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Finding MORE JOY in tough times

Guest post by Christalee Froese, Founder and author, More Joy Movement

I call it the ‘Covid crash.’
For me, it’s a non-stop sense of impending doom that leads to my arms feeling like concrete and my desire to get out of bed dropping to zero.
I thought I was alone … but I’m not.
Health Canada reports that 50 percent of us have experienced worsening mental health since COVID-19 began impacting our everyday lives ten months ago.

The feelings of fear, loneliness and helplessness are real, but they’re also completely normal in a crisis such as a world-wide pandemic, says the Public Health Agency of Canada.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is new and unexpected. This situation can be unsettling and can cause a sense of loss of control. It is normal for people and communities to feel sad, stressed, confused, scared, or worried. People may react in different ways.”

The good news is that there is an extensive tool kit of coping strategies for getting through this period of Covid-19 uncertainty.
I know about tool kits.

After suffering a nervous breakdown in 2011 and being hospitalized for three weeks, using my tool kit for anxiety/depression became a way of life.
One of my strategies is journaling. It’s a place where I can see my worst fears written down in black and white, and then I can challenge those ‘often exaggerated’ statements with realistic arguments, like ‘yes, this is an extremely unnerving and scary time in my life, but it is also temporary.’
Journaling my way out of anxiety and depression led to my book Journey to Joy (YNWP, 2018)—a recount of my two-year recovery process. My recovery involved medication, counselling and taking on a topic of joy for 21 days each month. Topics like creativity, food, fitness, faith, photography, writing and gratitude eventually released me from my suffering and led to a greater sense of joy than I’d ever experienced

After releasing the book, I was shocked to learn about how many of us struggle with our mental health. This new awareness that MOST OF US experience mental difficulties, or are directly involved with someone who does, led to the creation of the More Joy Movement.
The Movement is now two years old, and our goals are simple: raise awareness about mental health issues; let sufferers know they’re not alone, and encourage the addition of ‘more joy’ into our everyday lives.
During Covid, the Movement has shared advice from experts, featured Covid-coping videos & care kits and has provided an online community where anyone can turn to for support.

One of the best sources of advice we’ve found has come from Saskatchewan’s own Online Therapy Unit headquartered at the University of Regina. The unit is a great local resource, providing six-week online counselling courses for FREE to Saskatchewan residents.

Here are some of my favourite suggestions from their Covid Tip Sheet (see the full version at https://www.onlinetherapyuser.ca):

  • Try to identify your thoughts by writing them down. Ask yourself whether each thought is helpful or unhelpful.
  • Balance out excessively negative thoughts with facts. For example, remind yourself that the overwhelming majority who contract the virus recover completely.
  •  Ask yourself: Have I been able to cope with flu, cold, or other illness in the past?
  • Ask yourself: What would a trusted friend or family member say if they knew I had these thoughts?
  • Remember: the current situation is temporary. Although no one knows how long the current situation will last, one thing is certain, eventually, it will end.
  • Set time limits on media.
  •  Focus on accessing trusted sources of information: Government of Canada, WHO, CDC, etc.
  • Set a routine: Even if you are at home, a routine can create structure and a sense of control and accomplishment.
  • Take activity breaks regularly.
  • Generate a list of activities that you enjoy: Some examples include listening to music, reading, working on a skill like computer programming, painting, magic, photography, etc.

I have felt myself entering the ‘Covid crash’ zone on at least two occasions since March. Both times, I was able to recognize that it was a result of watching too much news and trying to control a situation that I had no control over.

Here’s what I did:
I took myself off of news for a week straight (that’s life-altering as I’m a self-admitted addict).
I wrote down my worst fears … and challenged them.
I slept when I was tired.
I got outside at least once a day.
I ran at least three times a week.
Every time I thought about how bad the whole situation was and could still become, I forced myself to also think of the best-case scenario.
I still worry. And I’m still stressed. But I’m able to manage.
If you are struggling, a mental health worker can be reached via Healthline at 811. This service is provided 24 hours a day

If you’d like to join our support group, visit the More Joy Challenge on Facebook All joining WESK members will be entered to win a COVID CARE KIT which includes a Journey to Joy book and More Joy Mask, Journal, Coping Cards, Bath bomb, etc. $80 value).

Guest post by Christalee Froese Founder and author, More Joy Movement

E: lcfroese@sasktel.net

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