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As the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak continues to impact the daily lives of people around the world, it is important to take care of yourself, both physically and mentally. This is a crucial time to practice healthy coping strategies and stress management.

If you are feeling worried, anxious, or fearful, it is important to acknowledge these as normal and expected feelings during this time — ones that are being felt around the world. Everyone deals with stress in their own way, but some common reactions can include:

  • Feelings of anxiety, fear, dread, sadness, helplessness, and apathy.
  • Changes to eating and sleeping habits, including difficulty falling and staying asleep, and an increased or decreased appetite.
  • New or worsening symptoms of chronic illness.
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.

If your mental health is impeding your daily life and functioning, please reach out to a mental health professional. Click here for information on how to self-assess your mental health, and determine your needs.


How to maintain and improve your mental health

Maintaining your mental health and wellbeing is largely about practicing balance. There are many ways to support a sense of balance in your life that involve structure, routine, and daily habits. Following the suggestions below can help you maintain and even improve your mental wellbeing:

  • Eat regular, healthy meals whenever possible.
  • Maintain a regular bedtime schedule and routine, even if your sleep is impaired.
  • Start or maintain a regular exercise schedule.
  • Spend time outdoors. Please take care to avoid public spaces and practice social distancing during this outbreak.
  • Avoid unnecessary and constant news consumption.
  • Get your information from reliable sources like the BC Centres for Disease Control and Public Health Agency of Canada.
  • Maintain social interactions and relationships with family and friends through phone calls, texts, and social media.
  • Seek out and share positive and uplifting stories from your community.

Eating a healthy diet

Stress can affect your appetite and food choices. Maintaining a regular and healthy diet supports improved mood and functioning. It has also been shown to play a critical role in managing Parkinson’s disease. Learn more about nutrition and Parkinson’s here.

Many websites and online personalities are sharing their favourite recipes and culinary ideas for extended self-isolation. Check out the New York Times cooking newsletter, the Washington Post’s guide to cooking with and for your kids during coronavirus school closures, and the Globe and Mail’s quarantine grocery shopping guide.

The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends being prepared with essential food items at home. Please do not panic-buy or hoard food or home items, as this increases the risk for resource scarcity in your community.

Purchasing food and home items can be a significant challenge when practicing social distancing, particularly for those who are especially vulnerable during this outbreak, including older adults and immunocompromised individuals. To address the needs of these communities, some markets and drug stores are opening early to allow for those with limitations to shop with fewer crowds

  • Sobey’s is phasing in a senior shopping hour.
  • Loblaw’s has dedicated 7am to 8am for seniors and those who need assistance while shopping.
  • Shoppers Drug Mart is dedicating the first opening hour of shopping at our stores to our customers who need assistance or consideration, including seniors and people living with disabilities.
  • Save-On-Foods is now open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. It will also be holding a special shopping hour for seniors and people with disabilities from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. each day.

Check with your local grocery store and pharmacy to see if they are offering similar programs. 

Delivery services are also available during the outbreak, with many offering no-contact delivery upon request:

Check with your local grocery store to see if they deliver. You can also order food from local restaurants via delivery apps like Doordash, Foodora, Skip the Dishes, or Uber Eats.

Additional charges may apply for delivery services.

Getting good sleep

Adults age 26-64 are recommended to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night, while adults older than 65 are recommended to get 7-8 hours.

For people with Parkinson’s, getting enough sleep ensures you have the energy to manage your symptoms effectively, and obtain the maximum benefit from your medications. Getting consistent and satisfying sleep can be a challenge with Parkinson’s disease. Maintaining a regular bedtime and wake up time, as well as routine, can improve your sleep.

The following strategies can help you fall asleep, or stay asleep through the night:

  • Sleep in bed, and keep the room cold and dark.
  • Nap if you need to, but avoid doing so after 3:00pm.
  • Sleep on your side. If your back or hips are sore, put a small soft pillow between your knees.
  • If you can roll over without difficulty, spend at least 20 minutes a day on your stomach with your chin resting on your folded arms. This gives the spine an excellent stretch to relieve tension.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise, and hot baths or showers before bedtime.
  • Do not go to bed hungry, but avoid heavy evening meals and stimulants.
  • If you are disturbing your bed partner’s sleep or vice-versa, consider the occasional night in separate rooms. Alternatively, you may consider replacing one large bed with two three-quarter or twin size beds with separate mattresses and covers.
  • Use the bed only for sleeping or sexual activity, rather than watching late night television. 

Learn more about sleeping with Parkinson’s disease here.

Maintaining an exercise routine

Research is continually showing the importance of exercise for managing and improving Parkinson’s disease symptoms and progression. Research also overwhelmingly shows a large and significant positive effect on depressions.

Maintaining a regular exercise schedule can be difficult, especially with most gyms, community centres, and public pools being closed to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

If your community has not advised against it, try taking a walk around your block several times a day, a bike ride around your neighbourhood, or a stroll down to your local park or beach. You can also try participating in our Step by Step walking program individually, while continuing to practice social distancing.

If you decide to do any exercise outdoors, we caution against being in high-traffic areas, or convening in groups.

If you have any coronavirus disease symptoms, including a sore throat, fever, cough, runny nose, or difficulty breathing, please do not go outdoors. It is recommended that anyone experiencing any cold and flu symptoms self-quarantine and avoid unnecessary exposure to others.

If you are homebound, consider opening up a window or going on your patio, porch, or balcony to exercise in the fresh air.

Staying connected and celebrating your relationships

Social isolation can pose a significant challenge to your mental wellbeing. During this period of social distancing, stay in touch with friends, family, and loved ones by phone or over the internet.

