Newcomers to Canada who are just starting out are facing challenging times. Even as businesses and other establishments have started to open, their settlement may be complicated by limited networking opportunities and a tough job market. This can lead to isolation and a feeling of hopelessness, especially if they are at home for an extended period of time. If this describes what you are going through right now, we suggest the following:
5 tips to stay mentally healthy during the pandemic:
Take it easy
Manage your expectations and accept the fact that things can be slow at this time. Do what you can without pressuring yourself or risking illness. For example, you can start working on getting your essential documents like your Social Insurance Number (SIN), health card, or driver’s license. Some offices have online application available (like for SIN) or require that you call to request for an appointment. Check before you go in person.
Take this time to read, research and learn about your new home. Read online materials or attend online orientation for newcomers. Get in touch with your nearest Immigrant-Serving Organization and take advantage of free services to help you out. Use this period to take stock of things, learn new skills, plan and strategize.
Follow a schedule
While waiting for essential documents or results of job applications, establish a regular schedule. Having a routine will help you regain a semblance of normalcy and prevent you from spending time brooding. It will train your mind and body to be active. Make it a point to:
- Sleep and wake up at the same time every day – Lack of sleep can make you feel tired or cranky in the morning while sleeping in too long will make you feel sluggish all day. Getting sufficient sleep and maintaining regular sleeping and waking times will give you enough energy to start your day right.
- Bathe and get dressed – Smelling good and looking good are important even if you’ll be staying at home all day. Maintaining personal hygiene will do great things to your mood and encourage you to be active.
- Set goals – Setting small goals will give you a sense of purpose and direction. These can be as simple as learning to format your resume to the Canadian-style or knowing five new English words per day. Ticking these off your list will give you a feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day or week.
- Have regular activities– Set consistent hours for activities like job searching, attending online classes for language or self-improvement, or reading and researching about specific topics on personal or professional development.
- Have consistent meal times – Have breakfast, lunch and dinner at consistent times. This will not only keep your digestive system working well but also prevent overeating and give you enough energy to accomplish your goals for the day.
- Exercise regularly – Exercising at least 30 minutes a day will naturally boost your serotonin and endorphin levels. These neurochemicals keep your mood up and relieve pain and anxiety.
Be careful about the things you allow inside your mind and body
Watch your thoughts and be careful about the media you consume. Get news only from reputable sources and don’t binge on shows that will only depress you. Don’t fall into the habit of doomscrolling, which is our tendency to surf through bad news during times of crises. This can add to your negative thoughts and worries. It can also become a habit that is hard to break.
Occupy your mind with positive thoughts like your plans and goals, events that you are looking forward to or things you’re grateful for to lift your mood. A good exercise is to list down your blessings or plan a grand vacation for when the pandemic is over. Meditating or yoga helps too.
A nutritious diet is the foundation of overall good health (check this if you need tips: Canada’s Food Guide). Healthy food will increase your immunity and boost your mood and energy. Having said this, it’s alright to occasionally indulge in comfort foods. The keyword to remember here is moderation.
Do something you enjoy
Take up a hobby or pastime like gardening, painting, knitting or any activity that you can look forward to doing every day or at the end of the week. Now is the perfect time to write poetry, learn carpentry or start doing arts and crafts that you were putting off when you were busy. If the weather is good, go hiking, fishing or camping with your family for a change in scenery. Staying connected with your family and friends back home is also helpful to keep homesickness at bay.
Keeping our mental health in tip top shape is a continuous effort. We can all benefit from free guidance and support from professional counsellors and mental health experts. Avail of the following supports which you can get virtually or over the phone:
- AbilitiCBT – This is a mental health virtual therapy program for Manitobans experiencing low to mid symptoms of anxiety due to the pandemic.
- Klinik Crisis Program – You don’t have to be in a crisis to access their support services. Free confidential counselling and referrals over the phone are available for those who are lonely, anxious, depressed or struggling to cope.
- Sara Riel Inc. – Offers employment and peer support over the phone if you need to talk to someone.
- Aurora Family Therapy Centre – Offers phone and video therapy (they charge on a sliding scale depending on income).
- Canada Mental Health Support (Wellness Together Canada)– Free online hub for mental health and substance abuse support, resources and counselling with a mental health professional.
You can also choose from these lists of 114 web-based resources and 31 mobile health apps compiled by researchers supported by EENet and CAMH:
In these times, take it easy on yourself and remember to be kind to yourself and others. This will all pass. Better days are ahead!
Sources: How to protect your mental health during the Coronavirus outbreak, Lynne S. Gots, Ph.D., National Alliance on Mental Illness; and Guard your mental health during COVID-19, Michelle Lee, Centra Care. Accessed August 24, 2020. Research snapshot: Finding digital mental health tools during the pandemic: A synthesis of resources, PPSP and CAMH (shared by Marco Campana). Accessed December 8, 2020.
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