Coping Tools

Getting Through It

There’s no way around it: life gets hard sometimes. Everyone goes through times of worry, confusion, or feeling down. Sometimes it can feel like the foundations of your life have shifted. What are you currently dealing with?  It could be time to pay attention to your mental health.

Mental health is how we think, feel, and act. We can use coping tools to help our mental health be more stable and positive. Coping tools are skills and strategies you can learn to get through tough times. They can help you build your healthy mind.

We can help you learn healthy coping skills. Connect with a counsellor or attend one of our workshops to learn more. The sections below offer suggestions for how you can start using coping tools right now.

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+ Follow a Daily Routine

Developing a daily routine can help us feel more in control of everything, and make room for all that’s important. Routine can aid our mental health by helping us cope with change, form healthy habits, and reduce our stress levels.

The Mental Health Benefits of Having a Daily Routine


Routine can be an anchor. No matter what’s going on in our day, knowing that we will be having our evening meal around 6 pm, and going to bed around 10 pm, can be a real comfort. The certainty of our routine can help us to manage the uncertainty that life can throw up. Coping with unpredictable periods of time can feel more doable when we have a little structure in place to look to.


Having a daily routine can help to reduce our stress levels. Trying to remember things can be really stressful and can fill our brains up with everything on our ‘to do’ list; which can be incredibly overwhelming. When we have a routine, a lot of the things we do day-to-day slot in, and we don’t have to think about them anymore. For example, when we’re well we don’t have to remember to brush our teeth, because we know from habit that brushing teeth comes after breakfast every day. Routine can take the guesswork and uncertainty out of bits of our day, which can allow us to feel more in control and less stressed.


Having a routine can help us to cultivate positive daily habits and to prioritize self-care. Organizing our time gives have the opportunity to build in blocks of time for things that are important to us. This can allow us to build in daily habits that help us with our mental health. It could include things like time to relax, or a regular bedtime. When they’re part of our routine, it can make it easier to keep up with them because we have the time to do them and they become our ‘new normal’.

Daily habits include:

  • A sleeping routine
  • Take important tasks and goals one step at a time
  • A healthy diet
  • Regular exercise

+ Avoid Overexposure to the News

Here are some healthy ways to keep up with current events:

+ Take Care of Your Body

Make an effort to eat healthy foods, exercise daily and get plenty of rest. The Canadian Food Guide & Fitness Plan offers recommendations to stay healthy.

+ Practice Mindfulness

Learn about Mindfulness and practice it regularly. Mindfulness is a meditation technique that can help you develop a healthy relationship with your emotions, get better sleep, and more.

Click here to check out our Mindfulness resources, including free online workshops offered every Friday morning!

You can also check out this daily calendar of mindfulness activities.

+ Set Reasonable Expectations for Yourself

Practice self-compassion. Instead of criticizing yourself for what you are not doing, praise yourself for what you have done. In these trying times, be gentler with your expectations for yourself. Sometimes, basic hygiene and feeding yourself is all you can do in a day, and that is ok.

Don’t compare yourself to others, especially on social media. Social media is designed to allow people to present the best version of themselves, and sometimes that version isn’t even real. It is easy to go on social media and see people who seem to be carefree and achieving all sorts of goals during the pandemic without a hair out of place. Do not compare yourself to this image that you see, it is not real, exaggerated, or it has nothing to do with your experience. Instead, focus on setting small, realistic tasks for yourself, things that interest you and motivate you. Take breaks from social media if necessary.

Remember that having a bad day is a universal human experience. It is not a reflection of who you are as a person, it is simply something that happens.


+ Prepare Coping Statements

Write down a list of truthful, reassuring statements. These statements are meant to encourage you and take the place of negative thoughts when you are distressed.

You can write these on post-it notes, and place them in mirrors, refrigerator doors, or somewhere else you can see them. Read the statements when you are feeling distressed.

Here are some examples:

  • I'm going to be all right.
  • I can get through this.
  • I'll just do the best I can.
  • One step at a time.
  • I'm stronger than I think.

