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At Evan J. Strong, we are committed to supporting the families we serve, as well as our community during this unprecedented time. Check here daily for resources and information.

Some Tips for Staying Connected

Published: March 26, 2020

1. Set up a plan

Have a list going of people to keep in touch with; include always-in-the-loop friends as well as people you’re a little concerned about: friends and family who are at risk; the elderly neighbor who says he doesn’t need anything; a friend who recently lost her dog and lives alone. The goal is to reach out to one person a day, in rotating fashion. You may also want to set up a weekly conference call between your close family members. 

2. Send a postcard — via the app

Letters seem safe, according to some sources, but if you want to be absolutely sure that you’re not transmitting anything via old-school mail, you could have kids write letters and then send pictures of them through email. You can also send postcards by app; just choose a photo, type a note and ship it without ever touching anything. Some options include Postcardly (about $2 a postcard), or Postagram, another $2 option. 

3. Kid postal service 

Let the kids get creative with neighbourhood friends. Choose a spot in the neighbourhood where you can safely leave an envelope or package. The kids can write notes, draw pictures or make a small package for a friend, drop it in the agreed upon spot on a walk and the friend can pick it up later that day. Bonus: Everyone gets a bit of fresh air while maintaining social distancing. (Best practice is, of course, to wipe everything down once you get it, or let it sit for several days.)

4. Use Marco Polo to send a video postcard

Video chatting is wonderful, and there are a million ways to do it — What’s App, Zoom, FaceTime, Facebook Portal, Skype, Google Hangout — but you also have to be available at the right time and ready to talk. An introvert’s nightmare, in other words. A fun alternative is to download the brilliant Marco Polo app and exchange video postcards with your friends and family. You can leave a video message whenever you want (hello, insomnia), and they can look whenever they want. It’s easy to use, really fun for kids to try (there are filters, emojis and editing tools) and an introvert’s dream. 

5. Hang out on the phone

Remember middle school, when you would call a friend and talk for hours? You can still do that. You can spend an entire evening with a friend or family member on Skype; make dinner together, tell stories, watch a movie, you can make it almost normal.

6. Neighborhood connection

Poignant videos have been circulating of Italians singing together from their balconies, a beautiful testament to resilience, culture and community spirit. Similar movements have already started in communities all over the world, through Facebook community groups. Some people are turning Little Free Libraries into Little Free Pantries. Many of us are figuring out ways to stay in touch with elderly/vulnerable neighbors to deliver groceries or other essentials.

These ideas won’t be a fit for every family or every neighborhood, but perhaps you can find another visible (or audible) way to stay in contact. Because in this most uncertain of uncertain times, the one thing that I know is that connection — by distance, of course — is everything.

Grocery Delivery Services

Published: March 25, 2020

As Canadians practice social distancing and self-isolation to combat the spread of COVID-19, many are looking for alternative options for getting necessary supplies. Individuals or family members of people who are part of a high risk group due to age, underlying health conditions or recent travel may want to consider having groceries delivered to mitigate the risk of exposure. 

If you are in need of groceries and want to have them delivered, here are some options.

In Alberta

Save-On-Foods has pickup options and delivers to shoppers in different parts of Alberta, including Edmonton, Airdrie West and Red Deer.

SPUD.ca delivers local and organic groceries in Edmonton and Calgary.

In Calgary, Cultivatr delivers farm-fresh groceries from local producers, including meat, dairy and produce. Orders placed online come a few days later.

The Organic Box works in a similar way, and ships locally produced products to customers in the greater Edmonton area, Calgary, Bow Valley and other cities across Alberta.

Family-owned The Grocery Link delivers groceries from stores including Real Canadian Superstore, Walmart, Wholesale Club, Loblaws City Market and Save on Foods to residents in the Calgary area.

Men in Kilts - Known across the country for their recognizable uniforms,  cleaning service decided to change its direction and focus on providing a delivery service for self-isolating people during the pandemic.

