As we continue to adjust to a new normal, it is natural to be experiencing many emotions. Sadness, grief, worry, stress, isolation.

What we are collectively experiencing is out of the ordinary, and many of us are struggling and trying to find ways to cope with the ongoing effects of this pandemic.

We know this situation is stressful for everyone; people living with mental illness and addictions may be finding it especially difficult to cope.

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, please contact 911 immediately or present to your nearest emergency department. For up-to-date information about Alberta’s COVID-19 response, please visit the province’s COVID-19 page.

If you or someone you know is struggling, the resources on this page are here to support you.

Explore Virtual Resources available to Albertans

 

Alberta Health Services– Help in Tough Times

Find listings for phone lines, online resources, support groups, and self-help information.

Centre for Online Mental Health Support (COMHS)

Register for a free online webinar program, providing rapid, interactive support in a live format. Or check out their listing of online resources targeted to specific needs.

Children Youth and Families Addiction and Mental Health– Caregiver Education

A helpful resource for parents and caregivers! Watch videos from their Mental Health Literacy series or sign up for a virtual caregiver session.

 

Receive daily tips and encouragement.

Sign up for Text4Hope, a tool supporting mental health and wellness in a time of stress and isolation

By texting COVID19HOPE to 393939, you will receive 3 months of daily text messages that provide support and encouragement to ease stress and anxiety.

The service was developed by local clinical staff, with messages written by local mental health therapists.

 

Get direct support for your mental illness.

Addiction and Mental Health Access 24/7 in Edmonton is available by phone (780-424-2424) or to walk-in (10959 102 St) every day of the week, 24 hours a day.

For all your addiction and mental health needs: reach out and clinical staff will help find the right service for you.

Access outreach services, including information and referrals; assessment; support for individuals and families to navigate Alberta Health Services (AHS) and community services; consults to community providers; and intervention and treatment.

 

Helpful tips.

Compiled from AHS resources and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

  • Seek credible information.
    • Focus on getting information that will help you take practical steps to protect yourself and your loved ones. Taking in too much or constant information about COVID-19 can cause you or those around you to feel worried or anxious. 
    • Limit the amount of time you spend watching, reading, or listening to news about COVID-19. Seek information at specific times once or twice a day, for example once in the morning and once in the evening. Even though things are shifting rapidly, daily changes are not likely to affect how you should manage your risk.

    • Get the facts about COVID-19 from reliable sources such as www.alberta.ca/coronavirus-info-for- albertans.aspx#p22780s1 or Health Canada www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019- novel-coronavirus-infection.html.

    • Avoid unfamiliar websites, or online discussion groups where people post information from non-credible sources or share stories which may or may not be true. Be wary of what is posted on social media, and always consider the reliability of information you see on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
  • Accept that some anxiety and fear is normal.

    We are still learning about COVID-19. The uncertainty about the virus and the changes that are unfolding can make most people feel a bit anxious. This is normal, and it actually can help motivate us to take action to protect ourselves and others, and to learn more about the pandemic.

  • Make a plan.

    When you have no control over a stressful having a plan and being emotionally prepared can help you stay calm, feel more in control, and reduce stress.

    Your plan should include what changes need to make to reduce the risk of infection and what to do if you or someone in your family or household becomes sick. To help you plan or for more information go to www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel- coronavirus-infection/being-prepared.html.

    All the issues you might need to address during this pandemic may feel overwhelming. It can be useful to identify which things are actually problems that need to be solved or addressed, and which are just worries that are not necessarily grounded in reality. Click here for some steps you can take to resolve issues that come up for you.

  • Remember the positives.

    There is effective care for COVID-19; people with COVID-19 are recovering and after recovering from COVID-19, will go on with their lives, including jobs, families and loved ones.

    Keep in mind that this situation is temporary, and eventually things will return to normal.

    Negative thoughts may still arise. High levels of anxiety and stress are usually fuelled by the way we think. For example, you might be having thoughts such as “I am going to die” or “There is nothing I can do” or “I won’t be able to cope.” These thoughts can be so strong that you believe them to be true.

    However, not all our thoughts are facts; many are simply beliefs that we hold. Sometimes we have held these beliefs for so long that they feel like facts.

