Rising to Challenging Times

  • By VHS.
  • Posted in
  • on April 13, 2020.

Dear everyone

The spread of the coronavirus has left no corner of daily life untouched. School, work, travel, shopping, and leisure look very different nowadays. Time itself has turned into a gooey continuum of being at home. 

All of us at VHS would like to send out a special thank you to those who work in healthcare, grocery stores, pharmacies, home delivery and take-out services. Thanks to the truck drivers who work day and night to keep our shelves stocked. Also, thank you to teachers around the world who have had to quickly transition to remote and online learning.

We see you, and we appreciate you.

Keep in mind

Few of us have experienced an event of this magnitude. It makes it that much harder to put what’s happening in context, and harder yet to know what to do in the day-to-day of social distancing and staying home. Right now the questions outnumber the answers.

A lot has changed in a very short period of time, and nobody knows when things will return to normal. We miss our friends, we miss our routines, and so many of us are worried about the health of friends and family. The closure of schools combined with urgent warnings to stay home and avoid social contact is hard on everyone. Humans are social beings, after all.

The truth is, these uniquely challenging times are emotionally draining for everyone. We’re just not wired to be this separate, and with so much information and weird anxiety in the air, it’s only natural to feel anxious or overwhelmed.

The good news

We really are in this together. When it’s just you, you’re on your own. When it’s all of us, there’s a strength in our collective circumstances. Nobody’s been here before. There may be moments of loneliness, but no one is alone in this. We need to take care of each other and ourselves. 

Part of taking care of yourself means protecting your mental health, which feels harder than usual these days. We’ve lost of our public rituals, but it turns out there’s great restorative power in finding new ones. Mental health research suggests that routine and structure can foster positive mental health and psychological resilience.

7 ways to improve and protect your mental health 

  1. Express gratitude. Even in tough times, there are things to be thankful for. The practice of focusing on what you have instead of what you lack is consistently associated with greater contentment and happiness (Harvard Health Publishing).
  2. Eat well. There may be some truth to the phrase you are what you eat. An emerging link between food and mental health suggests your body and brain need a mix of nutrients in order to stay healthy.
  3. Exercise. If you want to reduce anxiety, depression, or negative moods, this is one of your best bets. Regular exercise (30 mins, 5 times per week) can lead to better sleep, stress relief, increased energy and stamina. It’s also been found to alleviate symptoms such as social withdrawal and low self-esteem. It can be as simple as a daily walk. 
  4. Meditate. Researchers from John Hopkins University collated 19,000 meditation studies and suggested that mindful meditation can help ease psychological stresses like anxiety, depression, and pain. Short meditation breaks are all you need! You could try an app like Calm, or have a look at the free resources here.
  5. Nap. Who doesn’t like napping? Short naps are a great way to recharge. They have been found to increase mental alertness and improve our immune system and our ability to absorb new information.
  6. Laugh. Laughter was your first language. As babies, we laugh long before we ever speak. Connect virtually with your hilarious friend. Google whatever will get you lol-ling.
  7. Keep learning. Continue to feed your brain with your VHS coursework, and other cerebrum food like interesting books, articles, and videos. Study, learn an instrument, practice doing everyday things with your non-dominant hand—whatever keeps your brain braining.

Need to talk to someone?

VHS works with Kids Help Phone to support our Canadian students. You can call anytime and talk about anything, and a professional counsellor will listen without judgment. Kids Help Phone is totally private and available 24/7. For international students, Child Helpline International can help.

  • Phone: 1-800-668-6868
  • Free Texting Service: Text CONNECT to 686868
  • Live Chat: www.kidshelpphone.ca (select “Chat” at bottom of screen)
  • Always There App: available for iOS or Android, in English or French



Spreading positivity 

The world needs lots of things right now. Besides helping students and parents access quality online education, we are trying to encourage and inspire grace and kindness, connection and help, gratitude and optimism


When the VHS team went fully remote, we launched a new hashtag for staff, teachers, and students to share VHS deskscapes from around the world. Need a quick break? We recommend a glimpse into the lives and work areas of VHS staff, teachers, and students. Check out these sample desks:




We want to see your #VHSdesk! 

In the meantime, stay safe, be well, and remember that there’s a whole team of real people at the (remote) VHS office who are determined to help you succeed.

Let us know how we can help.