One of the concerns around the current health pandemic is not just the coronavirus itself, but the toll this entire situation is taking on people’s mental health.

From folks stuck in self-isolation, to parents worried about child care and no school and many of us concerned about personal and family finances, there is a real psychological impact for many.

Jennifer Ellis-Toddington is a Registered Psychologist and the Manager of Counselling Services at the University of Lethbridge. She says planning out your day as best you can, is key to coping.

“So one of the best things for mental health outcomes when dealing with depression and anxiety is really to look at creating routine and structure in your life,” says Ellis-Toddington. “With so much unpredictability it helps to know what you’re day is going to look like, even if that means you’re in the house or around your neighbourhood.”

She notes that could mean planning to go for a walk or read at a certain times each day, making to-do lists and tasks for yourself, even though you might not be able to get out of the house. She also says try to find things that bring you a sense of joy and a sense of mastery and tasks that will help brighten your mood if you’re feeling down.

Ellis-Toddington says try to stay connected with friends and family by social media, phone, or video chat, especially if you’re in self-isolation and practicing social distancing.

She also encourages people to go a little old school too by bringing out some board games and be creative. “We could use advice from the previous generation, because I think they have a lot of knowledge around that. What did you used to do to pass the time? (back in the days when there were no tablets or smart phones). I think we can use this time to be really creative and use this as a time to connect with the people that we care about.”

As difficult as this time is for many during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important we realize we are not alone and we are all going through this together in one way or another.