If you cannot spend time with someone in person, reach out to them to spend time talking with them or doing activities together while on a call or video chat. Get creative! Start an online book club, cook together, or make your weekly coffee meet-up virtual. There are many online platforms you can use to call and/or video chat with family or friends. Here’s how to use some of the most popular ones.

To connect with your peers, consider joining one of Parkinson Society British Columbia's online support groups!


Young Onset Parkinson's Disease (YOPD)
Parkinson Society British Columbia is offering an online YOPD support group. This group is meant for individuals diagnosed with Parkinson's under the age of 60. 

A valid internet connection will be required to participate.

2nd Tuesday of each month
7:00 pm – 8:30 pm

Register Now


Parkinson's Disease Support Group
In an effort to practice social distancing during the COVID-19 outbreak, many support groups have cancelled meetings until further notice. As a substitute, we have started a new weekly online support group for the Parkinson’s community to help stay connected and support each other during this time. Please note this group will communicate via chat (typing).

A valid internet connection will be required to participate.

Weekly on Fridays
9:00 am – 10:30 am

Register Now


Early to Mid-Stage Parkinson's Carepartner Support Group
This monthly online support group is geared for individuals caring for someone with early to mid-stage Parkinson's disease. Whether you are a spouse, partner, adult child, or friend, Parkinson Society British Columbia invites you to join our growing online community of support.

A valid internet connection will be required to participate.

3rd Wednesday of each month 
9:00 am – 10:30 am

Register Now


Advanced Parkinson's Carepartner Support Group
This new monthly online support group is designed for individuals caring for someone with advanced Parkinson's disease, which can be characterized by complex medical needs and/or changes in cognition that require help in almost all areas of daily life.

Whether you are a spouse, partner, adult child, or friend, Parkinson Society British Columbia invites you to join our growing online community fostering connection with others who share similar experiences.

A valid internet connection will be required to participate.

4th Thursday of each month
9:00 am – 10:30 am

Register Now

Managing your news consumption

The constant stream of news about coronavirus can add to feelings of anxiety, stress, and despair. Try scheduling your news consumption to only once or twice a day, at a set time. Set a timer for how long you want to read or watch the news before you start fall down a news-hole. You can also sign up for a newsletter from your favourite reliable news source or a daily news podcast, and limit your daily consumption to only 1 or 2 newsletters/podcasts.

It is also important to make sure the news you are getting is reliable and accurate. Reading inaccurate or fake news can lead to added stress and can spread fear and panic. If you come across inaccurate news and posts from social media friends, you can report the post, block, or unfollow the user.

Here is how to unfollow, block, and report fake news on Twitter.

Here is how to unfollow, block, and report fake news on Facebook.

Here is how to unfollow, block, and report fake news on Instagram. 

You can find reliable and up-to-date information about the coronavirus outbreak at:

For non-medical information, the province has launched a hotline to provide details on the outbreak, including the latest on travel recommendations and social distancing. Call 1-888-COVID19 (1-888-268-4319) or text 604-630-0300 to access the service from 7:30am – 8:00pm daily, available in over 110 languages.

Seeking out positive and uplifting stories

Though the news can seem bleak, there is lots of good news going around about coronavirus and other world and local events. Sharing these uplifting stories can not only improve your mental health but can improve it for every one you share it with. 

Have you seen the story about Madrid clapping for healthcare workers? Or people singing together in quarantine in Italy? And locally, people are starting to recover from coronavirus.

Let us know about the positive stories you read - we would love to share them with our community!

Exploring new entertainment

Entertaining yourself can be a great way to take your mind off your worries. Here are some free online entertainment options:

When Life Gives You Parkinson’s Podcast is an honest, funny, and engaging podcast chronicling host Larry Gifford’s personal journey with Parkinson’s disease.

National Film Board has a large collection of free, Canadian shorts, films, and documentaries.

Kanopy has a collection of movies, documentaries, foreign films, classic cinema, independent hidden gems, and educational videos. It is free with some public library cards, and for students.

Netflix Party is an extension for the Google Chrome web browser that allows you to stream your favourite shows and movies on Netflix together with someone using a different computer.

Do you have any recommendations you'd like to share with the Parkinson's community? Let us know!

Practicing games and activities for cognitive health

Exercising, eating well, spending time with family and friends, doing crossword puzzles, and getting a good night’s sleep are just a few of the habits that help to preserve your brain health and memory. Whether you are a person with Parkinson’s or a carepartner, maintaining good cognitive health contributes to your overall wellbeing!

Try some of these activities to help you maintain good cognitive health:

  • Writing and journaling
  • Video games (read about their benefits here!)
  • Word and number puzzles, like sudoku or crosswords
  • Physical puzzles, like jigsaw puzzles or Jenga
  • Painting, drawing, and colouring
  • Crafts, sewing, and knitting
  • Cooking and baking
  • Card games and board games
  • Singing and playing musical instruments

 

The Government of Canada has published mental health resources and information on their website.

Parkinson Society British Columbia is committed to supporting our community through this difficult time. If you have suggestions for other helpful resources we can provide, please contact:

Jovana Vranic
Marketing & Communications Senior Coordinator
jvranic@parkinson.bc.ca


Sources & Additional Resources

Ask the MD: Coronavirus and Parkinson’s

Mental Health and Coping during COVID-19

Mental Health and Psychosocial Considerations During COVID-19 Outbreak

COVID-19: Mental health in the age of coronavirus

Coronavirus: How to protect your mental health

Diet and depression

Exercise as a treatment for depression: A meta-analysis adjusting for publication bias

How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?

Government of Canada: Mental health and wellness

Social Isolation Q&A

Maintaining Mental Health During the COVID-19 Crisis