Calgary-Edmonton president Spencer Wik said people can send them a grocery list over email calgary@meninkilts.com and confirm payment options — either e-transfer or cash. Crew members then head to the grocery store, buy the needed items and drop the groceries off on the front step at a designated time.

Online national services to check out:

PC Express  offers same-day home delivery and pickup options at grocery stores across Canada, including Loblaws, Real Canadian Superstore, No Frills, Fortinos, Independent, Zehrs, Valu-Mart and Citymarket.

Inabuggy operates in Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Montreal. Depending on your location, Inabuggy offers one-hour delivery from retailers including Organic Garage, Safeway, Rowe Farms, Healthy Planet and IGA.

Walmart Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary and Montreal Walmart locations offer grocery delivery and pickup services.

National chain Costco offers delivery in cities across Canada and some regions qualify for two-day turnaround. Costco services provinces including Nova Scotia, P.E.I., Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, B.C., Ontario, New Brunswick and Quebec.

Coping and Connection for Children & Families During COVID-19

Published: March 24, 2020

Children react, in part, on what they see from the adults around them. Coping with COVID-19 calmly and confidently, can help you support your child. Here are some things you can do to support your child.

Get the facts about COVID-19.

Find a few credible sources of information. Understanding the latest facts about the outbreak and knowing where to turn for reliable information can help you talk to your kids open and honestly and help them think more realistically about the risk visit, https://www.albertahealthservices.ca/topics/Page16944.aspx

Check in with your child, encourage questions to make sense of the current situation.

  • Start by asking your child what they know about this situation.
  • Pay attention to what your child says and really listen with your head and heart.
  • Encourage them to talk about their feelings and thoughts. If they have difficulty expressing their emotions in words, help them express their feelings through creativity (e.g., drawing, music).
  • Accept their feelings without judging. Emotions come and go. It’s okay to feel sad, upset, or distressed. In most cases, these feelings won’t last long. It’s how we act when we feel these emotions that can get us into trouble.
  • Answer questions calmly, reassuringly, and honestly. Give answers that your child will understand for their age and ability.

Correct misinformation.
Avoid telling them not to worry. The goal is to help your child realistically evaluate risk based on reliable information.
Focus on how they can protect themselves and others from getting sick.
Ask your child to come to you if they have questions or concerns as they may hear strange things or see strange things and wonder if they are true.
Provide comfort and be patient.
Check on your child’s feelings on a regular basis.

Encourage positive activities and thoughts of safety

Continue doing regular activities (e.g., having family meals, bedtime routines, games, movies, faith activities, keeping physically active, listening to music). It helps provide a sense of security and safety. Talk about all of the people who are working hard to prevent the spread of illness and how you and your child can help protect yourselves and the community too (e.g., good handwashing, coughing or sneezing into your elbow).

Self-care for parents and caregivers

The high volume of information, concerns, and potential uncertainty in these situations can be overwhelming. Care for yourself by keeping routines, eating healthy meals, getting enough sleep, keeping physically active, staying connected, and handling stress. Take deep breaths and breaks to handle stress. Be honest about your feelings and show that you can still do things, and finish tasks, even if you’re feeling worried. Look for creative ways to adapt your go-to activities, as needed, (and perhaps discover new opportunities to enhance your wellness and self-care). You are best able to support your children when you take care of yourself too.

Limit media coverage

Keep informed but limit your time for media and social media. It can leave you and your children feeling overwhelmed. (https://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/screen-time-and-digital-media)

Seek support and continued connections

If you need to isolate yourself from others, call, text, email, video conference, and communicate through social media. You can also try playing online games with friends or family to keep entertained and connected with others.

Keep active

Although it’s tough to stay indoors away from friends and sports we enjoy, we can still keep those screens away and be active. There are a lot of physical activities that can be done in our homes with each other. Look with your loved ones for small space activities that would be fun and would keep you physically active. Here are two great ideas:

1. Riverbank – This is an indoor version of Red Light, Green Light that is a lot of fun.

  • Form a line with string, tape, or an item already on the ground.
  • The leader will yell “river,” “bank,” or “riverbank.”
  • Players hop forward when they hear “river” ‘and backward when they hear “bank.”
  • When the leader calls out “riverbank,” players hop sideways with one foot in the river and one foot in the bank.
  • Add an additional physical activity component by having participants do jumping jacks when they make a mistake before rejoining the game.

