory and regulate emotions (Pace-Schott, Germain, & Milad, 2015). Moreover, book author Arianna Huffington noted that sleep, “is essential to good mental and physical health; without it, your power to think and perform diminishes, as does your ability to help others” (Capezuti, 2016, p.487).
Last, if you see yourself spiralling, try to create behaviours, positive patterns, or a routine to keep yourself motivated and engaged. Avoid creating maladaptive coping behaviours. These behaviours pose a risk because they can drive the individual to poor habits such as drug abuse, alcohol, and nicotine dependency which are used to avoid negative feelings of anxiety, fear, and depression (Wells, Butler, & Manji, 2020). Inversely, adaptive coping behaviours attempt to alleviate feelings or symptoms of mental health (differs for individuals) that pose no risk of harm and offers benefit outside of alleviating symptoms (Ibid.). Empirically speaking, a routine that incorporates some busy work, making a meal, calling a friend, working out, and getting 7-9 hours of sleep every night could help create the release of positive endorphins and provide bouts of good energy.
As I sign off here, I wanted to thank our healthcare professionals, police officers, fire departments, food/grocery staff, bankers, and all essential workers. What you are doing by risking your lives each day, I am grateful for it and we at Garage Door Sports are grateful for you. Please use the links posted below and, reach out to myself or the team if you need to talk.
– For students: Good2Talk https://good2talk.ca/contact/
– For teachers and students: https://www.educationdegree.com/articles/supporting-students-with-anxiety
– “30 ideas to entertain yourself during social distancing”: https://www.braininjurycanada.ca/ideas-social-distancing/
– Online Cards vs Humanity: http://playingcards.io/cmwb5
– “Where to find mental health support in Canada”: https://www.canadianliving.com/health/mind-and-spirit/article/where-to-find-mental-health-support-in-canada
– Coping with anxiety (works for all populations): https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/anxiety-in-college-what-we-know-and-how-to-cope-2019052816729
– How to apply for CESB: https://www.savvynewcanadians.com/how-to-apply-for-the-canada-emergency-student-benefit-cesb/
Capezuti, E. A. (2016). The power and importance of sleep. Geriatric Nursing (New York, N.Y.), 37(6), 487–488. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gerinurse.2016.10.005
Eisenberger, N.I, & Cole, S.W. (2012). Social neuroscience and health: neurophysiological mechanisms linking social ties with physical health. Nature neuroscience, 15(5), 669-674. doi:10.1038/nn.3086
Government of Canada. (2020). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html
Milojevich, H.M., & Lukowski, A.F. (2016). Sleep and Mental Health in Undergraduate Students with Generally Healthy Sleep Habits. PLOS ONE, 11(6), e0156372. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0156372
MPH Online. (n.d.) Outbreak: 10 of the Worst Pandemics in History. Retrieved from https://www.mphonline.org/worst-pandemics-in-history/
Pace-Schott, E.F. &, Germain, A., & Milad, M.R. (2015). Effects of sleep on memory for conditioned fear and fear extinction. Psychol Bull, 141(4), 835–857. doi:10.1037/bul0000014.
Wells, S., Butler, K., & Manji, I. (2020). Anxiety in University Students. Unpublished manuscript, University of Ottawa.