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  • Writer's pictureThink Upstream

How do we eat the COVID-19 mental health elephant? One bite at a time.

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health Clinical Psychologist Dr. Katy Kamkar joins Think Upstream Plan B podcast host Ralph Benmergui to talk about how we strengthen our mental health as we suddenly find ourselves living in isolation.

An apartment building with a sign on the side that says, "How are you really?"

Ralph Benmergui

COVID-19 is a traumatic event. Make no mistake, we have not been here before.

So what do we do?

Dr. Kamkar takes us through a journey towards mental health in this historic and anxiety-producing moment.

Let's start with the lack of predictability. Almost no one saw this tidal wave of infection coming—except public health experts who predicted a pandemic would be inevitable—and so we have done very little that prepares us to handle the constantly changing reality.

Jobs have been lost.

A school year is disappearing.

And we are waking up every day wondering how long all this is going to last.

Dr. Kamkar has advice for coping with something as big as a pandemic. Give you a hint: schedules.

When most of us are in a novel and highly stressful predicament, we snap into either a fight, flight, or freeze mode of action. This time running away is not an option. Staying home doesn’t sound like putting up much of a fight either. That leaves freezing. How do we fight the freeze?

Dr. Kamkar and I talk about how to stay connected while we self-isolate. Luckily for many, technology can allow us to reach out. Granted, we’re in our pyjamas some of the time but, hey, at least we can Zoom on the laptop, or FaceTime on the phone with friends and family.

Which reminds me—I have to set up a Skype later with my mother. She’s in a retirement home and I’m thinking of her. I’m sure you have a few folks who would love to hear from you.

Did you see the line-up at the liquor store, by the way? Apparently sales are up.

Dr. Kamkar talks about the line between a drink to pass the time and drinking to go numb. Imbibing to stop feeling the anxiety, to change the channel. Self-isolation and fear for our futures can, yes, drive us to drink and drugs. There are ways to cope that don’t end with a nasty new habit or a hangover.

There’s more jammed into this Plan B podcast but suffice to say that we take a step by step approach to mental health challenges and solutions in this episode.

I’ll leave you with one of them. The loss of identity. Be it job loss, being cut off from co-workers, or just having your daily routines suddenly disappear, we are all struggling with the question: who are we in the age of COVID-19?

Have a listen to Plan B, the Eating an Elephant edition. We think it might be very useful. Stay safe and be well.

Ralph Benmergui is an award-winning broadcaster, host of Plan B, and a sudden homeschooler who is now afraid of going to the grocery store.


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