2. Everyone Around Me

  • Form a circle with chairs or specific spots on the floor with tape or string.
  • Select one person to stand in the middle (without a chair or space) as the caller.
  • The caller shouts out a fact about himself or herself. Example: Everyone around me wearing a blue shirt.
  • Anyone wearing a blue shirt must find a new seat as quickly as possible, including the caller.
  • The person left without a chair or spot becomes the caller.

Adapted from: asphaltgreen.org

Be mindful of how you speak

Rather than placing blame on certain communities or groups of people, put people first. This is a person who has the COVID-19 virus.

Need more help?

If your child is having on-going trouble coping with their emotions or is experiencing symptoms of stress (e.g., problems with sleep, goes back to having separation anxiety, needs a large amount of reassurance, stops having interest in friends, does repetitive behaviours such as excessive hand washing) ask your healthcare professional for help.

- Information from Alberta Health Services 

COVID-19 and Your Mental Health

Published: March 23, 2020

A public health emergency, such as the COVID-19 outbreak, can be anxiety/stress inducing for some, especially for people who have a pre-existing medical condition, who are travelling, or are separated from friends and family members at home and abroad.

For individuals and communities who have to self-isolate, are choosing to socially distance themselves or who have otherwise directly been impacted by COVID-19, there may be heightened awareness, concern, anxiety and fear. For many, a sense of loss or feeling like you don’t have control may be common. Try to be patient with yourself and others, because people may not cope like they usually do.

When you have no control over a stressful situation like a pandemic or emergency, having a plan and being emotionally prepared can help you can help you stay calm, feel more in control and reduce stress. In addition, using healthy coping skills to overcome daily challenges in your life is important to help you cope with your present situation and maintain good mental health.

Helpful Tips:

