Family, Mental Health, Wellness

July 24 is International Self-Care Day

The pandemic has amplified our very real and perceived stresses and caused us to re-examine how we care for ourselves; to revisit the idea that “self-care” is somehow self-indulgent rather than an essential act of self-respect.

Self-care is not about the occasional day of pampering. It’s about making a conscious choice to replenish and show gratitude to yourself. it’s about cultivating a habit of looking after yourself, making informed and empowered decisions for your health and seeking out the supports you need to ensure your holistic wellbeing.

It’s by nurturing ourselves that we are able to truly provide this same kindness and care for others.

Whole Heart’s Tips for Self-Care

Our experts have put together a list of tips and Whole Heart resources to help you get your self-care habits in check:

1. Sleep hygiene

Getting an adequate amount of sleep every night is key and there are habits that can be developed to support that:

  • Be consistent about going to bed at the same time each night and getting up at the same time each morning, even on weekends.
  • Get some exercise daily – physical activity during the day can help you fall asleep more easily at night.
  • Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime.
  • Limit all screen use before bed.
  • A bedroom that is quiet, dark and at a comfortable temperature is best.
  • If you’re practicing good sleep hygiene and still seeing sleep challenges in your family, family due to other concerns, it can help to talk to someone. Get in touch with our team here: https://wholeheartmentalhealth.com/registration-form-page/

2. Healthy, balanced diet

  • What we eat affects our bodies and our minds, and research is increasingly showing the impact of food on our mood!
  • Food can affect the development, prevention, and management of mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety disorders.
  • Studies are exploring the effects of food on organisms in the intestinal tract, neuroplasticity (brain’s ability to modify structure, wiring and function), oxidative stress (cellular damage) and chronic inflammation
  • You can learn more about the link between food and mood, as well as ways to incorporate healthier options into meals by consulting with a nutritionist. Whole Heart is offering a program in August to help teach parents and adults working with children and teens how to better support their relationship with food and exercise. You can learn more here: https://wholeheartmentalhealth.com/fostering-positive-relationships-around-diet-exercise/

3. Connection

The pandemic starkly revealed how much social connection impacts our overall wellbeing.

4. Meditation/Mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness can help us to calm our minds, increase pleasure and joy in our day-to-day activities, build compassion and gratitude for ourselves and others and gain clarity around things that can be difficult. Meditation and mindfulness allow us to cultivate amazing tools that we can carry with us wherever we go! Try this grounding technique that can help shift focus away a busy mind into the present moment:

While breathing in and out of your nose, identify in order:

  • 5 things I see
  • 4 things I am touching
  • 3 things I hear
  • 2 things I smell
  • 1 thing I taste

If you want to discover the benefits of meditation as part of your self-care, check out our Virtual Walking Meditation Group: https://wholeheartmentalhealth.com/walking-meditation/

5. Get out in nature

Research shows that spending even 20 minutes a day outside can help reduce anxiety, lower depression and boost overall mood. Set a goal of trying to build this into your weekly routine; pick a new walking route, try a new trail, or just sit outside. For a great map of nature trails to add to your self care tool kit visit: https://www.ontarioparks.com/parksblog/nature-self-care-toolkit/

6. Exercise

Physical activity has a significant impact and benefits on mental health and is often part of an integrated strategy for management of overall health and wellbeing. Benefits can include:

  • Lifting mood by releasing endorphins that enhance feelings of well-being
  • Creating a healthy distraction from negative thoughts
  • Building confidence in achieving skills or goals
  • Creating social interaction
  • Fostering a healthy outlet for stress

Our Virtual Walking Meditation Group incorporates physical activity, meditation, mindfulness, socialization and getting out in nature: https://wholeheartmentalhealth.com/walking-meditation/

7. Talk to someone

Self-care includes recognizing that we all need someone to talk to. Having support and connection is essential at the best of times. But if you are struggling or actively supporting someone in managing their mental health journey, taking care of yourself takes on an increasing level of importance. Not sure where to begin? Reach out and let us help guide and support you https://wholeheartmentalhealth.com/contact/

At Whole Heart, we hope that on International Self-Care Day you’ll be reminded to check in with yourself regularly, ask how you’re doing, what you need, and prioritize the response. Remember: Self-care is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.

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serene woman in flower mask
Mental Health

Pandemic Observations

The COVID-19 pandemic has ignited a Tsunami of mental health concerns, especially among kids and youth. According to Hasina Samji et al., Child Adolesce Ment Health 2021: “Individuals at risk may experience new onset of mental illness, while those with pre-existing mental health conditions may experience symptomatic worsening, especially if mental health service access is impeded ..” The impact has been tremendous, and is ongoing, and access to timely care is challenged by limited resources and extensive wait times. The following resources are meant to be a guide, and provide some support. It is by no means an exhaustive list.

If you have questions about these resources, or if you have some that you feel are helpful for us to post, please email intake@wholeheartmentalhealth.com

RESOURCE LIST (not all are specific to COVID-19)

If you are actively suicidal, call 911 or speak to a responsible adult, if you are thinking of suicide, please click here.

