Updated: May 27, 2021
Being part of the Academy’s community, I’m going to make a safe assumption that you care about your physical health and well-being. We love to stay physically fit and nourish our bodies which allows us to do daily activities and sports that we love.
But do you ever take time to think about or work on your mental health?
Several years ago, I was going through a bit of a tough time but I was extremely hesitant to admit I needed help. What will people think? Am I a weak person because I’m not able to deal with these issues on my own? And then I heard wise words of encouragement stating “your mental health is as important (if not more so) than your physical health”.
As we continue to ride this roller coaster wave of restrictions, limited social interactions with family and friends and feeling a loss of a sense of ‘normal’, you may be noticing a shift in your mental well-being.
The pandemic is taking an emotional toll on people in Canada, as 77% of adults report feeling so-called negative emotions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The five most common responses across Canada were ‘worried or anxious,’ ‘bored,’ ‘stressed,’ ‘lonely or isolated’ and ‘sad’. This is according to the third round of data from the Assessing the Impacts of COVID-19 on Mental Health national monitoring survey released by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) in partnership with UBC researchers to mark CMHA’s 70th annual Mental Health Week.
Good mental health is not about being happy all the time but having appropriate emotional and behavioural responses to stressors and life events,” says lead researcher Emily Jenkins, a professor of nursing at UBC who studies mental health and substance use. The pandemic has caused significant loss—of loved ones, of connection, of feelings of security. This can contribute to very challenging emotions that are important to acknowledge and process. Hiding your emotions can prevent you from communicating with other people in your life and empathizing with what loved ones are going through. Sharing our very normal feelings of sadness, fear and worry is particularly important during this unusual time of stress, uncertainty and loss.
Here are 6 things to do to support your mental health -
1. Talk about it! It may be hard to get the conversation going but talking can be a way to cope with a problem you’ve been carrying around in your head for a while. Just being listened to can help you feel supported and less alone. And it works both ways. If you open up, it might encourage others to do the same.
2. Find a support buddy - we do it for exercising so why not your mental health. Having someone to check in with can provide a sense of ongoing comfort. Some have that in a partner but for those that live alone, perhaps ask someone close to you and agree to check in on each other.
3. Hire a professional. If your thoughts and feelings are not comfortable to share with those close to you, seek professional help. Sometimes, friends and family are not able to provide the help we need and not as objective as a therapist might be. Therapy/counselling helps.
4. Exercise - walks, workouts, sports, cycling, kyaking, etc, etc. Physical activity increases all the “happy hormones” (dopamine, endorphins, serotonin) which can help us get out of a dark mood.
5. Meditate/mindfulness activities - perhaps try meditation apps (Calm, Chopra, Headspace); walk/sit in nature; take deep, deep breaths; stay present in the moment.
6. And finally, think of the acronym STOP (Stop, Take a deep breath, Observe what’s happening with you,(maybe take more deep breaths if needed), Proceed).
These are a sampling of tools available to us to aid in maintaining our mental health. As a recovering “perfectionist”, I know how difficult it may be to take the first step in admitting we are struggling but your life can truly depend on it. And if not you, check in with family and friends, small gestures of caring can go a long way.
Joanne Metz – Group Fitness, Yoga and Pilates instructor.
For more information on supporting mental health, check out help&info/ CMHA.ca