  • Limit the amount of time you spend watching, reading or listening to news about COVID-19. Seek information at specific times once or twice a day, for example once in the morning and once in the evening.
  • Get the facts about COVID-19 from reliable sources such as https://www.alberta.ca/coronavirus-info-for- albertans.aspx#p22780s1) or Health Canada https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019- novel-coronavirus-infection.html These sources of information will help you be able to tell facts apart from rumours.
  • Focus on getting information that will help you take practical steps to protect yourself and your loved ones. Taking in too much or constant information about COVID-19 can cause you or those around you to feel worried or anxious.
  • Be mindful, gently paying attention to your thoughts, feelings and body sensations. This can help you understand why you’re feeling anxious or stressed. And it may help you to identify actions you can take to feel more in control. If you notice that you are reacting in ways that feel difficult to calm on your own, seek support from someone you trust and/or your healthcare practitioner
  • Use healthy approaches and skills you normally use to cope with stressful situations. Keep up healthy behaviours that have helped in the past. Exercise, eating healthy, getting enough rest or sleep are all examples of healthy coping behaviours.
  • Keep in mind that this situation is temporary, and eventually things will return to normal.
  • Try to remain focused on the positive. There is effective care for COVID-19; people with COVID-19 are recovering and after recovering from COVID-19, will go on with their lives, including jobs, families and loved ones.
  • Maintain your regular routines as much as possible. Focus on what needs to happen today, and make a list of what you need to do in the next day or week to keep yourself safe and comfortable. Keeping your regular household routine is important if children are confined to home. Encourage children to play and socialize with others, even if it is only within the family when advised to restrict social activities.
  • During stressful times, it can be common for children to seek more attachment or be more demanding of parents. Discuss COVID-19 with children honestly using age-appropriate information. If children have concerns, addressing these concerns together may ease their anxiety. Holding and comforting your child helps them feel safe and secure as well. Reassure children especially at bedtime. Children will watch adult behaviours and emotions for examples on how to manage their own emotions during difficult times.
  • For parents and caregivers, try to model healthy and positive coping skills. Your child sees your emotions through your words, facial expressions and actions. How you respond to the stress of a pandemic can affect how your child reacts. Modeling calm and constructive reactions to the event will help your child feel calmer and cope better. It’s okay to have strong emotions. Name them (e.g., “I feel frustrated.” or “I feel sad.”). Talk about how you feel and how you’re going to cope (e.g., deep breathing, positive thinking) so your child learns how to do the same.
  • It is important to think about what actions you can take to stay healthy and prevent the spread of COVID-19. If the illness becomes common in your community, your plan should consider how you will need to change your behaviours to reduce the risk of infection and what to do if you or someone in your family or household becomes sick. Visit: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/being- prepared.html to help you plan.
  • Being prepared by having a plan can help you stay calm and feel more in control. Also helping others in their time of need can benefit them as well as you.
  • Be sure to rest and try to get enough sleep. Lack of sleep can make you feel overwhelmed, which in turn will make it harder to cope with any impact you might be feeling because of COVID-19.
  • Avoid or limit drinks with caffeine for example pop, coffee, tea and energy drinks because they can make you feel anxious or restless and affect your sleep.
  • Avoid or limit drinks with alcohol, for example beer, wine and spirits (e.g., vodka, rum, gin). Using alcohol to cope with feelings of stress or anxiety is not advised as alcohol disrupts normal sleep patterns, can cause mood fluctuations and can make underlying feelings of stress and trauma worse.
  • For those living with an existing mental illness (e.g., anxiety disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder, mood disorders like major depressive disorder and/or psychotic disorders like schizophrenia) no alcohol use is the safest choice as alcohol use can make symptoms of the mental illness worse.
  • Breathing techniques can be an effective tool to manage stress and anxiety; take a slow deep breath in as you count to 5 and then exhale, also counting to 5 (repeat 10 times). This can help calm your nervous system and help you think more clearly.
  • Find comfort in your spiritual/personal beliefs and practices.
  • If you are in self-isolation, look for opportunities to stay in contact with family and friends. If health authorities advise or tell you to limit your physical or direct social contact to contain the outbreak, stay connected through phone calls and social media, such as text messaging, email, Skype, and face-time. Try as much as possible to keep your personal daily routines and engage in healthy activities you enjoy and find relaxing.
  • If you decide to voluntarily socially distance yourself, consider spending time at home with friends and family; engage in activities that you can do together whether it’s making and sharing meals, playing games or watching TV.

-Information from Alberta Health Services

Grief During Crisis

Published: March 22, 2020

To borrow from Charles Dickens, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Today might feel like the worst of times multiplied by the worst of times.

While the rest of the world appears to have been “put on hold” as it tries to contain the impact of COVID-19, if you’ve recently suffered the loss of a loved one, the grief may seem amplified. Grief and pain do not pause just because the shops and services shutter their doors, and we are told to maintain “social distancing.”  In many ways, grief can become more acute when the world is in a state of panic. Rest assured, just as grief doesn’t take a break, neither does healing. And please know that you are not alone in your grief. Here is a list of a few small steps you can take today to help yourself and your family rebuild during this time of emotional and social unrest.

1. Take care of your physical health.

While this may seem like it should apply to everyone else while you are in the midst of your own personal pain, know that this is critically important for you and your family. Everyone is being told to take care of themselves to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and this becomes especially important during grief. Grief is already challenging to our bodies by disturbing our sleep, decreasing (or increasing) our appetite, and creating pain. Grief may interfere with our motivation to exercise and cause us to neglect personal hygiene. You can start feeling better by taking little steps to improve and maintain your physical wellness. (Feel free to add other ideas that work for you!)

