Community members reach for various mental health pamphlets at a community suicide information night earlier this year. File Photo

Mental health and COVID-19: going forward

Dr. Tyla Charbonneau offers some mental health advice for moving into our new normal

As we ease into the next phase of this pandemic and the new normal it seems appropriate to reevaluate what is important in our lives. There were a lot of interesting messages presented on social media in the past few months. The one that caught my eye was a quote by motivational speaker Dave Hollis who said, “in the rush to return to normal, use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to.”

This idea draws in to question the lessons we learned about ourselves and life as we faced change at a rapid and often confusing rate. Adjusting to new routines and recommendations, with more time on our own, allowed many of us to explore what means the most to us and what perhaps we may be able to live without. I hear people talking about knowing they want to make more time for friends and hugs. How happy they are to have slowed down and not felt compelled to be involved in so many events that they sacrifice time for themselves. Others shared that they worked on projects at home, considered growing food or supporting local food suppliers and businesses. I also heard stories of people simply getting through it. All of these experiences are okay. Exploring new options in your life does not have to be a big project with huge noticeable results or big changes. It can simply be to sit with the less complicated and make room for you and the things you enjoy. These changes might not necessarily mean that you do more, it might actually mean you do less. As you reflect on the past three months and life moving forward consider the following questions:

What do you want to hang on to, what can you let go?

What surprised you about pandemic life?

What changes do you want to make in your life?

The months ahead may be difficult for many. Our economic structure is not strong, individuals are worried about their futures and we are still uncertain about what lies ahead. Taking this into consideration I ask you to ponder what you learned about yourself so far and your ability to handle what comes. Sometimes a reminder that you have gotten through every difficult challenge to date can be helpful. Try to avoid pretending that everything is okay and pushing thoughts and feelings aside, they have a way of catching up with you. There is not a single event in history that we have not bounced back from. As a society we are far more resilient than we may feel in the moments of crisis.

As this column comes to a close, I would like to take a moment and send appreciation to all the individuals who asked for help during the past few months or who took time to invest in themselves and their mental wellness. This might have been in the form of talking to a friend or professional. Reading a book or listening to a podcast or in finding time alone to reflect on life. Choosing you and engaging in self compassion is admirable. I would also like to send a thank you to all the professionals and volunteers who are diligently working within the field of mental health during this pandemic. To all the counsellors, therapists, child and youth mental health counsellors, social workers, addictions counsellors, psychiatric nurses, mental health clinicians, crisis line volunteers, psychologists, life coaches, RCMP members and affiliates, community liaisons, pastors, psychiatrists and physicians, support workers and anyone who gave time and energy to support someone in need of emotional or mental health care, you are amazing and your efforts over the past few months have not gone unnoticed.

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