Caring for Yourself and Others: 10 Tips to Improve Mental Health

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After two years of living through the pandemic, it comes as no surprise that Canadian mental health is on the decline. In fact, 1 in 4 Canadians over the age of 18 have reported experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), up from 1 in 5 in 2020. Many Canadians suffer through mental health illness in silence, afraid of the stigma if they speak up. With social isolation and physical distancing still in effect, it’s easy for those struggling to feel like they’re on their own. 

That’s why it’s so important to take the time to protect your own mental health and support those around you who might be facing challenges. At CanadaHelps you can find hundreds of charities championing mental health and supporting Canadians across the country. We’ve pulled together a few of their key lessons to help you learn what you can do at home to improve your mental health in 2022.

1) Talk about it: When we start to talk about our feelings and disruptions to our mental health it creates a safe space for those around us to do the same. Plus, having honest conversations will help us all feel less alone in our experiences. This practice also helps destigmatize mental health struggles and eliminates negative stereotypes about people who experience issues like bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, PTSD, and many other disorders. 

The Anxiety Disorders Association of Manitoba (ADAM) has established a no-fee support line for people who are experiencing anxiety due to various issues related to COVID-19. Callers can connect with a trained, qualified person that has personal experience with anxiety who will help provide support.

2) Prioritize physical health: Taking care of our physical health is a good way to care for our mental health also. Daily practices like eating well and staying active can be challenging at first but have a positive impact on your mental health. Find healthy foods you enjoy and physical activities you find fun such as hiking, cycling, running, free online fitness classes, and more. When it’s safe to gather, consider creating a group to do activities together to both motivate you to be healthier and keep you connected with others who may be feeling similarly. 

CHANGE Health supports families to learn or Re-Learn Healthy Living through lifelong healthy nutrition, active lifestyles, and positive social connections. CHANGE Health strives to become a ready solution to some of society’s most pressing problems, which can be used across Canada and around the world to help address the global physical and mental health crisis.

3) Get some rest: It’s easy to underestimate the importance of getting a good night’s sleep. Rest allows you to recharge and come back fresh the next day. It gives our minds a mental break from the constant flow of news or daily activities that increase stress. Good quality sleep and practices that relax and rejuvenate the mind, such as meditation or yoga, are important for supporting overall wellbeing and mental health. 

4) Improve your self-awareness: When is the last time you did a self check-in to see how you were feeling? Take a minute to stop and spend time with yourself. Keep a record of your thoughts and ideas in a journal. Think about how you experience the world around you. Being in tune with our emotions can help us feel in control of our lives, even during times of high stress and instability. Plus, understanding our own emotions can also lead to a better understanding of others, increasing our ability to be empathetic. 

5) Reach out to others: Reach out to friends and loved ones online or by phone to stay connected to each other, especially when in-person interactions are a challenge. Connecting virtually allows us to keep tabs on others’ mental health and provides an opportunity to offer support when needed. Plan online activities such as group games and video chats to let your loved ones know you’re there, even if not physically. It’s also critical not to forget about the seniors in our lives who have likely experienced increased levels of isolation. Video calls or socially distanced visits can help put a smile on their faces when times are challenging.

The Canadian Academy of Geriatric Psychiatry (CAGP) is focused on the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of complex mental disorders occurring in late life. The CAGP is involved with a variety of activities to promote and advocate for seniors’ mental health.

6) Build a support system: It’s important to nurture your relationships to develop a strong support system to have in place when you need it. Who do you turn to in a crisis? Your support system can provide a safe space to have honest conversations if you find yourself struggling. Even better, being part of a group can help everyone involved. Create a plan together about what to do if someone is feeling down so that everyone knows there’s support available if they need it.

7) Look up resources: Communities around Canada have done a great job providing resources to people struggling with mental health during the pandemic. It pays to stay on top of what services are available in your community or what online resources can be leveraged during challenging times. When you know where to turn to for help, you can react more quickly if someone in your network asks for guidance. 

Kids Help Phone is Canada’s only 24/7, bilingual, national helpline providing urgent support to children and youth. They offer a safe space to call for at-risk youth dealing with suicide ideation, domestic violence, and other forms of abuse throughout the pandemic.

8) Find a new purpose: Don’t stay inside all day every day. Volunteer for a cause that is important to you, learn a new hobby, or share a skill you have with someone else. Find something that motivates or inspires you to think beyond your regular daily routine. Switching things up from time to time can help support good mental health while also keeping you active. If you’re looking for a new way to fill your time, why not learn how to volunteer during the pandemic?

9) Be patient and kind: Treat yourself with compassion and care – everyone’s been through a lot in the past two years. It’s ok if there are days when you’re down or stressed. It’s ok if you don’t get through your to-do list all the time. Treat yourself and those around you with patience and take things one step at a time.

10) Don’t be afraid to ask for help: This is perhaps the most important tip to keep in mind. Asking for support when you need it isn’t a sign of weakness but one of the strongest things you can do. Sometimes problems are too big for one person to solve alone so reach out to your support system, use your online resources, contact a charity, and prioritize your health. Everyone needs help sometime. Ask for what you need now, you so can help others later.

Times are challenging these days. By actively prioritizing your mental health and talking about it with others, you can help combat the stigma attached to mental health struggles and support those in need. After all, no one should suffer in silence. From improving your self-awareness to checking in on others, start 2022 off on the right foot.

If you want to help make an even bigger difference, consider supporting a mental health charity. Mental health charities rely on support from donations to do valuable work in their communities. They provide crisis support, counselling, education, and other types of treatment and professional support services. With the growing number of people being affected by COVID-19, not to mention those with pre-existing mental health challenges, consider giving today to help fuel the vital work of mental health charities across the country.

Learn more or make a donation to a mental health charity to help those in need. 

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