Illustrations by Journey to Wellness

+ Address Your Worries

Follow these simple steps:

  1. What am I worried about? Write down specific things you are saying to yourself.
  2. Pick one worry that you wrote down. Is this worry helpful or unhelpful?
  3. For helpful worries: Do something! What is your plan? Come up with a step-by-step plan detailing how you will solve the problem.
  4. For unhelpful worries: Try to put these out of your mind until your “Worry Time”(see #5). You can also distract yourself from unhelpful worries by building a routine or doing a relaxing activity, such as going for a walk.
  5. Set aside a "Worry Time." This helps to reduce the amount of time you spend worrying.

To begin, choose a particular time, place, and length of time for worrying.              

This time, place and duration should be the same each day (e.g. 6pm, for 20 min).

Make this place unique and comfortable, free from distractions. It should not be somewhere you go to regularly, like a lounge room chair. Rather somewhere you assign for the worry period only.

The time should be convenient so you can regularly follow through with the task, and not close to bedtime.

Write down your worries, examine them, decide what you will do about these worries. There may not be anything you can do to resolve the worry, but sometimes giving a little time to the worry can help make it less distracting during the rest of your day.

Then stop your worry time and begin again the next day at the same time.  This creates a habit for your brain to cope with your worries in a shorter period instead of worrying all day.

If you find yourself worrying between your worry times, keep a pencil and paper, or list on your phone close by. Whenever you start to think about your worries, write them down and tell yourself you will focus on them during your worry time, and by writing them down you do not need to think of them right now.

+ Grounding Technique

Grounding is a form of mindfulness that can be used in the moment to address stress, anxiety, anger, or other unwanted or overwhelming emotions by focusing entirely on the experiences of the moment instead. It can reduce the negative emotions so that the individual has time to refocus instead of being overwhelmed.

For example, a person might be feeling more and more angry, but before yelling at someone else they may take a moment to ground themselves, and instead of yelling they can then discuss their needs in a more productive manner instead of starting an argument.

Grounding helps calm your inner voice, and reduces your negative feelings and thoughts. Try this technique to focus your attention on the moment.

Focus on 5 things you can SEE, 4 things you can TOUCH, 3 things you can HEAR, 2 things you can SMELL, and 1 thing you can TASTE.

Be sure to really focus on each sensation as you go through the process, and exclude as many other thoughts or emotions as possible. For example, can you name the specific shade of pink of the flower you are looking at, is it more blush or peach? When you hear sirens outside, are they moving towards you or away from you?

+ Speak with a Mental Health Professional

Talking about what you are going through with family and friends can be helpful, but because they are emotionally involved, they may have opinions or biases.

The role of a counsellor is to listen without bias, and give you a space to explore your feelings. Professional counselling is an opportunity to speak freely in a totally confidential environment.

Counselling can help with stress, anxiety, isolation, and burnout related to the pandemic, but it can also help with existing issues that have changes or become more severe during the pandemic, such as divorce, co-parenting, job loss, work stress, career changes, relationship stress, etc.

Counselling offers lots of benefits – it’s nothing to be afraid of! We offer free, online counselling with professional counsellors. Click here to make an appointment.


+ I can't sleep at night

Approximately 30% of adults report troubles falling/staying asleep or having unrefreshing (nonrestorative) sleep. Approximately 10% of the population has sleep problems so severe that it affects daytime activities.

Finding the root cause can help you understand why you have sleep issues. Some factors include:

