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Building Bridges by Cheryl Dizon-Reynante    

Getting through the fall and winter

months during the pandemic

by Cheryl Dizon-Reynante

On September 25th, the chief public health officer of Manitoba, Dr. Brent Roussin, announced that Winnipeg and 17 other regions would be moving to level Orange on the province’s pandemic response system. This restricted level will remain in effect for at least four weeks, two full incubation periods of the COVID-19 virus.

Effective Monday September 28, masks are required in all indoor public places within these regions and all indoor and outdoor gatherings will be limited to 10 people. Manitoba recently saw the effectiveness of level orange guidelines when the Prairie Mountain health region managed a spike in covid-19 cases.

As uncertainty and worrying can increase for some people, especially as we head into the fall and winter months, it is important to review our coping strategies, and what will be helpful to keep in mind.

  • Physical health: Keep a routine, get enough sleep and exercise, and maintain a healthy diet. We must abide by the health recommendations of hand washing and sanitizing, physical distancing, and wearing a mask in public.
  • Emotional wellbeing: Allow yourself time to process feelings of frustration, worry and even anger, but in a healthy way. Talk to a trusted friend or family member, write in a journal, engage in physical exercise, or talk to a mental health professional or clergy member. Chances are, if we allow genuine feelings to have their “air time,” they will subside. We can then return to a state of calm and can problem-solve more effectively.
  • Social wellbeing: Humans are not built to live alone. People require social connection – some more than others. But nowadays, we must figure out how to do this safely. The colder weather will limit our ability to meet outdoors, but just as we have before, we will still be able to participate in outdoor activities if we dress warmly and appropriately. Looking at the bright side, masks will be able to keep us warmer! Telephone or video calls are the current norm, and if we work together to have the best outcome possible, these means of interacting will be temporary. Spring will come again, and outdoor gatherings will likely be an option.

We will have to rethink how we celebrate holidays and special days now. It’s difficult to realize that our traditions and gatherings such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali, Ramadan, and New Years Day will be different. Even Halloween and Valentine’s Day will not be the same. But humans have proven time and time again that where there is a will, there is a way. We will simply have to be creative!

  • Mental health: Keeping a regular routine of going to bed and waking up at the same time is an effective mental health strategy because it provides certainty and a sense of control when other things seem out of control. Finding ways to be in the present minimizes the time that we replay the regrets of the past and worry about the events of the future. These “here-and-now” activities can include deep breathing exercises, meditation, prayer, and mindfulness practices. Other strategies are going for walks and appreciating nature, putting together a puzzle, colouring in an adult colouring book, engaging in tai chi or yoga, cuddling with a pet, singing and dancing.
  • Spiritual wellbeing: This includes religious practices, but also extends to finding ways to affirm that you are connected to something larger than yourself. When we serve and help others, we know that we are part of a community. Furthermore, spiritual health also involves finding meaning and purpose, and a reason to get up every day.

According to Father Yolando Gamallo of St. John Cantius parish in Winnipeg, wearing a mask is a spiritual act because it serves the greater community and demonstrates love for the other. No matter what one thinks about the science behind masks and whether they are or are not effective, isn’t it enough reason to wear one if it comforts the angst of our fellow human beings?

Stay safe and healthy everyone, and I hope that you find peace, comfort and meaning during these uncertain times.

Cheryl Dizon-Reynante is a licensed therapist with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association.

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