By Dan Neuls, Clinician at Eastside Family Centre
For some, January can be a month for new starts, clean slates and renewal. However, it can also be a month of overwhelming, negative emotions like anxiety, sadness or fear. Regardless of the reasons you might be feeling down or overwhelmed here are a few things to help keep your spirits up.
- Sunlight – Simply put, in Alberta we have more sunshine than most places in the world but less opportunity to take in its rays (how many times have you driven to and from work in the dark?). Finding time during the daylight hours to get outside can provide a breath of fresh air, a break from stress, and other sun-related health benefits. For those that cannot get out enough it might be useful to talk to your doctor about Vitamin D supplements.
- Exercise – I know it almost seems cliché to say at this point, but if you are feeling down go for a walk. There is increasing evidence that suggests that any type of exercise can improve mood and overall health. A short walk can do the trick. If you are thinking about doing something more intense make sure that you consult with doctor first.
- Nutrition – If you are anything like me there are weeks in December and January where healthy eating takes a back seat to holiday treats… something that can have a dramatic impact on health in January. January is often the month of resolutions. We want to change our diet and hit the gym. Diets can have fantastic results and a positive impact on our mental health, though they are not always what we need. Good nutrition can be an important factor in creating good mental health. A simple place to start is the Canada Food Guide and its suggestions for healthier recipes.
- Regular routine – When feeling a little down or overwhelmed, it can be difficult to find the motivation to get back to a regular routine. Sometimes action has to precede motivation, which is why it might be a good idea to make a routine schedule, sharing it with others to keep you on the right path. If you’re really struggling, restarting or re-establishing old routines might be the best place to start.
- Set realistic goals – I like to think of this as the “Life is like IKEA furniture” part of feeling better… The instructions are not always easy to understand but if you take it one step at a time you will get there… We are not necessarily talking about “resolutions” but rather realistic, achievable goals. These kinds of goals can be both motivating and provide a sense of accomplishment. It does not matter if those goals are health or work related. Just make your decisions and remember to pace…your…self.
- Connection – It never ceases to amaze me just how powerful relationships are in creating both significant distress and incredible joy. When we are feeling down or overwhelmed it can be useful to connect to the people who, sometimes just by their presence, give us a sense of relief. Try picking up the phone and calling that person who makes you smile and make a time to get together.
I know that many of these tips appear to be common sense. I also know that for many people these common sense ideas will not be enough. Although it is normal to feel the “blues” from time to time and most people start to feel better fairly quickly, for others the blues can turn into something more serious. Here are some things to consider if you are wondering if you should ask for help. If you are experiencing the following for the better part of the day every day for at least two weeks then it might be time to get some help. You can also go through this check list on line at www.DepressionHurts.ca .
- Sadness most of the day, nearly every day
- Loss of interest in or enjoyment of favourite activities
- Persistent feelings/thoughts of worthlessness
- Excessive or inappropriate feelings of guilt
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Trouble making decisions
- Trouble concentrating
- Feelings of irritability
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- Aches and pains (such as headaches, stomach pain, joint pains or other pains)
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Change in appetite or weight
- Feelings of restlessness or being slowed down
If you are experiencing any of these things then there are many resources available to you from Wood’s Homes.
Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your friends, family and community – let’s work together!
Wood’s Homes is a nationally accredited mental health centre – proudly helping communities for over 100 years. Learn more at woodshomes.ca.