There are no doubts that the times we are living in right now are certainly uncertain. With the rise of COVID-19 and the disruptions it's causing to all aspects of everyday life, it’s easy to hit the panic button—well, it's easy, but still not all that useful.
Because when things are unknown, the last thing anyone wants is for their head to be spinning in negative, catastrophic thoughts. Thankfully, there are 101 ways for us to cope with the circumstances and focus on prioritizing our mental health and well-being. Whether it be through food and exercise, or social support and mindfulness, these tips can help you to stay sane in spite of whatever COVID-19 throws our way.
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1. Eat well
Whether cooking is your thing or not, just because you’re at home doesn’t mean that you can’t eat well. While the majority of Montreal restaurants have closed until further notice, many are still offering take-out and/or delivery options for hungry customers. Take hotspots like Pâtisserie Rhubarbe, Boucherie Bar à Vin Provisions, and Vesta Montreal for example, all of which are offering excellent meal options to-go. Just be sure to stay up-to-date via social media, as the situation is constantly changing.
Meanwhile, if you’re happy to spend the extra time that you have on your hands cooking, there are plenty of great Montreal-based cookbooks to work your way through. Olive & Gourmando’s book is perfect for stress-baking, while Joe Beef’s Surviving the Apocalypse has never felt more à propo.
If you want to get creative, check out this guide to a selection of grocery stores in Montreal that will take you on a trip around the world.
2. Stay social
The one upside of social media is that we can do this, virtually! Stay in touch with friends and family, and most importantly, pick their brains on how they are surviving the life of self-quarantine and social distancing measures. Hosting an in-person cocktail or dinner party is not advisable, but you can still do so from afar thanks to applications like FaceTime, Skype, or Zoom. Given that the SAQ is still open (for now), stock up on local spirits to have at the ready for all of your virtual cocktail party needs. Montreal’s gin game is particularly strong, with local options like Cirka and and Oshlag’s hibiscus gin. Pour yourself a Negroni and catch up with your friends toute de suite.
3. Stay active
One of the hardest parts of staying inside is the lack of physical activity. Thankfully, we haven’t been banned from leaving our homes, so this means that walks and jogs are still on the table. With a plethora of research supporting the benefits of physical activity and fresh air, prioritize those trips to the mountain, strolls along the Lachine, or laps around Parc La Fontaine. And if you’ve been mandated to self-quarantine, fitness at home isn’t out of the question either (assuming you’re feeling up for it physically). Body weight exercises like squats, lunges, push-ups, and core exercises can be done from anywhere, no matter how little space you have.
4. Take breaks from news and social media
A solid way to reduce anxiety is not to create it in the first place. While it’s good to stay informed and up-to-date with all of the new information that comes out regarding the virus and its repercussions, the constant barrage of updates can also lead to panic. Schedule and limit your time on social media to avoid being inundated with new information (and subsequently catastrophizing based on everything you’ve learned). And if you really want to peruse the internet, limit your searches to Time Out Montreal. You can check out all of our dining and activity recommendations to plan your perfect day once this is all over.
5. Stay intellectually stimulated
If boredom is what you fear, there’s good news; it’s preventable! Keeping yourself occupied with meaningful activities can help to stave off feelings of despair and importantly, prevent your mind from going down that deep, dark rabbit hole of worst-case scenarios. Whether you choose an activity that you already enjoy, or opt to try something new, there’s no limit to the books you can read (pro tip: check out The Dishwasher by Montreal-based author Stéphane Larue), games you can play, or music that you can listen to (make yourself a Montreal playlist with tunes from Arcade Fire, Leonard Cohen, The Dears, and more). Now’s the time to catch up on that podcast you’ve been meaning to listen to.
6. Manage your anxiety; it's normal to feel it
First thing’s first; situations like these are inherently anxiety provoking and THAT IS NORMAL. This is unprecedented and the unknown comes with ambivalence and uncertainty that can lead a worried mind to be anxious. However, there’s a difference between anxiety and fear. While fear is in line with the severity of the situation, anxiety takes that and blows it all out of proportion. Because anxiety tends to manifest itself physically in our bodies (e.g., difficulties breathing, increased heart rate, light headedness), one of the best things you can do is to practice your breathing. Whether that is self-guided or through the help of mindfulness applications like Headspace, it’s always a good place to start.
7. Putting it all together
Maintaining a routine is one of the most important factors during a time like this. It's easy for that to fall by the wayside when we don't have obligations to physically be somewhere, doing something, but scheduling activities throughout the day can help maintain a sense of normalcy. That doesn’t mean you have to pack your calendar to the brim either, but make a point of blocking off chunks of time for dedicated activities. Not only will it keep you occupied, it can help you to look back at the end of the day and feel a sense of accomplishment.