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Get real about how you feel

CMHA Mental Health Week


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We all have those weeks when happiness raises us up one day and sadness brings us down the next.

During the pandemic, those highs and lows may have become a bit more intense. There’s even a name for it — coronacoaster — to describe the roller coaster of emotions we have experienced over the past year.

Common feelings

Sadness, confusion, stress, fear and worry are all normal responses to the effect the virus has had on our lives. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, common feelings associated with the changes and uncertainties brought on by COVID-19 include:

  • a sense of being socially excluded or judged
  • concern about your children's education and wellbeing
  • fear of getting sick with COVID-19 or of making others sick
  • worry about losing your job, not being able to work, or finances
  • fear of being apart from loved ones due to isolation or physical distancing
  • helplessness, boredom, loneliness and depression due to isolation or physical distancing

Do these describe one or more of the feelings you’re experiencing? There are a number of steps you can take to deal with them.

Mental Health Week

Start by understanding your emotions, the focus of this year’s Mental Health Week, an annual public education and awareness campaign led by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).

Emotional literacy

Mental Health Week’s “get real” theme reminds us that we should concentrate on naming, expressing, and dealing with our emotions — the ones we like and the ones we don’t. When we are emotionally literate, we are better able to manage or regulate our emotions.

Self-care tips

So how do we do this? Here are some suggestions from the CMHA to “get real about how you feel.”

Check in. Take time to do a silent check in with yourself. Give your feeling a name.

  • Try looking at yourself in the mirror. What does your own facial expression tell you?

Put it in words. Saying out loud “I’m feeling sad” or writing down what’s upsetting you are examples of what scientists call “affect labelling”. This allows us to construct and make sense of our emotions.

Affect labelling has been compared to seeing a yellow light and hitting the brakes when driving a car. When you put feelings into words, you are putting the brakes on your emotional responses.

Write it down. When you express your feelings in writing, it can help you become more self-aware.

  • Try keeping a journal to keep tabs on how you are feeling.

Get specific. Spend time delving deeper into those feelings to describe them precisely.

  • Write out a detailed expression of how you feel.

Say it out loud. Describe your feelings to a friend, a loved one or a therapist. Talk therapy will help you process your emotions, give you greater clarity, and make you feel better.

  • Join a support group.
  • Access community resources — there are virtual supports available.

By better understanding our emotions, becoming more aware of their effects and labelling them more accurately, we’re better able to make sense of how we’re feeling and act in ways that contribute to greater emotional wellbeing.

Health benefits

Getting in touch with our feelings can reduce our stress levels and anxiety response, limit rumination or obsessive thinking, and even improve our immune function and personal relationships.

Put another way, the best thing you can do with negative emotions is not to “numb them, but to name them.”

For more information and tools to name, express and deal with emotions, visit the CMHA Mental Health Week site.

If your feelings are overwhelming you, even interfering with how you function day-to-day, make sure to seek professional help.

Review your benefit plan to see what mental health options are available. If you are a member of a Medavie Blue Cross plan, explore the services and supports we offer to help get you through a difficult time. You can also stay on our Living Well Hub to read other tips about how you can look after your mental wellbeing, including a recent post on lowering stress.