Since the beginning of the pandemic, the mental health and wellbeing of many in Niagara have suffered. Still, fortunately, the pandemic has shifted the conversation around the topic of anxiety and depression. The social stigmas that once existed are starting to lessen. While the strain on health services has never been greater, we can take some steps at home to improve our wellness and make small steps in changing our outlook.
According to BrainHQ, "exercise affects the brain on multiple fronts. It increases heart rate, which pumps more oxygen to the brain. It also aids the bodily release of a plethora of hormones, all of which participate in aiding and providing a nourishing environment for the growth of brain cells." Staying active is as good for the brain as it is for the body! Regular exercise or activity can significantly impact your mental and emotional health, relieve stress, improve memory, and help you sleep better.
BrainHQ continues, "exercise stimulates the brain plasticity by stimulating growth of new connections between cells in a wide array of important cortical areas of the brain." Research from UCLA has demonstrated that exercise increased growth factors in the brain - making it easier for the brain to grow new neuronal connections. From a behavioural perspective, the same antidepressant-like effects associated with "runner's high" found in humans are associated with a drop in stress hormones.
Don't Skimp on Sleep
From Harvard Medical School, "sleep and mental health are closely connected. Sleep deprivation affects your psychological state and mental health." So, as you can see, sleep matters more than you think. Studies in both adults and children suggest that sleep problems may raise the risk for, and even directly contribute to, the development of some psychiatric disorders. One way to get sleep better tonight is to take a break from the stimulation of screens - your TV, phones, tablets or computers — in the two hours before your usual bedtime. The light emitted from these types of devices fools your brain into believing that it is daytime and can interrupt your normal circadian rhythm.
To learn more about sleep disorders, visit: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/12115-circadian-rhythm-disorders
Make Leisure and Contemplation a Priority
Leisure time is a necessity for emotional and mental health. Take some time to relax, contemplate, and pay attention to the positive things as you go about your day — even the tiny things. Write them down if you can, because they can be easy to forget. Then you can reflect on them later if your mood requires a boost.
One way to break through the glass wall that sometimes cages us all in is to pause and take a moment to recognize where we are and to be in the moment, present. This is called "mindfulness." For some really great mindfulness activities, I suggest visiting Anxiety Canada for some stress-reducing activities. https://www.anxietycanada.com/articles/mindfulness-exercises/
Talk to Someone
Talk to a friendly face. Unfortunately, most of us are restricted to working from home and only go out for essential trips to the store, etc. Our visits with friends and extended family have been limited to protect ourselves and our loved ones.
Of course, in-person social interaction with someone who cares is one of the most effective ways to calm your nervous system and relieve stress.
Still, in place of those types of gatherings, we can use free services like Facebook's free messenger apps, Zoom, Skype, and Facetime (for Apple users). We must stay close to those we care about.
Get Help if You Need It
If you or a loved one needs support, there are many programs and available resources. Here is a list of local resources in the Niagara area that anyone can access.
- Distress Centre (Operates 24/7) St. Catharines residents call, 905-688-3711
- Crisis Outreach and Support Team (COAST) (Operates 24/7) They have a Mobile Crisis Team. 1-866-550-5205 (ext.1)
- "Session-at-a-Time" (Walk-in, in-person available) Tuesdays 11:30AM to 5:30PM (Call 905-641-5222 to book an appointment). 264 Welland Ave., St. Catharines.
More information about COAST and "Session-at-a-Time" can be found here: https://niagara.cmha.ca/
Additional programs, information, and referrals can be obtained by calling (toll-free) 211 from any phone or mobile device.