• On its website, Santé Montréal has published a series of tips for anyone feeling stressed, anxious, isolated, or vulnerable.
  • A number of institutional and grassroots efforts have also manifested in recent weeks to either support residents or demonstrate solidarity.

Psychology Today has called the pandemic a "collective trauma." As public health officials tackle local outbreaks, they must also contend with the heightened anxiety these extraordinary circumstances have instilled in the general population. It's a fact that Santé Montréal recognizes.

The regional public health authority has published advice on its website for anyone feeling stressed and anxious.

"It’s normal to feel anxious or worried when you hear talk about the pandemic," its website reads.

Among its tips "to help you feel better despite the stress" are:

  • "Avoid excessive media coverage to COVID-19;"

  • "take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep and avoid alcohol and drugs;"

  • "take time to unwind and remind yourself that strong feelings will fade. Take breaks to read or do sports. It can be upsetting to hear about the crisis and see images repeatedly. Try to do some other activities you usually enjoy to return to your normal life;"

  • and "connect with your loved ones. Share your concerns with a friend or family member about how you are feeling."

But Santé Montréal further acknowledges that "everyone reacts differently to stress; some people react more strongly, such as people with mental health problems, children, people helping to deal with the current situation like public health teams, caregivers, and first responders."

People with mental health conditions are advised to "continue [their] treatment to help [them] get through this stressful period."

The pandemic could also create or compound feelings of isolation and vulnerability for people with disabilities, in precarious economic situations, or without immigration status, it explains, highlighting the importance of "[communication] with other people" and "[maintaining] healthy relationships."

In any case, residents are invited to call 1-877-644-4545 "if [they] are worried or anxious about the coronavirus."

A number of institutional and grassroots efforts have also manifested in recent weeks to either support residents or demonstrate solidarity.

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, for example, hosts weekly art therapy sessions on its Facebook page.

It has also challenged Montrealers to recreate their favourite works in its collection.

Weekly balcony concerts in April, meanwhile, are maintaining the spirit of community, even through isolation.

Nearly ubiquitous reminders that "ça va bien aller" support Santé Montréal's final piece of advice: "maintain hope and positive thinking."

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