ONE STEP AT A TIME
We tend to think of life in terms of winning and losing. It’s all around us – our favorite hockey team wins or loses the Stanley Cup, the movie we’ve worked on wins or tanks depending upon the reviews, we win or lose money we’ve invested in the stock market, or someone at work gets a promotion and we don’t.
“Winning” at mental health has nothing to do with competition. In fact, we want you to let go of any idea we’re in a race when it comes to our mental well-being.
Each one of us is responsible for taking care of our mental health, at work and at home. It’s important to understand that the journey to a healthy mind fits along a Mental Health Continuum or in stages.
Where do you currently fit on the continuum? Where have you been at your highest point in life and where have you been at your lowest?
Wherever you are or have been on the continuum, there are steps to take to make sure you are working on your mental health each day. Taking one step at a time and putting one foot forward, makes all the difference in how you feel and how you show up at work and at home.
Take these steps and answer the questions below to increase your mental health and wellbeing at each stage on the continuum:
STAGE 1: HEALTH
The first stage is about balance and practicing healthy habits until they become second nature.
Recognize the habits you practice on a regular basis that support your mental health. Do you take naps when needed, exercise regularly, or limit alcohol consumption? What else?
Break issues into manageable, bite-sized pieces to make problem-solving easier.
Stay connected with people who you trust and support you. Even when work feels overwhelming, taking 5 minutes to chat with a trusted colleague, partner or friend helps you stay grounded.
STAGE 2: REACTING
Reacting to stress and overwhelm means we might find ourselves not getting a full night’s sleep, eating more junk food or drinking/drugging more than is good for us. We might find ourselves slacking off on our self-care habits and practices that do a good job of keeping us healthier, mentally and physically.
Recognize your limits. Talk with your partner, a close friend and/or your supervisor about how you’re feeling and what’s going on for you. If time off isn’t an option right away, what other things can you do to start feeling better? Examples might be to choose healthier snacks while on set, reduce social media time so you can relax, aim to take active breaks during the day, etc.
Ask for help before things get out of hand. Don’t stand in your own way – reach out to a counsellor or your EAP as a preventative measure.
Don’t let problems fester. Take a step back so you can recognize them clearly and create a plan of action. Who do you need to talk to, what steps do you need to take to move forward, how much time do you need to figure it all out?
STAGE 3: INJURED
If you’ve ever been at this stage on the Mental Health Continuum, you know it’s one to pay attention to and take seriously. At this stage, life seems difficult, more than usual! Feelings of anger, anxiety, stress, sadness, hopelessness might be running the show, you might not be sleeping, or you find yourself binge eating or drinking – life feels like it’s spinning out of control.
1. Get help! There’s no shame in reaching out and asking for support. Choose a friend who can help you get back to healthy habits, someone who won’t let you off the hook or give up on yourself! Reach out to a counsellor (EAP) who’s trained to help you sort through the confusion and overwhelm – you won’t regret it! Talk with your supervisor – they can’t help you at work unless you talk about what you need.
2. Reconnect with yourself. At this stage, we can become disconnected from our inner voice that keeps us on track with self-care. We can become lost in the feelings and thoughts that take us away from who we want to be. A remedy: a few minutes of steady, paced breathing will bring you back into your body so you can focus on what you need to do differently!
3. Would you talk to a friend the way you talk to yourself? Our words matter, especially the ones we say to ourselves. Write down all your negative thoughts in a private place like a journal. Replace them with more positive thoughts. For example, replace “I can never do anything right” with “Sometimes I make mistakes – I can learn and grow from them!” Changing your thoughts changes how you feel. Take these steps and you’ll begin to shift how you feel.
STAGE 4: ILL OR ILLNESS
The final stage on the Mental Health Continuum is the most serious. All of us at this stage require help and support. Anxiety, depression, panic attacks, suicidal thoughts, withdrawal from others, and problematic substance use are all telltale signs of illness.
If you have never had mental health or substance use treatment, now is the time! If you are already connected to mental health or addiction services, it’s time to reconnect and get help.
Not sure where to go or what to do? Reach out to your EAP and with a few questions, an intake counsellor will get you set up with counselling services and recommend resources, including those needed for dealing with problematic substance use. If you need more support than what the EAP can offer, a referral can be made for longer-term counselling, addiction and mental health support.
Make an appointment with your physician who can work with you to manage any medications you might be on.
Don’t wait to get help if your safety or someone else’s is at risk. Emergency services (911, Hospital, Ambulance, Crisis Line etc.) are there to help and set up for when there’s an immediate need. Reach out to a friend who can make calls with you and let your supervisor know you’re taking care of your issues.
Don’t let anyone ever tell you you’re not worthy of getting the support you need – we believe you are. We understand that mental health grows when we take one step at a time, when we put one foot in front of the other and when we never give up.
There’s no time like the present to take that step and look after your Mental Health!