How to build resilience when there is ‘no end in sight’ to the pandemic

It may feel like a lifetime since, but it’s only about six weeks ago that many Canadians enthusiastically made holiday travel plans and looked forward to celebrating in person with their loved ones – some even booked trips.

It was a different time. A time when the incidence of COVID-19 was declining due to increased vaccinations.

So on 26 Nov. The World Health Organization announced a new coronavirus “variant of concern.”

Omicron seemed to make millions of bellies bend and morale plummet. The slightly light people had just begun to glimpse at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel became dark again, closely followed by their mood. But there is hope, say mental health experts.

SE | Will the virus just keep mutating?

How will this pandemic end?

Dr. Christopher Mody, of the University of Calgary’s Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Infectious Diseases, says that until we stop the virus that causes COVID-19 from mutating, there will continue to be variants. The solution? “We need to get people vaccinated,” he says. 6:05

“It was just that feeling of, ‘Oh, I’m just giving up,’” said Claudia Casper, author and creative writing teacher at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

Casper, 64, who is double-vaccinated and boosted, had plans to have 22 people over for his home in West Vancouver for Christmas. With the news of Omicron, the party shrank to 10 fully vaccinated guests.

‘You just want to stop wanting something’

But when Casper’s husband woke up from a Christmas day nap and felt exhausted, everything changed. They did not know if it was COVID-19, but an hour before the guests were to arrive, they called everyone and canceled.

“There’s a point where you just want to stop wanting something,” Casper said. “Because it’s too difficult or defeating.”

In fact, mental health experts say the longer stress lasts, the more harmful it is to people’s mental health.

Last spring, Dr. described Roger McIntyre COVID-19 as a source for “daily, unpredictable, malignant stress “ have a physiological impact on human brains. It left people unmotivated and defeated and wondered how they would get through this period of time.

The good news, said the professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at the University of Toronto, was that the brain is resilient and that once the stress was removed, it would heal.

Dr. Roger McIntyre, professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at the University of Toronto, says it can be difficult to cope in the face of uncertainty. (Posted by Roger McIntyre)

But nine months later, with brains still broken, McIntyre says many people’s concerns have now shifted from “How do I get through this?” to ‘When will this pandemic ever end?’

“It’s worrying,” he said, “because it speaks to, I think, an underlying fear that this will go on and on and on.”

It can be difficult for individuals to be resistant to such a large unknown.

“There are a number of influences and uncertainties, but the biggest thing is that you just can not really plan,” said Regardt Ferreira, director of the Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy and associate professor at Tulane University’s School of Social Work in New Orleans.

“We’re two years into this, and yes … there’s no end in sight,” he said.

Prescribe yourself ‘hedonic activity’

So how do you stay strong?

McIntyre advises people to take control of what they can, in order to maintain a sense of agency over themselves and their environment.

“You have to prescribe hedonic activity to yourself,” he said. “You have to prescribe cognitive activity to yourself. You have to prescribe physical activity to yourself.”

And it also comes back to the basics: get enough sleep, get enough physical activity. And, said McIntyre, it’s important to exercise portion control when it comes to both eating and drinking alcohol.

“The higher you rate your level of self-control,” he said, “the less you report the level of stress and anxiety in your life.

Dr. Regardt Ferreira, assistant professor at the School of Social Work at Tulane University, says people often come out of disasters better equipped to deal with adversity again in the future. (Posted by Reggie Ferreira)

Ferreira, who has studied the impact of both natural and technological disasters on human resilience, said there is evidence that when individuals experience a disaster – be it a flood or fire, nuclear meltdown or oil spills – they often come out. at the other end better equipped to deal with the disaster again.

“The more disaster you experience, the more prepared you become,” he said. “It then also leads to resilience in the long run because you have an idea of ​​what to expect.”

He was also a part of a study that looked at predictors of resilience in light of the pandemic.

In this current big wave of COVID-19, Canadians have a lot of experience gained, Ferreira said. “So we have an idea of ​​what to expect and what measures to take, and that helps increase our resilience.”

There is comfort and strength to be gained, he said, by maintaining social distance, wearing a mask and cleaning our hands. “It sounds simplistic, but it seems to be what works,” he said.

‘More isolated … more anxiety’

Still, McIntyre noted, humans do not have infinite resilience.

“There’s a point of no return for some people, and it triggers, you know, problems like depression, which they end up experiencing long after the stress factor is gone.”

Already, Child help telephone said it has seen a 127 percent increase in interactions related to COVID-19 topics since November 2021 – just before the advent of Omicron. Topics in the calls and text messages touched on everything from canceled vacation plans and missing friends and family to worries about getting behind in school.

There was also a 209 percent increase in texts on suicide and almost as high an increase in conversations about depression.

All of this, said Alisa Simon, Executive Vice President, Chief Youth & Innovation Officer at Kids Help Phone, suggests that young people “feel more isolated, feel more worried, feel more sad, feel a sense of loss.”

No pressure to “return”

Casper – whose husband ended up testing negative for COVID-19 – said she would have described herself as “resiliant” before the pandemic and is sure she will be okay.

“I’m coming back, but I think I want to be different. I’m actually a little bit interested in seeing,” she said.

Claudia Casper, seen here with her dog Lucita, says she feels she will get through the pandemic ok but will be different. (Aislinn Hunter)

Ferreira says for some people that it will be important not to feel pressured to return to the way they were.

“Resistance is really your ability to withstand adversity, and what lessons do you take from your experiences in the future to resist or grow,” he said.

Society is in favor of resilience, but Ferreira said it could be harmful to impose the same expectations across the board.

“Not everyone has the funds because they do not have access to resources to make them resilient,” he said.

What both Ferreira and McIntyre, however, return to again and again is the benefit of simple human connection.

“Something as little as just checking in with someone if you feel something is off,” he said, “and again, you know, be aware of what resources are available – whether it’s an online discussion forum, or if there is an online group they can join. “

“We are resilient people,” McIntyre said. “The more support you have from your community, your family and the more innate inherent resources you have, the more likely you are to adapt and you will be resilient.”

If you need help or just someone to talk to, here are some resources:

  • Child help phone: 1-800-668-6868. You can also type CONNECT to 686868.
  • Wellness Together Canada: Offers support for children, adults, frontline workers and indigenous peoples
  • Canada’s Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566 and in French at 1-866-APPELLE 1-866-277-3553
  • Hope for Wellness line for indigenous peoples: 1-855-242-3310. You can also connect online.
  • Crisis Services Canada: 1 (833) 456-4566 (24/7) or via text message to 45645 (16.00-12.00 ET)

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