COUNSELLING SESSIONS HAVE MOVED TO VIDEO AND TELEPHONE FOR ONTARIO RESIDENTS
Next Step Counselling is committed to the health and safety of our clients and staff. In light of our Government’s recommendation for social distancing to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, please be advised that all counselling sessions will now be virtual (by phone or video counselling) until further notice. These virtual sessions will be conducted using a secure and confidential platform. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you would like more information about this or you would like to set up an appointment. Each of us can be reached at the following numbers:
Christine Nicholson, Registered Social Worker: (416) 451-7474
Vicki Nishihama, Registered Psychotherapist: (905) 392-1959
Melinda Van Halteren, Registered Psychotherapist: (647) 300-1485
We are closely watching notifications and following best practice recommendations from the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario, the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers, Health Canada, the World Health Organization and the Ontario Ministry of Health.
Here are a few suggestions to maintain good mental health during this time, taken from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) recent page on Coping with Covid-19:
- Accept that some anxiety and fear is normal
COVID-19 is a new virus and we are still learning about it. The uncertainty about the virus and the changes that are unfolding can make most people feel a bit anxious. This is normal, and it actually can help motivate us to take action to protect ourselves and others, and to learn more about the pandemic.
- Seek credible information
Stay informed by checking information provided by experts and credible sources. A lot of information is disseminated about COVID-19 every day, but not all of it is accurate. Some reliable sources include:
- Assess your personal risk
It is helpful to get a clear and accurate sense of your personal risk. We recommend using the following credible sources of information.
- The World Health Organization
- Health Canada
- Ontario Ministry of Health
- Your local public health unit
- Find a balance:
Stay tuned in, but know when to take a breather.
While staying informed is helpful, too much information may not provide extra benefit. Limit checking sources to once per day or less if you can. This includes reading or listening to news stories about COVID-19. Even though things are shifting rapidly, daily changes are not likely to affect how you should manage your risk.
- Bring an intentional mindset to unplugging
- Set aside some time to unplug from all electronics, including phone, tablets and computers. Disconnect for a while from social media outlets. You may need to schedule this to make sure it happens.
- Do something fun and healthy for yourself instead (e.g., read, work, exercise).
- Deal with problems in a structured way
All the issues you might need to address during this pandemic situation may feel overwhelming. It can be useful to identify which things are actually problems that need to be solved or addressed, and which are just worries that are not necessarily grounded in reality.
- Remember that you are resilient and be careful with the “What ifs”
Our stress and anxiety generally cause us to focus on negatives and trigger “What if” questions, such as “How will I cope if I get sick?” or “How will I manage if I have to self-isolate?” They can also drive us to think about worst case scenarios. In stressful situations, people often overestimate how bad the situation can get, but underestimate how well they will be able to cope. People are resilient and have coping skills they use every day.
- Challenge worries and anxious thoughts
High levels of anxiety and stress are usually fuelled by the way we think. For example, you might be having thoughts such as “I am going to die” or “There is nothing I can do” or “I won’t be able to cope.” These thoughts can be so strong that you believe them to be true.
However, not all our thoughts are facts; many are simply beliefs that we hold. Sometimes we have held these beliefs for so long that they feel like facts. How do we know if our thoughts are true or are just beliefs we’ve grown used to?
- Decrease other stress
COVID-19 is probably not the only source of stress in your life right now. Consider addressing other sources of stress to reduce your overall level of anxiety. You can use problem solving steps outlined above (link), challenge your thinking, practicing relaxation and meditation or other strategies you may have used in the past that have helped.
- Practice relaxation and meditation
Relaxation strategies and meditation can help reduce or manage your levels of stress and anxiety. There are many options to consider:
- formal meditation practice such as yoga or mindfulness meditation
- informal or self-help approaches such as books and online videos
- relaxation through any activity that you find enjoyable and relaxing.
Choose an activity that works for you and that you are likely to continue doing. Start slowly and gradually work toward a regular practice.
- Seek support
Social distancing does not mean you should break off all contact from loved ones. Being alone can lead to spending too much time thinking about the current situation, resulting in increased stress and anxiety. It can be helpful to connect with people who are a positive influence when you are feeling stressed. Try to avoid people who are negative when talking about current affairs or events, or who generally increase your stress and anxiety.
- Be kind to yourself
The strategies mentioned here can take some time to work. We need to practise them regularly and in different situations. Don’t be hard on yourself if you forget to do something or if you are not feeling better right away.
- Avoid substance use – including smoking and vaping, caffeine and alcohol
Some people use substances, including smoking or vaping, to cope with stress, anxiety and depression. This may appear to help reduce stress initially, but in the long run can make things worse. The brain and body develop a tolerance to the numbing effects of these substances, and people have to compensate by using more and more. That leads to additional harms and often delays the recovery from the stress. Moreover, in those at risk, substance use can lead to an addiction or a relapse in those who are in recovery. If you are in recovery and experiencing stress, it is important to reach out for help before a relapse occurs.
- Get proper rest and sleep
Getting enough sleep can both help reduce the amount of stress we experience and prepare us to better manage stress.
- Stay active
Physical activity is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety, and improve our mood and overall health. If you are self-isolated, find ways to exercise in your home. For example, use your stairs or follow an exercise video on YouTube.
Quarantine and isolation
- Dealing with isolation
People placed in quarantine or self-isolation may experience a wide range of feelings, including fear, anger, sadness, irritability, guilt or confusion. They may find it hard to sleep. Some people might feel relieved. Humans are social creatures and need connection to others to thrive, which can make isolation challenging. The following suggestions may help you through this challenging time:
- Create and stick to a schedule for work, leisure, chores, meals, physical activity and sleep.
- Catch up on other tasks or projects at home.
- Do things that you normally love to do (e.g., crosswords, puzzles, reading, TV shows, listening to music).
- As much as is possible, prepare healthy meals and drink lots of water.
- Stay physically active: go online to find exercises you can do at home with no equipment.
- Practise relaxation or meditation.
- Stock up on groceries and supplies ahead of time if possible, including dried pasta, rice, canned foods, hygiene products, medications and toiletries.
- Plan ahead with family or friends to get additional food and supplies if you are quarantined.
- Use delivery services to order groceries. Your local grocery store may offer this service.
- Ask your pharmacy if they can deliver medications you need, or plan ahead to make sure you have enough medication to last through your quarantine. If you take opioids to treat either chronic pain or addiction, make sure that the pharmacist and prescriber are available to ensure an uninterrupted supply of your medication.
- Keep a list of important numbers, including your doctor, public health, pharmacy and hospital.