The uncertainty of COVID-19 and the disruptions it has caused to daily life might be causing feelings of anxiety and stress. While these feelings are normal to experience—they should not consume your life. Remember, there is no “normal” way to react to these changes! We want to make sure that you focus on maintaining and fostering mental wellness.
Stay at Home Tips
We know the recent Stay at Home order can feel tough after the recent hopeful messages about vaccination efforts. Now, more than ever it is important to focus on our health and wellness and use simple strategies to move through the next phase of the pandemic.
- Acknowledge your feelings - It is important to acknowledge our feelings of sadness, worry, or disappointment at the current state of events. Try not to push them away, but accept them and talk with others about them if you are feeling overwhelmed.
- Do a social media/news audit - Turn off push notifications for news on your phone and set aside a certain time of day to keep yourself informed on current events from credible sources. Avoid the temptation to scroll through your social media for updates or statistics. Consider what accounts you follow and whether they are helping your mindset.
- Keep a routine - Pick a regular time to get up, get dressed, and eat. Sticking to a routine can help you reduce mental fatigue and keep you motivated to get your work or school work done.
- Connect with friends and family - Make regular, scheduled calls or video calls to loved ones and friends to connect, watch a movie together, or play a game.
- Get outdoors - If you can spend some time outdoors that is physically distanced, take some time to walk, bike, roll around your neighbourhood. Wear a mask if you feel anxious about passing people on the street and enjoy the spring scenery and sunshine.
- Continue to exercise - Find a safe way to keep moving from home. There are lots of apps or UWaterloo Recreation classes available online.
- Practice being in the moment - Practice mindfulness or gratitude to help you feel grounded and focused on your present environment. Try a guided meditation or start a gratitude journal.
- Reach out for support if you need it - While the stay at home order is necessary for our physical health, we know it can be tough on your mental health. Remember that support is available. Campus Wellness services are still operating for students using phone and video appointments. Call 519-888-4567 ext 42655 to book an appointment. EmpowerMe is also available 24/7 at 1-833-628-5589. The Employee Assistance Plan is available for Staff and Faculty at 1.800.663.1142.
Mental Wellness and Connections
Self-care and COVID-19
Social Media and COVID-19
Are You Struggling?
Ordering takeout and delivery food safely during the COVID-19 pandemic
Public health guidelines encourage people to stay at home except for essential trips, however buying prepared meals at least on occasion may be a necessity for some people. As many of our usual day-to-day activities have been upended, ordering takeout from a favourite restaurant can also help provide a sense of normality during a challenging time as well a way to support local businesses. Whatever the reason for doing so, purchasing takeout food and beverages from restaurants appears to be safe. According to guidelines issued by the BC Centre for Disease Control and the Government of Canada there is no currently no evidence that to suggest that food is a likely source of COVID-19 virus transmission.
If you choose to order food, follow social distancing guidelines by maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet (2 metres) from others when picking up takeout or receiving delivered items. Pay electronically so cash does not have to exchange hands. If you have food delivered, instruct the delivery person to leave the food outside your door. Until more is known about how long COVID-19 survives on objects, it makes sense to consider packages that come into your home from outside, including takeout or delivered food, as potentially contaminated. Before handling your order, wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water. Discard the bag the order comes in. If you decide to wipe the outside of the food container, make sure that wipes or sanitizing products do not come in direct contact with your food. Better yet, transfer the food to a clean container and dispose of the original packaging. Wash your hands again before and after eating your meal. If you are reheating food, the BC Centre for Disease Control advises that ”normal cooking temperatures will kill COVID-19 and other microbes in food” and recommends a thermometer should be used to check that the internal temperature of the food has reached 74°C.
Stocking your kitchen during a pandemic
People living in Canada are not usually faced with lineups and empty shelves on their shopping excursions. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring we have the supplies needed is a concern of many.
There is no need to overbuy food: a good rule of thumb is to have 2 weeks’ worth of food on hand. Our food supply continues to be robust and 70 per cent of Canada’s food comes from within our own borders. Although grocery stores may not have our favourite bread or might be sold out of flour or specific food items on a given day, we are fortunate to continue to have a wide variety of foods available.
Before you shop, check to see what you already have and clear out things that are past their prime. Think about preparing simple soups, stews and meals like chili, pastas, stir fries, omelets or curries that will not require buying unnecessarily long lists of ingredients. Plan meals in advance but have supplies on hand so you can substitute something else when needed. For example, if the supermarket is out of the chicken breast you planned to add to tonight’s curry, substitute chickpeas instead. If the ground beef you needed for tomorrow’s spaghetti isn’t available, use lentils, cannellini beans or ground turkey.
Here are some suggestions for grocery staples that have a longer shelf life. Stocking a variety of these foods will allow you to prepare some easy and balanced meals.
