In these unsettling times of isolation and lockdowns due to coronavirus, it’s extra important to protect our mental health. Addiction is a mental health concern, and so part of recovery is being aware and supportive of one’s own mental health. Here are our tips for protecting and supporting your mental health and recovery during a coronavirus lockdown:

1. Stick to your routine. If you started every day with a shower and ended every day with a cup of tea, keep it up. If you went to therapy or counselling every week, maintain that schedule via phone or video chat. If you went to three meetings a week, keep going to three online meetings. Maintain a regular and healthy sleep routine, keep your fitness levels up, and make sure you’re getting three meals a day.

2. Limit your exposure to the news. Getting an update once a day is plenty; keeping your eyes glued to Twitter or the TV is overkill. If you’re feeling particularly uneasy, avoid the news altogether and ask a sensitive friend to pass on any important updates that would actually change the way you live your life day to day.

3. Stay connected. Talk to your friends, your family, your sponsor, your neighbours, anyone who is up for a chat and understands if you want to talk about something else today. Stay engaged in the text threads where friends are sharing memes and jokes. Do not let a day go by without having one good interaction with someone you like.

4. Get some exercise. If you used to go to the gym, find ways to modify your routine and do a similar workout at home. If you were never a gym rat, start with a brisk walk or a beginner yoga class on the living room floor. Exercise can make a real difference to your mood, and if your mind has been keeping you awake at night, being physically tired can really help with sleep.

5. Get outside. Even if it’s just onto a balcony or into a backyard, getting some fresh air and feeling the sun on your face will help you overcome the feeling of being cooped up. If you can, a long walk while catching up with a friend or listening to a comedy podcast can turn a day around. If that’s too ambitious right now, just sit in a sunny window for a few minutes and feel the warmth.

6. Remember Step 12. There are always ways to be of service. Send a text to your friends in recovery, particularly newcomers, and make sure they know about the online meetings. Check on elderly neighbours or overwhelmed friends, and offer to pick up groceries or medication for people who are struggling.

7. Stay grateful. When everything is so uncertain, it can all be a bit distracting from the facts. Take a moment each day to centre yourself and write down three things you have to be grateful for. Just the process of being grateful and expressing it has been show to improve mood.

8. Refresh your space. Keep your living space tidy, and if you’re craving a change, try moving some things around to make your space more calm and comfortable.

9. Reach out for help. If your friends and family isn’t checking on you, let them know that you are struggling and need support. If you feel like you don’t have anyone to reach out to, call a support line:

        • Toronto Distress Centre: 416-408-4357
        • Gerstein Centre: 416-929-5200
        • Distress Centres Ontario: 416-486-2242
        • Crisis Services Canada: 1-833-456-4566

10. Go easy on yourself. If all you can do today is read this, that’s a start. You’re doing research to support yourself, and that’s an excellent step in the right direction. You’re doing great. Set yourself a realistic and achievable goal for the end of the day.

How are you protecting your mental health during a coronavirus lockdown? Share your tips in the comments below!