Obviously, mental health this year is tremendously more important to discuss than ever before. Do you still believe there is a stigma for going to a therapist?
Absolutely! It’s definitely much more accepted now (I’m loving all of the therapist memes on insta! Haha), but there’s still fear of judgment that prevents people from reaching out for support.
We all face emotional ups and downs and life challenges. There’s no shame in getting the help you need. If you have a toothache you go to the dentist, right? The same goes for mental health. You’re also under no obligation to share that you’re seeing a therapist if you prefer to keep it private.
Do you need to have experienced something really traumatic to go to therapy or benefit from it?
In short, no! There’s a huge misconception that you need to reach a breaking point to ask for help and go to therapy but that’s not the case. Everyone and anyone can benefit from therapy. It’s essentially a safe space for you to grow, process your thoughts and feelings, and learn about yourself.
I would say it’s actually preferable to start therapy at a time when you’re not in crisis mode. It’ll give you the time to find a therapist who’s a good fit for you, build a relationship with them, and learn tools to help you when you need them.
What were the main challenges people faced/continue to face due to the pandemic?
Where do I even begin with this question…the entire world was flipped upside down last March and we’re coming up to a year at this point. Challenges range from boredom to hopelessness. Difficulties with work-life balance to not being able to work at all. Being with your family or partner at ALL times to feeling lonely and isolated. I think we’ve all struggled in one way or another because of this pandemic and we’re reaching a point of exhaustion.
What tips do you have for surviving self-isolation?
This might be the more obvious answer but try to stay connected to the people you care about as best you can. Schedule Facetime, Zoom dates, phone calls, social distance walks once in awhile, even if you feel like you don’t have the energy for it (it’s normal to feel more depleted right now). Human beings are wired for connection and so it’s important to give yourself a boost here and there.
It could also be a great time to get to know yourself a bit better! Explore new indoor hobbies, learn a new skill, read that book you bought 6 months ago that you haven’t had the time to open yet (not personal experience at all! Lol). Trying new things also helps combat boredom and makes day to day a bit more exciting.
How has dating changed?
In so many ways! We’re relying mainly on meeting people through apps and online cause there aren’t any social events or gatherings. I would definitely say it’s more challenging than it was pre-pandemic. We’re all struggling emotionally to a certain degree so it’s hard to present your best self or be open to making genuine connections right now. It’s also hard to keep the momentum going when you’re not able to meet in person or go on ‘real dates’. The element of excitement isn’t as strong and it’s difficult to connect. Always maintaining 6 feet of distance and limiting the number of people you’re around also poses as a barrier for obvious reasons lol.
How do you suggest dating in 2021 while still in lockdown?
Really reflect on what you’re looking for right now and why? Are you looking to just chat with new people, are you looking to start a serious relationship, are you looking for a distraction? It helps to know what your own intentions are before dating, even without the pandemic as a factor.
I’d also just say to be open-minded and get creative! You can still have dates through Facetime, Zoom, or going for walks while social distancing. Play a game together online, watch a movie together on Netflix Party, have conversations (that’s how you get to know each other after all)!
Do you find that people are more insecure, going back to their ex, and toxic relationships- because they can’t socialize/ meet other people safely or easily?
Yes, yes, and yes! Loneliness makes us much more susceptible to going back to what’s comfortable, even if we know it wasn’t the best situation. Part of moving on after a breakup (once you’ve processed your emotions of course!) is being able to socialize and meet new people.
Tip: If you’re feeling lonely, reach out to your support system to help fill that void and challenge that anxious thought that you’ll be forever alone. Remind yourself that we’re all feeling stuck and isolated right now, and so it’s normal to feel that way about your love life too.
How do you suggest people cope with anxiety about the virus?
Remind yourself that you’re doing what’s in your control, practice lots of self-care and compassion, and seek out support if you’re struggling.
How are people dealing with work-life balance/ working from home?
