The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on Albertans’ mental health. Whether you are an essential worker, health care professional, parent, employer or caregiver, we have all experienced increased strain on our wellbeing.
From April to May 2020, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Alberta Division, conducted a survey to understand the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on mental health and wellbeing across both rural and urban areas in our province. The results showed many of us are struggling with isolation, lack of access to mental health services, anxiety about the future, economic concerns and family pressures.
As we continue to navigate the pandemic, it is important to look at ways we can maintain our mental wellness.
Find Ways to Stay Connected
Over half of respondents (57 per cent) stated that staying connected with loved ones has helped their mental health during the pandemic and 42 per cent reported isolation to be the top mental health concern for themselves and their community. Whether it is a video call, a walk outside or a simply a chat on the phone, the ability to stay in touch with our friends and families is essential to maintaining our mental well-being.
This is particularly important for those who are in remote communities where we saw 44 per cent of rural Albertans report that a lack of socialization throughout the pandemic has become a mental health challenge.
Let’s Get Outside
With 49 per cent of Albertans responding that a focus on their physical activity has helped their mental health and wellbeing during the pandemic, we know that staying active and getting outside when possible has been shown to reduce anxiety and boost mood. This is especially true when we aren’t able to enjoy many of our favorite activities or attend social gatherings.
Keep a Routine and Find Balance
Maintaining routine and structure is an important way to nurture your mental wellness and can help you feel more in control of your life – something that has been difficult for many during the pandemic. If you are working from home, remember to take frequent breaks and avoid checking emails in the evening-especially before bed. Take time to wind down each day, enjoy relaxing activities such as reading, meditating or listening to music. Make sure you are getting enough rest and are eating a healthy diet.
Limit Social Media and News Consumption
With the massive amount of information being streamed to our phones and laptops each day, it can be difficult to recognize what is important to us. By making a mindful choice to unplug and stay off social media and news sites for portions of the day, we can avoid communication burnout.
Focus on the Future
From remote work at our kitchen tables to kids doing online learning from home, and video calls instead of visits with grandparents, we have all had to adapt during the pandemic. While these changes can be difficult, it is important to create small goals each day and focus on the things we can control. The future may seem uncertain but there are strategies we can use to cope, remain connected and care for our mental wellness.
These mental health challenges can become overwhelming. Thirty-three per cent of respondents stated they were concerned about the lack of access to mental health services in their area. If you or someone you know is struggling, online, free resources are available to Albertans including:
- Togetherall – a free clinically moderated, online peer-to-peer mental health community that empowers individuals to anonymously seek and provide support 24/7.
- BounceBack® – is a free program from the Canadian Mental Health Association designed to help adults and youth 15+ manage low mood, mild to moderate depression, anxiety, stress or worry.
- 211 – is an essential service that helps Albertans find the right resource or service for whatever issue they need help with, at the right time. 211 is available 24/7 by phone, text and chat. The service is free, confidential and available in over 170 languages over the phone.
- Text4Hope – a free initiative through Alberta Health Services that provides three months of daily Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – based text messages written by mental health therapists. Text4Hope is an evidence-based tool that helps people identify and adjust the negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours a pandemic might be expected to provoke. Text COVID19HOPEto 393939 to subscribe.
For more information on how COVID-19 is affecting Albertans mental health, please view our full report.
If you or a loved one is experiencing mental health distress during this time, please call 211 (Alberta only) or the Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642.