This World Mental Health Day is a good opportunity for us to check in with ourselves and our mental wellbeing as we continue to balance the pressures of the ongoing pandemic. Anxiety and stress are normal but it is important to take small, regular steps to boost our mental and emotional wellbeing. By building up emotional resilience, we are equipped to deal with challenges as they arise.
“When we feel frightened, our body’s natural responses try to keep us safe by heightening our response to danger. This includes releasing stress hormones into our body, which increase heart rate, blood pressure, and overall alertness – making us feel panicky and afraid,” says Dr. Vijay Seetapathy, the chief medical officer at BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services.
“To avoid spiralling into feelings of fear and anxiety, I encourage people to think about what usually helps them when they are in a stressful period in their life and try and apply it as much as possible. This can be as simple as enjoying food or taking time to talk to your friends and family.”
Here are some more strategies to help you manage your mental health and increase your resilience:
For many months, we have avoided face-to-face connection to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. With vaccinations on the rise, now is a good time to prioritize in-person activities, to the degree with which you are comfortable. Phone calls, social media and video chats are great ways to stay in touch but there is no comparison to the mood-boosting power of meeting a close friend or family member.
Staying active is as good for the brain as it is for the body. Regular exercise or activity, just 30 minutes a day, can have a major impact on your mental and emotional health, relieve stress, improve memory, and help you sleep better.
Sleep matters more than you think. It gives our bodies and brains to recharge, recover and repair. One way to get sleep better is to take a break from the stimulation of screens before bedtime— that means avoiding your TV, phone, tablet or computer at night. Changing your sleep routine can take time but will make a huge difference to your energy and mood.
Yoga, mindfulness, meditation and deep breathing can help reduce overall levels of stress. The Breathr App from Kelty Mental Health is a good resource to get started on mindfulness meditation.
Foods that can support your mood include fatty fish rich in omega-3s, nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashews and peanuts), avocados, beans, leafy greens (spinach, kale and Brussels sprouts), and fresh fruit such as blueberries.
In addition to the benefits of in-person social interaction, talking to someone you trust about your emotional state can help relieve stress. There is a reason for the saying “a problem shared is a problem halved.” If you have a work problem, an issue with your home life, or any day-to-day stresses, speak to a loved one. We are social creatures and spending time with loved ones can energize us.
If you or a loved one needs mental health support, there are many programs and resources that are available to you:
- Here to Help provides mental-health and substance-use information you can trust.
- Kelty Mental Health Centre has information on talking to children and youth.
- BC Crisis Centre is a non-profit, volunteer organization committed to helping people help themselves and others deal with crisis.
- Canadian Mental Health Association is a national charity that helps maintain and improve mental health for all Canadians.
- Mental health centres in each of the regional health authorities can provide help or referrals. You can also visit your family doctor or a walk-in clinic.
- BC211.ca provides information and referrals regarding community, government and social services in B.C.
- Crisis lines across B.C. are also available to provide help to those who need it.