This is part of a series of stories profiling members of the Niagara Health team and the work they are doing as part of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Meet Lydia Mazzuto, Social Worker and the HEART Wellness Program team.
It's the simple things that Lydia Mazzuto is embedding into her daily routine, that are having the biggest impact on her well-being through the pandemic.
“When we're not feeling well, making a small change to our awareness, surroundings or daily routine, can make a big difference," says Lydia Mazzuto, Social Worker at our St. Catharines Site. “It often seems insurmountable to get through a challenging time, but making minor adjustments to our daily activities can have a ripple effect and help us feel better."
Lydia, who works in Outpatient Mental Health, has been leading Niagara Health's HEART Wellness Program for staff and physicians since the beginning of the pandemic.
The HEART Wellness Program provides confidential counselling, coping strategies and resources for all staff and physicians. Staff Supporters, who work on the team, are NH staff who are trained professionals with backgrounds in nursing, psychology, psychotherapy, recreation therapy and social work. The team will make referrals to other services including crisis counselling and the Employee Assistance Program, when necessary.
The team provides cognitive behavioural therapy and dialectical behavioural therapy to staff and physicians who request support - the gold standards for several mental health issues and day-to-day coping. They work through the connection between what team members are thinking and how they are behaving; and how their actions and emotions connect with symptoms they may be experiencing.
At the beginning of the pandemic, staff and physicians had concerns relating to the virus itself including the fear of getting it, fear of the unknown, as well as the fear of passing it on to family, friends, co-workers and patients. In addition, ongoing worries include the day-to-day practical issues such as, balancing work and home life, parents managing home schooling for their children and separation from loved ones due to physical distancing and geographical constraints.
As part of International Self-Care Day - which takes place every year on July 24 - Lydia is sharing information on how to request confidential support through our HEART Wellness Program and tips on how to practice self-care throughout the pandemic.
Here are Lydia's self-care tips:
1. Stay connected with others – Look for ways to stay in touch, virtually if necessary, and look for new opportunities to connect with others, support and interest groups online.
2. Behavioural activation – change your physical environment with activity and movement. Go outside. Connect with nature—walks and outdoor activities are perfect for this.
3. Gratitude and compassion for self and others – having appreciation for something in your life or showing compassion towards yourself or others is a simple way to start a self-care routine.
4. Recognizing mood, thought and body symptoms – Often these are key markers something is happening and it can give you some forewarning to do something about it.
5. Recognizing your resilience and strength – It's okay to not be okay, just try not to stay there. If you need help, seek it out. Most of us have never lived through a pandemic and if you already struggle with your mental health, it can make you feel alone and even powerless. Recognize your inner strength. Find healthy things you can have some control over. Routine can help.