Tools for getting through the stress and anxiety of the pandemic

‘Using these tools have helped me take my last depression in stride, and I am already coming out of it’

Kevin J. Sabo

By Kevin J. Sabo

For the Advance

We are well over a year into this pandemic.

The population is divided in ways unprecedented in our history, and mental health in the general population has taken a significant beating with the uncertainty of what lay ahead.

Businesses are struggling with the repeated government-mandated closures. The path ahead is unclear. We know that vaccines for the coronavirus are coming, but the roll-out of immunization programs has been glacially slow. Understandably so, people are getting frustrated.

Mentally, the last year for me has not been as hard as it could have been, but I’ve been fortunate. Work for me has not changed appreciably, and school has given me something else to focus on. Additionally, because of my previous mental health concerns, I had solid supports in place long before this pandemic hit.

That is not to say that the last year has been easy on me either, though. Things with my mental health degraded enough last fall that I needed to go into the hospital for a week to get things back under control, which they quickly did. Over the last couple of weeks, I thought I was headed in the same direction because my moods and emotions were all over the place.

I didn’t end up descending so far into my depression as I usually do though, for a simple reason. With help from my wife, I used the tools I have learned over the last number of years.

First, I worked on getting my sleep back under control.

For me, sleep is a major component in my mental health recovery, and when I don’t get enough sleep my mental health issues begin compounding.

Second, as grumpy and miserable as I have been, I have been working on getting outside for a walk with the dogs. Even that little bit of exercise has had a calming effect on my mental health. It may not be the workout regime I was doing before, but it is still better than nothing.

Third, I work at making time for things that fill my cup. I work on my blog. I play some video games. I try not to be going 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I try to make time for me.

Finally, I work on my Cognitive Behavioural skills, such as the practise of radical acceptance. Radical acceptance can best be described as letting yourself sit with feelings you don’t like.

Feelings about this pandemic, for example.

By practising radical acceptance, you acknowledge that something is going on, but you don’t have the power to change it. The concept is very similar in practice to the Serenity Prayer.

The fact is, using these tools won’t change the fact that your finances are a mess. They won’t change the fact that the government is locking down your business, again.

What the tools can hopefully do is provide you with a base to work from, a way to keep yourself from being overwhelmed by the feelings of depression, anger and uncertainty.

Using these tools have helped me take my last depression in stride, and I am already coming out of it.

If you are struggling with your mental health, seek help.

Getting help for anxiety, or depression, or stress, is absolutely no different than seeking help for a broken leg or diabetes. The brain is part of the body, and there are treatment methods that can help.

The province-wide mental health helpline can be reached at 1-877-303-2642. If you are at risk of harm to yourself or others, dial 911.

The last year has been hard on everyone, but we have made it this far.

With vaccines coming online, we are getting closer to the finish line. We just have to keep our heads up long enough to get there.

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