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MARTHA MUZYCHKA: Maintaining your mental wellness when the world has gone haywire

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In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic — facing social distancing and isolation — don't forget to focus on your mental wellness, too. - 123RF Stock Photo

When I was in primary school, our reader had a story about a woman who made aprons. Each apron had a specific task associated with a day of the week, thusly: Monday – Washing; Tuesday – Ironing; Wednesday – Mending; Thursday – Marketing; Friday – Baking; Saturday – Cleaning; and Sunday – Day of Rest.

The advent of industrialization, the creation of the five-day work week with a two-day weekend, and the evolution of family and relationship roles means today’s work and life cycle looks quite different.

With COVID-19 imposing new requirements to stay home so we can flatten the curve, that also means we need to adopt new ways of living and working.

We’ve left our browsing, twacking, outside sociable days behind us. We now meet via technology to socialize through virtual coffee chats or to keep working through online team meetings.

We shelter in place devising elaborate projects, scouring the cupboards for hidden holiday chocolates, or binge watching our favourite shows.

And that’s OK.

We are being called on to adapt, to pivot, to adjust as needed as we negotiate different ways of living, socializing, and working.

Unlike DarkNL or Snowmageddon, when creeping cabin fever meant you could chuck the youngsters out to shovel, build a whole new community of snow people, or create a fort of epic dimensions, we are staying inside to be safe and healthy.

As with anything in life, there are bound to be a few bumps in our new path.

First, it’s all stressful. Second, it’s always changing.

So here are some ideas I have picked up over the years and in recent days to reduce stress and to stay well mentally and physically.

1. Grieve the loss. Our way of life is changing, and we do not know for sure how long this new normal will be and what the new normal after that will look like. I’ve seen all of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance in my friends this past month. It’s not linear by the way. Feel what you feel and don't let judgment get in the way. And there’s a new one — find meaning, where people seek their purpose and gain understanding.

2. Create a routine. Remember the days-of-the-week aprons I mentioned? It helps if you can organize your day and your week. I have always planned meals, but I was a “pop into the grocery store and get something fresh to add to the supper plan” kind of person. Now I do my shopping once a week, I plan my route for other necessities, and then I get home out of it. I have also restructured my day setting aside time for work, reading, sewing, exercise, etc.

3. Carve out “you” time. Everyone needs their own unstructured time. Put down your load, literally and figuratively. Do whatever allows you to recharge while having some space. Naps are good.

4. Limit your consumption of social feeds and news. I’ve always read widely, but these days I’m doing less of that so I don’t get overloaded. If you want to share, limit COVID-19 material to reliable, evidence-based health information. There’s a lot of misinformation out there. Resist the urge to jump on that train.

5. Reduce your expectations. You will not be as productive as you were in your work space. That’s OK. You may want to live in your comfy clothes and eat all the chips. That’s OK, too.

6. Ask for help; offer help. It’s a sign of strength not weakness. Check on your family, your neighbours, your friends. We’re in this together.

7. Focus on the good stuff. I am astounded by the creativity I see unfolding every day. Whether it is the Newfoundland Distillery making hand sanitizer, hockey equipment giant Bauer making face shields or musicians creating collaborative videos, people are building community in new and exciting ways.

8. Feel gratitude. I know it seems hard but there is always something to be thankful for. It could be the clever meme your friend sent you or the cup of tea your child made you in the middle of the afternoon. The small things matter. You matter.

Be well; stay well.

Martha Muzychka is a writer and consultant staying at home and washing her hands. Email: socialnotes@gmail.com

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