OFF TOPIC: Plenty of reasons to be blue, but dig a little deeper, you’ll find good with the bad

off topic

How is everyone doing?

I mean, for real. How are you?

It’s important to take a moment now and then to check in with the people we care about – and that includes ourselves. I’d argue that it’s never been more crucial than it is right now.

It’s been a rough couple of years – a fact that’s weighing heavily on a lot of people and, as with most challenges, some are handling it better than others.

The results of a UBC study, done in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association, are in and they suggest that our collective mental health is taking a hit.

How could it not be?

The survey, released March 1, found that 65 per cent of B.C. respondents are concerned about new omicron strains of COVID-19, with 48 per cent worried about the pandemic, combined with the climate crisis.

Across Canada, 57 per cent of respondents said they feel fearful.

Worsening mental health was most common in those who are unemployed, those with pre-existing mental health conditions, members of the LGBTQ2+ community, students and those with disabilities.

Because of the survey’s timing, while it mentions COVID and climate change, it doesn’t take into consideration the war in Ukraine. In addition to fears that this war could expand in scope to a devastating degree, there’s also the immediate concern for the people of Ukraine who are enduring immeasurable suffering for reasons no one with an ounce of humanity can comprehend.

Back in Canada, meanwhile, we’ve entered year three of the pandemic and depending on who you ask, we’re either coming out the other side or are simply waiting for the next wave to roll in and knock our feet out from under us once again.

The numbers so far look promising here in B.C., but in South Korea and Hong Kong it’s another story.

We know that, because avoiding bad news is next to impossible if you find yourself online at all.

For some, the challenge is in resisting the urge to actively seek it out – doom scrolling, as it’s come to be known.

So, yes, there are plenty of reasons to feel blue.

COVID-19 has taken a terrible toll over the past two years. It has claimed nearly six million lives worldwide and left countless more suffering long-term effects of the virus.

We’ve endured a heat dome that resulted in the loss of an entire community to wildfire, followed closely by floods that wiped out major highways and farms. Both events also claimed human lives.

Now, skyrocketing inflation, most apparent to consumers at the gas pump and inside grocery stores, is wreaking havoc on family budgets and forcing many who live paycheque-to-paycheque to make some tough decisions.

More than most years, there’s plenty to drag us down. But, if we dig deeper, I submit there are also reasons for optimism.

First and foremost, lives that would certainly have been lost to this virus a century ago were spared thanks to modern medical advancements, including ventilators, anti-viral drugs and, of course, vaccines.

Throughout this pandemic, in addition to weight, we’ve gained wisdom. The past two years have given a lot of us time to re-evaluate our lives. For many, that has meant examining priorities and in some cases making big, meaningful changes.

People adopted now-beloved pets and found exciting new hobbies.

After weeks of freedom convoys and angry protests over vaccine and mask mandates that made it feel as though Canadians were far more divided than we actually were, there is no question that we are entirely united in our support for Ukraine and its people.

The rising cost of groceries has made us more conscious about eliminating food waste, while skyrocketing gas prices have encouraged us, wherever possible, to walk or cycle instead of drive. We know that activity leads to improved physical health, making it easier to fight off infection and disease.

And, of course, exercise is a natural mood booster. That same survey noted just over three-quarters (76 per cent) of respondents reported they were coping very well or fairly well with stress by going for a walk.

With the arrival of spring, it’s that much easier to get outdoors and appreciate all this magnificent part of the world has to offer.

If you’ve been thinking about getting a pet, there’s never been a better time. Right now there are too many animals languishing in local shelters who would much rather be curled up in your lap or racing you up and down a forest trail.

So, yes, there are also plenty of reasons to feel hopeful.

Even while we focus on the positive, though, it never hurts to check in from time to time with the people we care about. And don’t forget – that includes ourselves.

Brenda Anderson is editor of the Peace Arch News