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Taking Care of Your Mental Health

By Clare Pentelow, MSW, RSW, RP

 

Covid-19 has been a part of our lives for over a year now.  It has had such a huge impact on both the world’s economy and health! Many people have also  found their mental health has suffered. It’s hardly a surprise, when you consider all the ways the pandemic has influenced our lives – we are now dealing with so many more life stressors such as job insecurity or loss, loneliness, health anxiety, relationship stress, loss of routine and previous coping strategies, homeschooling children, etc.  As a social worker and psychotherapist who deeply understands the emotional impacts of the pandemic, both from professional and personal experience, I have a few evidence-based (and lockdown compatible!) tips that you can use to boost your mental health and wellbeing during this challenging time:

Exercise

Exercise has been proven to be an incredibly helpful coping strategy for those suffering from depression and anxiety. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to try to make exercise a part of your self care routine.  Sometimes my clients really struggle to make the time, or find the energy, which is completely understandable! I encourage people to start small, even if it’s only a 15 minute walk a couple of times a week.  If it’s possible you can build on it from there, increasing the time and intensity of the exercise. However, don’t let yourself be discouraged if that’s not possible at this time in your life.  With exercise, a little goes a long way when it comes to your mental well-being!

Self Compassion

Self compassion is so important – especially during this incredibly stressful time. It might be helpful to identify WHAT self compassion is exactly – self compassion means being kind to yourself in instances of pain or failure rather than judging yourself or engaging in negative self talk.  It is the act of seeing your experiences – even the negative ones – as a part of the larger human experience rather than seeing them as separating and isolating. We are all facing a collective trauma, and this means many of us are having trauma reactions, such as becoming hypervigilant and anxious or feeling numb and depressed.  It can be easy to feel frustrated and self-critical when we are finding certain activities challenging in ways that we didn’t before the pandemic. For example, some people have found they are feeling more low energy, and do not have the capacity to get as many household and work tasks done as they used to be able to do prior to the pandemic. As a result, they may engage in negative self talk, calling themselves “lazy” and “useless”.  However, low energy is the body’s way of coping with extreme stress, and it is incredibly important to remind yourself of all that you are dealing with, and treat yourself with care and kindness in these situations. Some people really struggle with this, and an exercise that can be helpful is to ask yourself how you would respond if your friend or loved one was experiencing the same situation that you are in.  In my experience people are generally much kinder to others than they are to themselves.

Nature

Getting out in nature has positive impacts on your mental health, stress levels and self esteem. When my clients are struggling with stress and mood issues, I always try and remind them to make sure they spend time outdoors, especially as the weather gets warmer!  Being in nature, whether it’s to go for a walk, exercise, meditate, or garden, a few times a week can really be nurturing to your mental wellness. When deciding where to go, studies found that areas with more vegetation and bird noises enhance the positive impact on your mental well-being, and bonus points if you can be near water!  But if spaces like this are inaccessible, simply try walking through a neighborhood with some leafy trees and gardens, and notice the calming effects.

Counselling and Psychotherapy

Sometimes what we are experiencing is too much for us to navigate on our own, and there is no shame in that!  It can take a lot of strength and courage to reach out and ask for help.  Therapy can provide us the space to reflect and understand ourselves, as well as help to develop the coping skills to deal with the (many!) day to day stressors we experience.  I am a social worker and psychotherapist who is based in Kitchener, ON. I support individuals through mental health challenges such as depression, anxiety, life stress, and trauma. Below are my contact details.  Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you feel you need some support during this challenging time.

Clare Pentelow, MSW, RSW, RP
Social Worker and Psychotherapist at Kitchener Therapy (link: www.kitchenertherapy.ca)

In order to schedule an appointment with me, feel free to email, call, or book through me website:
Email: kitchenertherapy@gmail.com
Ph: 519.358.7181
Book Online: https://kitchenertherapy.ca/contact-book/

 

While I do have some spaces for sliding scale, they are limited.  Feel free to check out my resources ((link: https://kitchenertherapy.ca/resources/) page for information on other community counselling centres that offer affordable and sliding scale options.  Also listed on the resources (link: https://kitchenertherapy.ca/resources/) page are crisis lines if you or anyone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis.

References

Barton, J & Pretty, J. (2010) What is the Best Dose of Nature and Green Exercise for Improving Mental Health? A Multi-Study Analysis, Environmental Science & Technology 44 (10), 3947-3955

Cox et al., (2017) Doses of Neighborhood Nature: The Benefits for Mental Health of Living with Nature, BioScience, 67(2): 147–155

Craft LL, & Landers DM (1990) The effect of exercise on clinical depression and depression resulting from mental illness: a meta-analysis. J Sport Exerc Psychol, ;20:339–357.

Fox KR.(1999) The influence of physical activity on mental well-being. Public Health Nutr. 2:411–418.

Harvard Health Publishing (2018, July) Sour mood getting you down? Get back to nature. Harvard Health Men’s Watch
https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/sour-mood-getting-you-down-get-back-to-nature

Neff, K. (2003) Self Compassion and Alternative Conceptualization of a Healthy Attitude Towards Oneself, Self and Identity, 2, 85-102

Neff, K. (2004) Self Compassion and Psychological Well-Being, Constructivism in the Human Sciences 9(2) 27-37

Raglin, J.S. (1990) Exercise and Mental Health. Sports Med 9, 323–329

World Health Organization (March 18, 2020) Mental health and psychosocial considerations during the COVID-19 outbreak, https://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/331490