“I deliver food for a non-profit that cooks healthy meals for seniors, people in self-isolation, or anyone in need. Making a small difference for others helps put things into perspective.”
– Liz MacInnis, 40, Victoria
The pandemic has done a number on our morale. We’re worried about catching COVID-19 or losing someone to it. We may be trying to work with kids underfoot, risking our health at our job or suddenly unemployed. Then there’s the boredom and loneliness experienced by anyone who must stay home for extended periods of time. It’s no wonder that over half of Canadians report that their mental health has suffered since last March.
While we can’t change the circumstances, we can take active measures to feel better about ourselves. Here are 10 expert-approved strategies that’ll help you strengthen your resiliency— and find your happy place.
1. CUT BACK ON FACEBOOK
Since social media platforms can bring approving attention from others, they can seem like good places to go for a pick-me-up, but they might actually bring you down. Most people portray themselves in a distortedly flattering way on these feeds, giving the impression they’re having more exciting lives than they truly are. “This can lead to faulty comparisons and doubts about your own lifestyle,” says Rob Whitley, a psychiatry professor at McGill University in Montreal. In some cases, he adds, it can even contribute to the onset of depression or anxiety.
Social media can also tempt you to make decisions based on how you hope other people will perceive you—going to scenic spots that don’t actually interest you, for example, or spending all your time baking loaves of bread just to post photos of them. Meanwhile, the activities that will provide a sense of real purpose and worth, such as cultivating good relationships, pursuing meaningful work, contributing to the community, and learning new things, don’t always lend themselves to social media sharing.
In a 2018 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health survey, Ontarians who reported spending two or more hours on social media every day were significantly more likely to say their mental health was “poor” or “fair,” compared to people who spent less or no time on these platforms.
Whitley recommends moderation. He also suggests deciding on times when you won’t log on to social media at all—such as when you’re at the dinner table or having a telephone conversation—so you can give the activities at hand the focus they deserve.
2. DO SOMETHING YOU’RE GOOD AT
Patrick Keelan, a Calgary-based psychologist, rehearses the piano every day. It’s one of the ways he practises what he preaches. When he’s helping someone who is experiencing low self-esteem, he suggests they routinely engage with activities that use or improve their skills. “When you’re doing something you’re good at or getting better at, it gets harder to think negatively about yourself,” he explains.
Psychologists even have a name for this inner conflict—cognitive dissonance—and it’s a spark that can lead to a positive shift in how you see yourself. “If you keep up with activities you’ve mastered, it’ll put pressure on your attitude toward yourself to adjust to match,” Keelan says. “Something has to give.”
In other words, you shouldn’t wait until you’re feeling confident to brush up your chess game, learn to build furniture or try out a new recipe. Quite the opposite: just applying yourself to pursuits you find both interesting and challenging could, on its own, help to improve your self-perception.
3. EMBRACE BALANCED THINKING
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