COVID-19 Update

VO is recruiting and deploying volunteers to respond to the volunteer needs specific to COVID-19 in Ottawa, Prescott-Russell, Lanark County and Renfrew County while ensuring proper screening and training protocals to safeguard the health of those volunteering and those they are assisting. Please see the intake portals for volunteers, for members, and for other agencies on our hompage. VO’s COVID 19 volunteer deployment program is supported by the Government of Canada’s Emergency Community Support Fund and the Ottawa Community Foundation.

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posted on Apr 23, 2020

by Maria Lahiffe

Please note: information on the COVID-19 crisis is constantly changing. For up-to-date information, please consult the Ottawa Public Health website, or that of the relevant public health authority in your jurisdiction.

If you are in crisis, please call 1-833-456-4566 toll-free (in QC: 1-866-277-3553) or visit

Our lives have been turned upside down in the past couple of months, with many of us at home, either juggling work demands or figuring out how to make ends meet after being laid off. We are all worried about health, if not for ourselves then for our family, friends, and neighbours who are more vulnerable than ourselves.

To top it all off, at a time when we need to pull together in order to support each other, we are being forced to stay apart. It is not surprising, then, that everyone’s mental health is under strain.

Physical Distance is not the same as Emotional Distance

Remember, we need to maintain physical distance to contain the spread of COVID-19. We can, and should, maintain and strengthen the social and emotional connections in our lives, especially for people who are alone at this time.

Call your friends and loved ones. Make a pact that you will limit the amount of time you talk about COVID-19. Here is a list of possible conversation topics to get you started. It may feel artificial at first, but if you both work at it, you’ll be able to remind yourselves that there is a whole lot more to life than this disease, even during a crisis.

Do a shared activity online

Connect with your friends and do something together. Use a video platform to teach them how to make your best recipe. Visit a museum, watch a concert, or solve a crossword puzzle together.

Maintain your routine

Keep doing as many of the things you can, which you did before the crisis hit. Get up, shower, brush your teeth, change out of your pyjamas. Maybe walk around the block in the morning instead of getting your car to go to work.

If you do not have a job right now, then volunteer. It is so very important to have something meaningful to do with your time. Take a free online course.

Be careful of COVID-19 overload

We all want to stay on top of this changing situation. However, reading the news or your social media feed too often can lead to feelings of helplessness. It is better to schedule time each day to check a news source which you know to be reliable, and spend the rest of the day focusing on other things.

Only get information from reliable sources

There is a lot of misinformation out there, which only makes things worse. We recommend you get your news from Ottawa Public Health, the Government of Canada, or the World Health Organization.

Make a list of activities which bring you joy. Do at least one of those activities each day

What makes you happy? Is it a walk in the woods? A phone call with a friend? Playing with your dog? Painting? Baking? Gardening? Cleaning your house? A warm bath? Make a list of things which you enjoy to do. Organize your list by how long each activity takes. This downloadable form may help.

Make a plan each day to do at least one of the activities which you enjoy. Treat this as an important appointment, because that is exactly what it is. Set the time aside and honour your appointment with yourself. During this time, if you find yourself thinking of other things, especially worrisome thoughts, gently remind yourself that this is a time for joy. Those thoughts can wait. Then re-focus on the enjoyable thing you are doing.

Focus on the Present Moment

It is totally normal to worry about the future, especially when we are all faced with so much uncertainty. Worry can take on a life of its own, though, which can get in the way of our health. One way to reset is to make a deliberate effort to focus on the present moment.

One way to help with present focus is to meditate. There are some great free meditation apps which can help. Another way to reset is to use the 5-4-3-2-1 Countdown:

Sit quietly. Look around you and notice:

  • 5 things you can see: Your hands, the sky, a plant on your table
  • 4 things you can physically feel: Your feet on the ground, a ball, your friend’s hand.
  • 3 things you can hear: The wind blowing, children’s laughter, your breath.
  • 2 things you can smell: Fresh-cut grass, coffee, soap.
  • 1 thing you can taste: A mint, gum, the fresh air.

Take care of yourself

Your mind is part of your body. Take care of it. Do all the things your mother told you. Eat your greens. Limit your intake of sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. Get enough sleep. Exercise. Drink water.

Above all, be gentle with yourself and others

Reach out if you need to

Remember that it is okay not to be okay. We are social beings. It makes sense that things are especially hard right now, when we can’t be with other people in the same ways. Below are some more links which you may find helpful.

Photo by Harli Marten on Unsplash
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