By: Virginia Li
You never truly appreciate what you have until it’s gone. In this case, it’s the freedom to go out: who knew how much they’d long to grab a maskless brunch with friends or even go grocery shopping without needing to rabidly disinfect everything? In the first week of March, COVID-19 sent the world spiralling: students were sent home from school, businesses shut down within weeks, and rush hour traffic nosedived in the midst of lockdown.
During the pandemic, routines start to melt together as almost every second of the day is spent at home. Sometimes, home no longer feels like home. There is no place to come back to; only the same kitchen tiles to trudge on, and the same bedroom walls to stare at. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday… within the blink of an eye, three days have passed, and Thursday and Friday seem to blend into one. Months have steamrolled over the calendar, and yet March still feels like a week ago.
Today’s Blursday, and tomorrow will be, too.
Blursday describes the lost sense of time that many may have experienced during lockdown. Long periods of isolation and uncertainty can warp people’s perceptions of time. Professor Anne Wilson from Wilfrid Laurier University says few notable events over a long period of time may make it seem like it went by quickly. With little or monotonous routines, time may presently seem to pass by really slowly– and when reflecting on it, seem to have flown by.
That being said, quarantine hasn’t only affected our sense of time. For many, the pandemic has uprooted their routines and caused extreme uncertainty, leading to a range of emotions and reactions- which has ultimately affected their mental health. The pandemic itself is a huge stressor, in addition to other consequential stressors such as job loss and lack of healthcare. Some international students were unable to return home in the midst of the pandemic due to their home countries’ lockdowns. Moreover, in a society that has emphasized productivity and economic wellbeing, individuals may ultimately feel worse for not having done anything physically significant during quarantine. But what does significant mean? During a pandemic, the most productive things to do are to wash your hands, refrain from touching your face, and remain home (if possible).
This is a reminder that it’s okay not to be productive during quarantine. Dr. Dana Dorfman says that there is no right way to get through the pandemic, other than “allowing yourself to be your own way.”
The pandemic has impacted the world significantly, and is still reshaping our social systems. The Government of Canada released a mental health article acknowledging the emotional effects of the pandemic and consequential lockdown. Some common reactions during the pandemic include: increased anxiety; difficulty sleeping or concentrating; increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or recreational drugs; and feelings of helplessness, boredom, and depression due to isolation. It goes to further explain the Reacting Zone of the Mental Health Continuum, which is a model that assesses the different mental health phases an individual may experience throughout their life, and is especially applicable during the pandemic.
As depicted in the infographic above, the continuum is a spectrum, meaning that we may experience different phases in different degrees of intensity, at different times. There is no one way to feel, think, or react, but certain signs may require us to take more serious action. The leftmost depicts a healthy and adaptive coping reaction. When reactions become more severe, highlighted by aggressive, panicked behaviour, inability to focus or perform daily tasks, severe insomnia and fatigue, or substance use and abuse, it is essential to contact a mental health professional. It is important to not only take care of yourself, but take notice of how your peers, friends, and family are reacting.
- Stay informed: educate yourself and your social circle about how the virus works, how it spreads, and what you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones.
- Fact check: a lot of misinformation as well as disinformation is spread via news and social media; it is recommended to read trusted sites and check the news from local health authorities.
- Take breaks from the news: beyond “fake news,” there is also a lot of negativity surrounding social media; while it is important to stay informed, the news has its own impacts on mental health, and it can be upsetting to hear about crises constantly.
- Take care of your body: a healthy diet is incredibly important in general! Also stay hydrated. Moreover, meditation and exercise are great ways to stay active; even so, stretching regularly and walking around the house will help keep you away from a sedentary routine.
- Try to stay home as much as you can. Currently, as the economy reopens, it may be difficult to get away from work, but as soon as you feel that you have come in contact with COVID-19, get tested, stay home, and prevent further spreading of the virus.
- Try to create and/or maintain a routine. Remember to relax, and don’t push yourself to be professionally, physically, or academically productive, as it is easy to burn out during this time.
- Stay connected via social networks. Play online games with your friends, host video conferences, watch TV, or blog. Maintain healthy relationships online. Don’t forget to check in with your family and friends!
- Find a hobby at home.
- Although maintaining a positive outlook may be difficult, understand that the pandemic is beyond your control: try to distract yourself with other tasks, invest in (safe) things that make yourself happy, and check in with yourself.
Here is a list of resources and contacts taken from Government of Canada’s Mental Health page:
- CAF Member Assistance Program (CFMAP) 1-800-268-7708
- LifeSpeak – online health and wellness platform
- CAF Medical Clinic nearest you – psychosocial services and mental health program
- Military Family Resource Centres
- Family Information Line 1-800-866-4546
- Wing or Base Chaplain
- Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
- Sexual Misconduct Response Centre
Services are available by calling
24 hours a day / 365 days a year