Emotional wellness and COVID-19
We’re all likely experiencing some emotional discomfort (or worse!)--given the spread of COVID-19 and the disruption to our lives. Grief at losing out on experiences, frustration, uncertainty—all are normal reactions at this time as well as anxiety and stress. The situation is new and unpredictable! And the University’s precautionary change to remote learning represents a major sea-change for us all. We know that people will respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in a variety of ways: some people will under-respond and view the threat as an exaggeration, others will over-respond and become highly anxious, others will respond somewhere in the middle. All responses are normal. The situation is ABNORMAL! So how do we stay emotionally well during these times, when we’re separated from friends and our university “home”?
Know that the University is committed to you: you’re the reason we exist! So we’re working very hard to plan carefully and ensure your studies, growth, and campus connections continue.
Be careful of COVID-19 overload. Limit the time you spend taking in COVID-19 news. It’s coming at us from all directions and this can be downright overwhelming. Turn off/stop reading the news. Maybe check in once or twice a day. Even for students who like to follow the news, it can be too much to continually watch coverage of COVID-19.
Be careful of COVID-19 misinformation. Rumours abound about what’s open, what’s not, what’s closing, and so on. Check out rumours for yourself by going to reputable sources. Check out provincial and local government sites for up to date information about closings. Go to the World Health Organization or the Government of Canada Health Site for correct information about the virus.
Our emotions reside in our bodies, so take good care of yours!
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule—try to go to sleep and wake up at roughly the same time.
- Work towards maintaining good nutrition and regular meals.
- Limit alcohol intake.
- Limit caffeine intake.
- Move your body -get some exercise or do something so you’re not just sedentary!
- Spend some time outside, in nature, especially.
- Practice deep breathing, relaxation, yoga, Qigong. Not sure how to do these? YouTube!!
- Try taking up an activity that requires use of your body and mind, which can give you an emotional break: knitting, art, playing an instrument, etc.
Social connection is really good for us too! Maintain social distance, of course, but stay in touch with friends. You might even try the old-fashioned art of letter writing! Think of other creative ways to connect with others.
Maintain a schedule, just as you would if at school (while respecting safety recommendations). Meals, study time, relaxation time. Having a schedule helps us contain emotions and feel a sense of control. You want to focus on what you can control as much as possible. We suggest trying as much as possible and safe to do what you ordinarily would do. For example, if you would usually go to the gym to work out each day, continue to work out daily but at home or outside (away from people) doing other activities. Even a brisk walk has health benefits and it definitely has emotional benefits. You could even try to take a pleasure walk: take a 15 to 30 minute casual stroll outside taking in as much of the world as you can; noticing as many pleasurable things as possible (e.g., melting snow, blue sky, star constellations, a bird flying, etc). Imagine walking like you’re on vacation.
Consider keeping a journal about what this experience is like for you. But be sure to end your daily entry with 3 good things about the day, however small, to help keep your spirits up.
Maintain perspective. While this is a HUGE event for all of us, remind yourself of what’s good in your life and what’s important: health, friends, being able to continue towards your degree, and spirituality. Remind yourself that the current crisis will pass. Keep in mind that graphic images on the internet, rumours on social media, may exaggerate the actual threat. Images of empty shelves are compelling visuals but not necessarily common and may be confined to certain areas. No one is posting images of stocked shelves and calm shoppers because those images aren’t newsworthy.
Try a gratitude activity once a day where you identify one thing you’re grateful for by filling in the following statement:
“I’m grateful for_____________________ because __________________.”
Spend time with your four-legged friends if you have one. Some play or snuggle time with your pets can make a tough day a lot easier.
Take the focus off of yourself: do something kind for someone else. Call someone to connect – don’t just talk about COVID-19 though!
Try using distraction techniques
- Make a list of things that make you happy.
- Take a hot both with bath oil or bubbles.
- Curl up under a blanket with hot cocoa and a good book.
- Baby yourself somehow.
- Light sweet-smelling incense or a candle.
- Listen to soothing music
- Think of many uses for a random object (e.g., what are all things you can do with a twist-tie?)
- Rub liniment under your nose
- Take a cold shower
- Focus on how it feels to breathe – notice how your chest and stomach move with each breathe
- Do a task that is exacting and requires focus and concentration
- Pick a subject (not Covid-19!) and research it on the web
- Watch a documentary
- List as many good things about yourself as you can
- Do something nice for someone else
- Draw or colour
- Play a game
- Bake or cook
Consider making use of one of the many mental health apps that are available for free and for pay. You might find this link helpful in finding something that speaks to you.
|App Name (Android and Apple)
|Music and Sounds
|Sleep sounds, built-in timer
|Relaxing Music for Stress – Anxiety Relief and Sleep
|Simple melodies and sounds
|Meditation, Breathing, and Yoga
|Calm: Meditate, Sleep, Relax
|Includes meditation exercises, guided relaxation, calming music, stories
|Stop, Breathe, Think
|Meditation and mindfulness recommendations to you de-stress, sleep better, and build emotional strength and confidence.
|Includes meditation and sleep aids; mindfulness exercises; tracking your exercise, meditation, etc.
|Serenity: Guided Meditation and Mindfulness
|Takes you through mindfulness activities step-by-step (ex. breathing, learning the pull of the mind, etc.)
|Yoga for Beginners: Down Dog
|Walks a beginner through the foundations of yoga, step-by-step instruction and video
|Another breathing app with preset functions (ex. four-square breathing)
|Qigong Meditation (YMAA) Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming
|Guided Qigong meditation videos
|Wellness and sleep app
|Mood tracker and journaling app
|Calm in the Storm
|An app for dealing with the stresses in life
|From Anxiety Canada, CBT skills
*Not available for Android
If you feel you need more assistance in the form of counselling, read on.
- The Student Counselling Centre (SCC) will continue to provide counselling services to students but will do so only via telephone except for students who warrant an emergency triage session. Please contact our reception at 204-474-8592 for more information.
- For now, we are maintaining are regular working hours of 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, Monday to Friday (except for students studying at the Bannatyne campus location of the University).
- Also, check our SCC website for a listing of off campus supports including Empower Me – a brief counselling support service purchased by the University of Manitoba Student Union which is available 24 hours/7 days week (1-844-741-6389).
If you’re experiencing a mental health crisis...
- Go to the Crisis Response Centre at 817 Bannatyne Avenue
- Use one of several available crisis line services:
- Mobile Crisis Service: 204-940-1781
- Klinic Crisis Line: 204-786-8686
- Manitoba Suicide Prevention and Support Line: 1-877-435-7170
- First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Services: 1-855-242-3310
- Sexual Assault Crisis Line: 1-888-292-7565
Finally, know that we, like you, are monitoring the situation and will adapt to changing circumstances.
Stay well, safe, and healthy!
--Student Counselling Services