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Social Distancing and your Mental Health

Updated: Mar 9, 2022

Courtesy of our partners, the University of Waterloo, Canada.

With all that has changed in our daily lives over the past week, you might be starting to notice some changes to your mood, as social distancing and social isolation become the “new normal." Perhaps you are feeling more lonely, on edge, disconnected and even becoming anxious when worrying about the uncertainty of the future. There is no “normal” way to react to all of these changes—remember that! Despite social distancing and isolation being viewed as the most effective way in flattening the curve and slowing the spread of COVID-19, these measures are not easy. They may be proving especially difficult for those already struggling with mental health concerns. Checking in with what you need now both physically and mentally is more important than ever! With that in mind, we have come up with a list of ways to mitigate some of the negative consequences of social distancing and isolation on your mental health. We want to make sure that you focus on maintaining and fostering mental wellness, so here are some tips you can practice:

  1. Engage in behavioural activation, a practice proven to reduce symptoms of depression. Schedule out your day with activities that give you a sense of purpose and productivity as well as those that bring enjoyment or pleasure. This has been shown to reduce levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, in your body as well as trigger the release of feel good hormones such as serotonin. Check out our list of social distancing friendly activities below!

  2. Seek credible information and limit your media. Choose to follow one or two news sources, set times when you will check in on these sources, but do not consume endless amounts of news stories related to COVID-19. This can lead to increased stress and worry. Know when to take a break and unplug.

  3. Consider taking in some good news sources such as those covering positive stories happening in this time of global crisis. Check out this video to see how some Italians are trying to bring about small moments of joy during their days of social isolation and quarantine

  4. Challenge your worry thoughts and practice resilience! Here are resources that might help:

    1. Try our online Coping Skills Seminars that are focused on giving you the tools to challenge your thinking as well as build resilience.

    2. Check out the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) resource which addresses challenging worries and anxious thoughts during the COVID-19 pandemic. CAMH also has a variety of scales and tools available online for assessing your levels of stress as well as advice on how to manage your wellness during this unprecedented time.

  1. Practice daily gratitude, meditation and relaxation. Consider the use of apps such as Headspace or Calm.

  2. Maintain your social connections and networks. Check in on one another, schedule daily FaceTime or Skype dates with friends, family, grandparents, or those you know who are struggling. You might not be able to keep up your Thursday night tradition of meeting up with friends for a movie night, but consider doing such things virtually. There are several chat forums you can access such as Quarantine Chat - a phone service that connects you with others in isolation or quarantine, giving you the opportunity to connect and speak with a total stranger which may be more rare in our current days of social distancing.

  3. And last but not least, practice general self-care. Eat balanced meals, get proper rest, and move your body. If social distancing has you missing out on your weekly badminton club, consider using online exercise classes. Warrior Recreation is pleased to offer online workouts and Queen St Yoga in Kitchener is live streaming their classes.

Social-distancing friendly activities:

  • Listen to a podcast

  • Watch stand up comedy

  • Watch musicians’ live content on social media

  • Read a book you haven’t gotten around to reading

  • Care for houseplants

  • Learn a new language (app -Duolingo)

  • Begin writing a story or journaling

  • Sewing, knitting or crocheting

  • Virtual games night

  • Virtual museum tours

  • Be in nature (you can still get outside AND be practicing social distancing)

  • Try that recipe you’ve been wanting to make (you could even get your groceries delivered!)

  • Do a puzzle

  • Draw, paint, sketch...

  • If you are sports fan, watch an iconic game or match from the past

  • Documentaries

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