According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), one in five Canadians will personally experience a mental health problem or illness in any given year. By age 40, 50 per cent of the population will have or have had a mental illness.
This year’s campaign has the added significance of taking place when many Canadians are experiencing poor mental health due to worries and uncertainties related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As one of Canada’s leading health solutions providers, we want to do our part to help Canadians get through this difficult time by offering ways to build and strengthen their mental resiliency.
With this goal in mind, we reached out to our partners in mental health to share the following information, tools and resources to help you, and your loved ones, take good care of yourselves mentally.
• Start by having a candid conversation with your doctor. Describe the symptoms you’ve been experiencing and for how long. Your doctor may be able to recommend coping strategies or, if necessary, refer you to a mental health professional in your community.
• If your benefit plan includes an Employee Assistance Program, know that support for depression, anxiety, stress or other mental health issues, may be just a click or call away with certified counsellors available to help you 24/7.
• A quick and easy way to check in on your mental health is to use CMHA’s Mental Health Meter. Although this is not a scientific test or substitute for professional advice, the questionnaire allows you to tap into how you’re truly feeling.
• Physical activity is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety, and improve our mood and overall health. Stay active by incorporating fitness activities you like into your daily routine, whether it’s taking your dog for a walk or following an exercise video on YouTube.
• Eating healthily can make us feel better and improve our mood. While it’s tempting to reach for junk food when we’re feeling anxious or down, they are not good for stress or overall health. Choose more fruits and vegetables instead, and drink lots of water.
• Be sure to get a good night’s sleep. Proper rest can both help reduce the amount of stress we experience and prepare us to better manage stress. Try relaxation strategies and meditation to help you sleep well and reduce stress.
• Avoid information overload. While staying informed is helpful, too much information can negatively affect our mental health. Limit checking the news once per day or less and make sure that your sources are credible— be particularly wary of social media posts. There’s a lot of information about COVID-19 online but not all of it is completely accurate, or even true.
• Reserve time each day to unplug from your electronics, including phones, tablets and computers, and then unwind. Disconnect from social media and do something fun and healthy, be it a bike ride through the neighbourhood or a Wii game with the kids.
• Remember that you are not alone —many people are having similar experiences. Anxiety and fear are normal reactions to the pandemic’s disruptive effects on our lives. Social isolation, in particular, can lead to spending too much time thinking about the restrictions and uncertainties surrounding COVID-19, resulting in increased stress and anxiety.
• For this reason, it’s important stay connected with people you know and trust, and who are positive influences in your life. A simple chat by phone, video call, or text messaging can go a long way in lowering your stress, lifting your spirits and even giving you a reality check on your situation. Often things are not as bad as they seem.
• Remember that depression and anxiety are forms of mental illness — and should be treated like any other illness. There is no shame in seeking treatment. During high-stress periods, you may turn to distress lines, online support groups, or resources in your community.
• If you are a member of a Medavie Blue Cross-insured plan, we have a suite of mental health services and supports available including digital therapy, which allows you to connect with an accredited therapist for counselling and education services, from the comfort and convenience of your home.
• If you are having thoughts of suicide or self-harm, call 911 or go to your local emergency room immediately. You can also call Crisis Services Canada at 1-833-456-4566.