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COVID-19: Prince George mental wellness expert encourages off-device moments to break from pandemic fears

Chelsea Gibson explains humour is a prime coping mechanism during times of crisis
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Social media apps. (via Stock image)

Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread across B.C., Canada and around the world with four confirmed cases within Northern Health in addition to 182 others across the province.

As the pandemic takes shape, people have taken to social media to express their views on COVID-19, and the ongoing cancellations, postponements and mass grocery store purges with a range of emotions and reactions in order to cope with the situation.

Prince George mental health and wellness expert Chelsea Gibson says this is certainly a valid form of expressing one’s feelings, but stresses the importance of surpassing judgement in unusual moments.

“This is the time to listen to people’s opinions,” said Gibson in an interview with PrinceGeorgeMatters.

“People are just trying to cope in their own way and everybody has a different point of view about this, so just know what your point of view is and know that it’s okay to have it. You don’t need to argue with people about it and please take some moments off your devices. This is the perfect time to go outside, play with your kids, have a dance party with who you’re quarantined with.”

The certified facilitator and owner of Wild Rose Wellness explains she’s had recent clients bring up the COVID-19 situation in sessions, which are being conducted online as a result of the pandemic, noting that humour appears to be the prevailing emotion.

“Just this week, I’ve started seeing people who’ve been like, ‘Oh, wait a second, should I be worried? Should I panic?’ So it’s shifting a lot day by day and it’s affecting people. I think it's a good coping strategy as long as they’re being aware and acknowledging if their anxiety isn’t stuffing it away.”

With news of more people getting diagnosed with COVID-19 as the days go by, Gibson reiterates that staying calm and taking deep breaths can help centre the mind in a time of crisis.

“I know everybody has heard that from time to time again, but if you’re having a panic attack or increased anxiety, it’s simple. Just look at everything in the room, take a deep breath; a great strategy to go outside, look at the trees, be present with the sun that’s shining that we’re lucky to have. The other thing I ask of people is to be aware of their view compared to everybody else’s. If you’re around people who are generally afraid and anxious, take a deep breath, ask yourself if this is my view or somebody else’s, just so you can start to differentiate what’s the global fear and paranoia and what’s your own.”

When you’re not talking on the phone or texting loved ones, Gibson also encourages residents to try something new while in self-isolation.

She suggests learning a new language, reading, yoga or even organizing the home to help shift focus away from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s easy for your brain to go into a doomsday mentality, but humans have persevered through so much and I’m a believer that we do have a lot of power [...] that this will be another thing we persevere through and a few years down the road, we’ll be looking back and remembering these moments.”

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) suggests to those getting anxious from the outbreak to be open with loved ones and empathize in these stressful times.

Wild Rose Wellness is offering online courses and live video sessions to help Prince George residents who need an extra mental helping hand during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more information and tips, you can contact Gibson via the Wild Rose Wellness website.