Try to have firm boundaries for yourself, if possible. It’s challenging to go from having a designated workspace and physically being able to leave work to have your professional and home life all meshed into one.
Here are some tips to help with work boundaries:
-Take breaks, and make sure you have days where you’re not working at all. That can be weekends or whichever days suit your schedule. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you don’t deserve or need a break. Your brain needs time off to recharge and be productive, and having a clear schedule reduces the risk of procrastination. Have a clear start and end to your workday.
Sometimes it helps to have an activity to help you transition out of work mode and hold you accountable. This could be a virtual workout class, making dinner at a certain time, or just the act of closing your laptop and calling it a day. Choose a designated workspace in your home to separate work time from relaxing time.
As tempting as it may be to work in bed or on the couch, it’s important for your brain to associate certain spaces as relaxing spaces. Otherwise, it’ll be way more difficult to turn your work brain off when you’re lying in bed at night trying to fall asleep or on the couch trying to enjoy the new season of your Netflix show!
How is the Covid news/media affecting our mental health right now?
I try not to watch the news too often myself these days. It can be very triggering for anxiety, and it’s possible to be informed without constantly exposing yourself to scary/negative information. If you find that you feel more down or anxious after watching the news, try to limit yourself. For example you can say, I’ll only watch the news on Fridays, or I’ll only check for updates when I know there are going to be changes to my area.
Any tips for getting through being stir crazy?
Get outside! Staring at the same four walls gets to you after awhile haha some fresh air and a change of scenery can really help (within your area’s regulations, of course). If it’s too cold out, like it is in Ontario, Canada right now (what I would give to be on a beach), it could also be helpful to go for a drive!
Make it into a little self-care activity by taking a drive to a coffee shop and grabbing your favourite beverage. Moving your body in whichever way you feel is best for you also helps with releasing some of that pent up, quarantine energy. i.e. yoga, dancing, walking
How to handle covid debates and awkward social situations? With Covid debates some people are in the middle, some people think it is fake, some people are really scared, how are these covid debates and different views tearing people apart?
This has been a huge stressor. We’ve become so polarized when it comes to beliefs and opinions about this virus and how things are being handled. I think it’s important to remember that we’re all struggling right now and we each have our own boundaries. We’re constantly put in ethical dilemmas these days and it’s exhausting!
It’s important to respect each other’s boundaries and remember that if someone says no to hanging out because of the pandemic it’s not personal. When it comes to debates, again, boundaries. Don’t be afraid to communicate that you’re not down to talk about something if it’s upsetting you or if the conversation is getting heated and not going anywhere productive.
Many people have felt like they have “lost their identity” or parts of their personality during Covid, how can people cope with this “lost” feeling?
Let yourself grieve while acknowledging that you’re still the same person, just in different circumstances. Try to nurture parts of your identity that you feel you’ve lost. If you liked dressing up and going out pre-pandemic, dress up at home and take some cute pictures! We all need to feel cute sometimes, let’s be honest haha.
If you were the person to host great parties, organize a Zoom party! If you were that friend who was constantly planning the next trip, look back at pictures from your previous travel adventures, reminisce with some friends, think about where you want to go next…you get the gist!
Many people are frustrated with the “loss of freedom “in day to day life, what are your suggestions to overcome this?
Give yourself the space to grieve your losses and validate your feelings. Even though it might feel like things are pretty standard day-to-day, we’re still grieving all the things we miss in our lives and our ability to choose. If you’re feeling frustrated by restrictions, it’s also helpful to refocus your attention on what IS in your control rather than what’s not in your control.
Another common feeling during Covid is uncertainty. How can people cope with” not being able to plan for the future”?
Give yourself permission to take things day by day. I feel like we almost have a felt sense of responsibility to plan for the future as a way of keeping on top of things and establishing control over our lives. It’s very difficult to make plans though- when we don’t have all the information we need. Try to take that weight off your shoulders and only plan for what you know right now.
Remember that we’re all in the same boat, and trust that you’ll be able to regroup and make decisions when needed.