Taking care of your mental health is always important, but has perhaps never been more so than now, when our world looks so different than it did last year at this time.
These (Montreal-centric) tips are designed to help you maintain your mental health during Lockdown 2.0, and are all based on the suggestions of experts, who agree that connectivity, communication, movement and structure are all crucial for boosting one's mood during this strange time. While some of these tips are indeed Montreal-specific, they’re all easily transferable to wherever you are in the world (give or take a few winter sports)!
Being forced to spend time stuck at home without all of life’s usual distractions is, naturally, a great time to pursue personal growth.
During the first lockdown, many people took the opportunity to fill their daily schedules with new languages, new hobbies and new projects—which is all great, as long as these activities aren’t creating more stress than they’re solving. Keep your mind sharp and your days full of new things to learn without placing heavy expectations on yourself.
Language learning can be great for this; while many people professed a desire to “learn a new language” during the last lockdown, the truth is that learning an entire language is a bit of a made-up goal—who knows everything there is to know in a language? Even native speakers can’t claim this!
Still, even if you’re able to say a mere two sentences in a language that you knew nothing about before, you’ve already opened up new communication possibilities and exposed your brain to the mental benefits of language learning!
You’re not alone if you got House Party or Facebook Messenger Rooms fatigue during the last lockdown, but it’s still important to continue to connect with other human beings in whatever way feels the most natural to you. Join a class, start a book club with friends, create a group chat for sharing memes or take a virtual class that will get you chatting to actual strangers (what a novel concept!!).
For the many of us still working from home, the urge to stay up until the wee hours and sleep until noon is tempting, especially now that the days are getting colder. They’re also getting shorter, though, and it’s important to take advantage of whatever sunlight we get.
It’s also generally beneficial to our mental health to follow a daily routine; according to an article published in Psychology Today that cited various studies, people sleep better when they follow daytime routines rather than nighttime routines (which inevitably result from not creating—and sticking to—a plan for our work days), which in turn fosters better mental health.
If you don’t have a schedule built into your work day, try to get into the habit of starting and finishing at the same time every day anyway. Plan rewards for yourself for when you achieve the tasks you set out to achieve that day, or schedule virtual classes or calls with friends to ensure your day stays on track.
...speaking of soaking up those all-important UV rays, living in Montreal (as lovely and festive as it may be) means saying goodbye to the sun a few hours earlier than we’d like from November through to March. For some, this can lead to seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a low mood brought about by the lack of sunlight.
One way to combat the winter blues is to invest in a light therapy lamp, which can help you get the jolt of (artificial) daylight you need to get through the day feeling energized. Therapy lights can also help to improve concentration, mood and sleep cycle.
Therapy lights are great, but there’s nothing like the real thing. Your instinct may be to hibernate indoors as soon as the first signs of snow appear, but it’s crucial to take advantage of the fresh air and vitamin D that can be found outside (not to mention the benefits of regular exercise!).
For those of us in Montreal, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the great outdoors even when the temperatures dip far below 0. Montreal’s director of public health recently announced that public skating rinks would operate as usual this winter, and we’re also lucky to live in a city that’s full of perfect tobogganing hills. Maybe this will even be the year that you try snowshoeing, cross country skiing or winter running?!
This has been a challenging year for everyone, and you need all the support you can give yourself, whatever that means for you! Order yourself a feast from your favourite takeout spot, sign up for that class you’ve been eyeing or simply draw yourself a bubble bath—you deserve it!