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Don’t quarantine your mental health
With the COVID-19 pandemic entering wave 3, the past few months have been challenging for the entire world. To make things worse, we have seen several other human rights issues like the fight for justice for the black community and recent natural disasters such as the California and Australia wildfires.
Every day comes with challenges, but the ongoing pandemic comes with some additional ones and while the world navigates these turbulent times, we all face challenges even at a personal level. Not being able to live a normal life, meet your friends and family, being worried about losing a loved one, worrying about your own health and wellbeing or being disturbed by the distressing human rights violations could lead to mental health challenges. For example, a friend of mine was supposed to fly back to India for his wedding but because he couldn't, they had to have a very small ceremony here without their families. So, while we work together to make things better so we can go back to our normal lives, it is also important to take care of yourself.
Here are 6 tips to help you navigate the world right now. We’ve also outlined some resources that you can access and reach out to for support.
1. Ask for help
It’s important to talk about your feelings. Doing so can help you cope with problems you’ve been carrying around and help you feel supported.
Whether you’re facing mental health challenges, feeling anxious or just want to talk about your feelings, the University of Waterloo has some great resources to support you:
Counselling Services are a team of professionals who share programming and services to help you lead a healthy and balanced life. They do this through individual appointments, group therapy and workshops. They also Registered University of Waterloo students (in classes or on co-op) can access this service at no charge.
If you're unsure which might be best for you, explore your options on the Campus Wellness website, then give them a call during regular office hours through the week. They can be reached at 519-888-4567, ext. 32655.
Are you more comfortable talking to someone your own age? Someone you can relate to, who can relate to you? MATES is a one-to-one peer support program. UWaterloo students volunteer to support fellow students looking to build social skills or who are experiencing personal or academic concerns or low-level mental health and wellness difficulties. These volunteers are well-trained and are knowledgeable about several on and off-campus resources that students can use to navigate their day-to-day life. Reach them by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an appointment.
All doctors at Health Services are trained in mental health and can provide you with the help and support you’re looking for. With a referral from a Health Services physician, you can even schedule an appointment with a psychiatrist. Reach them at 519-888-4096 on Mondays from 8:30 am to 7:30pm and 8:30am to 4:30pm the rest of the week.
If you’re in crisis, feeling unsafe, or worried you might hurt yourself or others, there are several after-hours. off-campus resources you can reach out to for support.
Grand River Hospital – 519-749-4300
St. Mary’s Hospital – 519-744-3311
Good2Talk – 1-866-925-5454
Here 24/7 – 1-844-437-3247
Crisis Services Canada – 1-833-456-4566 or by text 45645
Empower Me, Mental Health Resources – 1-833-628-5589
Kitchener Waterloo Sexual Assault Support Center – 519-741-8633
Huron Perth Helpline (Stratford) – 1-888-829-7484
2. Keep active
Staying active is a great way to care for your mental health. Exercising releases hormones that make you feel good. This helps boost your self-esteem and can help you concentrate, sleep, and feel better.
With gyms, pools, courts and fields closed, and winter approaching, it can be challenging for a lot of us to maintain a fitness routine from home. But UWaterloo Athletics has some great at home workout programs to help you build and maintain a fitness routine.
A free library of fitness classes that is available to you at any time. Upon registration you will receive an email with links and passwords to all classes.
A peer-to-peer program that aims to help students experience the physical, emotional, mental, and cognitive benefits of physical activity by helping to break down barriers preventing participation.
In the series you will find webinars that are intended to help you boost your daily performance, both mentally and physically.
If you have questions about your program, are having trouble getting started, or finding any motivation, you can chat with a personal trainer for 30 minutes who can help you find the direction you are looking for.
On top of these, you can also look for programs on YouTube or Google. I enjoy and would recommend the free programs designed by Chloe Ting. You simply choose a program you and follow the schedule. The best part is, it’s completely free!
3. Eat well
Your brain needs the right nutrients in the appropriate amount to stay healthy and function well. So, following a diet that gives you all the nutrients and is good for your body will also be good for your mental health. It is important to consume a lot of different fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and proteins, and plenty of water.
If you're worried you may not be eating a balanced diet, or if you need help putting together a meal plan, there's some on-campus resources you can reach out to for guidance. Book an appointment with a doctor at Health Services. You can also register for the Personalized Nutrition Program by UWaterloo Athletics. There’s no charge free of cost and after filling out a short survey, you’ll be sent a personalized nutrition macro program to help you navigate your food choices and serving sizes.
4. Keep in touch
While we’re all trying to stay home and stay safe, we miss our loved ones, our family and friends that we cannot visit. Especially if you are an International student like me and cannot go back home. So, remember to stay in touch with your loved ones. Send them a text message, call them, schedule video calls, play games with each other, have lunch together, or find common activities that can help you stay connected.
Additionally, remember to bond with those that you live with. This could be your roommate, your family, or your friends. They are the people that you see every day while you stay at home and being close with them will help you feel supported.
Staying connected with the people around you and your loved ones will help you overcome feelings of loneliness, feel supported and improve your overall mental health.
6. Take a break (from media)
Working from home, while fun, can become monotonous, boring, and lonely sometimes. So, it is important to take breaks. It could be a five to ten-minute break between chapters, classes, or meetings. Personally, during this time, I clean, tidy up, make some tea/coffee for myself, or take a longer break for meals. This helps me avoid feeling overworked and makes me feel more positive.
Not only is it important to take short breaks from work, to take care of your mental health, it is also important to take breaks from the media. With the ongoing pandemic, we hear a lot of cases of death, infections, etc. and to make things worse, we hear more bad news like the California wildfires or the human rights issues around the world. Consuming media while is a good habit, constant negative news can leave you feeling upset and anxious, affecting your mental health. So, it is important to check in on your feelings and take a break from media consumption when you feel the need to do so.
7. Do something you're good at
Doing an activity, you are good at, such as painting, dancing, gardening etc. means that you probably enjoy it. It will help boost your self-esteem. Moreover, this is also a great time to learn something new, something that you have always wanted to learn but could not find the time for.
Concentrating on a hobby or diverting your attention elsewhere can help you forget about your problems for a while and contribute to making you feel better.