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Local counsellor offers advice on managing emotions

Anxiety and fear normal reactions during pandemic
mental health
TEST FOR COMPASSION: Feelings of stress and anxiety during a pandemic are normal, says local counsellor. Helping others can be the key to dealing with the situation and strengthening the community. getty images

With various levels of government taking strong precautions against Covid-19, residents may experience feelings of anxiety, panic, or helplessness. According to Paul McIsaac, a licensed counsellor in Powell River, these feelings are completely normal.

“This is the first time our generation has experienced something like this,” he said. “I think we’re going to learn a lot from it. I feel that this will be a test for our compassion.”

McIsaac said that the runs on grocery store supplies stem from people’s attempt to impose some control on their situation. “Stockpiling toilet paper is how some people try to control a situation they feel is completely out of control,” he said, “but it also comes from a place of self-interest. We have to remember that this situation is affecting everyone on a global scale, and we should act accordingly.”

McIsaac encouraged the community to help each other as much as they are able. “People are offering to get groceries and do chores for others on Facebook, not just for their friends and family but strangers as well,” he said. “Going out and doing things is a great way to manage feelings of anxiety, and also helps strengthen our community bonds.”

Focusing on the future after the pandemic is also important, he said. “We’re living in a bubble right now waiting for something to happen, and it’s important to focus on what we want the outcome to be on the other end. We will get through this; how do we want to see ourselves then? If we keep that in mind, we can act accordingly now.”

McIsaac also recommended focusing on physical activity, relationships, and a proper schedule including meals and sleep. “If you are feeling panicky, that’s a good indication that you have some excess energy to burn off,” he said. “Go out for a walk, practice yoga, or do some other kind of physical activity. These things are not off-limits during the pandemic, and we’re lucky this is happening in March and not November.

“Humans are social creatures, and while we’re denied in-person contact by this situation, we have so many other ways of checking in with those we care about,” he said. “Give your parents a call, or email your friend to see how they are doing.”

In his own practice, McIsaac recommends people try to do one small thing a day if they feel paralyzed by anxiety. He also suggests making a list of things to do, or a schedule of activities like physical exercise or having time for meals, and to follow it.

“And sleep is very important for our capacity for handling stress,” he added. “If you find you are staying up late worrying, remember that you’ll be better able to handle things if you’re well rested. Consider the likelihood of the things you are worried about. Yes, significant numbers of people have been hurt by this virus, but it hasn’t wiped out or decimated the population. If you don’t let your worries take you too far, it’s a lot easier to come back to a place that’s calm and centred.”

McIsaac believes that Powell River will come out stronger on the other side of the Covid-19 pandemic. “This is a pretty good town and we’ve got a great history of helping each other,” he said. “I expect we’ll step up to the challenge, and we’ll all get together for a big meal when it’s all over.”