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Walks, yoga, “Quarantunes” — there are many ways to manage your mental health during the pandemic

By Gabrielle Piché

TikTok videos and a “quarantunes” playlist help keep Krista Lemcke’s spirits up during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lemcke’s playlist is filled with electronic dance music she first heard on TikTok. A shuffle might pull up “Tokyo” by 3LAU or a tune by Kygo. TikTok also makes her laugh.

“I think laughing is very important when it comes to a lot of things about mental health,” she said.

Lemcke is a client coach and program coordinator for Manitoba Entrepreneurial Hubs in Flin Flon. She’s been working remotely since the province issued stay-at-home orders.

Lemcke has a history of depression. She said she tries to be self-aware about going “into her shell.”

“I know if I’m starting to avoid tasks or something, I’m like, ‘Okay, what’s going on?’”

Lemcke is one of many Canadians who’ve dealt with mental illness. One in five people in Canada will experience a mental health problem or illness in any given year, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).

Lemcke said listening to your body and taking time off when it feels right is important.

“In my case it’s often doing nothing, watching TikToks,” she said. “But if you enjoyed it, it was valuable. It wasn’t time wasted, because that’s obviously what you needed at the time.”

Jenifer Horvath is a business advisor at Alberta Women Entrepreneurs. She sees female entrepreneurs struggle with mental illness, and she gives talks about mental health. Horvath became interested in the subject after dealing with post-partum depression following the birth of her daughter.

“It kind of just hit me right in the face that, holy man, I need to take care of my mental health to be there for my daughter, and just to be there for my family and for work,” Horvath said.

She watches yoga videos on YouTube, uses a meditation app and listens to music to boost her mood. Different things work for different people when it comes to mental health care, Horvath said.

“It’s really important to know what works best for you.”

She said for some people, limiting news is helpful. Following the five mountains breathing technique, where you breathe up and down five times, can also be useful, she said.

Some people find writing clears their mind.

“The process helps you think through what’s going on, and also (helps you) visually see it,” she said.

There are ways to support your mental health even when life is too hectic to take a break, Horvath said.

“If you’re finding, ‘Oh, meditating for half an hour is too big,’ break it down as small as possible.”

This includes closing your eyes and taking deep breaths for a minute before a ZOOM call, or taking a 10 minute walk before starting work. Horvath checks in with two friends daily during the pandemic. They share how their days went and the states of their mental health.

Horvath said she’s noticed more clients dealing with mental health issues like depression during the pandemic. There’s more anxiety and ambiguity right now, she said.

“Each time we have to adjust to a new reality, and especially when there’s ambiguity, our mental state, it goes back to that amygdala — we don’t feel safe.”

Horvath said she lets her clients talk it out.

“It’s really therapeutic just to talk,” she said. “I know as advisors, we’re often quick to want to solve other people’s problems, but there’s a lot of benefit in just letting them talk and asking.”

When Horvath’s clients are struggling, she recommends seeing a psychologist or contacting the CMHA. The CMHA is free, and you don’t need to be in a crisis to contact them.

Shouldering entrepreneurs’ hardships during the pandemic has put strain on business advisors, Horvath said.

“We are being left, in a lot of ways, holding this emotional baggage,” she said. “When I get off calls sometimes, I’m exhausted and I’m drained.”

She said she schedules time in between sessions to breathe, get water and take a walk. Business advisors need to care for their mental health too, she said.

“I’m concerned about (entrepreneurs’) overall health of their business and themselves, but I can’t control that at the end of the day,” she said. “Be aware that you show up and do your best, but also take time to relax.”