Has COVID-19 pandemic led to a lot of uncertainties in your everyday life? You may be feeling helpless, anxious, sad or frustrated.

"It's normal for all of us to experience a wide range of emotions during this time," says Carmen Bellows, a registered psychologist and Director of Mental Health Solutions at Sun Life. That's why that it's important for people to acknowledge their emotions and take time to protect their mental health.

Here's how you can get started. 

1. Get ahead of the stress curve

If you're feeling stressed or experiencing anxiety due to COVID-19, Bellows recommends getting ahead of the stress curve by:

  • Being conscious of the stress you feel. "All of us need to pay attention to what we're experiencing right away and not wait to deal with it," she says. Whether you're grieving, feeling sad or restless, it helps to have a strong understanding of your emotions.
  • Taking action to protect your long-term health. Acute stress can have a negative impact on your long-term health, Bellows adds. If you're feeling overwhelmed, you may want to look into ways to reduce your stress levels. This may mean taking time for yourself to do things you enjoy at home. Or, it may mean reaching out to family, friends or a health-care professional for help. 

2. Practice positive social distancing

Currently, the government has advised Canadians to practice social distancing (staying at home and physically away from others) to reduce the spread and the rate of infection of COVID-19. But social distancing doesn't mean being socially cut off, says Bellows.

"It doesn't mean being emotionally isolated," she explains. "It means having to look at how we connect in a very new and different way."

So what does positive social distancing look like in practice? It means:

  • having on-camera conversations with family or friends,
  • taking virtual lunches and social breaks with others, or
  • looking into virtual volunteer opportunities that let you give back to your community.

3. Get professional help if you need it

Remember that your current mental state can affect your long-term health. That's why it's better to get help sooner rather than later. If you feel like you need professional help, then Bellows recommends knowing what's available to you.

"There are a lot of health-care providers that are now offering virtual care," she says. "You may also want to look into your benefits plan and find out what services they're currently offering."

For example, does your workplace benefits come with an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)? These programs often provide free virtual therapy or e-counselling sessions for you and your family. Talk to your employer or HR department for more information.

You can also ask a medical professional if there are any mental health programs or services that are funded by the provincial or federal government. For example, Big White Wall is backed by the Ontario government and offers free, 24-hour online support and guided courses to help residents manage their mental health.

2 health tools you can use to find help

If you know you need help, but don't know where to start, Bellows recommends using one of these tools:

1. Provider search through mySunLife.ca and the my Sun Life mobile app

Available through mySunLife.ca and the my Sun Life mobile app, our provider search can help you find various health-care providers, including psychologists. It also includes consumer ratings and cost information. 

2. Lumino Health's provider search

This provider search is available to everyone and offers a hub of health resources, including a:

  • stress and anxiety explorer,
  • a library of covid-19-related articles, and
  • a full section on virtual and home health.

For more information on how you can improve your mental health during this emotional time, check out Bellows' webinar in the video below: