As we face a global crisis with COVID 19, we have all been asked to abide by social distancing. Isolation can be particularly difficult for those who suffer with depression and anxiety. Here are a few tips to help us stay connected.
Text your family a friends to see how they are doing. We can all support one another by acknowledging our concerns and providing words of encouragement.
If you are able, offer to help someone who is vulnerable. Perhaps you could pick up some groceries for a senior or another at-risk person who be unable to get to the grocery store or pharmacy.
Other ways to connect are through social media such as messenger, Skype, Zoom, Whats App or Face Time. Since we can’t visit our family and friends in-person, technology allows us to see their faces, their smiles, and hear their voices, almost as if they were sitting in the room with us.
We can still say Hi to our neighbours and maintain social distancing when out for a walk. For example, you can stand at the end of the driveway and chat with someone who may be sitting on the front step. A cheery “Hello, how are you doing?” could make a difference in someone’s day, especially if they live alone.
If you find your depression and/or anxiety worsening, take advantage of the telephone helplines and internet resources. A good resource in Ontario is connexontario.ca. Visit them online to be directed to the appropriate professional help in your area. If you are in crisis contact the Greater Toronto Area Distress Centre – https://www.torontodistresscentre.com/ – text 45645 – call 416-408-4357
The response time may be delayed due to the high volume of calls during the pandemic. You will find a list of resources in the “Resources and Where to Find Help” tab of the Everyone Matters site. If you are thinking of taking your life, call 911.
In support of “Hearts around the World” which has been spreading on social media, stay connected and stay safe.
The New Year is a time for numerous resolutions like losing
weight, getting fit, or changing jobs.
However, it can be also a time of year where anxiety and depression can
be exacerbated. The bright lights and
music from the Holidays have passed, the visitors are gone and credit card
bills start arriving. In addition, this
January has had very little sunlight which does not help our mood.
One thing that has helped me cope is to guard my
thoughts. It is easy to go to the
negative when we are feeling low. Don’t
let your thoughts define your situation.
Here are a few tips to guard negative thoughts.
Be mindful of what you are absorbing through media – television, news, twitter, Facebook or Instagram. It is rare that we hear about “good” news on the news channel. It is not a good way to start you day when the first thing you expose yourself to is the news which may be filled with stories of murders, car crashes, robberies, natural disasters and war. I would love to see a news station that features only “good news”. As for social media, it is easy to become doubtful or even jealous when you see pictures of people’s tropical vacations or cruises. Remember, we don’t know what else is going on the lives of these vacationers. They could have battled a serious illness, suffered the loss a loved one, or be recovering from an abusive relationship. Things are not always how they may appear on the outside.
Associate with positive people. Negative people can suck your energy and may influence your thinking. Set parameters if there are negative people in your life that you need to interact with. For example, if a phone conversation turns negative, find a reason to get off the phone. It is ok to say “no” even if it is a family member or close friend. We are all responsible for out own stuff and we can really sink our own boat if we take on everyone else’s stuff. It is one thing to be kind and caring when someone is going through a tough time. However, if they continuously dump on you, it can be toxic to your own mental health.
Avoid the gossip chain. Judging others does not make you a better
person. Gossip is a poison that can be
as contagious as an infectious disease. If you have nothing good to say about
someone, better to say nothing at all.
Pause before responding. Lashing out in the heat of the moment can lead to regret. If you are feeling volatile, betters to take a time out and think things through before reacting.
As Christmas approaches, I have been looking for an angel lawn decoration with white lights. About 3 weeks ago there was a sale at a local retailer and I found a lovely one. Last Monday while raking leaves, I learned it was going to snow the following day. I thought, “Oh, better get my angel assembled”. After two futile hours, and several attempts of putting her together, I could not make her stand securely. She was very wobbly and I knew that one gust of wind would send her crashing to the ground. Needless to say, she was returned and I continued my quest in search of the perfect outdoor Christmas Angel. After checking several internet sights and retailers, it became apparent that most of the outdoor sparkly angels were flimsy and would not withstand the December weather. Feeling disappointed, I wondered if I would ever find my angel. And then it dawned on me. I don’t need a piece of plastic with sparkles and lights to be my angel. I have angels all around me; in fact, so many, it is impossible to name the all.
You see the word “Angel” has different meanings depending on the context. In Wikipedia, the term “Angel” is described as a supernatural being in various religions and mythologies. In Dictionary.com one meaning of “Angel is a person having qualities generally attributed to an angel, as beauty, purity, or kindliness. I will be referring to the latter definition in the context of this blog.
One of my angels used his leaf blower to blow my leaves to the curb and another cut my grass. Two more angels drove me to medical appointments. Another angel texted me every day when I was undergoing medical treatment. And then there is the angel who lit a candle for me in every cathedral that she visited while travelling in Europe. A special angel stood by my side during 2 critical illnesses and gave me reassurance and hope.
I am grateful for the angels in my life – the ones in my
family, my neighbourhood, my circle of friends and my church. During this Christmas Season, I encourage you
to be someone’s angel. Here are some
ways to help the less fortunate:
Visit someone who is lonely, perhaps an isolated senior.
Donate to a charity such as a shelter. They are always in need of warm hats, scarves, mittens and toiletries.
Buy a toy for a needy child. There are many organizations that have toy drives this time of year.
Volunteer in a soup kitchen.
Make a meal for someone who is ill or less fortunate.
Donate to your local foodbank.
Wishing you all a beautiful Christmas filled with Peace, Love and Joy.
During the last quarter of 2018 I found myself stuck in circumstances beyond my control. A routine mammogram saved my life and I had surgery in November. Needless to say, the waiting for results, referrals and appointments was psychologically draining. The unknown was tormenting for me. My mind took me to the dark side where I started to think about my mortality and yes, my bucket list. Once I got my results, I was able to move on. I am fortunate to have stage 1 breast cancer with a good prognosis. I begin my radiation next week for 3 weeks. What I found interesting about having cancer is that it is easier for me to talk about it than mental illness. I was comfortable reaching out for supports to family and friends and posting updates on social media. I received a great deal of support and made some wonderful connections.
Even though I am an advocate for mental health education and breaking down barriers , I still feel influenced by the stigma of having a mental illness and have often kept my struggles with generalized anxiety disorder and depression to myself. It’s time to be transparent. Just as having cancer is not within my control, neither is having a mental health problem. This winter has been challenging for my mental health due to concerns over my physical health, a major reduction in sunlight and taking a break from work. My mind has too much time to wonder. These are some of the management tools I am using to cope:
A Happy Light (SADS light). These lights which simulate natural sunlight can be purchased online or at your local pharmacy. Everyone morning I sit by the light with a coffee and read. These lights are more effective for those with Seasonal Affective Disorder, but I find it is having some benefit for me, even though I do not have this diagnosis.
Nutrition. After the holidays of overeating and indulging in too much sugar, I am trying to return to healthier eating. This is not easy for me as I love food and turn to it for comfort. One day at a time.
Exercise. I have been walking for up to 1 hour 5 times a week. It really gets the blood moving, gives me more energy and helps to clear my head.
Spirituality. I heard on the news this week that people with spirituality do better with their cancer treatment than those without spirituality. For me, this has been a great help for both cancer and depression. It brings me peace, hope and comfort.
None of us know what lies ahead in life. What I have learned from these experiences is to reach out for help and support. We do not have to suffer alone. Looking forward to the next chapter in the Book of Pat. Taking 2019 one day at a time.
The Bucket List is something that many people make when they are facing a difficult diagnosis. Things that one may see on a bucket list may include taking a trip, sky diving, learning to swim or skate, taking up a new hobby, seeing a live play or musical, catching up with old friends and spending more time with family. I would like to share the message below from an unknown author.
There are two days in every week
about which we should not worry,
Two days which should be kept free of fear and apprehension.
One of these days is YESTERDAY,
With its mistakes and cares,
Its faults and blunders,
Its aches and pains.
YESTERDAY has passed forever beyond our control.
All the money in the world cannot bring back YESTERDAY.
We cannot undo a single act we performed;
We cannot erase a single word we said.
YESTERDAY is gone.
The other day we should not worry about is TOMORROW
With its possible adversities, its burdens, its larger promise.
TOMORROW is also beyond our immediate control.
TOMORROW, the sun will rise,
Either in splendor or behind a mask of clouds,
But it will rise.
Until it does, we have no stake in TOMORROW
For it is as yet unborn.
This leaves only one day – TODAY.
Any man can fight the battles of just one day.
It is only when you and I add the burdens of those two awful eternities
– YESTERDAY and TOMORROW –
That we break down.
It is not the experience of TODAY that drives men mad.
It is remorse or bitterness for something which happened YESTERDAY
And the dread of what TOMORROW may bring.
Let us, therefore, live but ONE day at a time.
As Thanksgiving approaches, I realize how lucky I am to be here to celebrate with family and friends. Last year I had a cardio workup due to a strong family history of heart disease. Earlier this week I underwent an investigative angiogram to look at the condition of my heart as prior tests were inconclusive. To my dismay three serious blockages (99%, 90% and 70%) were discovered and repaired with stents. I had know idea I had been a time-bomb ready to go off at any given moment.
This has been a major AHA moment in my life. We are all on borrowed time in this world. I have taken so much for granted and have often had the mindset that if I don’t feel like to doing something today there will always be tomorrow. I encourage all of you to appreciate today – the sunrise, the air we breathe, the rain, the wind on your face, the beauty of nature, and of course the people who touch our lives along the journey of life. Every day is a gift. Cherish it! Tim McGraw’s song “Live Like You Were Dying” pretty much says it all!
Have you felt like you were on hamster wheel running, running, running and never resting? Well that can be a common scenario for many of us. Running between work commitments, family commitments, and in general “life” commitments can take its toll on our mental and physical well-being. Ask yourself “When was the last time I had fun”? or “When was the last time I did something for me”? As little as 15 to 30 minutes a day of “you” time can really help recharge our batteries and boost our coping skills with whatever life throws at us. Here are some ideas to help you relax.
Take a nice warm shower or bath.
Listen to some relaxing music.
Try some yoga stretches and breathing techniques.
Play some sports.
Go for a walk or run.
Read a good book.
Laugh. Watch a comedy show or even try Laughing Yoga.
Make a good home cooked meal.
Get a massage.
Spend some time in your garden.
Play with your pets.
Take you breaks when at work. Breaks can help to clear our minds. It is better to work smarter than longer.
Remember to put yourself on top of your list. If you sit at the bottom of the list you are likely to wake up one day with no “gas” in your tank. Self care can make you a happier and more productive person.
The weather in the GTA has been unusually cloudy for January and February. I have talked to many people who have been feeling tired and low on energy. The good news is that Family Day, February 20, 2017 is approaching. Although, it could be tempting to hibernate and snuggle in bed, pay computer games, read, or watch T.V., you may not be doing yourself a favour. Take advantage of the wonderful winter activities that are available in your community. Exercise is well-known to boost endorphins, our happy brain chemicals. Try tobogganing, snow tubing, skiing, skating, or going for a brisk winter walk or hike. There is beauty in nature, even on those cold, cloudy days. This morning, as I looked out my living room window, I saw 2 squirrels scurrying up and down a tree. Due to the mild winter, they are quite chubby this year and could almost be mistaken for small rabbits. This made be smile. An evergreen shrub outside the window is a refuge for a variety of birds and it is fun to watch them and listen to them sing. Do something kind for someone else. Many people are stricken with illnesses during the winter months. A warm meal, helping with their children, or a bouquet of flowers, could bring some light into someone else’s life. For those suffering with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), light therapy can help. These are special lights that simulate sunlight. There is an array of models that can be purchased/ordered through the medical supplies section of your pharmacy or online. Light therapy, usually done within the first 2 hours of waking, helps to regulate brain chemicals at the proper time of day to re-set our body clock. This helps with sleep. Light therapy has also been known to increase the neurotransmitter serotonin, necessary for a sense of well being.
It is the day after Halloween and the big promotion of holiday glitter and bling has already begun. Flyers with the latest “must-haves” appear at your door. Some stores already displayed their Christmas trees in early October. The Holiday Season can be very exciting for those who thrive on the stimulation of lights, celebrations, socializing, and of course shopping /gift exchanging. But this is not the case for all.
Many people with depression/anxiety/social anxiety find this time of year to be very challenging. Instead of bringing to light the good things in life, the Holiday Season often amplifies the things that aren’t so right in their life. Perhaps loneliness and isolation come more to the surface, especially for those who don’t have a strong network of family and friends. A person with an anxiety disorder may become overwhelmed by all of the expectations of the season. This is also a challenging time of year for people who have recently suffered a loss, for example a death of a loved one, a breakup of a significant relationship, or a serious health problem.
How can you make this Holiday Season more meaningful? Here are a few tips.
Instead of breaking the bank on gifts and facing the dreaded credit card bill in January, why not pick names and set a price limit for the gift exchange. If you are person who enjoys cooking, try getting a few friends together to make home made jams, pickles, preserves, or baking to give out as gifts. Fun can be enjoyed by all and nobody has to incur financial hardship. Simplify the Holiday gathering by doing pot-luck.
One of the more rewarding Holiday activities is to reach out to someone who is lonely or going through a difficult time. Many Seniors in retirement homes and nursing homes don’t receive many visitors. A cheerful visit and a simple gift like a box of chocolates or some nice teas could make their day! Volunteering with your family and friends at a food bank or soup kitchen can add some light into the life of someone who is struggling. Visit someone who is sick in hospital and add a little spark to their day.
A couple of years ago, I was skating at Gage Park before Christmas. The park was beautiful with lots of lights and decorations. As I turned a corner of the rink, I noticed a family giving out small gifts to people who skated by. Their family tradition was “Merry Christmas to a Stranger”. This little package of tea was one of the most “meaningful” gifts I have ever received. It represented the goodness of humanity.
Wishing you Love, Peace and Joy! Pass it on. These are the best gifts anyone can give or receive!
Traditional definitions of wealth associate it with money and assets. But does wealth equate to happiness? During life’s journey I have met a number of affluent people, who despite their wealth, felt they were missing something. When I was a teen, I travelled with my school band to another city. There I was billeted with a wealthy family. While having a lovely dinner in their elegant dining room the homeowner said to me, I am a poor man, I have nothing. I was confused by his comment as I could see so many riches around me. He clarified, I do not have my health. During the night the gentleman was rushed to hospital and I was moved to a different host family in the morning. This was my first lesson in what money can’t buy. The Beatles have had a major influence on people with their song lyrics. One in particular, “Can’t Buy Me Love” speaks to me. So now I see that money does not buy health or love.
There are many treasures in life that money can’t buy. I can think of few such as a new baby, a significant other, a sibling, a parent, a child, a good friend, or a loyal pet. Additionally, we have nature’s beauty all around us, wildlife, rivers and streams, mountains, fresh air, green grass, gardens and the splendour of the 4 seasons. Next time you are feeling “poor”, think of those who enrich your life with their love, laughter, and support. Take a quiet walk in the woods and breathe in the wonders of nature. You may find that you are richer than you think.
Pat Thacker is a Certified Mental Health First Aid instructor. With 15 years of experience delivering training and seminars in education, community service, and career enhancement, she brings passion and dedication to the classroom. Pat believes that teaching Mental Health First Aid is the best way to share the message that Everyone Matters.