- canned vegetables like diced tomatoes, beets, corn
- frozen vegetables like broccoli, peas, spinach, mixed vegetables
- fresh vegetables like onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, cabbage, carrots, squash
- pasta sauce
- frozen fruits like blueberries, raspberries, mango or fruit blends
- canned fruits packed in juice, applesauce
- fresh fruit like oranges, apples
- dried fruits like raisins or cranberries
- rice and pasta (at least some whole grain), quinoa
- oatmeal, high fibre and lower sugar ready-to-serve cereal
- whole grain bread (buy an extra loaf or two for the freezer)
- eggs (store in original carton inside the refrigerator, not in the door)
- canned tuna or salmon
- variety of canned beans and chickpeas, canned or dried lentils
- peanut butter (or alternatives like sunflower or soy butter homes)
- unsalted nuts and seeds
- a few packages of versatile proteins like chicken breast, ground beef or turkey or fish fillets for the freezer
- frozen edamame – use in soups, stir fries or in grain bowls
- micro-filtered milk has a longer expiry date, so consider choosing this if you need your milk to last longer
- UHT packaged milk or soy milk (shelf-stable)
- most cheeses and many yogurts have a fairly long shelf life (check expiry dates)
- butter or tub of margarine
- oil for cooking (such as olive or canola oil), canned broth or powdered bouillon, canned soups (especially those with protein like bean or lentil soups)
- your preferred condiments - like mayonnaise, mustard, salad dressings, etc.
- staples like coffee, tea, sugar, flour, herbs, spices and seasonings, etc.
Planning meals ahead of time will help you to limit your trips to the grocery store. It is reassuring to know that our food retailers are taking many steps to keep both foods and shoppers safe; observe the safety recommendations posted.
Diet and your immune system
Nutrition misinformation is rampant at any time, but the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a further increase in deceitful marketing scams. Dietitians of Canada (DC), in a March 2020 position statement, stated “Simply put, you cannot ‘boost’ your immune system through diet and no specific food, supplement or natural health product will prevent you from catching COVID-19.” DC also advises that the Canadian government has not approved any product to prevent, treat or cure COVID-19 and that selling unauthorized health products or making false or misleading claims is illegal in Canada.
A strong immune system, while not a guarantee that you can fight off every dangerous threat, is an essential line of defense. Immunity is a result of your body’s ability to activate a complex linkage of specialized cells, organs and systems that work together to defend you from attacks by infectious disease agents such as viruses and bacteria. Good nutrition is an essential component of this response. Many nutrients work together to support this system but there is no evidence that taking nutrition supplements helps to protect you from COVID-19 virus.
Focus on what you can do to keep your diet as nutritious as possible. Canada’s Food Guide healthy plate is an easy-to-use and scientifically validated tool. At each meal, fill half your plate with vegetables and fruit, a quarter with a protein-rich food and the final quarter with whole grains. While it may seem challenging with more limited shopping trips, try to choose a selection of vegetables and fruit – especially brightly coloured ones like dark leafy greens, carrots, sweet potatoes, berries, peppers, broccoli and oranges. Frozen vegetables and fruit contain the same nutrients as fresh - keep several varieties stocked if you have room in your freezer.
Try making this nutrient-rich, easy Carrot, Ginger and Lentil Soup that supports a healthy immune system and is also delicious and economical.
Source: Health Canada
Physical activity is beneficial to your emotional, social and physical wellbeing and can improve academic performance.
Being active looks different for everyone. It is important to listen to what your body needs and find activities that you enjoy doing.
Being physically active on a regular basis can improve your wellbeing by:
- Reducing anxiety and depression
- Improving your mood, self-esteem and cognitive function
- Improving your sleep
If you’re looking for ways to be active at home, check out the links below.
Top 4 Work from Home (WFH) Tips
Author: Olivia Roth for the May Wellness Collaborative Community of Practice
Social media sites like LinkedIn and company blogs have been exploding recently with all kinds of work from home tips, capitalizing on the fact that so many individuals have transitioned to remote work. A Statistics Canada survey indicated that nearly 5 million Canadians transitioned to remote work during March 22 to 28 who do not usually work from home in response to COVID-19 (Statistics Canada, Canadian Perspectives Survey Series 1: COVID-19 and working from home, 2020).
Many of these tips reference ‘must-dos’ such as having natural light, an ergonomic work set up, and the liberty to work during your most productive hours, whether that be in the early morning, afternoon, or evening. This advice is valid, though for many of us in the UWaterloo community, the transition to WFH happened very quickly. We may be working from our couch or kitchen table (how ergonomic is that kitchen chair?) or wherever we can find a quiet spot in our home. We may not be able to pick and choose our ‘most productive hours’ to get work done; we need to work when we can in between all of the other demands in our life right now.
That being said, the four WFH tips shared below are centered on things we can control. They are focused on team cohesion and community building, are easily implementable, and will hopefully further improve your WFH experience.
