We spoke to a couple of Toronto psychologists on how to cope during this time.
With the rapid rise of COVID-19 hospitalizations and ICU admissions, the Ontario government made the call to reintroduce some lockdown measures to curb the spread of the Omicron variant.
As of January 5, a modified step two was put in place, imposing restrictions such as five-person gathering limits indoors, and indoor dining, gyms, and movie theatres being temporarily shut down. Some Ontarians are, undoubtedly, fed up with going into another lockdown.
One phenomenon that people are progressively experiencing after every lockdown, according to Director and Clinical Psychologist at Toronto Psychology Clinic, Dr. Saunia Ahmad, is something called learned helplessness.
"Learned helplessness refers to when what we're doing to make a particular outcome happen isn't working," Ahmad explained, and added that if one focuses on relying on positive coping mechanisms, they can minimize the impact this has on their overall mood.
"It's really important actually, that we recognize and validate our emotions and during this time period, not judge ourselves or view ourselves in a very critical or harsh manner," Dr. Mariyam Ahmed, a Toronto psychologist, told Narcity.
Narcity spoke to both psychologists for some coping strategies that can be helpful as the province settles into the new lockdown measures for the next few weeks.
Expert Advice On How To Cope With Another Lockdown www.youtube.com
Make a simple routine you know you can stick with
"It's particularly important right now to make sure you're taking care of your physical and mental well being with the restrictions in lockdown and focusing where you can to take care of yourself much better because these lockdowns, we know that they're not permanent, they are temporary, things will get better, but we just have to stay positive, stay focused, stay determined," Dr. Saunia Ahmad said.
The current restrictions are expected to stay around in Ontario until, at least, January 26. Since these health measures are staying around for the next few weeks, your day-to-day routines might have been disrupted. But, both psychologists stressed the importance of creating and sticking to a simple routine that you know you can keep up with.
"One of the biggest issues are people come up with a great plan and they can't execute it because it's too, too difficult and too different from what they usually do. If they're not used to working out in the morning because they did it after work, it's hard to implement," she continued.
"Keep it simple, and easy to execute."
When you're creating a new goal that you want to stick with, Dr. Mariyam Ahmed shared one easy-to-remember acronym called SMART.
"You want your goal to be specific, you want it to be measurable, you want it to be attainable, realistic, and timely," Ahmed said, and used getting into a consistent workout routine as an example.
"What are you going to do, is it going to be yoga so you're making it specific? How measurable means how many times a week? Is it realistic? Maybe you're not a 5 am morning person, so let's not make sure that that's a goal."
Talk to people
One of the hardest things for people during the lockdown right now is the lack of social connection, Ahmad shared, as people are biologically wired to socialize as part of survival.
"Connecting would be very important now," Ahmad said and advised to meet with people that are in your social bubble or even go outside and socially distance with others.
Ahmed says to use social media to your advantage and use it to connect with loved ones, meet new people, or reconnect with friends that you haven't spoken to in a while.
"Be proactive in reaching out to people, you know, you're not able to see people in person as easily," Ahmed said.
"With social media and technology on our hands, whether it's a text or phone call or a video call, we can certainly learn more about each other."
But, to stop yourself from feeling fatigued from one form of communication, Ahmed advised switching up formats.
Keep your mind engaged
Starting up a new activity or hobby that you have always wanted to get into can help boost your mood during this time, so that life doesn't feel too monotonous while you're at home.
"Whether it be cooking something, learning a language online or with a friend, taking up reading, learning about art or something which is of interest to you, or even an online gaming group, [just] something new that you can think of adding," Ahmed advised.
"Try to remind yourself that staying active has been linked to an improved mood and energy," Dr. Mariyam Ahmed shared.
Even if that means just taking a quick walk, or working out with an online training group, it is one way to boost your mood.
Dr. Saunia Ahmad also recommends engaging in physical exercise and taking care of your diet and sleeping habits, too.
"If you don't, then you're more vulnerable to having more depression, anxiety, and stress, as well," Ahmad said.
Take time to unplug
"It is also very important we set limits around how much information we're consuming about the pandemic and how much we're spending time on social media and the news," Ahmed said.
Even though it is good to keep up with what's happening, Ahmed advises setting some limits with how much information you're taking in.
Give back to your community
Aside from practicing any self-care habits or routines right now, another way people can take care of themselves is by helping out others.
"Research shows that giving back and helping has a really good positive impact on one's mood," Ahmad said.
"There's a lot of volunteer opportunities, people needing help during COVID with groceries, or vaccine clinics needing volunteers. Find opportunities for volunteering to give back to the community. That can also have a really good effect on your mood, as well, and it also helps you connect with people."
What resources can Ontarians use to reach out for some help?
"Speaking to a professional psychologist is certainly helpful if you feel like some of these mood and anxiety issues are getting to a point where they're interfering in your day-to-day life," Ahmed said and added that family doctors will have some resources for those who need it.
Ahmad shared some of the many online resources that Ontarians can also refer to.
"A few that I found that are particularly helpful are the Canadian Mental Health Association, cmha.ca, they have a website with a list of resources of many different types that includes mental health, online tools, and online information," Ahmad said.
Torontonians can also go through the City's website, as they put out several COVID-19 mental health resources for local residents to choose from.
"Finally, there's also askforhelptoday.ca, which is a new platform that the Ontario Psychological Association developed during COVID to help people get matched with a psychologist within relatively two-to-three business days, as well," Ahmad shared, and added there are tons of resources people can find with a quick Google search online.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with depression or mental health concerns, please reach out to a trusted peer, parent or health care professional. You can also contact the Crisis Services Canada helpline, which is available 24 hours a day to talk or consult additional resources. If you need immediate assistance please call 911 or go to your nearest hospital. Support is available.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
This article’s cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.