Keeping Healthy Relationships During The COVID-19 Pandemic

Published: June 1, 2020
Last updated: September 24, 2020

Human touch has a unique quality. Whether it is a simple hug or a tap on the arm, it is a palpable reminder that we are not alone. Human touch reminds us that others are there to offer their friendship, affection, or support.

Managing the Impact

The news of COVID-19 has placed global populations on alert causing varied reactions. You may find yourself preoccupied with news events which may trigger worrying thoughts. The well-intentioned may spend a great deal of time trying to harness their emotions, but we are all too familiar with emotions that mutiny against reason and the damaging effects that can ensue from this. It is normal during this time of uncertainty for us to speculate on the potential spread of the virus and to experience understandable reactions from worry to anxiety about this health concern. At this time, workers within health care and emergency services sectors and their families may be particularly vulnerable to strong reactions.

What are some possible reactions? Homewood Health, the Canadian leader in mental health and addiction services, reported that when we are uncertain about our own and our family’s health and safety, we experience physical, emotional and behavioural reactions. You may experience a range of reactions varying in degrees of intensity as this outbreak continues to have a global impact. We all react somewhat differently yet we may experience common reactions such as:

  • Emotional reactions. Fear, anxiety, distress, anger, irritability, sadness, guilt, and uncertainty.
  • Mental reactions. Disbelief about the extent of the outbreak, loss of concentration, recurring visions of media images about the pandemic, fearful thoughts about travelling, forgetfulness, indecisiveness, confusion, distressing dreams. 
  • Physical reactions. Numbness, shock, headaches, loss of appetite, sleep difficulties, persistent heart palpitations, fatigue, nausea, and gastrointestinal problems.
  • Behavioural reactions. Tearfulness, feeling disconnected, excessive vigilance, withdrawal or isolation from the mainstream population, increased tendency to blame or criticize others, increased consumption of alcohol or medication to cope with uncertainty.

Easing Tension

Before COVID-19, most of us lived our lives in a rhythm of alternating relaxation and stress. This rhythm was either random, changing day by day according to the stress stimuli encountered or the pleasant experiences we had alone or with others; or was pre-determined perhaps by our work/life balance or repeated events that we found difficult to cope with. Life has now prompted us to re-evaluate – to take a closer look at stress factors that undermine our confidence and our contentment, and that can have a damaging effect on our health and well-being. During these complicated times, it is critical that individuals obtain reliable information and access to mental health, addiction and well-being support services.

What can you do? Everyone experiences reactions in a way that is unique to themselves and their situation. Some individuals experience delayed reactions, as a result of exposure to the news over time and this can invoke a growing sense of fear and anxiety. You can never avoid these reactions completely.

  • Don’t judge or blame yourself. Don’t criticize yourself for having these reactions. Be patient. Think about how you would support a friend in this situation and then treat yourself the same way.
  • Try to reduce other sources of stress in your life for a while.
  • Take the time to talk about your physical and emotional reactions with someone close to you like a friend, partner or loved one.
  • Let your family, colleagues and friends know how they could best support you during your period of stress. If they are doing something unhelpful, give yourself permission to let them know.
  • Find something that helps distract you. Some people find it helpful to keep busy (leisure activities, hobbies, routine chores, warm baths, physical exercise, etc.), while others find it helpful to relax.
  • Try to avoid saturation from exposure to the constant media coverage of this news.
  • Take time to rest and maintain good sleep habits.
  • If you find you are experiencing distressing thoughts and feeling anxious, remind yourself that most of us are safe and not affected by this disease.

What is Physical Distancing?

Previously referred to as social distancing, the concept and term have been updated to physical distancing. Physical distancing measures are a way to minimize the transmission of COVID-19 within communities. This means minimizing close contact with others during the pandemic. Physical distancing measures increase the physical space between people to slow the spread of the virus. Examples include working from home where possible, school closures and the postponement or cancellation of mass gathering events, such as sporting or entertainment events, conferences and religious ceremonies. This in turn lessens the burden on public healthcare systems as the virus is easily spread in densely populated areas. Various provinces have enacted laws under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, including fines for those violating distancing and gathering restrictions. Please remember: staying socially connected is truly imperative to everyone’s mental health, particularly in this time of physical distancing. Virtually check on your family members, friends and colleagues to see how we are all coping throughout this stressful time.

Source, Howewood Health

Wellness Together Canada

On April 15th, 2020, Health Canada launched the Wellness Together Canada portal, providing direct access to peer support workers, social workers, psychologists and other professional care providers for all Canadians. If you know someone struggling and requiring support during this difficult time, click HERE to share the link to Wellness Together Canada resources.

Where can I get more information on COVID-19?

Here are some helpful links to gather more information.

The federal government of Canada has also created an online self-assessment tool for persons who may be concerned they may have symptoms of COVID-19. You will be asked a series of questions and dependent upon the responses and symptoms identified, the tool will provide advice, giving one of the four following actions: visit and emergency room, call telehealth, self-isolate at home, or do nothing. The tool can be accessed here:

The content in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is in no way intended to diagnose, treat or cure any medical or other health condition. Your use of the content is at your sole discretion. The content does not constitute medical advice and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of a licensed practitioner or health care provider.