As the outbreak of COVID-19 continues to evolve, the community has been asked to take a number of enhanced measures to protect themselves and to help mitigate the spread in our area. In addition to physical health considerations, our mental and emotional health are also affected by these changes. We want to stay as informed as possible; however, immersion in the constant stream of outbreak news can lead to information overload, anxiety, and stress that negatively impact our mental health. Mental health is an important part of our overall health and affects not only ourselves, but those close to us.
Tips to reduce stress during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Limit your news and social media exposure. Seek information updates at specific times during the day, and do so only once or twice per day.
- Don’t believe everything you read. Seek information from reliable news sources only. Anyone can share information and rumours online and over social media, but is it true? Get your information from reliable sources like the World Health Organization, the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Health, and Hastings Prince Edward Public Health.
- Keep things in perspective. People in outbreak situations may feel that they have no control. Focus on things that you have the power to influence, such as following infection control practices that keep you and your family safe, organizing your home, connecting with your social supports through telephone, video chat, or text, and taking advantage of extra family time.
- During times of stress, self-care is very important. Engage in healthy activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly, maintain good sleep routines and eat healthy food.
- If you notice troubling mental health symptoms, supports are available. Visit our Getting Help webpage or Anxiety Canada for more information.
- Rest assured. Public health agencies and experts in all countries are working on the outbreak to ensure the availability of the best care to those affected.
- Practice mental health first aid for yourself and others. Check out the resources available from Mental Health First Aid Canada during these unprecedented times.
Supporting Children During COVID-19
Kids are natural empaths and detect stress, fear, and anxiety in their parents and caregivers, which can lead to them internalizing those emotions and becoming anxious or fearful themselves.
Tips to help children and teens cope with COVID-19:
- Stay calm. Don’t avoid the subject, discuss COVID-19 with your children honestly, offering age-appropriate information. If your children have concerns, addressing those together may ease their anxiety.
- Recognize symptoms of stress and anxiety. Just like adults, not all children and teens respond to stress in the same way. Acting out, crying, irritability, and regressive behaviors can be signs of stress.
- Help children find positive ways to express their feelings. Offering a safe and supportive environment in which to voice their concerns is the first step. Encourage drawing, play-acting, or other creative outlets that enable kids to process and share their feelings.
- Maintain familiar routines in daily life as much as possible, especially if children are confined to the home.
- Take advantage of extra time together to have fun!
There are a few specific things you can do and say to build your child’s resilience:
- Reassure your child that many doctors, nurses, and scientific experts around the world are working hard to keep us safe and healthy.
- Children are observant and pick up on our expressions and emotions. Help them to understand, verbalize, and organize their own feelings around the pandemic.
- Find out what they know about what is happening. Correct any misinformation about “this new germ”.
- Be honest, but positive. Reinforce that they are unlikely to get sick, but that it is still important that they do their part to protect themselves and their families, especially those who are at higher risk.
- There will likely be an increase in screen time during physical distancing. Be mindful of your child’s exposure to the news. Model good media habits and try to limit the news running in the background. Explore child-appropriate options and watch together.
- Encourage and strengthen existing connections with family, friends and neighbours in creative ways.
- Talk to your child about supporting and thanking others who are on the frontlines of healthcare, and those who are maintaining our public services.
Kids Help Phone is available 24/7 for children and youth who need additional support. In addition, Children’s Mental Health Services of Hastings Prince Edward offers mental health treatment services for children, youth and their families. They are providing service by telephone and video conferencing. Furthermore, check out this blog post by Dr. Robin Williams, Chair of the Canadian Paediatric Society Early Years Task Force, about how best to talk to children about COVID-19.
If you are having difficulty coping with mental health and substance abuse as a result of the pandemic situation, you may also call the Addictions and Mental Health Services Pandemic Helpline at 613-967-4737.
As a parent, it is important to inform yourself with accurate information. Follow recommendations the World Health Organization, the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Health, and Hastings Prince Edward Public Health.