Stress Awareness Month
Inhale, Exhale, Pause, Unplug, Recharge, Reset. Ready.
When there's a lot of different balls in the air, oh and ya know, a casual pandemic / numerous lockdowns, putting a strain on our mental state, we like to come back to being consistent with how we approach our wellness holistically.
As Toronto receives another stay at home order, it's an important time to remember to take care of ourselves and our mental health.
These reminders and small practices help us manage stress a whole lot better:
6. Giving Back
We are social creatures, our nature is to be with other people. As stated in Psychology Today and affirmed by many studies of the brain, humans are "Wired to Connect"*. It's important for our mental health to keep "connection" with others. Ways to keep that connection are keeping in touch with friends and family. This could be sending a text message, making sure to schedule in calls, checking in on neighbours. This might be zoom calls, or FaceTimes or simply a prolonged moments of eye contact with your partner or children to 'check in' and hopefully find some time to laugh together. Making connection a priority ensure we feel that support system around us as well as giving us a much needed outlet to communicate, emote, and share our feelings to decrease the anxiety of isolation.
Taking a break is an important part of taking care of ourselves. There are a lot of factors that are contributing to making this harder, whether there are children learning remotely from home, or you're working from home and there are blurred lines on boundaries of "work" and "rest" time, coupled with the heightened anxiety around Covid and Health Risks that could be in your work environment if you're on the frontline or back in the office. Doctors recommend taking a break from screens or sitting every hour, even if only for a quick 5 minutes stretch or breaths of fresh air if you can.
What we put in our bodies has a huge effect on how we feel and can help manage the amount of cortisol, the bodies stress hormone, is produced in our bodies. Making sure we are all drinking lots of water, eating meals balanced with healthy fats, proteins and nutrients will help to provide your body with fuel and hydration. Foods and ingredients to avoid to manage stress: refined sugars, large amounts of caffeine, and inflammatory foods including processed carbohydrates. We feel our best when we are consuming mostly plants, lots of fresh vegetables and fruit and real whole foods that truly nourish our bodies. There is an increasing amount of research*** being done right now about the connection between the gut and the mind and how a healthy gut can decrease anxiety and factors that cause depression.
Get up, jump around and get shake your body. Getting movement helps to release the chemical reactions in the body that produce dopamine and endorphins (the feel good hormones). Whether this means a break for 20 jumping jacks at work, a brisk walk around the block or a full workout. Moving your body is one of the best things you can do to immediately lift your mood.
Meditation is the act of being present with yourself. It is a practice of being quiet, clearing your mind and training to be still with yourself and your thoughts. This practice can bring you a sense of peace, calmness and greater connection to your emotions and wellbeing.
There are many wonderful meditation apps that provide guided sessions listed below as well as resources on YouTube for free meditation sessions.Calm
Helping others and giving back can mean dropping off some food to a neighbour that lives alone, sending words of encouragement to a friend or family member or donating to a local Food Bank. There are so many people and families that are struggling right now and could use some support. Giving Back can also mean consciously shopping at local businesses and restaurants where you can.
Studies from Harvard University have shown that the practice of gratitude and gratitude journalling positively affects our mental health. This practice can involve taking a few minutes in the morning or evening and writing down five things that you're grateful for. It could be grateful for that delicious meal you just had, or a friend, your home, or even getting a great parking spot at the grocery store. This practice triggers the mind to be more observant of the positive things happening in our days and shifts how our mind perceives what brings us happiness.
Deep inhale, hold and deep exhale. This process of filling our lungs with air has a profound effect on our mental state and is an immediate tool we can use to calm a restless, stresses of anxious mind. Check out Inward Breakthwork as a wonderful resource for information about the power of breath as well as guided breath work sessions.
Being sleep deprived can throw our bodies into a deeply deprived state. When we are over tired it has a direct negative effect on our mood, concentration, cognitive functions and ability to manage stress. The book Why We Sleep, by Matthew Walker is an eye opening revelation of the power of sleep on our ability to be productive and happy. Prioritizing rest is a great way to ensure we have the energy and mental power to manage strong emotions and the many challenges that we're facing right now.
There is magic in the trees! Spending time in nature has been found**** to reduce anxiety and depression. Fresh air and being surrounded by trees of open space can have a rejuvenating affect on our state of mind. With the power of plants being routed in our connection to the earth and how spending time outside supports feelings of calmness, peace and tranquility. With stay at home orders taking place in Ontario and the last year of Covid making many people spend unprecedented time indoors, we need to ensure we are all getting outside everyday.
If you need extra support see the resources below.
Resources for Support:
GET HELP Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-833-456-4566
KIDS HELP PHONE connect via text, messenger, phone, live online chat. Also includes a "Resources Around Me"
MOVE TO FEEL WELL Canadian Mental Health Association movement article and the difference between mental illness and mental health.
CAMH Support Programs
Resources referenced for further reading:
*Psycology Today - Wired To Connect
**Harvard Health - Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier
***Harvard Health - The Gut Mind Connection
****Mind.org.uk - Nature and Mental Health