For the past year, COVID-19 has held Manitobans in its grip. People have dealt with mandated closures, lockdowns and restrictions which have meant missing out on family gatherings, seeing loved ones and many other highlights.
But with three approved vaccines in Canada and warmer weather on the way, some are looking towards tiny victories to help brighten their mood.
After months of difficult times, it is important to look forward to small positives to help improve your overall mood, according to a psychologist.
“Hope is a really important thing when it comes to mood,” clinical psychologist Dr. Rehman Abdulrehman said.
“We see a light at the end of the tunnel. We know that our efforts have been worthwhile. It’s a sense of positivity and reinforcement, like a reward — we have something to look forward.”
Hope and mood are strongly tied together and when people can find even the smallest thing to look forward to it can greatly improve their mood, said Abdulrehman.
“Having something to look forward to can keep us hopeful and get us past the difficulty that we are struggling with,” he said.
“Many people can tolerate the stress knowing that there will be an end to it or that something is coming.”
Abdulrehman said throughout the pandemic, when people felt like they had no control over their day-to-day livelihoods, they looked to control what they could.
“At any point in time we look for the small things. In the heart of the pandemic, the middle of lockdown, people were doing small things that would help to find control in their lives, like baking bread or learning a new skill.”
While COVID-19 isn’t going away and new variants of the virus continue to be detected, the doctor said having more newly approved vaccines, and others on the way, are providing bigger wins.
“What’s been very hard for us, when it comes to COVID, is we’ve tolerated a lot of uncertainty without knowing when we are going to have the positive outcome.”
“We don’t know how much further the light at the end of the tunnel is so that’s where I think not just the good weather but vaccines (are) helping. Yes, there’s strains but we have more approval for vaccines.”
On Monday, Manitoba began its first immunization of the general population. People 95 and over and First Nations people 75 and older started to receive their first doses of the vaccine.
For those who are still feeling down there are ways to handle the stress.
Worry isn’t a very effective strategy for dealing with challenges, said Dr. Vaile Wright, a psychologist and director of clinical research and quality at the American Psychological Association.
“The things that are in your control are your thoughts, your feelings, your behaviours,” she said. So, it’s about managing stress in a productive way.
If you find yourself feeling overly stressed from the barrage of headlines and social media posts about the virus, Wright suggests you just take a break — advice echoed by the World Health Organization.
“We actually do know from numerous studies that while people want to stay connected and know what’s going on, it does drive up their stress levels,” she said.
“If you’re that kind of person where you recognize that reading the headlines, that staying connected is causing you additional stress, we do recommend taking a break.”
And, said Dr. Steven Taylor, a professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of British Columbia, you will get through the anxiety, even before the pandemic is over.
“I think the important thing is that people, in general, are highly resilient,” he said.
“People will adapt to this being the new normal, and they’ll get on and knuckle down and cope with their lives.”
-With files from Leslie YoungView link »