There’s no way around it: life gets hard sometimes. Everyone goes through times of worry, confusion, or feeling down. Sometimes it can feel like the foundations of your life have shifted. What are you currently dealing with? It could be time to pay attention to your mental health.
Mental health is how we think, feel, and act. We can use coping tools to help our mental health be more stable and positive. Coping tools are skills and strategies you can learn to get through tough times. They can help you build your healthy mind.
We can help you learn healthy coping skills. Connect with a counsellor or attend one of our workshops to learn more. The sections below offer suggestions for how you can start using coping tools right now.
Developing a daily routine can help us feel more in control of everything, and make room for all that’s important. Routine can aid our mental health by helping us cope with change, form healthy habits, and reduce our stress levels.
ROUTINE CAN ANCHOR US
Routine can be an anchor. No matter what’s going on in our day, knowing that we will be having our evening meal around 6 pm, and going to bed around 10 pm, can be a real comfort. The certainty of our routine can help us to manage the uncertainty that life can throw up. Coping with unpredictable periods of time can feel more doable when we have a little structure in place to look to.
Having a daily routine can help to reduce our stress levels. Trying to remember things can be really stressful and can fill our brains up with everything on our ‘to do’ list; which can be incredibly overwhelming. When we have a routine, a lot of the things we do day-to-day slot in, and we don’t have to think about them anymore. For example, when we’re well we don’t have to remember to brush our teeth, because we know from habit that brushing teeth comes after breakfast every day. Routine can take the guesswork and uncertainty out of bits of our day, which can allow us to feel more in control and less stressed.
Having a routine can help us to cultivate positive daily habits and to prioritize self-care. Organizing our time gives have the opportunity to build in blocks of time for things that are important to us. This can allow us to build in daily habits that help us with our mental health. It could include things like time to relax, or a regular bedtime. When they’re part of our routine, it can make it easier to keep up with them because we have the time to do them and they become our ‘new normal’.
Daily habits include:
Make an effort to eat healthy foods, exercise daily and get plenty of rest. The Canadian Food Guide & Fitness Plan offers recommendations to stay healthy.
Learn about Mindfulness and practice it regularly. Mindfulness is a meditation technique that can help you develop a healthy relationship with your emotions, get better sleep, and more.
Click here to check out our Mindfulness resources, including free online workshops offered every Friday morning!
Practice self-compassion. Instead of criticizing yourself for what you are not doing, praise yourself for what you have done. In these trying times, be gentler with your expectations for yourself. Sometimes, basic hygiene and feeding yourself is all you can do in a day, and that is ok.
Don’t compare yourself to others, especially on social media. Social media is designed to allow people to present the best version of themselves, and sometimes that version isn’t even real. It is easy to go on social media and see people who seem to be carefree and achieving all sorts of goals during the pandemic without a hair out of place. Do not compare yourself to this image that you see, it is not real, exaggerated, or it has nothing to do with your experience. Instead, focus on setting small, realistic tasks for yourself, things that interest you and motivate you. Take breaks from social media if necessary.
Remember that having a bad day is a universal human experience. It is not a reflection of who you are as a person, it is simply something that happens.
Write down a list of truthful, reassuring statements. These statements are meant to encourage you and take the place of negative thoughts when you are distressed.
You can write these on post-it notes, and place them in mirrors, refrigerator doors, or somewhere else you can see them. Read the statements when you are feeling distressed.
Here are some examples:
Illustrations by Journey to Wellness
Follow these simple steps:
To begin, choose a particular time, place, and length of time for worrying.
This time, place and duration should be the same each day (e.g. 6pm, for 20 min).
Make this place unique and comfortable, free from distractions. It should not be somewhere you go to regularly, like a lounge room chair. Rather somewhere you assign for the worry period only.
The time should be convenient so you can regularly follow through with the task, and not close to bedtime.
Write down your worries, examine them, decide what you will do about these worries. There may not be anything you can do to resolve the worry, but sometimes giving a little time to the worry can help make it less distracting during the rest of your day.
Then stop your worry time and begin again the next day at the same time. This creates a habit for your brain to cope with your worries in a shorter period instead of worrying all day.
