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Can't stop touching your face? Here's how to break a bad habit – The Globe and Mail



Public health experts are urging people to stop touching their face to reduce the transmission of the novel coronavirus.

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As the new coronavirus upends daily life, people are now faced with having to quit certain habits, such as touching their faces, and avoid developing new ones while they’re stuck at home.

How do you quit your habit of brushing your hair out of your eyes? How do you stop yourself from snacking on all your emergency food? How do you avoid anxiously checking your social-media feeds?

“In general, habits are something that we do automatically, usually associated with a trigger. And actually, disruptions are a really good time to change habits,” says Marina Milyavskaya, associate professor of psychology at Carleton University. “In addition to avoiding the building of bad habits, we could use this time to start building new habits.”

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Here’s how.

Identify the habits you want to change

For some people, constantly checking the news may be a habit they want to break, especially if it contributes to their fear and anxiety.

“But to be honest right now, that might be a completely understandable response to the situation,” Dr. Milyaskaya says.

So before you go ahead and resolve to make changes, she says, recognize which of your behaviours negatively affect you and determine which of them you actually want to target.

Notice when you’re doing it

Because they’re automatic, if you want to stop any kind of habit, the first step is to recognize whenever you’re doing it, Dr. Milyavskaya says.

For instance, she suggests, wearing gloves may be a way to help you become aware of when you touch your face.

Rodney Schmaltz, associate professor of psychology at MacEwan University in Edmonton, suggests a subtler tactic: Try changing your hand lotion to one with a different scent, so you catch a whiff of if when you bring your hands up toward your face.

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Separate the behaviour from the cue

Usually with habits, there’s a certain cue that triggers the behaviour, Dr. Milyavskaya says. For instance, a pang of hunger may be your cue to go rooting through the pantry. The aim, she says, is to link that cue with a different behaviour, one that’s positive.

So instead of raiding the pantry for chips and cookies whenever you feel peckish, she suggests, you can reach for a piece of fruit. (This can be made easier by placing fruit on the kitchen counter where it’s accessible.)

Stopping a behaviour outright is often much more difficult than replacing it with a response that’s rewarding, she says. The reward doesn’t have to be physical, it can even be a feeling of pride for sticking to your goals.

Dr. Schmaltz suggests doing something you enjoy and that refreshes you, such as going out onto your balcony or taking a walk.

The spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 continues, with more cases diagnosed in Canada. The Globe offers the dos and don’ts to help slow or stop the spread of the virus in your community.

Change your environment

Relying on willpower alone doesn’t work very well, Dr. Schmaltz says. Instead, he suggests, examine your environment and look for ways you can change it to make it easier for you to notice when you’re about to fall back on a habit and make it harder to carry out unhealthy behaviours. For example, if you keep your store of emergency food in your basement, you’ll be less likely to trek downstairs every time you feel bored and hungry, he says.

The same goes for alcohol or cannabis, excessive use of which mental-health experts advise against during the pandemic. Instead of keeping them within easy reach, try storing them somewhere less accessible.

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Track your behaviour

You may be surprised at how often you touch your face or check your online news feeds. Whatever the habit is you’re trying to break, keep track of how often you do it, Dr. Schmaltz says. From there, you can decide how you wish to change it and assess how well you’re faring. If you determine you want to cut back on the amount of online information you consume, try setting aside two or three windows during the day to check it, he suggests.

Inevitably, people fail when they first try to break a habit, he says. But keep trying different tactics if you find you’re not making progress.

“The big thing really is to continue to experiment,” he says. “Eventually, you’ll find what works for you and what’s most effective.”

Repeat, repeat, repeat

If you’re trying to replace bad habits with healthier, more productive ones, now is a good time to do it when you’re creating a new routine for yourself anyway, Dr. Milyavskaya says. The latter can include washing your hands more frequently, getting more exercise, eating more healthfully, making regular phone calls to loved ones and practising a new skill.

Just remember to be compassionate and kind to yourself.

While many believe it takes 30 days to build a habit, it actually takes longer than that, she says, noting some research suggests it can take a median of two months to adopt simple habits and longer to develop more complex ones.

