This article was written by Abigail Evans, member of Foundry Terrace Youth Advisory and the Provincial Foundry Youth Advisory (OG-YAC).
Throughout the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic, people have been rightfully concerned about their physical health, as well as that of their family and friends. But while a lot of focus has been put on understanding the physical impacts of the virus, very little is understood about its impact on our mental health.
Studies show that the pandemic, as well as the physical distancing measures put in place to curb its spread, have impacted our mental health. According to one survey by the Canadian Association of Mental Health, over 25 percent of people have experienced moderate to severe anxiety during the pandemic, and young people had a higher chance of facing these challenges.
One of the reasons why our mental health is suffering is that we have been staying inside for larger periods of time and we are not spending as much time outside doing the things we formerly relied on to get through the day.
With the transition to another new normal and more opportunities to spend time outdoors and with others, I’ve come up with a list of facts and tips to help you work towards beating those blues and improve the health of both yourself and those around you!
3 things you can start doing right now to beat the blues
1. Bring the outside, inside
One of the most important aspects of being outside is all the nature you are surrounded by. When you go outside you immediately become surrounded with the feeling of fresh air and the abundance of living things.
Being in nature has turned out to be more effective than most people realize. People who spend a large amount of time in nature have proven to experience less stress and tend to be in better moods than people who spend more time indoors. Being in nature has also been proven to increase peoples concentration levels which is important, especially if we are spending large amounts of time looking at computer screens.
While we can’t completely recreate these things at home, there are ways to bring the outside world inside.
To start off, open your window or bring your favorite plant (or pet!) into your room. This can connect you with the outside world, helping to recreate the feeling of fresh air and nature.
If you have a balcony or backyard (and I know not everyone does!) step outside every couple of hours to breathe in the fresh air and simply enjoy the feeling of being connected with nature. If you don’t have a balcony or backyard, do the same by a window.
(Psst: If you do have a pet, interact with them! They probably miss being outside and would love to get any chance to run around! Playing with them will help both of you get active, and pets are known stress-relievers!)
2. Exercise at home
One of the things I personally miss the most about my pre-pandemic life is my ability to go to the gym. Even with the changes, that hasn’t stopped me from working out.
I’ve work out in my backyard and in my room and am spending a lot more time finding new exercises that I can add to my routine.
It’s not the same as going to the gym, but it helps! If you are like me, the adrenaline and the familiar feeling of being active will make you feel a lot better and will help reduce the amount of stress you may be feeling from work or school. Additionally, physical activity also helps you have a better sleep which is also very important to maintaining good mental health.
(Psst: Any exercise helps. There are some great workout routines on YouTube for people of all levels, and I’ve even heard of a lot of people who live in buildings using the stairs instead of the elevators. Not everything works for everyone, but the key is to do something!)
3. Go for a walk, a hike or a run
Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic started, Dr. Bonnie Henry, our provincial public health officer, has recommended that people go outside for walks or runs. But the reality is that many places to do these things may have limited access or been closed. In addition, many people might have felt uncomfortable.
With eased restrictions and moving to a new normal, we can spend more time outdoors and go for walks, runs and hikes (and not just around our block or to the grocery store!). By going on a walk, hike or run you can take some time away from the stresses of work and school and give your mind a break.
You could also take a break by going for a bike ride. Being active outside is more important than ever because many people are working from home and are completing their schooling online.
Spending excessive amounts of time looking at a screen has proven to increase stress levels and increases the chances of experiencing mood swings. Combat this by taking the time to move your body when you can.
(Psst: By taking a break you are giving yourself a chance to reflect on the day’s events and come back ready to tackle your problems whether they’re from work or school or something else.)
These are just a few examples of the many activities you could do to help beat those pandemic blues.
But here’s the most important message I want to give you: if you are feeling the pandemic blues, get active now. Put down your phone, close your screen and get active. Open a window, play with your pet, do some pushups, go for a walk…what you do is up to you, but the key is to do something, and do it now!
And remember: you got through a very tough year. Try to be kind to yourself. You got this.
Keywords: reduce stress, anxiety, covid, coronavirus, fitness, home workout, training, coping, self care, activity, depression
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