Dr. Andria Jones-Bitton, Associate Professor of Epidemiology, University of Guelph has shared well-being strategies during COVID-19. Taking care of your mental health can seem overwhelming at times, but it can help to break it into ‘domains’. We like to consider these ways to help create Good Vibes within ourselves, which in turn affect others around us.
The COVID-19 pandemic has required us to make significant changes professionally and personally, in a very short period of time, while also attending to our feelings around the disease. For many of us, we may be having trouble partaking in usual activities that support our well-being.
Emotional Well Being
The ability to express feelings, enjoy life, adjust to emotional challenges, and cope with stress and traumatic life experiences* during COVID-19
- Mind-body techniques; breathing for stress reduction
- Write your own gratitude letter
- Gratitude ping-pong — with a partner, take turns saying things you are grateful for, trying not to repeat answers, for 5 minutes. note how you feel afterward!
- Journaling for well-being
- Books (e.g. Neil Pasricha’s “You are Awesome: Navigate Change, Wrestle with Failure, Live an Intentional Life”; Humble the Poet’s “Things No One Else Can Teach Us”; Gary John Bishop’s “Unf*ck Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and Into Your Life”; anything by Brené Brown).
- Be mindful — there are lots of ways to practice mindfulness. For example, try being present and paying attention to your pets when you pet them. Or, try to be fully present when you’re eating.
- Setting a daily media / news limit to avoid feelings of overwhelm. Ask a friend to notify you if you’re worried about missing something important.
- Listen to your favourite music or enjoy a live stream of a virtual concert.
- Self-compassion: recognize that we can’t do everything we are used to doing; recognize that we are all in the same situation and it is okay; treat ourselves with kindness (speak to ourselves as we would speak to others). Check out Dr. Kristin Neff for self-compassion exercises, including a free video series.
Developing a sense of connection, belonging, and a well-developed support system during Covid-19
- Connect with a least one friend daily (we can even catch up with those friends we may have lost touch with)
- Connect via phone calls or video calls for more meaningful engagement than texting
- Start and online book club
- Get together with friends virtually (ie facetime, zoom, outlook teams). Consider preparing your meals at the same time or studying together.
- Download Chrome extension "Netflix Party" to watch Netflix with friends who are elseware.
- Play on-line games together, ie board games, tabletop simulator.
Recognizing creative abilities and finding ways to expand knowledge and skills* during COVID-19
- Reading (start that book series you’ve been wanting to read)! Maybe take advantage of e-books at your local library
- Hobbies (e.g. puzzles, knitting, and painting).
- Go through your digital photos and make a photo album (e.g. Shutterfly, Picaboo).
- Learn a new song on a musical instrument.
- Try a new recipe (check out Jamie Oliver’s ‘Keep Cooking and Carry On’ series and flexible recipes)
- Practice a new language (e.g. Duolingo).
- Listen to podcasts (e.g. David Burns’ ‘Feeling Good’; Dr. Steven Taylor’s ‘What Happens to Our Minds During a Pandemic’; and Dr. Seja Patel’s ‘Are you the perfect quarantine parent? (No, and there’s no need to be)’.
- Check out Broadway musicals (for free!)
- Online courses (many are now free during COVID-19 social distancing, including Yale’s Science of Well-Being, the University of Toronto’s Mind Control: Managing Your Mental Health during COVID-19, and Starling Minds’ Managing Stress and Anxiety During COVID-19)
- Check out virtual travel options (including sites like le Louvre and the Sistine Chapel!) or museums like The British Museum’s ‘Museum of the World’.
Good health by occupying pleasant, stimulating environments that support well-being* during COVID-19
- Tidy / organize at least one room at home for comfort / feelings of calm.
- De-clutter your home or work space.
- Play music.
- Rearrange your furniture to make your space look and feel completely new.
- Add fresh flowers to your grocery list.
- If working from home, try to create an office / work space, so you can set a work mindset and take breaks from work.
- Open a window for some fresh air.
- Light candles
- Diffuse essential oils for a pleasing scent.
- Change your computer screen savers to something new and visually appealing (e.g. aquarium, fireplace, livestream a zoo).
- Move to different areas when studying / working (even just change which seat you sit in at the table)
- Change your bedsheets.
- Go for a walk outside and notice the spring buds (bonus points for picking up litter!) - just remember physical distancing rules!
Recognizing the needs for physical activity, diet, sleep, and nutrition* during COVID-19
- Take a walk outside (while attending to physical distancing and any prescribed isolation rules).
- See if your gym is offering online fitness classes
- Maintain your usual daily routine (wake up at the same time, shower, dress, etc.)
- Try bedtime stories / night-time routines on apps like Headspace and Calm.
- Check out an online sleep program (e.g. Sleepio – CBT for Sleep; Kathy Somers; Doze app).
- Try online fitness videos (YouTube can help) or apps. If time is of the essence, consider “mini workout sessions” (e.g. Seven, a 7-minute workout app); Workout for Women app).
- Check out other health and fitness apps (e.g. Participaction, Centr, Nike training app, Fitbit Premium).
- Learn a new style of dance (YouTube can help).
- Try an online yoga class (e.g. Yoga with Adriene; Gaia.com).
- Have fun with hygiene (e.g. face masks, deep condition your hair, relaxation baths).
- Check out your office ergonomics
- Eat to support well-being
- Take a few minutes to stretch while you are working.
The ability to have financial resources to meet practical needs, and a sense of control and knowledge about personal finances* during COVID-19
- Track your spending (write down or use a money tracking app to track and really know where your money goes).
- Identify your financial stressors, and make a plan to address them (a credit counsellor or financial planner might help).
- Set bills to auto-pay to avoid interest charges from missed due dates.
- Research financial planners who you may want to connect with.
- Find ways to self-care that don’t involve shopping (e.g. hobbies, make a favourite meal, take a bath).
- De-clutter and set aside unwanted items for later sale (e.g. consignment shops, Kijiji).
- Check out ideas to limit food waste and get the most out of your grocery dollars (The Guelph Family Health Study has a terrific cookbook: ‘Rock What You’ve Got: Recipes for Preventing Food Waste’ – available free!).
Occupational (or volunteer) activities that provide personal enrichment, satisfaction, and pleasure in life, and offer a sense of meaning and purpose* during COVID-19
- As with Spiritual well-being, reflect on what gives you a sense of meaning and purpose, and try to do something each day that reconnects you with this.
- Reflect on the aspects of our work that are: • Stimulating • Personally satisfying • Allow us to use our talents • Allow for personal growth.
- Reflect on how we help others in our work.
The resource is based around Peggy Swarbrick’s Model of Wellness. It is a terrific resource for those who may be looking to learn more. I think it is really important (especially right now) to point out that we don’t need to attend to ALL domains at once, or all proposed activities. Instead, we can choose those activities that most appeal to us and make whatever small changes are within our control. And it is essential that we be compassionate with ourselves during the process. Whatever we are able to do is great, regardless of the size of the change. Even small changes can be very powerful! They can induce feelings of positivity, personal control, and a sense of agency – and small changes can add up to something really impactful.
Image courtesy Dr. Alex Sawatzky
Disclaimer: This resource is not intended to be medical advice, and is meant for personal educational purposes only.