OTTAWA -- It’s the start of a fourth week of calls for physical distancing, working from home and school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Registered Therapist Nataxja Cini of Family Therapy says if you’re feeling stressed and anxious about all the news about the novel coronavirus, you’re not alone.

“Many people are sharing their worries with their families and friends and publicly on social media,” said Cini.

“Experts say overloading on information about coronavirus and the impact on your life and the economy can make you particularly anxious, especially when you’re stuck inside and you keep scrolling through your newsfeed every hour.”

Cini shares with five tips for dealing with anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reach out for help

Cini says you should speak with a mental health professional if you are struggling with anxiety, you’re feeling overwhelmed, you feel you are not handling all the physical distancing calls or you’re really feeling isolated right now.

“Speaking with a mental health professional can provide you with tools to cope and reduce your anxiety,” said Cini.

Psychotherapists, social workers and psychologists are offering telehealth (video conferencing) and phone sessions with clients.

“While this may not be your preferred way to speak with a therapist, speaking with a mental health professional can provide you with tools to cope and reduce your anxiety,” said Cini.

Cini says psychotherapists have training on how to provide counselling services online and protect your privacy and confidentiality.

Avoid too much news

Cini says while it’s important to keep on top of the current situation about COVID-19, “exposing yourself to too many negative and stressful stories can increase your anxiety and stress levels.”

Cini recommends that if you find yourself being overwhelmed by the constant stream of COVID-19 news, “choose to take a break from social media, scrolling through all your news feeds.”

Check your news feed and social media a couple of times a day or decide only to look at your newsfeed at a set time each day.

Make sure you’re practicing positive self care

Now that many of us are telecommuting to the office and staying home all day, Cini says ‘It’s really important to take care of ourselves by eating healthy meals, getting enough sleep, and trying to maintain a regular routine.”

Instead of wearing your “daytime PJs” while working at home, Cini suggests “washing up and changing out of your sleepwear will make you feel better as we spend a lot of time inside our homes.”

Other suggestions for self-care at home from Cini include:

  • You and your partner trading off child care duties during the day so you can get in some productive work time and time to go for a walk
  • Going for a walk around the block can help offset the negative effects of sitting inside all day
  • Reading a good book, doing a puzzle, playing music or finding a hobby

“Self-care is different for everyone. Self-care is engaging in an activity which is rejuvenating as opposed to a passive activity such as gaming or watching TV,” said Cini.

“Getting out for a quick jog, run or any form of aerobic exercise that gets your heart beating will reduce your feelings of anxiety.”

Cini also recommends mindfulness exercises or practice are helpful in the treatment of anxiety.

“Simple mindfulness exercises such as listening to or feeling your breath can help you quickly reduce your anxiety.”

Cini says one quick way to reduce your anxiety and bring a sense of calmness is to breathe in for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of seven, and exhale very slowly for a count of eight.

Focus on what you can control

Cini says just watching the news can be very dismal and overwhelming.

“You can actively reduce and manage your anxiety by focusing on what you can control and looking for a solution focused proactive actions you can do.”

Cini says “you can’t control if other people are not following social distancing rules or if they wash their hands.”

“Focus on the things that you and your family are doing such as washing hands, avoiding unnecessary trips to the stores as well as the positive things your local community and the government are doing to help protect you and your community.”

Cini concludes by saying “whenever you feel powerless, focus on the actions you can take instead of those you cannot. Focusing on what you and your children can do together to help protect your family is empowering. “

Create a realistic routine

This is the fourth week of school closures and working at home for many people in the National Capital Region.

Cini says “it’s important to create a routine so the days don’t all just blend one into another.”

“Routine can be an anchor to our days. No matter what’s going on, knowing that we will be having our lunch at noon, dinner around 6 p.m., and going to bed around 8 to 10 p.m. can be a real comfort for everyone,” said Cini.

“Everyone needs a routine whether it’s your four-year-old or 17-year-old. Make sure everyone’s getting in a good meal, pitching in to help prepare meals or clean up, spending time hanging out together as a family, getting some alone and downtime and getting some fresh air.”

Spend some time reading or doing math problems with the kids.

Cini adds “coping with this unpredictable time can feel more doable and less stressful when we have some structure in place that reminds us we are still on track.”