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26 new cases of coronavirus identified in Nova Scotia, more options for testing announced –



As of Sunday, 26 new cases of novel coronavirus were identified in Nova Scotia, bringing the total number of cases in the province to 262.

According to the province, the patients having confirmed cases so far range in age from under 10 to over 90.

Six individuals are currently in hospital while 53 individuals have now recovered and their cases of COVID-19 are considered resolved.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: 29 new cases confirmed in Nova Scotia

The new cases were identified on Saturday at the QEII Health Sciences Centre’s microbiology lab after 592 Nova Scotia tests were completed.

The province also noted that most of the confirmed cases have been connected to travel or a known case, but some are the result of community spread.

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“This is expected and why the testing strategy continues to be adjusted,” said the province.

READ MORE: COVID-19 pandemic taking toll on Canadians’ mental health: survey

Part of that adjustment is increasing lab capacity, which according to the government, will have processing at the lab move to 24/7 operations as of Monday.

“This disease is in our communities and that’s why we are adjusting our testing strategy,” said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, at a press briefing on Sunday.

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As QEII Health Sciences Centre’s microbiology lab begins its 24/operation, Strang said they’d be able to carry up to 1,000 tests a day.

Canada may be missing thousands of coronavirus cases, experts say

He also announced that as of Sunday more options for testing of COVID-19 will be available to help identify spread within Nova Scotia communities.

Coronavirus outbreak: Young people warn others their age to take COVID-19 seriously

Coronavirus outbreak: Young people warn others their age to take COVID-19 seriously

The province is working with the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) and Emergency Health Services (EHS) to establish temporary primary assessment centres, EHS assessment units, and a mobile assessment centre.

“The temporary assessment centres will be in communities where there are increased disease activities,” said Strang.

He also said that the first temporary assessment centre opened Sunday, in Elmsdale where there’s currently increased disease activity.

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But like the other assessment centres, people must be referred by 811 first. Those directed to an assessment centre will have a physical assessment onsite and swabbed if appropriate.

READ MORE: IWK staff self-isolating, Aberdeen Hospital halts surgeries after COVID-19 exposures

“Expanding our testing options means we have the ability to act quickly if we’re seeing clusters of disease in communities or locations and ensures we’re able to accommodate vulnerable Nova Scotians and those living in harder-to-reach communities,” said Strang.

There are currently two mobile units, one in the Halifax Regional Municipality and one for the most populated areas of Cape Breton Regional Municipality, staffed by paramedics trained to do at-home testing.

According to Strang, the mobile units would be used for people who have mobility issues and cannot get to an assessment centre or in situations where a cluster of testing needs to be done, for example at a long-term care home.

“This virus is in our communities, it’s dangerous and it’s up to all of us to slow it down,” said Premier Stephen McNeil. “Expanding testing will help us identify and respond more quickly to spread in communities but the best defence continues to be following the public health orders.

“People need to stay home.”

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Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent

spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Nova Scotia identifies 26 new cases of COVID-19, bringing total to 262 –



Twenty-six new cases of COVID-19 have been identified in Nova Scotia, bringing the province’s total to 262. 

Of the confirmed cases, 24 are in the eastern region, 25 are in the northern region, 38 are in the western region and 175 are in the central region. 

People with COVID-19 in Nova Scotia range in age from under 10 to over 90. Six people are currently in hospital, while 53 people have recovered and their cases are considered resolved. 

On Sunday, Shannex said it was notified by public health officials that employees at Arborstone Enhanced Care in Halifax and Harris Hall in Dartmouth have tested positive for COVID-19. 

“(Management teams)  are receiving support from our COVID-19 Response Team, which includes our Infection Prevention and Control Specialist and Occupational Health, Safety and Wellness team members, to ensure all residents and team members are following proper precautions with the health and safety of our residents and team members as our highest priority,” Shannex said in a statement posted to its website

Most cases in Nova Scotia have been connected to travel or a known case, but “it is now known there is community spread,” the Health Department said in a news release Sunday. 

