While everyone is seeking ways to cope during the pandemic, a well-being project launched by the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph has quickly gained fans across the globe on social media.
The COVID-19 well-being initiative which started on OVC’s existing Instagram page now has over 27,000 followers from over 45 countries and is being shared across their social media platforms.
“I think we’re all probably looking for ideas or motivation maybe for how we can attend to our well being right now,” said veterinarian and associate professor Andria Jones-Bitton, who initiated the project.
With lots of animal content behind the scenes of a veterinarian college, the Instagram page shares ideas of activities one can do to focus on different kinds of well-being each week, sharing a different well-being area to focus on — such as emotional, environmental, intellectual, social, physical, financial, occupational and spiritual — by suggesting activities to enhance each domain.
“We’re helping people to see that, yes, things are different and hard right now with COVID-19, but there are still ways to work around it and engage with well-being activities,” said Jones-Bitton.
"We’ve tried to come up with fun way to attend to our well-being." she said by trying to focus on one domain per week.
Last week, the project focused on environmental well-being which included tips such as rearranging furniture, decluttering one's workspace, adding flowers to one's grocery list, changing one's screensaver on a computer and playing music.
“I think well-being tips are all universal. You don’t need to be a vet to benefit from them,” said Jones-Bitton.
She said the initiative started as a reliance group she created for fourth-year veterinary medicine students to help them cope with the COVID-19 restrictions. So she invited students to suggest activities as an experiential learning exercise. Little did she know that it would grow into a resilience group for individuals across the world.
“Once we started sharing it, more people started asking for it and it just kind of exploded from there,” said Jones-Bitton who is incredibly happy that it is now helping more people around the world.
“Jane Dawkins did a great job of bringing the content to life,” she said about the OVC’s social media manager.
Each week, Jones-Bitton updates the material on the page that includes illustrations by Alex Sawatzky, a population medicine graduate. A social media team led by Dawkins brainstorms and designs online activities to promote each of the eight domains of well-being.
Jones-Bitton has also shared the material with farm groups like the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and veterinary schools across Canada and abroad.
“Each Wednesday, I share the new domain with my contacts from over 100 agricultural organizations at provincial and federal levels across Canada, who have gone on to share the materials with their membership listserves, management teams and social media,” said Jones-Bitton. “I even heard that a school in New Zealand is sharing it.”
The OVC is also running virtual lunchtime talks with experts as a variation on its existing program of in-person sessions. More than 500 people took part in one mid-April talk on pandemic survival skills given by OVC grad and veterinary coach Leann Benedetti.
Jones-Bitton said for her, emotional well-being includes practising self-compassion and recognizing that others may be going through similar emotions during the pandemic.
She said she’s been assembling jigsaw puzzles on weekends, keeping up with a two-decade-old book club, and practising breathing techniques recommended by Kathy Somers, who leads a stress management and high-performance clinic at U of G.
“In these times, we have to be willing to be weird,” said Jones-Bitton
“There’s a sense of fun that brings people together.”