Now that it is December there are many different stressors that arise. It may be final exams for university students or maybe the pressure of Christmas shopping or going home to see family. Whatever it is, we all deal with some sort of stress at one point or another. This is normal. But what do we do to handle our stress and take care of ourselves? Today we are going to talk a little bit about mental health and tips/tricks to help you manage stress over the holidays.
First let’s start with the Definitions:
Well-being – the state of being comfortable, healthy or happy
Self-care – the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health
Resiliency – the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness
Now let’s look at the statistics:
- In any given year 1 in 5 Canadians will personally experience a mental health problem or illness.
- Mental Illness indirectly affects all Canadians at some time through a family member, friend or colleague.
- By age 40, about 50% of the population will have or have had a mental illness.
- Suicide accounts for 24% of all deaths among 15-24 year olds and 16% among 25-44 year olds.
- Almost one half (49%) of those who feel they have suffered from depression or anxiety have never gone to see a doctor about this problem.
- Stigma or discrimination attached to mental illnesses presents a serious barrier, not only to diagnosis and treatment but also to acceptance in the community.
- Mental illnesses can be treated effectively.
- The economic cost of mental illnesses in Canada for the health care system was estimated to be at least $7.9 billion in 1998 – $4.7 billion in care, and $3.2 billion in disability and early death.
- An additional $6.3 billion was spent on uninsured mental health services and time off work for depression and distress that was not treated by the health care system.
What you can do:
We all have mental health, but we don’t all make time to take care of our mental health. Why is this? Unfortunately, mental health is surrounded by lots of stigma, but we can help end this stigma. How is going to see a therapist or taking time out of our day to destress any different than going to the doctor or going to the gym? It’s not. We need to take care of all domains of our health including: emotional, spiritual, intellectual, physical, environmental, financial, occupational, and social. So let’s fight the stigma and talk about how we can take care of our mental health.
Stress affects everyone, but what can we do to help manage our day to day anxieties? We all have our own barriers to overcome and our own frustrations in our lives. No one stressor is greater or lesser than another. It is okay to have stress in your life, but we have to find ways to be able to manage that stress to help prevent it from affecting our overall health. Here are a couple options that I find can be most helpful. Try one out at a time and see what works for you. Not everything works for everyone so feel free to try a couple different things.
- Stick to your exercise routine. Or if you don’t have a consistent exercise routine start one! Being physically active can help relieve stress by getting your blood flowing and getting your mind off of any current stressors. It can also release endorphins in your body which produces the feeling of pleasure. By having a consistent exercise routine, you can improve self-esteem and it can give you a feeling of accomplishment. Maybe you can go for a short run, or hit the gym, or go to a yoga class, or whatever is the most enjoyable to you! I put my workouts into my schedule to make sure I put time aside to focus on my physical well-being. Some weeks I can fit in more workouts than others, but I try to make sure I get my heart rate up four times a week.
- Get 7-9 hours of sleep every night! I know this can be difficult when we are busy, but sleep is so important to get the appropriate rest we need to be rejuvenated for the next day. Without sleep we can become more easily irritated and make silly mistakes that we wouldn’t typically do.
- Meditate. I know a lot of people are hesitant to this one, but personally I have found this very helpful. During busy times at school or work I become very anxious, but by taking 5-10 minutes to just focus on the moment can really help calm those anxieties. I also find this can be helpful at bedtime as I always have difficulty getting my mind to stop racing as I go to sleep. Check out apps like Calm or Headspace. These typically have a few free meditations to try out and then you can decide if you would like to purchase a subscription.
- Eat healthy. Sometimes this can be the first thing to go when we get busy because let’s be real, cooking is time consuming. But sometimes there are faster healthy options as well. Instead of ordering pizza you can buy a premade salad or grab a couple ingredients to throw a salad together. Oh, and don’t forget about snacks! If you know it’s going to be a busy week grab some good protein bars or healthy snacks such as nuts or fruit to help get your through the day.
- Journal. We all have tough days or tough weeks, but the best way to stay positive is looking back through your day and finding one thing that you are grateful for. It can be something as simple as having a cup of coffee or clean sheets, or as specific as a good grade. This can help you reflect and take that positivity into your next day. It is important to start every day with a fresh start and a good attitude.
- Find a hobby. Doing something that makes you happy can help you rejuvenate and give you the energy you need to get the work done. Examples are baking, crafting, painting, scrapbooking, playing on a rec league, golfing, biking, star gazing, camping, hiking, etc.
- Set boundaries. During holiday season sometimes it can be hard to be around family for extended periods of time. Set boundaries for yourself and your family if you need to. There is no harm in communicating to a family member about how you don’t want to talk about something that may be a trigger to you. Remember communication is key.
- Talk to someone. This can be a friend, family member, significant other, therapist, or anyone else you feel comfortable talking to. Family and friends are always great people to lean on, but they may not always be able to understand or give the advice you need so if that isn’t working for you don’t worry. Try going to a therapist. These are trained professionals that are there to help you. Worried about having to pay out of pocket? Fear not. You can talk to your doctor and see if you they recommend any resources or ask if you can get referred to a psychiatrist. You can also check out https://mbwpg.cmha.ca/ to see their services or if you are looking for a psychologist check out https://cpa.ca/public/findingapsychologist/.
We hope this can help you manage stress and any mental health concerns you may have but remember if you are ever concerned for someone’s safety be sure to call 9-1-1. If you or someone you know is in crisis you can call the Manitoba Suicide Prevention & Support line at 1-877-435-7170.
Remember to be kind to one another. You never know what is going on in someone else’s life. Be there to lend a helping hand when someone is in need and never be afraid to ask for help.