VICTORIA -- Nearly 11 months into restrictions, the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of many British Columbians.

Calls to the Vancouver Island crisis line were higher this past year than 2019, and last month the number of calls fielded was 14 per cent higher than the previous month.

The anxiety created by health worries, job insecurity, isolation and COVID-19 restrictions is affecting most of the general population in some way, says Hazel Meredith, the CEO of Mental Health Recovery Partners South Island.

“We’ve all been struggling,” said Meredith on Thursday. “It’s like the rug's been pulled out from under us. We’re trying to get our footing.”

The pandemic’s toll can even be seen in daily routines. A recent poll by Research Co. shows Canadians are overeating more, drinking more, losing their temper more often, and showering and brushing their teeth less.

Mario Conseco is the director of Research Co. He says the polling — done between Jan. 18 and 20 — shows Canadians are getting worn down by the pandemic.

“Canadians are starting to feel a little bit desperate,” said Conseco. “You see it a lot in the fact that more of them say they’re starting to lose their temper. But it can also be shown in ways that are internal. You know, overeating, drinking more.”

Meredith says that reaching out via technology to stay connected and talk about feelings, along with exercise and getting fresh air, are key ways to combat anxiety and depression.

“We do really encourage people to reach out, and that’s one of the big things for today, is reaching out to on another,” said Meredith, referencing Bell Let’s Talk, a day focused on removing the stigma of mental illness.

In terms of opportunities for getting outdoors and exercising, there’s no shortage of parks in the capital region.

Saanich Parks maintains more 170 of them — with over 100 kilometres of trails.

Eva Riccius with Saanich Parks says the trails were used close to 46 per cent more this January than the same time period last year.

“A silver lining of the pandemic is that our residents have really found and rediscovered the parks system,” said Riccius.