DISTRESS LINES:

Toronto Distress Centre: (416) 408-0007

Kids Help Line: 1 (800) 668-6868

Distress Centres of Ontario

ONLINE RESOURCES
http://togetherall.com
https://mentalhealthcommission.ca/covid19
Anxietycanada.com

Books: 

Anxiety: Helping Your Anxious Child: A Step-by-Step Guide for Parents – Ronald Rapee 

OCD: How to Help Your Child (A Parent’s Guide to OCD)

Talking Back to OCD – John March

Depression

http://teenmentalhealth.org/learn/mental-disorders

FREE MENTAL HEALTH HELP

http://mindbeacon.com (FREE Mental health support for Ontario Residents)

helpahead.ca (1 866 585 6485) This is a centralized phone line to access child, youth and family mental health and well-being resources in Toronto.

myicbt.com (CBT therapy, delivered online).

Downloadable apps: (some applications may have a fee)

http://headspace

moodfit

mindshiftCBT

CALM

HAPPIFY

VIDEOS:

5 minutes Mountain Meditation for Children (teens) and Adults
How to cope with Anxiety and Stress

DBT SKILLS: (from https://dialecticalbehaviortherapy.com

MINDFULNESS

TOLERANCE

TIPP SKILLS

This is another method that you can use to cope with overwhelming emotions. ITIPP is an acronym that stands for the following four steps: temperatureintense exercisepaced breathingprogressive muscle relaxation.

Practice each of these techniques, so you know what they feel like. Then use them, when you feel overwhelming emotion and you feel like you need them.

T: Temperature

This works by changing the temperature.

Cooler temperatures decrease your heart rate (which is usually faster when we are emotionally overwhelmed). You can either splash your face with cold water, take a cold (but not too cold) shower, or if the weather outside is chilly you can go outside for a walk. Another idea is to take an ice cube and hold it in your hand or rub your face with it.

Higher temperatures increase your heart rate (which is usually lower when you feel depressed, sad, or anxious). You can take a hot bath, nestle up in a blanket, go outside on a hot day, or drinking a warm tea.

Note, be smart about it. Cold exposure can make your blood pressure drop, and heat exposure can raise your blood pressure. If you have a medical condition where this could be a problem, skip this step or consult your physician.

I Intense Exercise

When you have a built-up energy as a result of experiencing overwhelming emotions, it can be a really good idea to spend this energy by doing a cardio work-out. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy – you don’t need special equipment or expensive membership in a gym. Simply get on your feet and do one of the following: go for a run around the block, do jumping jacks in your room, go outside and walk fast. You can also try jumping rope, dancing or lifting weights (if you already have them). Do this for 10-15 minutes but don’t overdo it. When you spend that conserved energy you will feel more tired and your overwhelming emotions will become more balanced.

P: Paced Breathing

In order to reduce the physical manifestation of the overwhelming emotions you feel (for e.g. increased heart rate, flushed face, dry mouth, sweating etc.) it helps to try to control your breathing so that its rate will eventually decrease. Try the following technique: breathe in deeply through your nose (abdominal breathing) for four seconds and then breathe out through your mouth (for six seconds). Do this for 1-2 minutes.

P Progressive Muscle Relaxation

In order to relax the tense muscles in our body while we are experiencing extreme emotions, you can try progressive muscle relaxation. You can do this from a seated position. Start with the top of your body – become aware of your muscles and the upper back and deliberately tighten them for five seconds. Then let go – you should feel the region loosening up. Keep doing this with your arms, your abdominal and back muscles, your bottom muscles, thighs and upper legs and calves. This is a great way for your body to let go of the excessive energy that has built up with the overwhelming emotions.

Example

Situation: “Today when I woke up, I felt very empty and down. It didn’t help that the weather has been dull for days now. All of this reminded me how 2 years ago, this time of the year, I was feeling very depressed and was coping with the dysfunctional relationship I have with my father. This memory made spiral down, and in no time I didn’t want to go on with my day, finish the work responsibilities that I have, or do anything. As the morning went on I felt even more depressed and empty.”

T – Temperature: I chose to have a hot bath, something that will make me feel warmer, both physically and potentially emotionally as well. It felt like an act of self-kindness, and it really did help me not to fall even more into this sad memory lane.

I – Intense exercise: I put on some music since I could use having a little fun time, and I put the effort to get my muscles going and dance. I did this for 10 minutes, and I felt more energized after.

P – Paced breathing: I did two minutes of the paced breathing technique.

P – Progressive muscle relaxation: By step four, I already felt better doing the previous three. Nevertheless, I sat comfortably and did the progressive muscle relaxation instructions. I feel like the TIPP technique really helped me not to feel more empty and depressed, and I went on with my day.

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For many, the battle with depression brings on a torturous cycle of hopeless thoughts and feelings of deep despair and isolation or disengaging from life.

The choices we make in the midst of this hardship can often reinforce the negative cycle or shift our experience to a pathway of healing and resilience.

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Self-care isn’t Selfish

As we get ready to begin our week lets remind ourselves about the importance of self care; an area that often gets missed. Today we live in a society that is so fast paced, so hectic and so future oriented that it can be difficult to take the time and nurture ourselves.

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Its that time of year again and summer is hopefully just around the corner! For students, this time is EXAM time which brings along with it anxiety, doubt, pressure, excitement and joy. A functional amount of stress in our lives can help us to live well, meet deadlines, get out of bed in the morning, tend to our families and our own needs- this is healthy stress. However, for some this type of stress can be overwhelming and unbearable.

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