    Try to identify negative thoughts, and when you do, try to challenge them. Use questions like:

    Is this thought true? – How do I know it’s true? – Is it 100% true and always true? – What is the evidence for the thought? – What is the evidence against the thought? – Has the thing I’m worried about ever happened before? – What actually happened? – How did I cope? What was the end result?

  • Maintain your regular routines as much as possible.

    Focus on what needs to happen today, and make a list of what you need to do in the next day or week to keep yourself safe and comfortable.

  • Be mindful.

    Pay attention to your thoughts, feelings, and body sensations. This can help you understand why you’re feeling anxious or stressed. If you’re having trouble managing your stress or anxiety talk to someone you trust, contact your healthcare provider, or call the Mental Health Helpline at 1-877-303-2642.

  • Practice breathing techniques.

     Practicing breathing techniques is a one way to help you manage stress and anxiety. It can calm your nervous system and help you think more clearly. Take a slow deep breath in as you count to 5 and then exhale, also counting to 5 (repeat 10 times). Practice doing this throughout your day.

  • Bring an intentional mindset to unplugging.
    • Set aside some time to unplug from all electronics, including phone, tablets and computers. Disconnect for a while from social media outlets. You may need to schedule this to make sure it happens.
    • Do something fun and healthy for yourself instead (e.g., read, work, exercise).
    • Relaxation strategies and meditation can help reduce or manage your levels of stress and anxiety. There are many options to consider:
      • formal meditation practice such as yoga or mindfulness meditation
      • informal or self-help approaches such as books and online videos
      • relaxation through any activity that you find enjoyable and relaxing.

      Choose an activity that works for you and that you are likely to continue doing. Start slowly and gradually work toward a regular practice.

  • Get proper rest and sleep.

    Getting enough sleep can both help reduce the amount of stress we experience and prepare us to better manage stress. Here are some quick strategies to help you get a good night’s sleep.

    • Keep a consistent sleep schedule. This going to bed and getting up at the same time each day (including weekends).
    • Practise relaxation or meditation before bedtime.
    • Schedule physical activity for earlier in the day.
    • Practice sleep hygiene: keep your bedroom cool, avoid any light in your room, use your bed for sleep (not reading, watching TV, using your phone, etc.), and get out of bed if you don’t fall asleep after half an hour).
    • Talk to your doctor if these strategies don’t work — there may be other issues affecting your sleep.
    • If you drink  caffeine or alcohol, avoid them late in the day.
    • Avoid naps during the day if these interrupt your sleep at night.
  • Stay active.

    Physical activity is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety, and improve our mood and overall health. If you are self-isolated, find ways to exercise in your home. For example, use your stairs or follow an exercise video on YouTube.

  • Eat healthily

    Eating healthily can help us feel better. When we are stressed, many people might choose comfort foods that are not actually good for stress and overall health. As much as is possible, choose more fruits and vegetables, and drink lots of water.

    Be careful with your caffeine consumption. Caffeine may be an important part of our daily routine, but too much can make your heart race and interfere with sleep. This can make anxiety worse. Try to stop intake before the evening so you get proper sleep.

    Avoid substance use. Some people use substances, including smoking or vaping, to cope with stress, anxiety and depression. This may appear to help reduce stress initially, but in the long run can make things worse.

  • Remember that you are resilient and be careful with the "What ifs"

    Our stress and anxiety generally cause us to focus on negatives and trigger “What if” questions, such as “How will I cope if I get sick?” They can also drive us to think about worst case scenarios.

    In stressful situations, people often overestimate how bad the situation can get, but underestimate how well they will be able to cope. People are resilient and have coping skills they use every day.

    • Think of difficult or challenging situations you have an encountered that you were able to manage. Even if things weren’t perfect, what did you do to cope with the situation?
    • Remind yourself that you can handle stress and that if you feel you need support, you can reach out to family, friends, colleagues or professionals.
    • Remember our collective resources – from excellent health care and public health response systems to strong and resilient communities. Try to replace catastrophic thoughts with something like, “This is definitely a difficult time, but we will get through it together.”
    • Don’t underestimate what you are able to do when faced with challenges.
  • Be kind to yourself.

    The strategies mentioned here can take some time to work. We need to practise them regularly and in different situations. Don’t be hard on yourself if you forget to do something or if you are not feeling better right away.