In recent weeks, we have all been asked to practice social distancing and, in some instances, to self-isolate. You may be experiencing a variety of emotions in response. Anxiety, worry, sadness, frustration, fear, or any other emotion that comes up, are valid feelings that you or the people you care about may be experiencing right now. Stressful situations can also increase anxiety, depression, and hopelessness in those with pre-existing mental health challenges.

Read below for some tips you can use to take care of yourself while social distancing.

What is social distancing?

Social distancing is the conscious effort to limit close contact with others and is one of the community-based measures recommended to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

This means staying at least 2 metres away from other individuals and avoiding large gatherings to reduce the risk of transmission. Many community organizations that offer essential services have remained open and have put social distancing measures into place to protect those who must visit their locations in person.

There are challenges that may arise due to social distancing or self-isolation:

  • Financial: reduced shifts available if workplace has closed, potential job loss
  • Social: you may not be able to see your co-workers, family or friends in person
  • Emotional: extra stress and reduced social interaction may take a toll emotionally
  • Access to services: programs and services may be closed or operating differently

These types of challenges can lead to increased stress at a time when anxiety is already heightened. Here are some tips for self-care to help you cope with potential challenges at this time.

Reach Out for Support

You are not alone. Even while many in-person services are closed, there are still many supports available that you can access over the phone or online.

If you’re not sure where to turn, 211 can connect you with resources to help with food, mental health, financial supports, finding information, and more. To reach 211, dial 2-1-1, text INFO to 211 or click “live chat” at Visit our Contact Us page for further details.

If you need emotional support, or feel overwhelmed, there are crisis services available:

  • Distress Line (24/7, Edmonton & Northern Alberta): 780-482-HELP (4357)
  • 24 Hour Crisis Line (Calgary and Southern Alberta): 403-266-HELP (4357)
  • 24/7 Crisis Line (Fort McMurray & Northeastern Alberta): 780-743-HELP (4357)
  • Distress & Suicide Prevention Line (24/7, Southwestern Alberta): 1-888-787-2880

Many organizations have switched from in-person to online services. For example, organizations that used to provide walk-in counselling, now provide phone or online counselling. Contact 211 for details about available services.

Reach out someone you trust. If someone has offered their support to you in the past, now may be a time when they’re hoping to connect with others as well.

Stay Connected and Find Community

Although it’s called “social distancing,” it’s important to remember that it’s really about physical distancing, while maintaining social connections.

  • Stay connected with co-workers, friends, and family via phone, text, or video calls.
  • Social media is a great way to connect with others, but don’t forget to unplug occasionally.
  • If there are activities you used to do in-person, such as a book club, find ways to meet virtually. You could play online games together or watch the same movie while chatting on the phone.
  • Giving support can be as beneficial as receiving it. Find ways to reach out and help where you can and when it is safe to do so. This could be as simple as a phone call or dropping off some groceries.
  • Everyone handles stress differently. Reach out to others and talk about how you’re feeling, and if you’re comfortable, offer your support. If others are willing to share their feelings with you, be willing to listen without judgement.
  • If you have a pet, this is a great time to give them some attention. Go for walks or teach your pet a trick.

Use Self-Care Strategies to Reduce Stress

During times of stress, pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Recognize your body’s response to stress and engage in healthy activities that work for you or try a new one.

  • Reduce the amount of time spent watching news reports. Schedule a time each day to update yourself from reputable sources, and the rest of the day unplug from that. Constant information about a pandemic can be overwhelming and stressful. Some examples of reputable sources of Covid-19 information are the Government of CanadaGovernment of AlbertaAlberta Health Services, and the World Health Organization.
  • Self-reflection can help you to take stock of your emotions. Set aside time in your day to reflect on your emotions and thoughts. You may wish to keep a journal or track your feelings with an app, so you can look for patterns over time.
  • Practice meditation or try a mindfulness activity.
  • Go for a walk or run outside.
  • Do some stretching or find a yoga video online.
  • Read a book, join an online book club, or check out the online content of your local library.
  • Take care of some indoor plants.
  • Take up an hobby you’ve always wanted to try, like learning a new language or developing a new skill.
  • Learn some one-player card games.
  • Find something new to do online such as a virtual museum tour or symphony concert.
  • Get creative with your cooking and try a new recipe.

Keep or Make a Daily Routine

  • Maintain bedtime and morning routines as much as possible or try practicing a new routine. Sleep is important for mental health!
  • If you are working from home, try to get ready the same way you would if you were going into the office. Have a shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, and maybe call a friend or co-worker whily you enjoy your morning coffee.
  • Eat regular, healthy, and well-balanced meals.
  • Exercise regularly. There are lots of exercise videos and online classes available if you’re finding it challenging now that your gym or local recreation centre is closed.

Tips for Supporting Children and Youth

Children and youth may have a lot of questions and may also be experiencing increased anxiety. They are not immune to the emotional effects and may pick up on the increased stress of adults around them.

  • The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) has some guidelines about how to talk with children about the current situation: Talking with Children about Coronavirus Disease 2019
  • Kids Help Phone is available via text, live chat and phone anytime 24/7. Children and youth can text CONNECT to 686868, call 1-800-668-6868 or visit
  • Take steps to care for your own mental health and stress levels if you have a little one at home. Taking care of yourself will help reduce their stress as well.

Sources: Thank you to Canadian Mental Health Association – Alberta Division, Government of CanadaCenter for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization.