Togetherall | Virtual Mental Health. Introducing Togetherall: An online peer-to-peer mental health community available free to Albertans! Togetherall is a free online community, available to all 16+ Albertans. The community is a safe place to support your mental health 24/7. Service provided by the Canadian Mental Health Association. Togertherall website
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Why Virtual Communication Can Leave You Worn Out
Communicating online may cause more stress than connection.
More than ever, we are reaching out online and communicating virtually. Remote communication is essential to combating loneliness and feelings of isolation. It’s also the best means we have for connecting and working together during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, communicating this way can have drawbacks. If you are feeling like all those online calls and video conferences seem to be leaving you drained by the end of the day, it’s not just you—virtual fatigue is real.
Below are five reasons you may be feeling worn out and tired by virtual communication.
With Zoom or FaceTime, for example, you can’t rely on body language for communication in the same way you might when talking with someone in person. Sometimes there are sound delays and it can get stressful in communicating or repeating yourself constantly. It can sometimes also be difficult to pick up on inflections in peoples’ voices, which can make it challenging to understand the fullness of what others are trying to communicate. It also makes picking up nuanced forms of communication like sarcasm harder to detect.
For those with social anxiety, Zoom or FaceTime makes it harder to draw boundaries. People get to see into your environmental context, where you live or are staying.
This isn’t just about physical surroundings; it’s also more difficult to control interactions, especially if you are staying at home with others. For example, a person who works at an office likely has more control over the surroundings. Yet, when working from home or socializing from home virtually, there’s a greater chance that others, like a spouse or child, may drop in and interrupt accidentally or even on purpose.
Another reason all those online calls and conversations may be leaving you feeling tired and sluggish is because social cues become less clear. It can be hard to know when “socializing” should end and the work or primary purpose of the call should shift. Certain social cues that are easily read in real life like boredom or frustration can be harder to read virtually. Because of this, it’s common for people to feel pressure to fill silences and converse.
Further compounding the awkwardness of communicating remotely may be that you and the person you are talking with are struggling to know when to transition from small talk into something more substantial. When it comes to connecting virtually, a lot of people approach virtually socializing with the assumption that the purpose of the call is to just talk and catch up. This can leave you feeling like you are having conversations online that don’t seem to be going anywhere. In many cases, people are reaching out more often online for virtual communications as a way of addressing feeling lonely, not necessarily because they need to discuss a particular topic or issue.
Feeling worn out and drained by virtual communications may also be in part to how you are hard-wired. The benefits of digital hangouts are the flexibility and accessibility to connect with one another. Digital hangouts have fewer technical barriers to socializing (e.g., finding a place to meet, the cost of transportation). However, it would be presumptuous to say that digital hangouts are correlated with a finite result of well-being.
Anxiety and stress manifest in people differently, and while there are common symptoms, the subjective experience cannot be neatly confined. If digital hangouts are causing crippling social anxiety, perhaps an alternative form of communication may serve better. If a person’s anxiety is at a functioning level and the benefits of socializing outweigh or fosters positive behavior, then perhaps a gentle push outside of the comfort zone can be helpful. If this describes you or someone you know, another approach is to turn off the video function if possible. Changing video settings is another practical approach to reducing online social anxiety, like lowering lighting or changing filters to buffer image.
There is no perfect formula for how you should connect with people or how often you should connect. Everyone feels connection differently. For some people, texting is enough for them to feel socially engaged, while others may need an audible and visual connection to be satisfied in their social life. Just because people have moved to digital hangouts doesn’t mean your social boundaries have to change.
Overall, we need to be proactive and creative in fostering virtual social connections during this time of isolation. But we also need to make sure that how we are communicating doesn’t make things worse. This is why understanding the social drivers that may be causing you to struggle is important, now more than ever.
Jamie D. Aten Ph.D. Posted on psychologytoday.com April 15th, 2020
Our kids are at home, with the expectation that they will continue to learn while schools are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. If this causes chest pains, shortness of breath, or full-blown panic as you figure out how to navigate your kids’ schooling while you’re doing all the other things you have to do to keep your lives stitched together during this challenging time, you are not alone.
First, some words of reassurance:
This is uncharted waters for everyone—teachers, parents, and kids, alike, and it will take time for us all to adjust to “the new normal.” There’s no prescribed framework or template to work from because we’ve never been here before. It’s a work-in-progress for all of us, and none of us will get it perfect in the first pass. So, cut yourself some slack, use some positive self-talk (“We will survive,” “Perfect is not the goal here”), and as you fall into bed at night, pat yourself on the back for getting through the day.
Your job is to be a parent, not a teacher. If you provide a place for your children to work and some structure to help them spend some time productively, then you are doing your job.
Even if you are able to give kids the place and structure they need to get work done, it will take a few days for kids to adjust to a new way of schooling. At the end of the day, if you can, take a few minutes to debrief with your kid. What worked well today? What didn’t work? What should we do differently tomorrow?
Keep in mind that stress shortens fuses, increases irritability, and undermines our ability to access skills and strengths that under normal circumstances we may have in some abundance. On top of that, kids pick up on the stress level of the adults around them even when those adults are trying to hide that stress. If everyone in your house seems to be “out of sorts,” this is a normal response to an abnormal situation.
Some things are more important than school. If you feel like things are coming apart at the seams, give yourself permission to let some things slide. If you have in your head an image of the “perfect parent” and you don’t fit that description (and NO ONE DOES), then set it aside. Doing what you can to keep your family intact is way more important than making sure your kids fit in their 120 minutes of daily lessons (or whatever your child’s school is recommending).
With school closures due to COVID-19, children who are at home will potentially have more unrestricted time online. The Canadian Centre for Child Protection, through its program Cybertip.ca, is urging families to have conversations about internet safety and to work together to implement strategies that ensures everyone’s digital well-being.
What should parents be aware of?
Your child may want to spend increased time connecting with friends by live streaming or video chatting. Talk to your child about the ease by which screengrabs and video recordings from live streams or video chats can be saved and used against tweens to embarrass or harm them, even by people they know. Be mindful that some live stream apps/platforms feature private messaging where anyone can direct message your child. To learn more about the risks of live streaming and ways to safeguard kids, visit protectkidsonline.ca/live.
Online gaming is another way your child may want to connect with friends and pass the time. Like live streaming, gaming platforms can open kids up to receiving chats or private messages from people they don’t know in real life. For example, Cybertip.ca released an alert regarding the popular multi-player website Roblox after receiving reports concerning requests to meet up in person, and/or sexually suggestive chat messages being sent to children under the age of 12 within the game. For more information on online gaming concerns, and what you can do, read the blog Glitching Out on ProtectKidsOnline.ca
TikTok is a hugely popular app for tweens and teens, and they may want to spend more time creating and posting content. Teens may be tempted to take risks or act explicitly to get more followers or likes on a video. This can also be heightened by TikTok challenges, which are created by TikTok and the community itself. While most are just silly viral trends or marketing schemes, some can be dangerous. Read more about TikTok and how to keep tweens/teen safe while using it on our blog, A Quick Guide to TikTok.
In the past two years, Cybertip.ca analysts have classified 600 reports as luring – adults communicating online with a child for a sexual purpose – through a variety of apps and services such as Facebook/Messenger, Instagram, Snapchat, KIK, and online gaming platforms. Learn more about the ways in which offenders attempt to gain access to children online by visiting cybertip.ca/grooming.
What can parents do?
Have regular conversations about online safety. This includes talking about the online games your kids are playing, the apps they’re using, and who they are chatting with. For tips on how to get the discussion started, visit protectkidsonline.ca for age-appropriate ideas.
Set the expectation you will monitor your child’s online activities, and work together to establish guidelines around texting, social media, live streaming, and gaming, such as who your child can do these things with and on what apps.
Become familiar with, or revisit the parental controls on computers, phones, and tablets. Some devices allow parents to limit access to specific apps, social media sites, internet content, and features available within the device.
For younger children, help them create their login, password, and profile information ensuring it is set to private. For tweens and teens, know their username/character name and password, as well as the email address used to sign up for apps/games/social accounts.
Help tweens/teens set up privacy settings in apps/games/social accounts. With a private account, users can approve or deny followers/friends, restrict who can view their content and profile information, and limit incoming messages to followers/friends only. Work together to decide who to accept as followers/friends.
Tell your child that if they come across something or someone while chatting/messaging/texting that makes them feel uncomfortable, they can tell you without fear of getting in trouble or losing online privileges. Remind them that their safety is what is most important to you.
If you see, read, or hear anything sexual from an adult towards your child online, report it to Cybertip.ca.
And remember, there’s no amount of online filters or safety controls that can replace parental supervision and communication.
Visit protectkidsonline.ca for more information on kids’ online interests, the potential risks, and points to help parents talk about online safety with kids no matter what their age.
The Canadian Centre for Child Protection, through Cybertip.ca Uploaded April 8th, 2020
1. Learning how to relax: Calm breathing can help calm down anxiousness quickly When we are anxious we feel dizzy and lightheaded. Calm breathing involves taking slow gentle breaths. Breath through the nose and pause than out through the mouth. Muscle relaxation is another helpful strategy. Release your tension you feel in your muscles. You can tense any muscle then relax it and do it to many different body parts. This helps become more body aware.
2. When we are anxious we tend to see the world as very threatening and dangerous. However this way of thinking can be overly negative and unrealistic. One strategy for helping you manage anxiety involves replacing “anxious” or “worried” thinking with realistic and balanced thinking. This strategy involves learning to see things in a clear fair way, without the negative thoughts coming in. It does take shifting your anxious thinking and needs patients to practice this skill.
3. Another step to manage your anxiety involves facing your fears. This is called exposure. If you have been avoiding certain situations, places, or objects out of fear it will be important to start exposing yourself to those things so that you can overcome that fear. Start with something small and build up. You can always write down on paper what you are anxious about and what places, things, or objects you don’t want to face. This helps to start just talking about them and being aware.
4. Building Bravery. Learning to manage anxiety takes lots of hard work. If you are noticing improvements, take some time to give yourself some credit!!
5. If you experience anxiety, always try to talk to someone about it friends, family, school family resource worker, a teacher you feel comfortable with and if you need more help those people can send you to the right connections to help you overcome and face anxiety.
Lisa M. SCHAB, LCSW Instant Help Books: A Division of a new Harbinger Publications, Inc.
1. Stick to a routine. Go to sleep and wake up at a reasonable time, write a schedule that has variety and includes time for work as well as self-care.
2. Dress for the social life you want, not the social life you have. Get showered and dressed in comfortable clothes, wash your face, brush your teeth. Take the time to do a bath or facial. Put on some bright colors. It is amazing how we dress can impact our mood.
3. Get outside at least once a day, for at least 30 minutes. If you are concerned about contact, try first thing in the morning, or later in the evening, and try less travelled streets and avenues. If you are high risk or living with those who are high risk, open the windows and blast the fan. It is amazing how much fresh air can do to lift the spirits.
4. Find some time to move each day, again daily for at least 30 minutes. If you don’t feel comfortable going outside, there are many YouTube videos that offer free movement classes, and if all else fails, turn on the music and just dance.
5. Reach out to others, you guessed it, at least once daily for 30 minutes. Try to do FaceTime, Skype, phone calls, texting - Connect with other people to seek and provide support. Don’t forget to do this for your children as well. Set up virtual play dates with friends daily via FaceTime, Facebook messenger kids, or any other video messaging venue you are comfortable with and that is safe. Your kids miss their friends.
6. Stay hydrated and eat well. This one seems obvious, but stress and eating often don’t mix well, and we find ourselves over indulging, forgetting to eat, and avoiding food. Drink plenty of water, eat some good and nutritious foods, and challenge yourself to learn how to cook something new.
7. Develop a self-care tool kit. This can look different for everyone. A lot of successful self-care strategies involve a sensory component (7 senses: touch, taste, sight, hearing, smell, vestibular (movement) and proprioceptive (comforting pressure). An idea for each: a soft blanket or stuffed animal, a hot chocolate, photos of vacation, comforting music, essential oils, a small swing or a rocking chair, a weighted blanket. A journal, an inspirational book, or a mandala colouring book is wonderful, bubbles to blow or blowing watercolour on paper through a straw are visually appealing as well as work on Controlled breath. Mint gum, Listerine strips, Ginger ale, frozen starburst, ice packs are also good for anxiety regulation. For children, it is great to help them create a self-regulation comfort box or bin that they can use on the ready for first aid when overwhelmed.
8. Spend extra time playing with children. Children will rarely communicate how they are feeling, but will often make a bid for attention and communication through play. Don’t be surprised to see therapeutic themes of illness, doctors visits, and isolation playthrough. Understand that play is cathartic and helpful for children. It is how they process their world and problem solve, and there is a lot they are seeing and experiencing in the now.
9. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and a wide berth. A lot of cooped up time can bring out the worst in everyone. Each person will have moments when they will not be at their best. It is important to move with Grace through blowups, to not show up to every argument you are invited to, and to not hold grudges and continue disagreements. Everyone is doing the best that they can to make it through this.
10. Everyone finds their own retreat space. Space is at a premium, particularly when living within urban centers. It is important that people think through their own separate space for work and for relaxation. For children, help them identify a place where they can go to retreat when stressed. You can make this place cozy by using blankets, pillows, Cushions, scarves, beanbags, tents and forts. It is good to know that even when we are on top of each other, we have our own special place to go to be alone.
11. Expect behavioural issues in children, and respond gently. We are all struggling with disruption in routine, none more than children, who rely on routines constructed by others to make them feel safe and to know what comes next. Expect increased anxiety, worries and fears, nightmares, difficulty separating or sleeping, testing limits, and meltdowns. Do not introduce major behavioural plans or consequences at this time. Hold stable and focus on emotional connection.
12. Focus on safety and attachment. We are going to be living for a bit with the unprecedented demand of meeting all work deadlines, homeschooling children, running a sterile household, And making a whole lot of entertainment in confinement. We can get wrapped up in meeting expectations in all domains, but we must remember that these are scary and unpredictable times for children. Focus on strengthening the connection through time spent following their lead, through physical touch, through play, through therapeutic books, and via verbal reassurance that you will be there for them in this time.
13. Lower expectations and practical radical self acceptance. This idea is connected to point number 12 above. We are doing too many things at this moment, under fear and stress. This does not make a formula for excellence. Instead, give yourself what psychologists call “radical self acceptance”: accepting everything about yourself, your radical situation, and your life without question, blame, or push back. You cannot fail at this. There is no roadmap, no precedent for this, and we are truly doing the best we can in an impossible situation.
14. Limit social media and Covid conversation, especially around children. One can find tons of information on COVID-19 to consume, and it changes minute to minute. The information is often sensationalized, negatively skewed, and alarmist. Find a few trusted sources that you can check in with consistently, limit it to a few times a day, and set a time limit for yourself on how much you consume (Again 30 minutes tops, 2 to 3 times daily). Keep news and alarming conversations out of your shot from children. They see and hear everything, and can become very frightened by what they hear.
15. Notice the good in the world, the helpers. There is a lot of scary, negative, and overwhelming information to take in regarding this pandemic. There are also a ton of stories of people sacrificing, donating, and supporting one another in miraculous ways. It is important to counterbalance the heavy information with the hopeful information.
16. Help others. Find ways, big and small, to give back to others. Support restaurants, offer to grocery shop, check in with elderly neighbors, and get the right psychological wellness tips for others. Helping others gives us a sense of agency when things seem out of control.
17. Find something you can control, and control the heck out of it. In moments of big uncertainty and overwhelm, control your little corner of the world. Organize your bookshelf, purge your closet, put together that furniture, group your toys. It helps to anchor and ground us when the bigger things are chaotic.
18. Find a long-term project to dive into. Now is the time to learn how to play the keyboard, put together a huge jigsaw puzzle, start a 15 hour game of risk, paint a picture, read the Harry Potter series, binge watch an eight season show, crochet a blanket, solve a Rubik's cube, or develop a new town and animal Crossing. Find something that will keep you busy, distracted, and engage to take breaks from whatever is going on in the outside world.
19. Engage in repetitive movements and left right movements. Research has shown that repetitive movement(knitting, coloring, painting, Clay sculpting, jump rope etc) especially left right movement (running, drumming, skating, hopping) can be effective at self soothing and maintaining self-regulation in moments of distress.
20. Find an expressive art and go for it. Our emotional brain is very receptive to the creative arts, and it is a direct portal for release of ceiling. Find something creative like sculpting, drawing, dancing, music, singing, playing and give it your all. See how relieved you can feel, it is a very effective way of helping kids to a moat and communicate as well!
21. Find lightness And humour each day. There is a lot to be worried about, and with good reason. Counterbalance this heaviness with something funny each day: cat videos on YouTube, a standup comedian show on Netflix, a funny movie. We all need a little comedic relief in our day, every day.
22. Reach out for help, your team is there for you. If you have a psychiatrist or therapist, they are available to you, even at a distance. Keep up your medications and have therapy sessions the best you can, if you can. If you are having difficulty coping, seek out help for the first time. There are mental health people on the ready to help you through this crisis. Your children’s teachers and related service providers will do anything within their power to help, especially for those parents tasked with the difficult task of being a whole treatment team to their child with special challenges. Seek support groups of fellow homeschoolers, parents, and neighbours to feel connected. There is help and support out there, anytime of the day. Although we are physically distant, we can always connect virtually.
23. “Chunk” quarantine, take it moment by moment. We have no roadmap for this. We don’t know what this will look like in one day, one week, or one month from now. Often, when I work with patients who have anxiety around overwhelming issues, I suggest that they engage in a strategy called “chunking” - focussing on whatever bite-size pieces of a challenge that feels manageable. Whether that be five minutes, a day, or a week at a time. Find what is doable for you, and set a timestamp for how far ahead in the future you will let yourself worry. Take each “chunk” one at a time, and move through stress in pieces.
24. Remind yourself daily that this is temporary. It seems in the midst of this quarantine that it will never end. It is terrifying to think of the road stretching ahead of us. Please take the time to remind yourself that although this is very scary and difficult, and will go on for an undetermined amount of time, it is a season of life and it too will pass. We will return to feeling free, safe, busy and connected in the days ahead.
25. Find the lesson. This whole crisis can seem sad, senseless, and at times, avoidable. When psychologists work with trauma, a key feature to helping someone work through said trauma is to help them find their agency, the potential positive outcomes they can affect, the meaning and construction that can come out of destruction. What can each of us learn here, in big and small ways, from this crisis? What needs to change in ourselves, our homes, our communities, our nation, and our world?
Source: Eileen Feliciano via CYCAA (Child & Youth Care Association of Alberta)