The last check-in with registered psychologist Dr. Patrick Keelan was back in May when the government was about to lift the lock-down restrictions. He spoke to the anxiety that the lessening of restrictions may have upon us and offered some coping mechanisms.
Fast forward six months to the here and now with the re-implementation of new restrictions to combat the second wave of the pandemic. Plus, all this during the holiday season which is typically the most sociable time of the year. Watch the stress meter rise again. A recent poll has suggested that Albertans have the highest level of stress in the country. While we may be hardy and resilient group, used to a bust or boom economy, and even unstable weather patterns the pandemic is proving to be the proverbial “straw” that broke the back of even the hardiest.
Dr. Keelan says there are coping mechanisms that are proving to be effective during these trying times. Keelan says, "Focus on what you have the most control over, and in a situation like this, it is your actions, activities, and behaviours that we can exercise control over." He also suggests scheduling, as much as possible, regularly each day a certain number of activities. Choose different activities that are valued areas of your life whether it would be work, education/learning, and relationship interaction which these days is virtual to many. Activities that are devoted to personal growth, hobbies and interests, and exercise. Also, activities devoted to leisure and relaxation can be beneficial. Use the regularly scheduled activities as the anchor to combat the adverse events of the day, week (or in the case of the pandemic) months. It is normal to experience emotions like anxiety, frustration, anger, sadness. But it is important to accept, normalize, and own the emotions and do not let them detract from your activities.
Dr. Keelan says experiencing changing emotions is normal and a part of life, especially in the pandemic world, but the coming of the vaccine is a light of hope at the end of the tunnel. He uses the marathon analogy, “I used to do marathons and when I got to the 20-mile point in a 26 plus mile race, I would say ok I’m in the home stretch I can make it. I think we’re kind of at that point with the pandemic, but there are still some miles to go.”
The race is not over yet and it is imperative to keep practicing coping mechanisms to endure the race and maintain our mental health. Remember, if you do become overwhelmed by emotions, there is help available. Click here to go to Dr. Keelan's website.