Mental Health During Times of Stress

One of the most difficult challenges adults who have been impacted by sexual violence have is feeling safe and in control. Can you relate?  Here’s how you can improve the impact these uncontrollable times will have on your mental health and how you can support those around you.

Watch for the signs of depression and anxiety

With no exception, everyone is subject to experiencing depression and anxiety – there is no vaccine for these conditions. Situations such as isolation, loss of a job and for many of our program participants, past and present traumatic experiences can trigger these unwanted mental health conditions.

Depression & anxiety can sneak up on you or someone you care about.  By identifying the signs you can take action.  

Symptoms of depression & anxiety can include:  

  • Trouble concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Physical, emotional and mental fatigue
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and helplessness
  • A negative outlook and hopelessness
  • Troubles sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Irritability & Restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities you once found pleasurable
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Feelings of being physically well without any cause (headaches, body aches, muscle tension).
  • Digestion problems
  • Persistent sadness anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts

Take action to improve depression and anxiety

Anxiety and depression may be a short term response to undesirable circumstances; can be a chemical imbalance, which requires medication; or can be a sign of something more complex and chronic such as PTSD. Regardless of the cause and degree of the condition there are steps you can take today to improve your symptoms.

Take care of yourself – understand that your well being is your greatest priority, otherwise you can not be there for others. Be intentional and treat yourself like you care about yourself.

Exercise – it’s no surprise that exercise is critical to your overall health. The fact is; exercise releases chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that improve your mood. It’s like having a natural antidepressant. It increases the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain which can help you think more clearly and improves the connections between the nerve cells in your brain, improving your problem solving abilities, emotions and creativity.

Healthy eating – eating foods rich in vitamin and mineral; especially brain boosting B, C, D vitamins, magnesium and omega 3 fats; boosting memory, nerve connectivity, and the production and release of chemicals and hormones designed to help you feel and function better.

  • Be kind to yourself and others – kind words and gestures such as a Facetime with a friend, picking up neighbours groceries or dropping off freshly baked cookies; produce actual mood boosting chemicals such as oxytocin – producing a feeling of well being. Be empathetic to others, also, know when you need a break from being the sounding board and implement healthy boundaries.
  • Focus on what you can do and can control today and except that we are not in control of everything and everyone and never where. By accomplishing something, even if it’s small, your body will reward you with the release of dopamine – the “feel good” neurotransmitter. Even making your bed can have this result.

Be mindful and present in the moment – Consider learning to meditate or do yoga. Enjoy that morning coffee, listen to the birds. Recognize and embrace simple pleasures. The practise of mediation has been known to shrink the amygdala (the fear producing  fight or flight areas of the brain), thus reducing anxious feelings. 

Don’t be afraid to seek out help

For the very same reasons you see your doctor when you are sick or hire a personal trainer to get fit. If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, anxiety or any other mental condition, there are an abundance of resources available online and wise and compassionate therapists who want to help. 

By Sherry Slejska, CM

Mental Health Advocate & Communicator

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