Hello. My name is Kendra, and I joined the Chestermere Mental Health Coalition in 2019. I am thankful for the conversations and actions taken by the Coalition to reduce the stigma around mental health in Chestermere and area. Along with reducing stigma, the coalition aims to make people more aware of the support programs and organizations Chestermere has for all ages and stages! We are currently putting together an agency resource listing so that there is a user-friendly way to find the support you need in Chestermere and surrounding area.
The first step towards reducing stigma is to understand what mental health is. Here is the number one thing I hope you’ll to take away from this article: EVERYONE has mental health! In the same way that everyone has a body and therefore everyone has physical health/illness, everyone has a brain and therefore everyone has mental health/illness. I find it helpful to think of it on a spectrum. Where would you place yourself on these spectrums?
|Physically unwell/ill||Physically well/healthy|
|Mentally unwell/ill||Mentally well/healthy|
If it is helpful for you, you could create a spectrum for any of these 7 areas of wellness in your life: physical health, social health, emotional health, occupational and financial health, environmental health, intellectual health, and spiritual health. These seven domains or dimensions of our health all contribute to our sense of wellness.
Here are a few things I have found helpful to keep myself closer to the mentally well end of the spectrum:
Notice without judgement: My students all know that I love to talk about feelings, and I get to teach about them daily. I also like talking about meta-emotions, that is, having feelings about your feelings! Being in tune with our emotions can be hard enough, but if we do take the time to notice how we are feeling (something I recommend for mental wellness!) then often our next step is to judge ourselves for feeling that way. Meta-emotions!
Ever been frustrated the grocery line is long, and then you get angry at yourself for not being a more patient person? Feeling sad that you don’t get to celebrate a milestone birthday in the way you imagined, and then embarrassed that you’re sad over missing a party? Ever felt resentful about feeling angry, insecure about being fearful, disgusted about feeling jealous? You’re not alone if you have!
One way not to double-up on these uncomfortable feelings is to notice them without judgement. Here’s a few steps: 1. Notice how you feel and name it 2. Take note of where you are feeling it in your body. What does it feel like to you? 3. Acknowledge the feeling without trying to change it, and 4. Move on to noticing any other feelings you might be having. Try it, its surprisingly refreshing!
Technology break during meals: I know the value of taking breaks from electronics, especially during covid when we are on them so much. However, if you asked me to have an electronics-free day or evening, I would probably laugh at you and say, “yah right.” BUT, I found a way to take a break from technology that was manageable for me: no phone/computer/TV while I was eating meals. It is a short, but good time to think, reflect, and take a few minutes to be mindful. Whether you live alone, as a couple, with roommates, or as a family, this can be a great time to connect, either with yourself or others! I don’t do this every day, but I find it makes a difference when I do! If this doesn’t work for you, that’s okay, I invite you to find another manageable amount of time that you can consciously put aside to take a break from technology.
Writing lists: I am a list writer. I am a sticky-note fanatic. I like pretty, organized things. I like being able to accomplish things and cross them off a list at the end of the day. If this doesn’t sound like you, you have permission to skip this tip and focus on the other ones. When I had to quarantine for two weeks in December, I was worried about how it was going to go. As someone slightly more extroverted than introverted and who can quickly overthink into an existential crisis, I knew the two weeks could easily spiral me down into a not-so-good headspace. So I made I list of things I knew I needed to be okay, which included calling my friends and coordinating who was going to bring me Starbucks, groceries and a Christmas tree. I didn’t create a regular to-do list. It looked more like this:
You’ll notice there are not checks in every box. That’s okay. This is a tool to help you, not to make you feel guilty.
I hope one of these suggestions is helpful to you on your wellness journey.
With you in wellness,
Kendra Costain, Child Development Advisor (CDA), Rocky View School Division.