There is no denying that we’re entering a difficult winter. COVID cases are rising across Northern B.C. just as the days are getting shorter, darker and colder. And between mask-wearing, social distancing and keeping our bubbles small, we can’t even count on the Xmas holidays to bring us warmth and joy.
So what can we do to cope–at least until a vaccine becomes more widely available?
Skeena Strong recently hosted a live Facebook event attempting to answer that question–you can watch the whole thing here. The hour-long discussion was the latest instalment of our “Fighting COVID in The Skeena” series.
In addition to Dr. Tara Moriarty, one of Canada’s foremost infectious disease experts, the event featured Beth Richardson from the Smithers Community Services Association and Sylvie Dagenais-Douville, a certified laughter yoga master.
Here are some of their suggestions for how to cope with difficult times:
1) Seek immediate help if you’re facing abuse or thinking of harming yourself
“If we’re in abusive situations, and where our safety is jeopardized, then getting in touch with emergency services is really important,” Richardson said. “Or if people are feeling like they’re going to hurt themselves or someone else, if they’re using forms of self-harm to cope, or if they’re using substances to cope. Those are all I think, clues or signs that people really need some support. There are different levels of support. Your family physician, if you have one and again, some people don’t, and for those who don’t, there’s always the hospital as backup.”
“An online resource is HealthLink BC,” Richardson explained. “And that will also list different resources, local resources, and provincial resources that, things like, yeah, including say the emergency number for the 24 hour suicide lines and 24 hour support lines.”
2) Acknowledge to yourself that this is a difficult and stressful time
“It’s good to remember that this is temporary, it’s not going to be forever, but then also to really validate the stress that we have,” Richardson said. “I think often it’s one of the things that I tell people that I work with, that if they take anything away from their time with me, it would be that they can say, ‘I have a reason to feel what I feel.’ And I think that’s really important.”
She went on, “I often hear people say things like ‘I was crying for no reason, or, I got mad out of the blue’–things like that. I think there’s that disconnect with ourselves and also that tendency to minimize our feelings.”
“What can happen is our world gets smaller and smaller because we avoid the things that make us anxious and that unfortunately reinforces the anxiety.”
3) Go to the freezer and let an ice cube melt in your hand
“If you’re feeling really overwhelmed, there’s something you can do called grounding, which is a process of distracting or being in the moment,” Richardson said. “An example of physical grounding might be that maybe you go to the freezer, take out an ice cube, hold it in your hand and just allow it to melt in your hand. Physical grounding might be jumping up and down or stretching. It might be splashing water on your face.”
4) Calm your mind by taking note of small details in your surroundings
“There is also something called soothing grounding, which might be speaking to yourself like you would to your best friend or to a child, saying ‘you know, this is tough. I can get through it, I can do this,’” Richardson said. “And then there’s mental grounding, which might be doing something like describing your environment in detail. Just looking around and saying, ‘I see the lights, I see the windows, I see the fire in the fireplace. I see the walls are white. There were four chairs,’ things like that.”
5) Practice bringing more laughter into your life
“It’s important to be in the moment because the minute we start thinking of how it’s going to be at Christmas, how it’s going to be at this or that time, then we start creating anxiety,” Dagenais-Douville said. “The only thing we have control on is our breathing, and our desire to bring in more joy within.”
“If you take your shower in the morning, just get in the shower and have a good laugh as you’re doing it. And it really clears up your mind. I have people doing the dishes, laughing, emptying the dishwasher, laughing. Just find something that you do regularly.”
6) Find small ways to cultivate joy
“There was a senior in a residence that I knew and when I put on some music one day, she said, ‘Oh, that brings back some great memories,’” Dagenais-Douville said. “‘She said, that ‘well, during the war, my mom used to put on that music and we’d go down to the basement and dance when there was bombing.’ And, and I thought, ‘well, this is what I want to do in COVID. I want to be the one that laughed through COVID.’”
“Basically it’s reframing our experience in small ways. It’s just changing that very sad moment into something where we’re at least we’re doing something good for ourselves.”