You may have heard the term mental wellness a lot lately, but why? Why does it seem to be newsworthy? What has changed? Is it a change in society’s values, maybe? Or perhaps it’s a change in society’s perception of the mind-body-connection.
With new scientific studies there is now a much clearer link between brain development and music, or artistic practices and the ability to process pain, or meditation in the regulation of moods. It’s no wonder our viewpoint on mental wellness is beginning to shift, with an increase in acceptance of a more holistic view of health.
In the overwhelming, social media-driven world we currently reside in, it’s difficult to maintain good mental health. Combine this with the frustrations of job searching and job loss, which, next to losing a loved one, is within the top 10 events in a person’s life that contributes to a loss of mental wellness. On top of this, one in three Canadians will struggle with mental health issues in their lifetime, which can make job searching even more daunting.
The Career Foundation is excited to designate this week as Mental Wellness Week, with the launch of our new Wellness Room to complement the services offered through our Empowering Abilities Program at our Hamilton location. In this relaxing space, we will be teaching stress management techniques, methods for reducing anxiety and many other activities in preparation for staying healthy while juggling work and other life commitments.
Each day this week, we will be sharing activities from our Wellness Room as well as tips and tricks to maintain your mental wellness. Stay tuned!
The Effects of Mental Stress
As Mental Wellness Week is upon us, it’s important to talk about the effects that stress can have on our body and mind. We may experience stress daily in a multitude of scenarios: job searching, writing the perfect résumé, preparing for an interview with a future employer, and so on. Although stress is a common feeling, it can affect all of us in different ways. As you read this, take a moment to notice your posture. Do you feel like your shoulders are raised up towards your ears?
In addition to tense muscles, stress can also cause:
- feelings of exhaustion;
- increased appetite for greasy and sweet foods;
- mood swings;
- poor sleep;
- lapses in memory.
Although there are many moments throughout the day that may lead to feelings of stress, there are also ways in which we can help control our responses to them. Over the next few days we will touch on each one of these methods!
Stress Relief Technique # 1: Deep Breathing
Deep, controlled breathing may seem like an easy task, but when we are feeling stressed our body automatically starts to breathe shallower. Taking control of your breathing. Here’s how:
- Breathe in slowly through your nose, allowing your chest and lower belly to rise as you fill your lungs.
- Let your abdomen expand fully.
- Now breathe out slowly through your mouth (or your nose, if that feels more natural).
- You can also try sitting comfortably with your eyes loosely focused, blending deep breathing with helpful imagery and perhaps a focus word or phrase that helps you relax.
Stress Relief Technique # 2: Practising Gratitude
Taking time to appreciate what’s good in your life can help to alleviate stress.
Feelings of gratitude flood our brains with a chemical called dopamine. When we are truly grateful for something (or someone) our brains reward us by giving us a natural boost of happiness, which can help buffer the effects of stress.
Try practising gratitude through the following ways:
- Keep a gratitude journal (e.g., each day adding to a list of things you are thankful for)
- Tell people that you are thankful for them, and give them reasons why. They may return the favour!
- Notice the beauty in nature and the little moments around you, and say “thank you” to the universe for providing them to you each day.
Taking Care of What You Can
Many things happen in life that we can’t control, and this causes stress. We can help to decrease our emotional vulnerability by keeping on top of a few things:
- Eat: Try to eat whole foods as much as possible, as they provide the most nutrients and help keep our emotions balanced.
- Sleep: Getting regular sleep decreases stress, improves concentration and can increase problem-solving abilities. Try to aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night if possible.
- Exercise: Exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. Even five minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-stress effects in the body.
These are just a few strategies among many that can help us keep our stress under control. There are many helpful online resources that offer a wide variety of ways to buffer the effects of stress, such as Skills You Need: Stress Tips and Very Well Mind: Tips to Reduce Stress.
There are many things that happen in life that are out of our control; what we can help control are the ways in which we respond to them. Taking the time to care for your mental wellness can really go a long way the next time you encounter a tough situation!