While it's normal to have good days and bad days, prolonged periods of stress, anxiety, or feeling isolated could mean it's time to focus on your mental well-being. Acknowledging that there might be a problem is an important first step towards improvement.

In the early days of the pandemic, Leah took part in countless virtual events to make up for her once-busy social life. Whether it was a fitness class, a book club, a dinner party or a games night, she logged on to video calls with friends and family to socialize as much as she could. But after working from home on her laptop all day, she finds her constant screen time less rewarding. Now she feels stressed about committing to virtual events outside of work.

“It makes me anxious to spend more time on my phone or laptop,” she said. “I feel like I’m completely absorbed online. I know so many people are going through such a hard time right now,” she says. “But I know I’ve been minimizing how I feel for a while now.”

Increased screen time and mental health

The blurred lines of work-life balance mean many people are spending more hours a day alone, online, and inside. Increased screen time may have an adverse effect on mental health — particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Decreasing screen time or maintaining pre-pandemic levels may help maintain mental health according to a Statistics Canada study from July.

Even those who have managed to pick up new self-care activities during the first wave of the pandemic may find it increasingly difficult to stay mentally healthy. For Leah, a non-stop virtual social schedule meant she was sacrificing many of the things important for maintaining her mental health and well-being.

“I started to realize that it was the simple things that brought me the most joy,” she said.

Acknowledgment is the first step

It may sound like a simple thing, but acknowledging that there might be a problem with your own, or a loved one’s, mental health may be an important first step towards improvement.

When Leah started to realize the toll of a her virtual social life and increased screen time on her mental health, she took her first step by reaching out to a friend by phone as opposed to on a video call.

“Sometimes I just can’t bear to look at the screen — even if it’s to talk with a friend.” She adds they sometimes talk about their moods if either of them is having a hard day, which helps lift some of the stigma surrounding mental health.

“It’s helpful to know that everyone is going through this in one way or another,” she says. “Sometimes just talking about it can make a huge difference. I also found it made a difference to be out in nature and talk to someone.”

Learning more about mental well-being

Mental health struggles and loneliness can affect anyone. It’s normal to have good days and bad days, but prolonged periods of stress, anxiety, or feeling isolated could mean it’s time to focus on your or a loved one’s mental well-being.

Learning about mental health can help build a foundation for better mental well-being. There are also a number of ways to get help for yourself or a loved one, including through digital wellness programs and virtual counselling services.

Warning signs that you should seek professional psychological help

According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, “Unlike other health conditions, only one in three people who experience a mental health problem or illness report that they have sought and received services and treatment.”

According to MentalHealth.gov, pay attention if you experience:

  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing from your usual social outlets or relationships
  • Feeling listless, numb, helpless or hopeless
  • An increase in smoking, drinking or taking drugs
  • Mood swings, irritability or uncontrolled anger
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Urges to self-harm
  • Inability to perform daily tasks

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.