Guest Message from Naresh James, Former Executive Director of the Canadian Mental Health Association, Kawartha Lakes Branch
KAWARTHA LAKES – With masses vaccinated and the number of Covid-19 victims dropping, I felt the light at the end of the tunnel was near and I began to let my guard down. But just as I started to relax trusting all the precautions I had taken, I experienced a surge of hypertension and a tension headache when I heard about the Omicron version of the Coronavirus. An outbreak that started in 2019 returned as Delta later in 2020 and we were able to avoid it. Now in 2021 it has returned under the name Omicron. It looks like the stubborn curse of Covid-19 doesn’t want to go away. I know I’m not alone with this anxiety.
Being a professional in the mental health field and having been trained to recognize and deal with my own negative feelings, I found myself surprised by my own reaction to the arrival of the Omicron-type Coronavirus. I wanted to cry out: “How long, oh Lord, how long!” Of all the people, I was supposed to be an expert, a stronger one, and I was supposed to be technically proficient at handling my negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, anger, frustrations, but I started to give in to my own anxiety and depression due to the endless life of this virus.
After teaching others how to deal with stress, anxiety, emotional fatigue, and burnout, I was now coping with it on my own and not dealing with it very well. Prolonged stresses tend to tire us out and cause emotional fatigue, so I reached out to a friend. Thanks to a professional colleague and a friend, recognizing the sign and symptoms of anxiety-depression in me gave me the mental health support I needed. The intervention was timely and helpful and I bounced back. It was then that I realized that if, as a seasoned professional, I could fall victim to the anxiety of Covid-19, then there must also be many non-professionals who had to struggle as I had. struggle.
Interestingly, negative emotions tend to creep into our lives without our even realizing it. Usually negative emotions start with negativity and then slowly, even without our knowledge, a bunch of them are invited to invade our minds, making our lives miserable. The result – we are emotionally exhausted. This is what happened to me. My first negative feeling was not to see my grandson for almost two years, who lived in another province. We made several plans to fly to see it but every time we tried we had to cancel our plans. Being in quarantine for a long time added to our isolation from our other families and friends. Forties triggered my negative emotions again.
The more I tried to stay informed by watching the news, the more I was bombarded with many other kinds of bad news that fueled my already unstable emotional state. Fire and flooding in the Eastern and Western provinces of Canada and in other parts of the world. Inflation caused by events beyond the control of anyone. Global refugee crisis. Taliban crisis and oppression of women. Earthquake. Political crisis in other parts of the world. Stress and burn-out among health professionals. The surgeries are postponed. Hospitals face their own problems. Vaccine inequality in developing countries. My own parents are suffering in other parts of the world and cannot help. One night my wife expressed, âHow can we be comfortable in our homes, especially when we see millions of people in pain? My friend suggested that we may be suffering from âsurvivor guiltâ.
For people suffering from anxiety, stress and burnout related to Covid-19 / Omicron, here are some suggestions for maintaining their emotional health and well-being:
Learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of anxiety, depression, stress, emotional fatigue, burnout, and more. Accept its reality. Realize that you are not alone and that sooner or later this crisis will be tamed by scientists as well, just as other past pandemics have been.
Contact your family, friends and even professionals for help. While it may not be possible to see them face to face, it is worth reconnecting via the Internet with your family friends who are your âbackboneâ. Consult your family doctor / health care professionals.
Take care of yourself through a healthy lifestyle: eat, rest, sleep well, limit the use of drugs, alcohol and screen time, exercise and maintain a healthy balance between work and family life.
Take charge of your own distorted destructive thoughts that stir up all kinds of negativity. What we are going through is not above all a political or human rights problem but a public health crisis, which has a domino effect on the family, society and the economy, hence the need not only to take care of oneself but also of its neighbors.
Maintain a positive attitude. A positive attitude doesn’t mean things will turn out the way you planned, but whatever happens it will eventually lead to a positive outcome.
Keep a gratitude journal and keep track of all the good things that are happening in your life. After all, despite the pandemic, we are still alive, not in a hospital bed or intensive care unit, we have enough to support ourselves.
Live in full awareness. Eat mindfully. Take a relaxing walk in nature, in full awareness. Distract our minds through music, nature walks, books, etc. Keep yourself really busy. Remember that scientists are working around the clock to find the answer to this problem.
Meditation, at least five minutes a day, preferably at the same time and in the same place. Maintain hope and faith in the Higher Power while continuing to be responsible for your own health and well-being by following pandemic protocol.
Go beyond life for yourself and volunteer. Caring, sharing, volunteering and helping others are invaluable in maintaining our physical and mental health. On their own, they add meaning and purpose to our existence, and when there is purpose, facing and capitalizing on crisis becomes possible.