Aaryn Secker, Manager of Learning and Development at CMHA Kelowna, joined AM1150’s Phil Johnson on Tuesday, March 17 (listen to the full interview by clicking the video player above) to discuss coping strategies people can employ to control their stress levels during the COVID-19 emergency.
Aaryn’s comments from the interview have been edited for brevity and clarity:
“Firstly, I think it is important to acknowledge that this emergency is a serious situation and there will be real consequences for our health and for the ways we work and for our economy. None of this is meant to minimize those consequences, but we know that too much anxiety leads to being overwhelmed and we have to find some of that balance for ourselves.
Notice how you’re thinking, how you’re feeling, if there have been changes.
Are you more irritable? Are you failing to reach out to your friends and family? Are you avoiding calls & e-mails? Those sorts of changes in behavior and thought patterns are the kind that we want to pay attention to.
There are also behavioral and cognitive strategies we can use to try and find some of this balance. One of the things that’s kind of difficult or even ironic is that the harder we try not to think about something, generally it has the opposite effect.
First and foremost, don’t just try NOT TO think about the COVID-19 situation. Instead, try to create a list of things you can bring to mind every time those thoughts start creeping up.
When you’re starting to notice them, actively try to choose something else to think about (not to be dismissive, but because you don’t need to be thinking about it 24/7).
Recall your favorite movie or think about someone you can call, a friend or a family member, or check in on them instead? Switching that unhelpful thought to a helpful behavior can be useful in times like these.
Another strategy is to disconnect occasionally. Find a balance between being informed and being overwhelmed.
It is really important that we try to maintain some sense of routine and purpose and social connections.
I hope that people who are able to can schedule phone or Skype calls, check-in regularly with family, neighbors, people who might be vulnerable, maybe make some new friends this way.
I think we’re going to find people being pretty creative and we can learn from them as well.
Pay attention and look for those positive things in the news as they come up, as we see in Italy and Spain, people on their balconies singing and checking in with each other that way.
Other things to do to keep up with regular exercise either outdoors or at home. There are lots of videos online for exercise routines.
If you are stuck indoors opening those windows, and get some of that sunlight in as well.
In the Okanagan, we’re pretty lucky to have lots of ways to get out and be active without having to be close to others or with touching things so we can still keep up some of these routines.”
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or need immediate help, please call 1-833-456-4566 toll free (In QC: 1-866-277-3533), 24/7 or visit www.crisisservicescanada.ca
|Aaryn Secker, MEd
Aaryn has formal training in adult education principles and extensive experience as a facilitator. She has worked in the field of health promotion for seven years.