Article by CMHA Alberta
The pandemic has introduced us to new challenges and amplified our everyday and mental health struggles. Many Albertans have lost motivation to continue with hobbies, clean, study and exercise– and that’s okay. During particularly difficult and stressful times, we may lose a grasp on what brings us joy, solace and comfort. Let’s remember to embrace what brings us comfort and people we hold dear (even if it’s from a safe distance).
Here are a few ways you can support your mental health right now:
If you have a pet, you likely have first-hand experience with the joy your animal brings into your household. If you live or work alone, your pet can be an important part of socialization and social bonding. There are plenty of reasons pets are great for mental and physical health. The Guardian says, “Healthy social bonds can play a key role in mental health; without them, we become lonely, depressed and physically unwell. And pets, it seems, can fulfil that role. The simplicity and depth of this love is a continuous joy, along with the health benefits of daily walks and the social delights of chats with other dog walkers.” (Robinson, 2020)
There’s a reason our favourite tried and true dish is called our “comfort food.” Cooking and baking helps us experience personal pride and accomplishment from what we’ve put together. Now could be an opportunity to try a new recipe or go off-script and create the next great dish. If you are searching for recipe inspiration (or aren’t interested in spending time in your kitchen), indulge in some baking or cooking competition shows on your favourite streaming service.
Studies show we have more capacity to deal with trying times when we have rested and recharged. Rest and self-care look different to everyone. It’s not always possible to enjoy a nightly bubble bath, but we may be able to read before bed, sit outside for five minutes or wash our face, which are all self-care. Other types of self-care include meditating, going for a run or walk outside, staying in and working on a puzzle or playing a game. Psychology Today encourages us to re-energize for our wellbeing, “If you need some time to re-energize, do it. Your mental wellbeing is just as important as your overall wellbeing, and you must take care of your brain like you take care of the rest of your body.” (Burke, 2018)
When we encounter stress, a trusted friend to confide in minimizes stress and improves mental health. Psychology Today talks about these benefits, “Interacting with others boosts feelings of wellbeing and decreases feelings of depression. Research has shown that one sure way of improving your mood is to work on building social connections.” (Troyer, 2016) Providing emotional support and a listening ear for a loved one is admirable. There are also mental health benefits to being a listening ear and support for others. A study found our brain associates providing support to others with gaining a reward. According to Science Daily, it was determined, “Giving higher levels of support was linked to increased activity in a brain area that functions as part of the reward system.” (Science Daily, 2016) When supporting someone else, remember to give your friend space and time to express their feelings. Show engagement through eye contact and open body language. Give your friend your complete attention, demonstrate empathy and stay present. Support includes listening and moving into action when your friend needs additional help.
If you have suggestions on how to find comfort in trying times, use the hashtag #MentalHealthinToughTimes, and we’ll retweet you.
If you or a loved one is experiencing mental health distress during this time, please call 211 (Alberta only) or the Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642.
Wilding, Melody. (2018, November 16). Please stop telling me to leave my comfort zone. The Guardian. [Article]. Retrieved May, 2020, from: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/nov/16/comfort-zone-mental-health
Robinson, Ann. (2020, March 17) ‘Dogs have a magic effect’: how pets can improve our mental health. The Guardian. [Article]. Retrieved May, 2020, from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/mar/17/dogs-have-a-magic-effect-the-power-of-pets-on-our-mental-health
Burke, Allie. (2018, June 22). Self-Care in a Mental Health Crisis. Psychology Today. [Article]. Retrieved May, 2020, from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/paper-souls/201806/self-care-in-mental-health-crisis
Troyer Ph.D., C.Psych., Angela K. (2016, June 30). The Health Benefits of Socializing. Psychology Today. [Article]. Retrieved May, 2020, from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/living-mild-cognitive-impairment/201606/the-health-benefits-socializing
Science Daily. (2016, February 11). Giving support to others, not just receiving it, has beneficial effects. [Webpage]. Retrieved May, 2020, from: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160211184959.htm