Discussing Mental Health

On Thursday morning, I attended an in-house course called, “Resilience at Work.” It was a course recommended to me by my supervisor, and with the amount of work and short-handedness these past few weeks, I thought I would give it a go.

The course turned out to be about Mental Health:  Why it is important, the difference between signs and symptoms, and five coping mechanisms.

I believe we are all familiar with some of the material covered in the course. This was illustrated by the questions, which the instructor posed to the twenty or thirty people in attendance. We could all spot the signs of mental wellness vs mental illness, before even discussing the topic.

At one time, it was believed that if one was well one were good to go, but if one were sick, then one never got better. Today, it is known that there are four phases (stages) and that we continuously moved back and forth throughout our lives. These four phases are: well, reacting, injured, or hurt.

Mental health continuum-mobile

As some of you who have read my blog know, I have been in the ill phase. It was my early twenties and I hit rock bottom. I was suicidal, and I was crying for help. Eventually, I got it, but I did not do it on my own. It was not an easy road, but I did more than just survived. I have been there, and I am not ashamed to admit it. We must eliminate the stigma of mental illness (another topic discussed in this course – and why I am writing about it today).

Today, I am mostly in the green “Healthy stage”, but when I am stressed, then I find myself in the yellow “Reacting stage.” Occasionally, I will find myself in the orange “Injured stage,” and on very rare occasions I realize I am in the red “Ill stage” (although it may take me a week or two before I become conscious of this).

I have coping mechanisms for the orange or red stage on the off chance that I realize that I have slipped into one of these zones, but as I said, “I don’t realize this until about a week, or so.” The trick is to do the opposite of how I feel. I usually just want to stay in and to sleep; to recover, I will do the opposite of how I feel; namely, to get up, get dressed and go out, and socialize. I usually snap out of it in a day or two.

In this course, I have learned five coping mechanisms which work to help get one back into the green zone: Self-care, Self-talk, Goal Setting, Visualization, and Breathing.

Self-care¹:

  • Avoid drugs and alcohol. Alcohol and illegal drugs can make you feel less inhibited and more likely to engage in behaviour that may be dangerous to you. The other side effects often impact the ability to learn and remember.
  • Maintain a good social network. Family and friends can be important supports.
  • Use the supports available. Your educational setting likely has staff who are available to discuss issues with you. Often there are extensive supports that can really promote your mental health and academic success. Reach out; they are there to assist you in any way possible.
  • Get as active as possible. Physical activity can reduce stress and depression. Even a walk or jog can help, especially if it’s out of doors. It doesn’t have to be long, 20 minutes is something most people can squeeze into busy days.
  • Eat a balanced diet. Foods contain important nutrients that support learning, memory, and a positive outlook. Try to select healthy choices, even in a busy schedule.
  • Develop good sleep habits. Research shows that a regular schedule with at least 7 hours of sleep each night is important for good health. During this time your body repairs damage caused by life and helps promote physical and emotional health.

Self talk²:

It is not an event that leads to our emotions and behaviour

but rather our thoughts about this event. The key to self-

talk is to make the messages positive rather than negative.

  • Become aware of self talk
  • Stop the negative; replace with positive
  • Use key words:
  • Focus. Persist. Overcome. Confident.

Goal setting:

Goals provide direction, feedback, and motivation. A goal

should be out of reach, but not out of sight. Break goals into

smaller chunks, take action, evaluate progress.

Visualization/Mental rehearsal:

Mental rehearsal involves mentally preparing yourself for the

“what ifs”. This is not about being negative and becoming

overwhelmed, rather it is predicting possible problems and

working out a solution in advance.

Breathing:

  • The Rule of 4’s
  • Inhale to count of 4
  • Exhale to count of 4
  • Repeat for 4 minutes

I consider these five coping-mechanism to be tools in my toolbox, which I can turn to, to help me cope and to return to the green zone in times of stress, or depression.

We all times of stress that we cannot prevent because of our responsibilities at work, or at home. Some people cope with these stresses better than others. Still others, like myself, have issues with self-esteem or depression. I turn to my tricks, and I will try to implement some of these new tools to help me stay in the green, and to aid in the realization for those times I am not in the green zone.

A heavy topic, I know, but one that needs to be discussed.
—Robert Confiant 15 April 2018

Footnotes:
1. Bridging the Distance, Peer support. You have a role in prevention & peer assistance. http://www.bridgingthedistance.com/pages/peer.html
2. National Defence, Road to Mental Readiness, http://www.forces.gc.ca/assets/FORCES_Internet/docs/en/caf-community-health-services-r2mr/r2mr-aide-memoire.pdf

 

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