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Am I Backsliding?

During times of crisis and panic, many people can feel as though their current mental health issues are on overdrive. Everyday activities that were once employed to help alleviate depression and anxiety, such as face-to-face encounters and related activities, have been put on pause in light of social distancing measures and self-isolation. Stress and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 have many feeling overwhelmed by potential financial, social, and health implications. With the additional strain on our mental health, some of us may feel like we’re regressing into old habits that we deem as ‘unhealthy.’ These practices may include excessive drinking, emotional eating, insomnia or oversleeping, and even over-exercising. It’s easy to start turning to old behaviours.  

There are countless social media posts about ways to achieve new goals, and become uber-productive now that we ‘have the time’; this can intensify feelings of isolation in our struggles. With social distancing in play, it’s even more important to stay connected and share what might be challenging for you right now, because chances are, others are struggling too. 

Remember…this is not an easy time. It’s okay if you are not okay right now, and most importantly, you are not alone in this.

  • Be kind to yourself. Some days are going to be better than others, both in mood and motivation. Remind yourself that these are hard times, and everyone has moments of struggling in both similar and different ways. 
  • If you do engage in old habits, try to see this as a signal of emotional pain and a need for something that stimulates or soothes you. Try different types of care and activities until you find something that meets your emotional needs.
  • Try moving your body regularly, and walk outside (even across the street or around the block) once a day. This practice can help, especially when you feel restless or have low energy.
  • Build motivation by making a daily routine and planning things to look forward to in your week, but try not to look too far into the future. There is an ending to all of this, even if it feels far away at the moment. 
  • Be realistic. You don’t have to finish a novel or establish a side business by the end of the pandemic. For example, finding a new hobby or activity that you enjoy (even if you’re “bad” at it) is good enough. 
  • Connect! Strike a balance between scheduling virtual hangouts, phone calls, or facetime dates, and spontaneously connecting with others throughout your week. When you start to feel lonely and disconnected, call a friend or family member. 
  • Disconnect from social media and news intermittently. Many of us are glued to our phones, scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, and catching up on a constant stream of COVID-19 articles. Set boundaries and limits with these things and try to give yourself some breaks in your day to connect to yourself and your needs.  
  • Breathe. It may seem simple, but it has a profound impact on our nervous systems. In moments where you feel overwhelmed with anxiety and fear, take a few deep breaths and remind yourself that this will pass.  

If you feel alone and overwhelmed, clinicians at CFIR are ready to offer support. Psychologists, psychotherapists, and counsellors from CFIR Ottawa and Toronto are providing secure, confidential therapy online or by phone. 

Whitney Reinhart, R.P. (Qualifying) is a qualifying registered psychotherapist, at the Centre for Interpersonal Relationships (CFIR) in Toronto. She supports adult and couple clients with a wide range of difficulties related to depression, anxiety, traumatic experiences, and interpersonal conflict.