“This is expected and why the testing strategy continues to be adjusted. Part of that is increasing lab capacity.” 

The QEII Health Science Centre’s microbiology lab in Halifax will move to 24/7 operations on Monday. 

To date, Nova Scotia has 9,510 negative results.

The province’s state of emergency declared two weeks ago has been recently extended to April 19. 

“It is now more important than ever for Nova Scotians to strictly adhere to the public health orders and directives – practise good hygiene, maintain a physical distance of two metres or six feet from others, limit essential gatherings to no more than five people and stay at home as much as possible,” the release said. 

A news conference with Dr. Robert Strang, the province’s chief medical officer of health, and Premier Stephen McNeil will be held at 3 p.m. today. 

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COVID-19 cases in Nova Scotia rise to 262, including 2 health-care workers –



Nova Scotia has announced 26 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the provincial total to 262.

Cases have been identified in individuals under 10 and over 90, including two staff at Nova Scotia hospitals and two long-term care employees.

Six people are now in hospital with the virus and 53 have recovered. 

Premier Stephen McNeil and Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, are scheduled to provide an update on the coronavirus outbreak at 3 p.m. Sunday. Video will be livestreamed in this story.

Two new cases among long-term care employees

Two of the new cases include staff at two long-term care facilities.

The individuals are employees at Arborstone Enhanced Care in Halifax and Harris Hall in Dartmouth, which are both owned by Shannex.

An additional case was confirmed at Shannex’s Jubilee Hall-Concorde Hall in Quispamsis, N.B.

Last week, Shannex announced one case among employees at its private retirement-living community in Dartmouth. An employee at the R.K MacDonald Nursing Home in Antigonish also tested positive for COVID-19 last week.

It was also confirmed last week that three staff and two residents at the Magnolia resident care home in Enfield have also tested positive. 

Health-care workers exposed

Two cases of COVID-19 have been identified among staff at Nova Scotia hospitals — the IWK Health Centre in Halifax and Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow — and some health-care workers have been ordered to self-isolate because of close contact with their infected colleagues.

A spokesperson for the IWK said the infected staff member is a health-care worker, and hospital staff were investigating any possible exposure to patients.

The case at the IWK is not expected to impact patient care or service delivery.

A park in Dartmouth is taped off on Sunday. The sign delivers the premier’s message. (CBC)

The Nova Scotia Health Authority has not released the role of the staff member from Aberdeen Hospital who tested positive for the virus, but some patients could have been exposed. The NSHA is working to identify and contact any affected patients.

Neither health authority would say how many staff were under self-isolation orders. They said affected staff were being tested.

Service disruptions at Aberdeen Hospital

The NSHA said the case at Aberdeen Hospital has caused a stoppage of all surgical, and labour and delivery services.

Patients with urgent and emergency orthopedic needs are being sent to the Halifax Infirmary, and emergency general surgery cases are being diverted to Colchester East Hants Health Centre in Truro.

Labour and delivery care will be transferred from Aberdeen to Colchester East Hants or St. Martha’s Regional Hospital in Antigonish, depending on the patient’s location.

The health authorities confirmed the cases Sunday, two weeks after the premier declared a state of emergency, ordering citizens to stay home as much as possible and to keep a distance of two metres from other people.

Under the public health measures, police have the authority to ticket anyone who fails to abide by physical distancing orders or who continues to use parks, trails and beaches, most of which are now closed.

In his near-daily COVID-19 updates, McNeil has been doling out stern warnings for the public to abide by the restrictions, calling those who flout the orders “reckless.”

Dozens of tickets issued for flouting public health orders

Last week, McNeil ordered police to increase enforcement. Ahead of the weekend, he appealed for people to “stay the blazes home.”

The plea struck a chord with many, who turned the phrase into memes, songs and merchandise, but it apparently didn’t affect everyone. On Saturday, Halifax police told CBC News they’d handed out dozens of tickets for violations under the Emergency Management Act and the Health Protection Act.

Fines for those violations range from almost $700 for individuals to up to $10,000 for businesses.


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