I have been running away to the mountains for the last three ski seasons in radical acts of self-care, writing about this wild adventure called life. Last Saturday night, March 14th I found out that my beloved mountain was being closed 7 weeks early,  and that the prudent thing to do was to go home, which I did, masked and gloved with a ‘borrowed’ roll of toilet paper or two, in my carry-on bag, as I had been following the news with fascination at the TP hoarding antics.

I found my anxiety went way down, after I processed the bad news that there was no bum wad available, when I remembered that I had an entire drawer of paper napkins left over from years of holiday get-togethers, so if anyone out there is short let me drop some off some packages in your mailbox.

To say I wasn’t a bit anxious would make me a liar, or maybe a fibber as liar seems a bit harsh, and we really need to have as much self-compassion as we can possibly find during these strange and unprecedented times.

I got on my bus that takes me off the mountain and down to the Vancouver airport and was met by a lot of pissed off tourists who had to go home, while they could still get home.

Everyone looked at me like I was a weirdo as I sat there with my mask firmly in place and my yellow dishwashing gloves going up to my elbows. They were beauties, extra- large even though my hands are quite small,  but the last pair available and there were no surgical gloves to be found. Gratitude is found in many strange places these days.

I had already been practicing social distancing the previous eight days, as I don’t typically like to talk to anyone in the mountains, during my times of solitude and reflection. If the truth be known I am too tired to connect at the end of the day, as I am usually skiing my ass off trying to out ski the ravages of Father Time. I did stop short of wearing my ski goggles on the bus and plane, but they had been firmly on my head and my balaclava around my face, right up to my eyeballs the entire time I was back in the mountains. As reports were coming in I thought that 10 people from all around the world squashed into a gondola was not a good idea, and that I better act like a movie star who doesn’t want to be recognize and bundle up.

I made it home and decided that it was high time to face my aversion of all things technological, and start a blog, my way of trying to help out in these scary times.

Anxiety is a powerful, scary, de-stabilizing feeling that often makes itself known comes when we feel we do not have control in our lives. Health concerns, children’s behaviour, relationship issues, aging, money scarcity, Covid 19. The most important consideration now for your mental health and to help make social distancing and isolation work, so we can “flatten the curve” and get on with the business of living is ROUTINE AND STRUCTURE.

Whether you are going into an out of the home work environment or not, get up at the same time every workday morning and do your usual morning routine.  Shower, do your hair, shave, meditate, have breakfast, have a smoke (well, try to work on that, but don’t be too hard on yourself during this very difficult time) have some bathroom time etc. Make breakfast for yourself and others. If you are a stay at home parent get up when you would normally get up to get the kids off to school and with teenagers get them out of bed and doing something so they don’t sleep all day and game all night. If you are retired get up at the normal time that has been working for you in retirement, lucky ducks. Engage in all the same routines as pre-Covid, and if they weren’t working for you before social distancing and isolation, take this opportunity to try and improve them.

If you are an essential service and you are able to go to work, God bless you. Hang in there, do the job you have been very trained to do, take care of yourselves while taking care of others and with this is all over go on the best most deserved spa retreat ever!

If you are working from home, establish your home office and if there are more than one home offices required, mark your territory and claim your space.

If you weren’t much into cooking before then I am sorry for you now, but it can actually be really fun. The neat part of not having anywhere to go or anything much to do outside of the confines of your house is that you have way more time. There are no meetings to go to, no hockey arenas to freeze your rear end in, no dance classes, no lessons, nada, nothing, so you can learn to cook together as a family. As well as cooking together you can introduce your family members to the cupboard that contains the toilet bowl cleaner and other essential products for keeping your environment sparkling. “Hello, vacuum cleaner. Where have you been all my life??”

If you weren’t an alcoholic or substance abuse dependent before Covid 19 don’t become one now. If you don’t usually drink during the work week, but are a social drinker on the weekend, stick with it. Just because you aren’t getting up on a Wednesday and going to work and you are at home wearing your fluffy pink slippers doing conference calls remotely, doesn’t mean that you should get into the booze every night and harm those neuropathways.

Alcohol increases anxiety and what you think you are doing for stress reduction is actually anxiety increasing.  The same goes for potentially addictive substances – pot, edibles, cigarettes, vaping, harder drugs, food. In anxious time periods in our life, we gravitate to our “soothers” and self-medicate, but at the best of times overuse is not good, so try your hardest not to overindulge in the crisis, and find better ways to manage stress and anxiety. 

A big anxiety reducer is exercise and working out. Unfortunately, gyms are closed so it is going to take some creativity to figure out what to do to get the endorphins pumping and sending all that great feel-good serotonin swirling around your brain. Running outdoors, maintaining social distancing, exercising at home, doing yard work (our yards are never going to look so good, this early!) walking the dog more, zombie walks my personal favourite. We go out at around 9:30 or 10:00 pm, coats and mitts on, hats pulled down over the forehead, ski goggles, (just kidding) wandering through the neighbourhood. It is quite peaceful and lovely, actually.

I am big into mindfulness meditation and think it is the best thing ever. It is a scientifically proven way to reduce anxiety and I will be blogging in more detail about that soon. There is an abundance of Ted Talks, Podcasts, meditation sites, all geared to help you get through highly stressful and anxious times.

