Mental Health in a Digital Age

More than half of the world is online. And when it comes to Canadians, that stat increases to more than 91%.  The internet (social media, email, streaming, and so on) is now an integral part of daily Canadian life and living through a global pandemic has made that even more true. Human interaction has drastically decreased, while connecting to one another digitally has piqued. And due in part to this behaviour, the pandemic hasn’t just made an impact on our physical health, but our mental health too. A recent survey by Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), found that 21.5% of Canadians surveyed reported moderate to severe anxiety levels during the daily life of the pandemic. At the same time, we are quickly adopting this way of life as “the new normal”. But what does that mean when so many of us have rising mental health complications as a result of this new normal?

Like many people, I have had my fair share of highs and lows with my own mental health. And for me, many of my coping methods involve close contact with other people. So the question of what happens to mental health when we find ourselves living through a global pandemic that restricts our interaction with people, hits close to home. But before I continue, I want to be clear, I am not a mental health expert. But, in my role as the Digital & Content Director at Mint, I have discovered useful tips that have helped me maintain some calm of mind through this uniquely challenging time; all while safely distancing in a digital space.

Using the Social Space to Explore and Discover New Things

Social media is a great space to discover new creators from around the world or even your backyard. This not only provides entertainment and education, but can also help to inspire you to try positive new things that can break mundane routines. For example, tuning into poet, illustrator and author Rupi Kaur’s live writing workshops can lead to creative expression not yet explored. Or, finding a much loved recipe online from a favourite missed restaurant and then recreating it at home can lead to warm nostalgia. 

I personally love illustration and design, so I use the platform to discover new artists and outputs to encourage me to learn new skills. And the possibilities are endless once you realize that there are over one billion users on Instagram alone. Which means if you come to realise that a specific account is actually hindering your mental wellbeing, then very simply, unfollow it. And instead, use the platform to find new voices that will help to lift you. There are also some amazing mental health advocates in the social sphere who are dedicated to breaking mental health stigmas and providing support when needed. Here are two of my favourites: Matt Haig, & How Mental.

Wellness Apps

While wellness apps are certainly no replacement for face-to-face therapy, they are a great way to find a moment of calm during a period of internal unrest. The beauty of these apps is that they can live on your phone or tablet so you can take them on the go with you. Many of these apps have daily reminders that can help to create a routine of mindfulness and meditation. Having that 10-15 minutes a day to check in on yourself can help centre your thoughts and leave you feeling lighter. Here are just some you can look at: Headspace, Calm, Aura

Podcasts

Podcasts offer a great way to switch off your screen, put on your headphones and dive into the wonderful voices of narrators. There are many great podcasts out there that focus on mental health, but for me, I find it quite calming to escape into the storytelling of something different, delving into nature shows, true-crime (of course) and anything else that offers me the chance to learn something new. Some of my favourites include Overheard at National Geographic, Happy Place by Fearne Cotton and Song Exploder by Hrishikesh Hirway, all of which you can find on your favourite podcast apps.

Online Support 

Many mental health organizations have adapted to be able to provide support in a digital space. Not only are there great resources available, but there are also online support groups. Organizations like CAMH even have tools in place that can email you tips and tools to help you manage your mental health during COVID-19. As well as specific mental health organizations, many public libraries have also adapted to our new digital lifestyle. You can now apply online for a Public Library card in many municipalities, which allows access to heaps of useful mental health resources and authors. 

It’s Okay to Take a Break

Imagine going for a run and ignoring the signs that you’re hitting exhaustion. You’d pass out right? Well, think of digital outlets in the same way. We’re living in unprecedented times with news outlets informing us of the latest pandemic updates pretty much 24/7. And while it’s important to stay informed, it’s also more important to understand what your body is telling you. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, then remember to take a break before you proverbially pass out. 

Find your Balance 

Over the past few months, we have been witnessing one of the most important civil rights movements in history. During which, I have discovered some incredible spoken word artists, illustrators, activists, speakers, writers, thinkers and many more, who have given me an infinite amount of resources to help me to learn more and educate myself better. And I have taken it on deeply. But also during this same time I have noticed an increase in the number of ‘self care’ posts on my Instagram feed. There’s something oddly comforting about this, that is, in the midst of the hurt and anger, there are humans reminding other humans that we are, well, human, and it’s crucial to take time for self care. And although that phrase has been thrown around, its meaning is still important: we need to take care of our own well-being – mentally, emotionally, and physically. Like many things, this is about finding balance. Finding the time to stay online to learn and grow, but then finding the time to disconnect and grow in a different way too.

As humans, we are incredibly adaptable. This might not be the routine that any of us are used to but we can adapt and there are an abundance of digital tools in place to help us do so. Everyone moves at different speeds and for some people, adapting to these digital outlets might take a little more time than others – and that’s okay. Just remember to check in with yourself, check in with others and find a routine that works for you.

*https://www.camh.ca/en/camh-news-and-stories/canadians-report-sustained-rates-of-loneliness-and-depression 

**https://blog.zoom.us/a-message-to-our-users/