  • Poor sleep hygiene or too much blue light in the evening.
  • Lack of exercise. Exercise creates fatigue, which can be recovered by rest.
  • Stressing about the day that just passed or about the future can lead to worries around bedtime.
  • Medication or other substances. Drugs may affect sleep schedule.
Strategies to Fall Asleep
  • Be consistent! Try to wake up and go to bed at the same time every day. You can’t control when you fall asleep, but you can control when you wake up. Set an alarm for the same time each day. Over time, your sleep will begin to match the consistent wake up time.
  • Create a bedtime routine. This may include brushing your teeth, tidying up from the day, changing into your pyjamas, etc. This routine can act as a sign to your body that it is almost time to sleep and help it begin to shut down for the evening.
  • Eat a healthy, nutritious diet. Some people find it helpful to avoid large meals at night.
  • Listen to your body. If you are tired in the evening, go to bed even if it is earlier than usual. Pushing yourself to stay up until a certain time might cause you to be awake later than intended.
  • Try to exercise with moderate intensity. This will create fatigue that will help the body fall asleep. However, be conscious of when you exercise. Exercising late in the evening can be over-stimulating and make it more difficult to fall asleep.
  • Turn off all electronics 1-2 hours before bedtime.
  • If you wake up, do not open your eyes, gently find a comfortable position, and try to fall back to sleep.
  • Take a warm shower or bath before going to sleep. This helps to relax the body.
  • Limit your exposure to blue light in the evening (such as electronics). Blue light waves trick the brain into thinking it's daytime, which impairs sleep.
  • Reduce the sensitivity of your senses, such as plugging your ears to reduce noise or covering your eyes to reduce light.
  • Avoid caffeine and nicotine, particularly in the late afternoon and evening.
  • Avoid spending time in bed or in the bedroom during daytime hours. Avoid doing activities in bed that are not related to sleep, such as work or playing computer games.

Keep in mind it can take over two weeks for your sleep patterns to respond to these adjustments. If you still see no change in sleep after consistently trying a strategy for three weeks, contact your doctor.

Source: eMental Health

+ I use alcohol or other substances to cope

The pandemic is a stressful time, and many people are seeking new ways to manage the stress and isolation. Some people may have started using alcohol or substances to de-stress on a rare occasion, but now are finding their alcohol or substance use is taking up more and more time. If you are concerned, use these resources or contact your doctor for assistance.

If you think your drinking/substance use may be a problem, you can complete a self-screening test by clicking here.

Click here to learn about Canada's Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines.

You may be at risk for alcohol abuse if you:
  • Have more than 10 drinks per week for women or 15 drinks per week for men.
  • Have more than 3 drinks in one day for women or 4 drinks per day for men, especially if this occurs regularly.
Get support using the following contacts:
  • Kids Help Phone (for youth)
  • Addiction Helpline (for everyone, multilingual service)
  • Health Link (for everyone, multilingual service)
  • Mental Health Help Line (for everyone, multilingual service)

+ My relationships at home are strained

The pandemic has been stressful on everyone, but it can especially prove difficult for relationships. Some relationships have been separated due to quarantines or travel restrictions, others have been forced into close quarters and trying to navigate work-life balance in the same space.

Whether you are seeing more or less of your partner than usual, it is normal to expect that there may be more strain on the relationship than usual. Here are some tips for managing relationship stress:

  • Take time to discuss the relationship. COVID-19 has changed the way we live our lives. Take the time to check in with your partner and see how they are feeling about your relationship. Schedule a time to talk and be honest. Address the problems that the pandemic has caused, such as working from home, separation, managing work and childcare, household responsibilities, etc.
  • Consider how you address problems. Snapping at your partner when you are frustrated or remaining silent doesn’t help resolve problems. Be aware of your tone of voice and the words you choose when making a request or expressing a need. Even if this is how you have resolved problems in the past, the stress of the pandemic can make problem-solving more difficult, so be aware of how you approach your partner.
  • Listen and be kind. Stress from the pandemic can lead to short tempers, but be patient with yourself and your partner, and also consider that stress affects people differently, so your partner’s experience may be different than yours, even when you are spending all your time together.
  • Reconnect. You may be spending all your time together, but make sure that part of that time is with intention. Build some couple time into your routine, even if it is as simple as going on a walk and talking, or playing a card game together. If you are separated because of COVID-19, look for online ways to connect, such as playing a board game online, or platforms that let you watch movies together, such as Netflix.
  • Seek help. Sometimes, counselling may be your best option. An experienced couple counsellor can help you and your partner communicate problems and address your feelings. We offer free couples counselling - click here to get started.

+ My spouse is abusing me

IMPORTANT: In Canada, abuse in not tolerated. You do not have to stay in an abusive situation.

