Take Care of your Mental Health
May 6 to 12 is Mental Health Week. This year’s theme is GET LOUD about what mental health really is. It means speaking out against the discrimination and stigma directed at people with mental illnesses. It means using your voice to raise awareness and build support. It means speaking up for those around you – and for yourself.
Mental health is a vital component of our overall health and wellbeing. In fact, you cannot truly be healthy without good mental health, which is why raising awareness is so important. Mental health involves our emotions, our thoughts and feelings, our ability to solve problems and overcome difficulties, our social connections, and how we act and interact with the world around us. It’s not about avoiding problems, stress or negative emotions; it’s about living well, finding balance in all aspects of life, and having the tools cope with difficult situations and life’s many challenges.
Poor mental health does not always lead to mental illness, such as depression or anxiety. Just as it’s possible to have poor mental health but no mental illness, it’s entirely possible to have good mental health with a diagnosis of a mental illness. Therefore, mental health is not just about the absence of mental illness – it’s so much more than that.
For instance, someone may have a physical illness like diabetes. Although this person has diabetes, it is possible that they feel absolutely great by managing their symptoms through diet, exercise, medication or in other ways. On the other hand, someone may not have any physical illnesses, but may feel unwell for a number of different reasons, such as lack of sleep or being rundown. Therefore, it’s possible to have an illness or disease, but feel well overall, just as it’s possible to not have a disease and feel lousy.
The same is true about our mental health. The absence of mental illness does not equal good mental health, just as good mental health does not equal an absence of mental illness. Hence, regardless of whether or not you have a mental illness, it’s possible to feel mentally unwell at times due to various reasons, such as stress, loneliness, isolation, not feeling connected, other negative emotions or personal challenges.
Staying mentally healthy is like staying physically fit—it requires effort. But the rewards are worth it! Everyone faces stresses and demands in their lives, but we all need and deserve breaks from them. Each person’s path to mental well-being is unique. We all have our own goals, our own challenges, our own talents and our own supports. But good mental health is within everyone’s reach.
Take a look at the following tips to help take care of your mental health:
Focus on the positive by practicing gratitude and/or using affirmations. Try writing down three things that went well in your day or things for which you are grateful before you go to bed. You can also try starting your day with an affirmation. Affirmations are positive statements that can help you overcome negative thoughts and self-sabotaging. For example, saying statements, such as “today will be a good day”, “I am in charge of how I feel today”, “I am strong”, etc.
Get outdoors and re-connect with the natural world around you. This can include taking a hike in a natural setting and taking in the sights and sounds. Take time to listen to the birds, notice the trees, grass and everything else nature has to offer. Soak in some sun. Spending time in nature has endless mental health benefits!
Disconnect. That means turning away from your screens – yes, all of them (gasp!). Try turning off all electronics for one hour each day and take this time to do something you haven’t done in a while, such as reading a book, writing in a journal, playing a board game, or visiting a friend. Enjoy time without any interruptions. You need to disconnect to stay connected.
Be active – activity and connecting with others has so many health benefits, including for your mental health! Next time you’re being active, consider bringing a friend/family member or joining a group activity. Take a hike, go to a park, or bring a Frisbee or a ball next time you go for a picnic with your family or go to a social gathering. Don’t be afraid to get creative!
Take a time out by giving yourself a moment to close your eyes, focus on your breath and let go of your thoughts. This is called mindfulness meditation. All that is required to practice mindfulness meditation is to get comfortable in your chair, inhale slowly through your nose and completely fill your lungs, hold your breath – pause, and then exhale through your nose. Repeat this process for a few minutes and just focus on how relaxed you are.
Remember, we are here to help! If the problems in your life are stopping you from functioning well or feeling good, professional help can make a big difference. And if you’re having trouble, know that you are not alone. You don’t have to be in crisis to seek help. Even if you’re not sure that you’d benefit from help, it can’t hurt to explore the possibility.
Consider using the following supports that are available locally:
Marathon Family Health Team: 807-229-3243
North of Superior Counseling Programs: 807-229-0607
Biigtigong Mno-zhi-yaagamig Health Centre: 807-229-1836
Dilico Anishinabek Family Care: 807-822-2521
Pic Mobert Health Centre: 807-822-2625
People Advocating for Change through Empowerment (PACE): 807-229-0357
Online support (i.e. Big White Wall): www.bigwhitewall.com
Bounce Back (online self-management): www.bouncebackontario.ca
Crisis Response 24/7 Hotline (i.e. Connex Ontario): 1-866-531-2600
For more info on Mental Health Week: https://mentalhealthweek.ca/