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Adapting to life in Canada during social isolation

By Danielle Kubes with insights from Munsif Sheraly

New in Canada and struggling to deal with the pandemic? We're here to help with tips to manage your stress and a list of resources.

New in Canada and struggling to deal with the pandemic? We're here to help with tips to manage your stress and a list of resources.

Coming to build a life in Canada is exciting, and the opportunities available here are endless. But like anything new and different, it can also be stressful. Simply figuring out the banking system, finding housing and learning cultural norms are challenging enough.

And during a pandemic like COVID-19? The stress can compound until it feels like a mountain too big to climb.

It's normal to feel anxiety around financial security as economic uncertainties, concern for loved ones abroad due to media reports and increased loneliness if you're forced to isolate during the shut-down.

But have heart that those emotions and fears are common and to be expected, and there's much you can do to manage your concerns.

Canada has various supports available to help Newcomers manage stress, build a new community in Canada and access social services to help adapt to life in Canada.
- Munsif Sheraly, Director Multicultural Banking, Scotiabank

How to manage social isolation

As a Newcomer to Canada, you may be required to quarantine for two weeks upon arriving. On top of that, all residents in general are asked to socially distance themselves from everyone but the people they live with to slow the spread of COVID-19. That means no get-togethers with family members, friends or community members. The only excursions are to essential services like the grocery store or the pharmacy, or to work if you work in an essential service.

It's a trying time for all, but perhaps even more so when you're already in an unfamiliar place and trying to build a community.

These guidelines, while necessary for public health, can increase feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and uncertainty.

Luckily, as a Newcomer you are resilient and can adapt well to change. It takes great courage to uproot yourself from life in your home country and forge a life in a new country. You have reserves of strength you can draw on during these trying times.

For now, connecting with others online is likely the best option to combat feelings of isolation.

To manage the daily swing of emotions, try to implement a daily routine that includes getting fresh air and perhaps going on a long walk (six feet away from others). Walks will help you see others and get to know your new neighbourhood, while providing gentle physical exercise. Establishing a routine and waking up, eating meals and going to bed at about the same time every day will help you regain a measure of control.

Seek help to manage stress

As we said, stress is pervasive for almost everyone right now. But it's important to cope with it before it becomes all consuming. Thankfully, there's plenty of support available online for free.

Toronto-based clinical psychologist Vivien Lee also has some excellent recommendations

  • Limit exposure to media
    As a Newcomer, it’s important to stay informed and learn about your new community, but remember that the news is a business and bad news sells; there's not much incentive to report on the positive
  • Keep connected
    Call, text and video chat with your friends and family frequently
  • Learn new skills
    This is a great time to take free resume writing classes online, develop your English skills and research the Canadian job market
  • Feel what you feel
    Acknowledge your feelings of fear and uncertainty, and sit with it until it feels less scary

Find your local settlement agency

Canada has a century of extensive experience helping Newcomers settle in and adjust to their new country. At the core of our services are settlement agencies; neighbourhood hubs that provide access to any and all information you need to create a life here. Your local settlement agency can help you connect to other Newcomers, provide job training and employment prospects, answer any questions you have about schools, Canadian culture and healthcare. They can also help you fill out forms and register for language classes.

Unfortunately, during COVID-19 they are running only essential services. But these still may be helpful to you if you need

  • Income support
  • Help setting up medical appointments
  • Crisis counselling

Some other services may be provided by telephone, online or email, so contact your settlement agency -- they are really a one-stop shop.

Bottom line? The pandemic is tough on everyone and is an obstacle we're all working to overcome -- but we will overcome it. And in the meantime, there are plenty of resources out there that can help you tackle the difficulties you're dealing with.

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Legal Disclaimer: This article is provided for information purposes only. It is not to be relied upon as financial, tax or investment advice or guarantees about the future, nor should it be considered a recommendation to buy or sell. Information contained in this article, including information relating to interest rates, market conditions, tax rules, and other investment factors are subject to change without notice and The Bank of Nova Scotia is not responsible to update this information. All third party sources are believed to be accurate and reliable as of the date of publication and The Bank of Nova Scotia does not guarantee its accuracy or reliability. Readers should consult their own professional advisor for specific financial, investment and/or tax advice tailored to their needs to ensure that individual circumstances are considered properly and action is taken based on the latest available information.