Changes in the brain linked to mindfulness meditation can improve the brain’s ability to manage stress and its consequences. (Michelangelo Gratton/

Marion Balla has been a therapist and educator in Ottawa for more than 45 years.

She has never been busier. Her days are filled with appointments with clients who acknowledge they need help coping with the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdowns.

Balla is the founder of Ottawa’s Adlerian Centre and explains, “We come into the world as ‘social beings’ desiring to belong, to be connected, to feel capable and valued and to have the courage to lead our lives.”

“COVID-19 has challenged and, at times, blocked these needs and desires – creating periods of isolation, limits on being social and connected, triggering grief reactions and undermining our ability to feel capable and contributing.”

Balla observes that the pandemic has also awakened our empathy and our gratitude.

“We witness daily our front-line workers in healthcare, housing, food production and distribution, the service industry, etc. demonstrating courage and engagement for the welfare of others. They serve as our role models to focus on the day and do what is required.”

Marion Balla’s suggested coping tips:

1. Focus on one day at a time and trust that we will overcome this challenge as we have in the past. 

2. Acknowledge the losses we’ve experienced and take time to grieve (both big things and smaller ones: e.g. loss of loved one, family connections, job/career opportunities, economic stressors, ‘big moments’ – births, weddings, graduations, etc.)

3. Practice gratitude and notice how other people are reaching out to support, to connect with and to be responsible for ourselves and one another.

4. Trust our health experts and be a part of the solution rather than the problem. Embrace hope.

5. Notice your thoughts and feelings and practice calm breathing, the present moment and trust that this too will pass.

Marion’s suggested reading & listening: 

Brené Brown – Unlocking Us podcast

Brené Brown books:

  • “Rising Strong: How the Ability to Rest Transforms the Way we Live, Love, Parent, and Lead”
  • “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are”

Pema Chodron – When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

Mindfulness Apps:

  • Stop, Breathe and Think
  • (website/app)
  • Mindshift
  • Smiling Mind
  • Headspace

Crisis Resources:

Ottawa Distress Centre - Distress: 613-238-3311 | Crisis: 613-722-6914 or 1-866-996-0991 | TEXT 343-306-5550 Chat & Text 10 a.m. -11 p.m.