SCIO Community Magazine
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The importance of being connected

Research and personal experience tell us that people living with a physical disability experience greater social isolation than the general population. With a health threat like COVID-19, isolation increases even further. This can add mental strain as we worry about our health and that of our friends and community.

It’s perhaps unfortunate that “social distancing” is the term being used to describe the physical distancing that keeps us safer at this time. We’re wired for and thrive on human connection, so the last thing we want to do is disconnect socially from family and friends. 

So, for your mental health, the number one priority is to stay connected. Use whatever methods of communication you have to maintain and even broaden your relationships. Set up daily phone or video calls with people you know well and even with neighbourhood acquaintances who could use a little more human contact. A strong sense of community is a baseline for mental wellness.

Here are some additional tips for maintaining your mental health during self-isolation.

  1. Put structure into your day.

    Set up a dedicated workspace if you’re working from home, get dressed, make to-do lists and set up a daily schedule. Structure will bring both normalcy and productivity to your life.

  2. Take care of your body.

    If you have an exercise routine, stick to it or modify it for indoor living. If you don’t, find one online you can follow or even join an online class. Also, stay focused on getting enough sleep and eating healthily.

    These are trying times but remember that self-isolation is a good deed in itself, as it helps keep our community safe and healthy.  

  3. Take care of your mind.

    Mental stimulation energizes and balances us. What engages you? You could start a book club with friends, research an interesting topic, try a meditation app or take an online course. SCIO’s own Cortree Disability Education Centre offers a range of online courses and are being offered for free for everyone in response to COVID-19.

  4. Offer to help others.

    Helping others provides meaning and purpose in our lives. What can you offer? Check in on a neighbour. Tutor someone while their schooling is disrupted. Volunteer from home. Look for online volunteer opportunities that make our world a better place – proofreading, being a pair of eyes for those who are blind or have low vision, recording audiobooks, writing letters, identifying birds and so on.

  5. Focus on the positive.

    These are trying times but remember that self-isolation is a good deed in itself, as it helps keep our community safe and healthy. Also, while staying informed, consider limiting your consumption of news or other media if it impacts your mental wellness. Seek out positive stories and events, like the Toronto Symphony’s recent concert performed in isolation. Share good news with others.

  6. Have fun.

     Laughter is a good antidote to stress. Start watching a comedy you’ve heard good things about – maybe at the same time as a friend so you can chat and laugh together. (Netflix Party on a Chrome browser facilitates this.) Send notes to neighbours across the way by posting giant messages in your windows. Consider organizing a Google Chat or Meet group event. Get creative. And have fun thinking up new ways to connect safely online.

Finally, keep in mind that if you need support and information, connect with us by phone, email and VIP4SCI. COVID-19 resources are available on our website: We’re all in this together and we should all be making our mental health a priority.

Photo credit: Alexis Chloe

Spinal Cord Injury Ontario | Spring 2020

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