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Empathy is the theme of this year’s mental health week as Residents learn to live with COVID-19.

“For the past two years, we’ve been encouraged to stay home and now we’re shifting towards learning to live with the virus,” said Lill Petrella, team leader for mental health promotion and education with the Brant-Haldimand-Norfolk Branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association.

“This shift in messaging calls on us to adopt a shift in Mindset, from one of avoidance and fear to one of resilience and adaptability.”

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A local committee of mental health advocates have put together a calendar of events and activities for the week, which runs from May 2 to 6.

The calendar can be found at Activities include a sign war with businesses and agencies encouraged to post positive messages about mental health and wellness.

Petrella said the change in public health measures and messaging doesn’t mean a return to pre-Pandemic life. Anxiety, stress and fear will still run high for the next several months, she said, adding that the mental health Fallout from the Pandemic will last much longer.

“Given the Pandemic customs is our collective wellness, it’s more important than ever to practice empathy for each other and ourselves,” she said. “Practicing empathy helps us regulate our emotions, connect with others and feel less isolated.

“It enables us to think of others and look for ways to help.”

Acts of kindness, such as chatting with a neighbor, donating to a local Charity or picking up Groceries for a friends, can be an uplifting experience for everyone involved, Petrella said.

She said people also need to have empathy for themselves.

“We can make our lives much more difficult if we set unrealistic goals based on pre-Pandemic expectations,” Petrella said. “The level of stress and worry that we have been carrying continues to impact our daily lives, and we may not be functioning at the level we were prior to the Pandemic. “Practicing self-compassion and managing expectations as we adapt to change will be important as we adjust to the next phase.”

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She got employers must recognize that the mental health of their workers is as important as their physical health.

And work still must be done to reduce the stigma associated with mental-health issues, she said.

“It continues to be essential for leaders to listen and respond to the changing needs of their employees,” Petrella said. “Humanizing mental health issues, offering flexibility and supporting inclusive cultures will help create psychologically safe working environments.”

She said it will take time for people to get back to enjoying activities they haven’t done in a while.

“Everyone will have a different response or reaction to any further changes in regulations,” she said. “So, considering the experiences and backgrounds of others before passing judgment can go a long way in avoiding conflict.

“When times are tough, we need to be there for each other.”

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