Five tips to help you cope during the COVID-19 stay-at-home order
A pedestrian makes their way along the Rideau Canal in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
OTTAWA -- As the third week of the province-wide stay-at-home order begins, an Ottawa therapist says it's okay to be experiencing many different emotions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We're angry, we're depressed, we're frustrated by this and we're overwhelmed by this because the rules keep on changing on us," says Nataxja Cini of Family Therapy.
"And humans as a rule like structure and they like patterns and routines. We're just creatures of habit."
Cini tells CTV News Ottawa it's okay to feel all of your emotions.
"It's not that your emotions are unrealistic. Your emotions are real and they're all valid. It is the intensity and the duration that then I start saying, 'OK, you be can angry but here we go again.' Anger tells you that you want change," says Cini.
However, the therapist with Family Therapy in Ottawa says while it's okay to feel frustrated, sad, angry, depressed and other emotions during the pandemic, if it lasts two weeks or more you should seek help.
"So we all experience emotions; so we experience something – whether it's a pit in the middle of our stomach, that nauseous feeling in our throat, the tension in our shoulders – those are all bodily felt symptoms that give us information and then we interpret what they mean," said Cini.
"So you get to choose how you interpret the shutdown again, what emotion you want to attach to it. But if you continue to have this emotion for weeks on end, that's not helping you anymore."
Nataxja Cini of Family Therapy shares five tips with CTVNewsOttawa.ca on how to cope during the province-wide stay-at-home order and shutdown.
HOW WE RESPOND VS. HOW WE REACT
Cini recommends thinking about how you respond to situations during the stay-at-home order versus how you react because it will determine how you interact with yourself and others, along with the emotion level.
"Think about, if you pop a balloon most people jump, that's automatic. But if we react that way to the lockdown, we're always going to be jumpy. I want you to think about how you could respond to this differently," said Cini.
"Because responding is giving yourself that moment to think about, 'OK, we're in a lockdown. I can't control it.' We don't decide who gets the virus, we don't decide what the government gets to do. That's out of our control, what we can control is our responses to things," Cini tells CTVNewsOttawa.ca.
"This is where we make meaning of it. So you can choose to say, 'The government is controlling us.' You can choose how you can interpret this but you can also choose how you're going to respond to this. Yes, you can be angry upfront about it, and I'm not going to say don't be angry because I want you to actually experience your emotions, but you can choose then how long you want to be angry over this. That's really important that we don't realize, is that we can control our emotions. We can make choices."
"Learning how to calm yourself down and slow down your body is really important. Because most of us aren't taught that as kids, how to manage our emotions," says Cini.
The therapist with Family Therapy in Ottawa says if you're having a hard time with your emotions or you're finding yourself really anxious about the situation, try one of these breathing techniques to slow down your body.
Cini recommends a technique called "Straw Breathing", where you sit down and focus on your breathing for five minutes.
"Make yourself comfortable, breathe in through your nose for a count of four, then breathe out through your mouth like you're blowing through a straw for at least a count of eight."
4, 7, 8 BREATHING
Again, do this breathing exercise while sitting down.
"You breathe in for a count of four, you hold it for seven and you breathe out for eight," said Cini.
Cini says if you're experiencing emotions, take some time to breathe.
"Before you react to something, take a few breaths, give yourself the space to think about it."
LABEL YOUR EMOTIONS
"Many of us didn't learn how to even talk about emotions, let alone label them. If you can actually say, 'Hey, maybe I'm feeling sad today or maybe I am worried,'" says Cini.
"Labelling your emotions, saying it yourself, acknowledging how you feel, actually diminish the intensity of that feeling. And that's really important that we label how we feel."
Cini recommends sitting down and writing about your emotions or starting a journal.
"When you write things out, you're processing how you're feeling," said Cini, adding you could also start a gratitude journal to focus on what you're grateful for daily during the pandemic.
As you're working from home, looking after the kids and balancing day-to-day issues and challenges, Cini recommends taking time to get away.
"We're having a really hard time balancing work and home life. It's important that you turn off your phone," said Cini.
"One of the things that we know is even if you spend five minutes outside in nature, it is so relaxing and rejuvenating. If we're always connected to our cellphones, our tablets we're always on. What I mean, your brain is always on and it's not in a rejuvenation mode."
Cini also suggests putting down the device daily for a break from the news and social media.
"It's really important for us to get off our devices, whether it's the news or TV and just have connected time with each other, down time with yourself or outside time."
While Ontario's stay-at-home order prohibits in-person gatherings with people outside your household, Cini says you still need to have human connection during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We are primed to be connected to other people. Humans are herd animals, we are not solitary creatures," said Cini.
Instead of just texting or emailing, Cini recommends reaching out and calling or Skyping with family, friends and even co-workers you haven't seen face-to-face in weeks or months.
Here is a list of Mental Health Resources available for you
- The Mental Health Crisis Line (24 hours a day/7 days a week) 613-722-6914
- Distress Centre of Ottawa (24 hours a day/7 days a week) 613-238-3311
- Kids Help Phone (bilingual) 1-800-668-6868
- Good 2 Talk (bilingual) 1-866-925-5454
- First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line 24/7 (Bilingual, Other) 1-855-242-3310
- Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre Crisis Line 24/7 (English) 613-562-2333 24hr Line: 613-562-2333