SUPPORT IN CRISIS?

How living with mental illness has given me the tools to cope during the COVID-19 Pandemic

By KC Pearcey, Coast Mental Health Peer Support Worker

I am a voice hearer, and living with mental illness has not been easy, but, through the support of my mental health team, I am now managing my illness and able to live a rich and fulfilled life. Being a voice hearer means that I hear voices in my mind that others can’t.

My lived experience also enables me to make a positive difference to others in my role as Peer Support Worker for Coast Mental Health, and this in turn has given me confidence and a support system.

My experiences developing coping strategies have helped me tremendously in dealing with the current health crisis we are all facing across the globe.

My coping tool box keeps me from too much worry, anxiety or fear and I would like to share it as I think it would be helpful to other folks who are struggling right now.

Routine

It’s important to establish a daily routine in these troubled times rather than sit around in pajamas all day watching too much unsettling news coverage. I start my day at the same time every morning, take care of my personal hygiene and plan my day even if I am mostly staying indoors.

I make sure to go to bed at the same time every night and get a good night’s sleep so I am well rested and mentally sharp.

Exercise

I incorporate physical activity into my routine including walks around my neighbourhood and dumbbells.

It’s also important to eat healthy, nutritious meals and I take vitamins and supplements to ensure that I am getting the best daily requirements for my mind and body.

Being in the Present

While I am out walking I stay present with the moment, focusing on what is happening around me rather than using headphones; listening to birds is calming and relaxing. I also stay mindful during essential trips, and focus on the here and now instead of ruminating about the potential risks of these trips.

I do breathing meditation and concentrate on my breathing to ease the stress of the current crisis situation if it does get too much.

Staying busy

My experiences with being hospitalized in locked psychiatric wards also help me deal with being cooped up inside so much right now. I watch TV and movies, listen to music, read books and do daily chores to keep myself busy so the days don’t drag on with nothing to do but worry about getting sick. I can also do artwork, write or play musical instruments to stay occupied.

Faith

I am also a Christian and my faith in God and Jesus Christ really helps me remain at peace. I pray every morning, give thanks and pray every night, study my bible, watch uplifting shows on Christian TV, listen to a Christian radio for positive music that helps me feel that everything will be alright.

Connection

It’s important to reach out to friends and family and stay connected to people even if we can’t meet in person right now. I am also in regular contact with my mental health team to stay healthy and well.

I hope that these tools and strategies will be helpful to folks who are struggling right now with worry, anxiety and fear. Stay safe, stay healthy and God Bless!

Coast Mental Health’s peer support programs are funded entirely through philanthropy. We need your support now more than ever to continue this crucial work. We are adapting our offering to ensure we can continue the 3000+ monthly interactions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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