  • Have a warm bath with Epsom salts to relieve body aches (Epsom salts are readily available at your local grocer or pharmacy)
  • Eat small amounts of healthy foods more frequently (especially fresh fruits and vegetables)
  • Brush your teeth
  • Have a warm cup of tea or another favourite beverage (staying hydrated is very important)
  • Go for a walk outdoors (even a walk once around the block is beneficial)
  • Rest when tired (and don’t feel guilty about it!)
  • Maintain a regular bedtime, but don’t fret if you don’t fall asleep
  • Let yourself cry (it’s okay to do this, and it’s also okay if you don’t feel like crying)

 

2. Take care of your emotional health.

Mourning is a necessary part of healing after a loss. The feelings must be felt in order to heal. When the world is running normally, we often instinctively know to pace our grief. We can’t heal “all at once,” so we may find ways to distract ourselves when the pain feels overwhelming. The current situation of the world crisis makes this more difficult. The theatres are closed, the shops are closed, we are told to stay at home, and nothing feels the same. We can still pace ourselves by using strategies to contain our grief. Dr. Darcy Harris designed a lovely tool for containing our grief called the “grief drawer.” What this means is that you clean out a drawer or set aside a box and fill it with mementos to remind you of your loved one. These can be pictures, a piece of clothing, personal items, a journal, etc. Whenever you wish to do the work of mourning, set aside an amount of time to spend with these items (it can be any length of time you choose, for instance the length of a CD, the amount of time for one tealight to burn, or a time set on your phone with a soft tone to signal the end). This time is for you to mourn openly and authentically (and remember, because this is your time, there are no set rules, you can stop at any time if it becomes too overwhelming). When the time is over, you can close the box or drawer and set it aside until the next time you feel the need to grieve. Afterwards, you can engage in something else, such as going for a walk, watching a movie, or calling a friend.

3. Take care of your cognitive health.

Grief can make us feel like our brains are muddled. People often complain of memory problems and the inability to stay focused. This is a natural and normal way for the brain to insulate us from becoming overwhelmed. Adding to this disruption of life due to loss, we now have COVID-19 causing a national suspension of regular working days. How are we to even remember what day of the week it is? Be gentle with yourself at this time. Use lists to remind yourself of commitments and responsibilities.  Say no to things that are overwhelming to you right now and allow yourself to spend time in respite from the usual demands of life. Remember that healing takes time, be patient with yourself and with the journey.

4. Take care of your social wellness.

People are social beings, but we are currently being told to practice social distancing. One psychologist lovingly reframed it as physical distancing. Even though it may not be possible to be physically present to each other, we still need ways to find support. Facetime, phone calls, emails, texts, and even old-fashioned letters are all methods to reach out and fill our need for social connection.

And don’t be afraid to reach out to friends and acquaintances just to say hello.  You may be pleasantly surprised to hear the joy in the voice of friends who aren’t sure how to contact you in your grief. If you can muster a smile, you may find that it comes through to the recipient.  If this is too difficult, write an email. If an email is too difficult, you might want to just write yourself a friendly note that you can place on your mirror with something as simple as “Good day, how are you doing today. I love your smile.” 

5. Take care of your spiritual health.

This isn’t necessarily about your religion (although it can be). Maintaining spiritual wellness is about attending to the needs of our soul. Grief often initiates queries about the meaning of life and other existential questions. We may struggle with our faith or lose hope for a joyful future. When we then add anxiety provoked by the current COVID-19 situation, we may find ourselves in despair. Again, it is important to remain gentle and compassionate with yourself. Journal if that is something that appeals to you. Meditation or prayer may be beneficial. Support from safe and understanding people is essential. Do you have a friend or loved one who will listen to your struggles without judgement? If possible, take breaks from talking about COVID-19. Instead, talk about the person you lost. Talk about things you are looking forward to in the future. Talk about “normal” things.

Your wellness is vital. Take care of yourself and your family. Remember to pace yourself, be patient with yourself, and if possible, try to mix in some fun along the way. Let’s not let the panic of COVID-19 define us. Hold on to the hope and promise that together we will persevere, and we will heal.

-Maureen Theberge, Registered Psychologist, Theberge Counselling Inc.

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