Mental Health Month

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    by Amanda Niskala

    May is Mental Health Month, and how fitting because it is hectic this time of year! There is a lot happening, especially in schools. School is winding down, students are prepping for exams, graduation, spring sports are starting, the list goes on.

    How do you manage your time and your stress?  Sometimes the thought of adding something to your daily routine can cause more stress. Ironic isn’t it?  Here are some tips that do not require a lot of time and can be easily incorporated into even the busiest schedule.

    1. Practice mindfulness – Take time to stop and smell the roses. For example, when you are out for a walk or spending time with friends or family, turn off your cell phone and stop making that mental “to do” list. Be “present.” Take in all the sights, sounds and smells you encounter.

    2. Exercise – Regular physical activity improves psychological well-being and can reduce depression and anxiety. Joining an exercise group or a gym can also reduce loneliness, since it connects you with a new set of people sharing a common goal.

    3. Enjoy Hobbies – Taking up a hobby brings balance to your life by allowing you to do something you enjoy because you want to do it, free of the pressure of everyday tasks. It also keeps your brain active.

    4. Set SMART goals – Be SPECIFIC in what you want to achieve. Make the goal MEASURABLE, whether it’s number of pounds lost or how many pages done in the scrapbook. ACHIEVABLE goals don’t have to be ambitious, remember baby steps. Goals should be REALISTIC. Make the goal something you can do, losing 10 pounds in 2 weeks is not realistic. Finally, set a TIME frame for yourself. When will you complete this goal, how many times a day, week, month will you do each activity to achieve the goal? SMART goal example. I will walk three times a week for 20 minutes for two months.

    5. Keep a Journal – Writing down your thoughts and expressing yourself after a stressful day can help you gain perspective, release tension and even boost your body’s resistance to illness. In your journal, write down what you are grateful for in your life! When we are truly grateful for the life we have, problems don’t seem so BIG.

    6. Practice Random Acts of Kindness – Doing something nice for others is a “win-win” activity because helping others makes us feel good about ourselves. Open the door for others. Mow a neighbours grass. Smile. Go out and spread kindness – it’s contagious!

    7. Take care of yourself – Cook yourself a good, nutritious meal. Have a bubble bath. See a movie. Call a friend or relative you haven’t talked to in ages. Sit on a park bench and breathe in the fragrance of flowers and grass. Whatever it is, do it just for you.

    8. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff – Evaluate what you have control of in your life and what you don’t. We can’t control what others say to us, we can control our own reaction to what they say. Accepting the things we cannot change helps us let go of insignificant events in our lives. By doing this we practice forgiveness for ourselves and others.

    It may seem like there’s nothing you can do about the stress in your life. Bills won’t stop coming, there will never be more hours in the day, and your work and family responsibilities will always be demanding. However, you have a lot more control than you might think. In fact, the awareness that YOU are in control of your life is the foundation of stress management. Stress management is all about taking control- of your lifestyle, thoughts, emotions, and the way you react and deal with problems. No matter how hectic your life seems, there are steps you can take to relieve the pressure and regain control.

    Amanda Niskala is a Health Promotion Coordinator with Alberta Health Services and can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]

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