McGill alumna Dr. Nasreen Khatri is a renowned clinical psychologist and researcher at the Rotman Research Institute who treats and studies mood and anxiety disorders.
She recently participated in a McGill Alumni webinar on young adult mental health, offering a series of tips on how to stay motivated during the pandemic. Her advice is based on strategies she uses to help clients who are “feeling stuck” – a problem that has become much more common in the last few months.
Maintain structure and routine
Under normal circumstances, most people structure their lives around school or work. When those two things get disrupted, even temporarily, it becomes much more difficult to stay motivated.
Dr. Khatri recommends continuing to do those little things that give structure to your days, like “getting up at the same time, sleeping at the same time, getting showered, getting ready for the day.”
“It keeps us motivated because we know what we’re doing next,” she explains.
Set small goals for the day
Another way to motivate yourself is by establishing small daily goals. According to Dr. Khatri, these should be “doable, specific and measurable.” Whether or not you enjoy them in the moment, simple tasks like “going for a walk once a day or completing work tasks” can help you feel better in the long run.
She adds that once you’ve achieved your goals, you should “reward yourself in a healthy way.”
Establish a buddy system
To ward off feelings of loneliness that can drain your motivation, Dr. Khatri suggests finding someone you trust to check in with regularly. “Whether you’re texting, Facetiming, Skyping or Zooming,” it’s helpful to stay connected with the people in your life and share your experiences.
“Although we are feeling more isolated – and that’s natural – it’s healthy to seek out companionship in new ways,” she says.
Prioritize your sleep
If you’ve been having trouble sleeping since the start of the pandemic, you’re not alone.
“We know that during a pandemic we sleep differently and not as well,” says Dr. Khatri, explaining that this is partly because our stress hormones go up when we’re isolated. “Many people become hypervigilant and feel like they’re sleeping with one eye open.”
To improve your sleep and regulate energy levels during the pandemic, Dr. Khatri recommends maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, exercising, and eating well. You should also carve out time for activities you find relaxing, such as journaling, drawing, listening to music, reading or meditating.
Don’t deny yourself healthcare
Since the start of the outbreak, health practitioners have had to find new ways to reach their patients. But Dr. Khatri doesn’t want Canadians to be deterred by the shift to virtual appointments.
“You need to stay on top of your medical care because that maintains your overall health and it helps you with your motivation,” she says, adding that this is particularly important if you have a chronic condition.
And when it comes to mental health, Dr. Khatri says it’s crucial to get a “check up from the neck up” if you are experiencing acute and sustained symptoms of anxiety or depression.
For those who are missing major milestones during the lockdown, it can help to “accept that it’s natural to experience some feelings of loss, grief and frustration.”
In addition to acknowledging negative feelings, Dr. Khatri suggests taking time to identify the things you’re grateful for – like the relationships you have, the country you live in, and the health and educational resources that are available to you.
You can watch the full webinar on young adult mental health here.
Interested in hearing from other experts on how to deal with the fallout from the pandemic? Check out McGill Alumni’s virtual events page.