by Maxine Fischbein
(AJNews) – When the COVID-19 pandemic was first declared, many individuals “took COVID by the horns,” really availing themselves of technology like Zoom so that they could stay engaged, says Edmonton Registered Psychologist Farrel Greenspan.
But as the health emergency drags on, and the number of variants increases, even with the vaccination rollout progressing, it can be difficult to stay optimistic. Things have changed.
“A lot of the stuff that people were doing to manage has fallen by the wayside,” Greenspan told Alberta Jewish News, adding that the more protracted the need for physical isolation has become, the more habituated people have become to hunkering down in less-than-splendid isolation.
Getting back to embracing technology would be beneficial, says Greenspan, because it provides social and recreational outlets that are easily accessible from the safety of home. The offerings have increased since the early days of the pandemic, Greenspan ads, pointing to innovations like Zoom paint and pottery nights and online escape rooms and murder mysteries.
While that sounds like fun, technology can sometimes have a downside too. For example, excessive focus on COVID news can take a toll on some of us.
“Some people need to know. The anxiety is too much if they’re not checking the news,” Greenspan notes.
But if you are a person that is negatively impacted by the bombardment of information, Greenspan suggests limiting exposure by tuning in less frequently.
Similarly, Greenspan cautions against “doom scrolling through twitter and other social media platforms.”
“You have to find that balance of being informed . . . but not to the point where it is creating additional stress or overwhelming you.”
“So often we are consumed by the worries and stresses of COVID, and it lingers in our minds,” says Greenspan. “That can be incredibly overwhelming and draining, making you tired just because you are thinking about it so much.”
When that happens, Greenspan suggests identifying one or two activities that keep you present and engaged in the moment.
“When you get a break from the stresses of COVID by doing something for yourself mentally, physically or socially, that’s a very good thing to do. It’s something I don’t think people are doing a lot of.”
For Greenspan, puzzles do the trick, but he says the important thing is for each individual to find the activities that work best for them.
Now that the pandemic has become a marathon, Greenspan is noticing that many individuals, while filled with good intentions, are slower to connect with friends, having turned inwards.
“People should put reminders on their phones or calendars so they make time to reach out,” says Greenspan.
“It’s so easy to say I’ll do it tomorrow, but tomorrow never comes.”
If you make a “concrete plan,” you are more likely to follow through as intended, Greenspan says.
While it is easy to focus on the negativity of the health crisis, especially after more than a year of isolation, it is beneficial to also look on the bright side of life.
“One of the goals in counselling is to find meaning and positives . . . to grow from negative experiences and create more balance,” Greenspan says.
In that spirit, Greenspan counsels his patients to focus on the good things that have come out of their pandemic experiences.
For some people, it might be the opportunity for more family interaction. Some may be learning more about and, hence, drawing closer to their partners. Still others may be learning how to find contentment in being with themselves, Greenspan says.
“Often we put pressure on ourselves to function as we always have and then beat ourselves up when we can’t.”
Greenspan urges us to lower expectations while building confidence in our ability to navigate the pandemic.
Given the challenges of the pandemic, it important to monitor ourselves and our loved ones for warning signs that help is needed. These could include:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Significant changes in sleep and appetite
- Low energy
- Sustained feelings of emptiness, hopelessness and helplessness
- Irritability, confusion and anger (beyond one’s typical baseline)
- Changes in function (neglecting self-care, absence of routine)
- Absence of desire to connect with family and friends
- Noticeable slide in the quality of work
- Repeated expressions of worry from loved ones
- Substance abuse
While some of us are getting by with a little help from our friends, others may benefit from assistance from a registered psychologist or from one of the many mental health resources available in Alberta.
Some Edmonton mental health resources
In Emergency/life-threatening situations, call 911
Access 24/7 (Edmonton): 780-424-2424
Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566 or text 45645
Canadian Mental Health Association (Edmonton Region): https://edmonton.cmha.ca/
CMHA Distress Line (Edmonton): 780-482-HELP (4357)
Jewish Family Services Edmonton: https://www.jfse.org/ 780.454.1194
Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 or text CONNECT to 686868
Farrel Greenspan is a Registered Psychologist specializing in the treatment of Depression, Anxiety, ADHD, PTSD and Bipolar Disorder. He can be reached at Greenspan Psychology, email@example.com or 780-901-2638.
Maxine Fischbein is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Alberta Jewish News.