COVID-19 has capsized our lives in many ways, one of which being how we work. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), over 500,000 Canadians miss work each week due to mental health problems, and with 81% of Canadians having reported that the pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health, that number is expected to rise. 

The steps to prioritizing your mental health are simple but won’t happen overnight — small changes will lead to a larger impact over time. The first step is to plan how you will add resilience building strategies into your daily routine and identify the resources you will need to support you in achieving that. 

Here are 4 ways to prioritize your mental health while working remotely and the strategies and resources needed to help implement them:

Creating Boundaries

Everyone wants to do a great job and show their peers and supervisors how capable they are, but oftentimes not creating boundaries is what leads to burnout. There are many simple ways to set boundaries in your daily life that will not affect your relationships and will help you to regain a manageable workday. Creating boundaries can be achieved in many different ways, such as by not overcommitting to a heavier workload. Saying no to additional tasks can be daunting to tell your boss, but it’s important that if you cannot handle a heavier workload that you are honest with them rather than spreading yourself too thin. Another way to approach this is by asking for a longer timeframe to complete a project rather than saying no.

You can also create boundaries by setting a daily schedule and sticking to it. One of the hardest aspects of working remotely is that it removes the normal structure from your day, implementing a routine can help create healthy habits and a sense of normalcy. Your daily schedule should include dedicated breaks, as well as a strict cutoff time for when you’re done work for the day. Additionally, it’s important to schedule activities after work hours whether it be virtual drinks or an online yoga class. Having something to look forward to at the end of the workday helps to stick to the work boundaries you’ve set for yourself. These boundaries also ensure that you’re being more productive during the times you’ve allotted to work. 

Utilizing e-Mental Health Services

The pandemic has posed great difficulty in individuals accessing mental health services, which is why a different approach was needed and we are now seeing a pivot to e-services to address the gap in treatment. E-mental health services leverage the internet to deliver mental health resources whether it be via a website, smartphone app, social media or videoconferencing. This not only addresses the gap in treatment, but also allows for shorter wait times to receive treatment and empowers patients to have greater choice and control over their mental health.

Different types of e-mental health services that can be accessed include telehealth services, such as the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) which delivers telepsychiatry services, as well as smartphone applications, like the CAMH’s app to help manage stress and anxiety during the pandemic. That said, when it comes to smartphone applications, it’s important to do your research and choose ones that are evidence-based. There are also countless online resources that can provide tools and tips to help better manage your mental health, the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) provides many on their website.

Another option for online resources is to see if your employer offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). An EAP is a benefit program that helps employees with personal or work-related issues that may impact their mental or physical health, emotional well-being or job performance. Usually EAP can provide access to counselling over the phone so that you can access a mental health professional without incurring out-of-pocket costs. All EAP services are confidential, so your employer will not know if or what services you have accessed.

Practicing Self-Care

Self-care often awards you the much needed break from work and life stressors which is why it’s very important to prioritize in order to maintain your mental health. Self-care looks different for everyone, it could mean getting enough sleep each night or finding time to meditate everyday. Ultimately, there’s no wrong way to practice self-care as long as you’re taking time for yourself to do something that helps you recharge and improve your quality of life.

Here are a few other ways you can practice self-care:

  • Making time for personal and professional development
  • Writing in a journal
  • Doing physical activities like yoga or walking
  • Enjoying a nice, nutritious meal
  • Joining an online club, community or support group
  • Finding a way to express your creativity such as through art or music
  • Spending time with loved ones
  • Making time to take care of yourself whether it be a massage or at-home facial

Asking for Support

One of the most important factors in becoming mentally healthier is having a strong support system and knowing when to ask for help. When it comes to choosing a support person to confide in, it’s key to choose someone you can trust, who will listen and remind you of your worth, as well as check-in on you. That is also the best way you can support others if they share their feelings with you as well.

Sometimes you will need more support than a close friend or family member can provide, and that’s okay. There are many benefits to utilizing a counsellor, therapist or psychologist to help prioritize your mental health. They can provide an environment to explore your thoughts and feelings, as well as help you learn new coping mechanisms to better manage daily stressors.

That said, if you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, we encourage you to contact one of the following resources:

  • Canada 24/7 Suicide Prevention Service at 1-833-456-4566 or text 45645
  • Ontario Mental Health Helpline at 1-866-531-2600
  • Ottawa Mental Health Crisis Line 613-722-6914 or 1-866-996-0991
  • First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Helpline at 1-855-242-3310