Abuse can take many different forms:
  • Physical Abuse: any form of physical contact that intimidates or hurts.
  • Sexual Abuse: any form of sexual contact or action that is done against your will.
  • Emotional Abuse: insulting, humiliating, harassing, intimidating, excessive jealousy / possessiveness, name-calling, making threats such as taking away or hurting your children or your pet, and/or preventing you from seeing your family.
  • Financial Abuse: any form that may allow a person to limit your access to money in order to hurt you.
  • Controlling Behaviour: any behaviour that may limit your freedom, such as withholding your passport, identifications and other documents, OR keeping you under surveillance and limiting the people that you may see and not see.
  • Forced Marriage: consent to marry is given through pressure of one or more parties.
Where to Get Help:
  • Call 403-234-SAFE (7233) for the 24-hour Family Violence Helpline. This number can provide resources and arrange for a space in a shelter if necessary. The shelter can provide a safe space for women, their children, and small pets when fleeing abuse. This number also provides access to counselling services for women and youth experiencing abuse, and men who want to work on their abusive behaviours.
  • Call 1-888-242-2100 to contact Client Support Centre if the case involves citizenship or immigration status.
  • Call 9-1-1 or your local police in an emergency.

+ I'm feeling lost

Feeling lost is very similar to depression, and it is common to feel this way, especially during the current pandemic while we are experiencing high levels of stress and uncertainty.

Remember to:

  • Accept and acknowledge how you are feeling
  • Engage in self-care
  • Engage in activities that make you feel good about yourself
  • Reflect on your values
  • Seek help

Where to Get Help:

  • Health Link (for everyone, multilingual service)
  • Mental Health Help Line (for everyone, multilingual service)

+ I want to kill myself / Someone I love wants to kill themselves

IMPORTANT: If you are in crisis, call 911 immediately.

Signs a person may be suicidal:
  • Withdrawal from family, friends, or activities.
  • Feeling like there is no purpose in life or reason for living.
  • Increased use of drugs, alcohol and other substances.
  • Anxiety and mood swings.
  • Talking about being a burden to someone or about being in unbearable pain.
  • Feeling isolated and without support.
  • Feeling hopeless about the future or being trapped and feeling like there is no way out of a situation.
A person is more likely to attempt suicide if:
  • They have attempted before
  • They are talking about or threatening suicide
  • They have a specific plan - date, time, method
  • They have undergone a major life change with negative impact such as loss of a loved one, loss of independence, or diagnosis of a serious disorder.
If you or someone you know is suicidal, get help:
  • Crisis Services Canada (everyone):
    1-833-456-4566 or text 45645
  • Kids Help Phone (for youth)
    1-800-668-6868 or text CONNECT to 686868

+ My child struggles with mental health

If your child suffers from mental health disorders, they may be eligible for necessary services. Speak to their teacher, or other caregivers, to see if they notice any concerns. Contact your doctor for an appointment or 811 for mental health advice. If English is your second language, your child’s school may be able to provide an interpreter to aid in the process.

These services include:

  • Assessment, diagnosis, treatment, therapy and support.
  • Referrals to other professional or community agencies when appropriate.
  • Walk-ins, single session services and support to mental health patients discharged from hospitals to assist them in returning to community life.

To find service locations, please click here to visit the Alberta Health website, then scroll down to "Service Locations."

What does Anxiety Feel Like?

Anxiety attacks have symptoms that include racing heartbeat, sweating, nausea, chest pain, and/or shortness of breath.  If you or someone you know suffers from anxiety, contact your personal doctor or psychiatrist.

What does Depression Feel Like?

Depression can include persistent feelings of sadness, loss of interest in activities or daily life, low energy, feelings of hopelessness, and withdrawal from others.

Depression can come in waves, vary in intensity, and have physical as well as psychological symptoms.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Stress & Anxiety
  • Increase or decrease in appetite, low energy level and/or sleep problems.
  • Headaches, neck tension, gastrointestinal problems, virus-related stress and insecurity. Difficulty concentrating or difficulty making decisions.
  • Irritability, aggression and crying.
  • Increased use of alcohol, drugs and/or medication to cope.

Here are some ways to manage depression. You can also check out some of the coping tools on the left.

  • Stay informed.
  • Be attentive to your feelings. Write them down somewhere or express them through different activities.
  • Practice healthy living habits, proper nutrition, and get sufficient sleep.
  • Look for support from people in your life who make you feel safe and cared for.
  • Limit access to stressors that may provoke negative feelings.
  • Seek professional help. Consult your doctor/psychiatrist.