If you are finding that there is too much connection because you are living in a smaller space with few outlets to go out to, make your way to the garden shed, garage, basement, wherever you store any lawn furniture, dust it off, and even if it is cold out but still sunny, find your woollies and a coat and just go outside and feel the warmth of the sun on your face. Take a tea, a coffee, a good book, or nothing, and just be in the warmth, for even just a few moments, focusing on your breath, breathing in and out, and be still.

When board games, cards, movies, Netflix, etc. are all getting a bit too much, go to nature and go for a walk in a forest or down a country road.  Gas is cheap! Take advantage of it and go on road trips. Notice the beginning signs that spring is on its’ way and hopefully soon this terribly difficult time will be behind us.

If your spouse is getting on your last nerve, and you have a spare bedroom, go sleep alone for a little while. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this if it is done with compassion and not in a fit of pique or anger. Practice in front of the mirror something like this, “Darling, I really love you, but I find that quarantining with you is a little much”. The snoring and gaseous exchanges that I usually find endearing are making me want to rip your face off. I think it will be best if we get a little bit of distance from each other, just for a brief period of time.”

I find technology is a huge anxiety and stress producer. I try to minimize it as best as I can, but being a therapist during these strange times I have had to find a way to stay connected to my people. A funny thing happened when I was Zooming with a therapist friend of mine and it made me laugh. We were chatting away about how best to deal with this inability to see clients face to face, in person, and how hard that is, and a computer message flashed across my screen. It said something like ‘connection is unstable.’ Please don’t misinterpret if you do have a therapist and you are speaking to her over Zoom, that your therapist is unstable. In my case perhaps I am a bit whacky, but don’t do anything drastic like firing your therapist now! You need her or him. If you don’t have a therapist maybe get one as it is great to talk to someone about your anxiety or whatever is on your mind.

Connect with your friends over the old-fashioned landline, if you have one, and remember how to use it. Less chance of a brain tumor with the phone heating up on your right temporal lobe. Write letters and cards, and use a far away mailbox as your zombie evening walk destination.

Fresh air helps with stress, a lot. When I reside in the mountains I love to sleep with the window wide open and feel the cool and sometimes very cold air on my face while I am warmly bundled up in my blankets. At home, in the city, not so much. I don’t like the air here nearly as much, and as a light sleeper, any of the outdoor city noises bother me. Now that it is much quieter, and I can’t hear the airplanes I find I feel much better when I wake up.

So grateful to keep waking up!

Categories: Anxiety


Leslie · 14 April 2020 at 17 h 20 min

You might be hilarious but your tips are serious! Thank you Gaye. Fabulous advice indeed! And the pictures are inspiring …look for extraordinary answers in the ordinary.

    Gaye Gould · 15 April 2020 at 15 h 19 min

    Hi Leslie,
    So great to hear from you! Thank you for reading the blog. xo

Huzur Altay · 20 April 2020 at 8 h 51 min


As a fellow clinician I have known you for decades. Very proud of what you are doing. I know the whacky side and the Buddha. You are definitely leaning toward the latter. Can’t wait fir the book.

    Gaye Gould · 20 April 2020 at 9 h 54 min

    Hi Huzur!
    Great to hear from you. Thanks so much for your comments! If you find time to read the Mindful Garbage Picker blog you will see a picture of me lying on the side of the highway -whacky, but kind of Buddhaesque. 🙂 This stretch of country road reminds me of Nova Scotia and hiking down the highway, while visiting our fellow clinician friend Carolyn. Such quiet and peaceful memories.

Sandra Wash · 27 April 2020 at 20 h 22 min

Just starting reading your blog, & so very inspired by your leap into 21st century communication…despite the platform, I can hear your voice in your words, & your wise advice I have admired about you for years! Can’t wait to read on…

edward coombs · 1 May 2020 at 8 h 14 min

Hi Gaye,
Sandra found this website and it’s great. Hope Graham is well and your goodself. You are the calm in the middle of a storm thank you so much. Very stressful times managing to get out of Iran ,barely, quarantined in the UK and then Canada! Yes gardening and exercise sound fantastic and of course the exercise! Not teaching amymore helps too! haha! peace and love

    Gaye Gould · 9 May 2020 at 18 h 45 min

    Hello Mr. Coombs!!!!!!!
    So incredible to hear from you! I see the date on this is 05/01. Not sure why it just showed up now, but so glad it did. Wow! what were you doing in Iran?? Sounds a bit gruesome getting out of there and then the double quarantines in two different countries. So glad you are home safe. I hope you can read the other blogs. I will put your email on the list so that you can get them delivered to your inbox wherever you end up in quarantine next! 🙂
    Graham and his girlfriend Devon, Gregory and I and the paternal unit, Bruce are all in quarantine together up north at our retirement house in Bracebridge area. Graham graduated with a Masters in Science with a specialty in infectious diseases and immunology. He decided he didn’t want to do the MD route and is now happy working in bio science. Greg is starting 4th year at McMaster, although it is now remote learning and is painfully waiting to finish his Bachelor of Commerce. Graham will email you shortly. He is thrilled that you surfaced! Great to hear from you, Ed.

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