Beyond your active role to keep the Canadian public safe and secure during the COVID-19 pandemic, there are other ways you can help fight the spread of the virus and encourage others to do the same. Practising good hand hygiene, wearing masks, and maintaining physical distance are effective ways everyone can significantly reduce transmission rates. Because public safety personnel face extra pressure and stress during this challenging time, taking good care of yourself is also essential — by getting enough sleep, staying informed, and reaching out for mental health support if you need it.
Practise good hand hygiene
Proper handwashing is one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of infectious diseases such as COVID-19. Make sure you:
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, especially before eating or touching your face and after coming in contact with potentially infected surfaces.
- Scrub your entire hands, including between your fingers, under your nails, and under any rings or jewellery.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
Watch this video on proper handwashing technique:
See the following links for more information on handwashing:
- Ontario Public Health: Hand hygiene
- Infection Prevention and Control Canada: Information about hand hygiene
- World Health Organization: Hand hygiene tools and resources
Wear a mask
A non-medical mask or facial covering helps protect those around you from coming into contact with your respiratory droplets. Anyone in a public space where maintaining adequate physical distance is difficult or impossible should wear a mask — whether they have COVID-19 symptoms or not. Read the Public Health Agency of Canada’s statement on the use of non-medical masks.
Maintain physical distancing
COVID-19 spreads more easily when people are close together. Public health guidelines advise limiting gatherings to very small groups or avoiding them entirely. The guidelines also call for people to stay at least two metres apart from anyone who is not a part of their household.
Physical distancing can make people feel isolated, so it’s important to maintain connections with others while respecting the guidelines. Create a “new normal” for connecting with loved ones: video calls, phone calls, emails, texts, physical letters, and chats from a safe distance are all ways to keep in touch with family, friends, neighbours, and other important people in your life, like spiritual leaders.
Older adults are particularly vulnerable in this COVID-19 period, especially anyone 60 or older with a pre-existing medical condition. They may need to follow stricter isolation practices that can leave them feeling even more lonely, so it’s worth making an extra effort to reach out to the elderly people in your circle.
If you face the added challenge of acting as a caregiver for an elderly person in addition to your occupational demands, these resources may help:
- Ontario Caregiver Association: COVID-19 caregiver resource centre
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: Coronavirus and COVID-19 – Caregiving for the Elderly
Take care of your own health
Get enough sleep
Sleep has a big impact on your health and wellbeing. During a pandemic, good sleep habits and sticking to a sleep schedule as much as possible can help optimize your energy for balancing demands at work and at home.
As a PSP, you may have already had a non-standard sleep schedule, especially if you work rotating shifts. With schools closed and many people working from home, you may have the additional challenge of trying to sleep when your entire family is in the house. Try the following to help with your sleep:
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol at least four to six hours before going to sleep.
- Try to sleep when you are tired.
- Listen to podcasts or audiobooks to help you fall asleep, or free meditation apps like Insight Timeror Calm.
- Avoid looking at screens (e.g., TV, computer, phone) before going to sleep, as it can make it harder to fall asleep and reduce the quality of your sleep.
If you experience persistent sleeping problems that make it hard for you to function at work or in social settings, contact your family health provider. They can refer you for additional counselling or prescribe medication that may help.
It’s important to be informed about COVID-19 and its prevalence in your community. Stick to fact-based information from reliable sources, such as:
- Government of Canada: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak update
- Government of Canada: List of provincial and territorial public health authorities, which provide regularly updated region-specific information about COVID-19
- World Health Organization: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic
- Johns Hopkins University: Maps and trends
At the same time, too much time reading or watching the news can be mentally draining. Try to limit your news consumption to the essential information you need to do your job effectively, such as the updates provided through federal, provincial, and local public health media briefings. Consider restricting your news consumption to predetermined times during the day.
Protect your mental health
A crisis can have a very different impact on different people based on many factors, including pre-existing mental health conditions, the availability of resources, past experiences, and social and economic circumstances. Take opportunities to be more patient and kind with yourself, and try to maintain a positive mindset.
For tips and resources to support your mental health during the COVID-19 period, see Taking care of your basic needs and How to recognize the signs of stress. And remember you’re not alone. Talking to your colleagues about your experiences and feelings may help, as they’re likely experiencing similar hardships.