If you find yourself worrying between your worry times, keep a pencil and paper, or list on your phone close by. Whenever you start to think about your worries, write them down and tell yourself you will focus on them during your worry time, and by writing them down you do not need to think of them right now.
Grounding is a form of mindfulness that can be used in the moment to address stress, anxiety, anger, or other unwanted or overwhelming emotions by focusing entirely on the experiences of the moment instead. It can reduce the negative emotions so that the individual has time to refocus instead of being overwhelmed.
For example, a person might be feeling more and more angry, but before yelling at someone else they may take a moment to ground themselves, and instead of yelling they can then discuss their needs in a more productive manner instead of starting an argument.
Grounding helps calm your inner voice, and reduces your negative feelings and thoughts. Try this technique to focus your attention on the moment.
Focus on 5 things you can SEE, 4 things you can TOUCH, 3 things you can HEAR, 2 things you can SMELL, and 1 thing you can TASTE.
Be sure to really focus on each sensation as you go through the process, and exclude as many other thoughts or emotions as possible. For example, can you name the specific shade of pink of the flower you are looking at, is it more blush or peach? When you hear sirens outside, are they moving towards you or away from you?
Talking about what you are going through with family and friends can be helpful, but because they are emotionally involved, they may have opinions or biases.
The role of a counsellor is to listen without bias, and give you a space to explore your feelings. Professional counselling is an opportunity to speak freely in a totally confidential environment.
Counselling can help with stress, anxiety, isolation, and burnout related to the pandemic, but it can also help with existing issues that have changes or become more severe during the pandemic, such as divorce, co-parenting, job loss, work stress, career changes, relationship stress, etc.
Counselling offers lots of benefits – it’s nothing to be afraid of! We offer free, online counselling with professional counsellors. Click here to make an appointment.
Approximately 30% of adults report troubles falling/staying asleep or having unrefreshing (nonrestorative) sleep. Approximately 10% of the population has sleep problems so severe that it affects daytime activities.
Finding the root cause can help you understand why you have sleep issues. Some factors include:
Keep in mind it can take over two weeks for your sleep patterns to respond to these adjustments. If you still see no change in sleep after consistently trying a strategy for three weeks, contact your doctor.
The pandemic is a stressful time, and many people are seeking new ways to manage the stress and isolation. Some people may have started using alcohol or substances to de-stress on a rare occasion, but now are finding their alcohol or substance use is taking up more and more time. If you are concerned, use these resources or contact your doctor for assistance.
If you think your drinking/substance use may be a problem, you can complete a self-screening test by clicking here.
The pandemic has been stressful on everyone, but it can especially prove difficult for relationships. Some relationships have been separated due to quarantines or travel restrictions, others have been forced into close quarters and trying to navigate work-life balance in the same space.
Whether you are seeing more or less of your partner than usual, it is normal to expect that there may be more strain on the relationship than usual. Here are some tips for managing relationship stress:
IMPORTANT: In Canada, abuse in not tolerated. You do not have to stay in an abusive situation.
Feeling lost is very similar to depression, and it is common to feel this way, especially during the current pandemic while we are experiencing high levels of stress and uncertainty.
Where to Get Help:
IMPORTANT: If you are in crisis, call 911 immediately.
If your child suffers from mental health disorders, they may be eligible for necessary services. Speak to their teacher, or other caregivers, to see if they notice any concerns. Contact your doctor for an appointment or 811 for mental health advice. If English is your second language, your child’s school may be able to provide an interpreter to aid in the process.
These services include:
To find service locations, please click here to visit the Alberta Health website, then scroll down to "Service Locations."
Anxiety attacks have symptoms that include racing heartbeat, sweating, nausea, chest pain, and/or shortness of breath. If you or someone you know suffers from anxiety, contact your personal doctor or psychiatrist.
Depression can include persistent feelings of sadness, loss of interest in activities or daily life, low energy, feelings of hopelessness, and withdrawal from others.
Depression can come in waves, vary in intensity, and have physical as well as psychological symptoms.
Symptoms of depression include:
Here are some ways to manage depression. You can also check out some of the coping tools on the left.