Tip #1: Initiate personal touchpoints with colleagues
What it is: The idea is that this check-in is not about work. It’s a personal touchpoint to see and hear how someone is doing, and to continue to build the relationship with those you work with. Spending time socializing at lunch, asking colleagues about their weekend, and discussing upcoming social plans does not have to stop just because we are working remote.
Ways you can do it:
- Send a funny (and work appropriate!) meme or GIF to your team
- Spend some time chatting over MS Teams or Skype
- Pick up the phone instead of sending an email
- Ask a good question (What’s something that made you laugh recently? What’s the balance been like for you lately and how are you managing?)
Tip #2: Consider over-communicating
What it is: Under-communicating can leave people feeling out of the loop and disengaged. It is not usually our intention when we under-communicate, but in a work-from-home-world, we need to make more of an effort to ensure people have the information needed to inform their work, and to keep them connected to what’s going on at a team, unit, and department level. As both communicators and receivers of information, we can take extra steps to ensure expectations are aligned and transparency is increased.
Ways you can do it:
- Acknowledge receipt of an email even if no response was required
- Send a proactive note to your manager to let them know the status of your work
- Turn your video on for your next team call so that you can communicate through voice and body language
- Loop someone else into a conversation if you feel they could benefit from being part of the discussion
Tip #3: Start team meetings with a coffee chat
What it is: Instead of jumping right into business, consider planning a few minutes into your meeting agenda for an informal team chat. Depending how frequently your team meets may determine how often you plan this time into your agenda and how much time you allot.
Ways you can do it:
- Conduct a roundtable where each person can share how they are doing, highs and lows, updates, etc.
- Have some fun with home office tours
- Highlight a success story, accomplishment, or good news story
- Recognize others’ contributions (i.e. before the meeting, everyone draws a name from a virtual hat and comes prepared to share how that colleague has made a positive difference
Tip #4: Participate in a team activity
What it is: Team building activities don’t need to take a backseat even though we are WFH. There are so many ways to virtually connect with others for team building purposes that will likely cost your department way less than traditional team building activities.
Ways you can do it:
- Participate in a physical activity together (Warrior Workout, team power walk at lunch)
- Book a virtual lunch or coffee chat
- Play an online game (cards, trivia, charades)
- Host a virtual lunch and learn event
The benefits of all these tips are the same: more connection to colleagues, decreased feelings of isolation, and more engagement in your work. It is way easier to feel frustrated with someone or feel isolated or disengaged when we don’t know anything about the people we work with. The more connected we can be as a team and keep learning about and from one another, the better we will perform (and the happier we may feel!).
Virtual Meeting Fatigue
In our new virtual pandemic world many of us are spending many more hours on screens than we used to. With a day full of work or lecture calls and then our evenings and weekends connecting with family and friends on a screen, you can feel exhausted at the end of the day even though you might not have left the house or felt like you have accomplished much.
Why do virtual meetings feel harder than in-person meetings?
- It is harder to read people’s expressions and tone on a computer and there is a pressure to maintain eye contact with the faces on your screen.
- You might find there are interruptions from within your home, like pet sounds or other members of your family, that are distracting.
- Seeing your own face on the screen all the time can be hard. Most of us don’t spend all our time looking in a mirror all day. It can lead to added stress and self-criticism on how we look or how we respond to things.
- We don’t move as much. We don’t move from classroom to classroom or meeting room to meeting room in a virtual environment, which leads us to spending a large amount of time in one spot, in the same position.
So what can you do about virtual fatigue?
- Allow yourself space to break eye contact with the faces on your screen (including yourself), whether that is turning your camera off for brief periods to give yourself a break, or moving yourself back from the screen when you aren’t speaking to allow for more personal space between yourself and the other participants.
- Take control of your scheduling if you can, by putting 15 minute breaks in between your meetings where possible or blocking space in your calendar if you really need to just concentrate on one project for a while.
- Take movement breaks, either during a camera-off meeting or between meetings, to stretch, pace, or do some light yoga.
- Remember that this is temporary. Although we don’t yet know how long we’ll be in this virtual-only, physically distanced world, we do know that it won’t be forever. Be kind to yourself and acknowledge that you are doing your best. If it all feels overwhelming, reach out for support.
More COVID-19 Wellness Resources
Stronger Minds by Beacon: a free digital program for all Canadians to support your mental well-being through the COVID-19 crisis. Get guidance that is created to help with the specific emotional well-being concerns stirred by the pandemic, through easy-to-digest resources.
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health: Various resources related to your mental health amidst the COVID-19 pandemic; how to support loved ones, coping with stress and anxiety.
Mental Health First Aid: COVID-19 Self-Care and Resilience Guide.
Psychology Tools: Free guide to living with anxiety and worry amidst global uncertainty (available in multiple languages).
Anxiety Canada: What to do if you are feeling anxious or worried about COVID-19.