Posted by Jessica Zeyl on January 16, 2021
Bell Let’s Talk is an initiative to help raise awareness about mental health. This year, Bell Let’s Talk will take place on Thursday, January 28th and encourages folks to be conscious of their language, educate themselves, be kind, listen and ask to those struggling and to talk about it.
We asked therapists at the Toronto Counselling Centre for Teens some conversation starting questions about mental health and here is what they said.
Sometimes I think as a society we equate good mental health to ‘being happy’ – that we are rarely upset, things don’t bother us, that we can manage our problems without needing help, and can function effectively and consistently in our day-to-day life.
To me, this is a pretty high expectation and a rather inaccurate description of good mental health. Life hands us a range of experiences – joyous moments, bland grey days, and life-altering upheavals (pandemic anyone?).
I think good mental health means we can recognize when things are getting tough, we can acknowledge the emotions that go along with those experiences, or ‘feel the feels’ as I like to say. It means we can give ourselves permission to have hard days, be compassionate to our personal needs, and reach out for help when we need it.
Good mental health is so important to strive for. When we have it, it’s the most free and ourselves we’ll feel internally. We won’t be clouded by fear, depression, anxiety, self doubt or self judgement. We’ll just be the person we were always meant to be.
Even those of us in the counselling profession are not immune to challenges with mental health, perhaps even more so right now with everything that’s going on in the world. In order to help others, we have to take care of ourselves – to make sure we put that oxygen mask on so we can help someone else do the same! Here are a few specific ways I take care of my mental health:
Lots of walks! I am fortunate to have a dog to keep me company and force me to get out a few times a day for some exercise and socialization with other dog-owners
I pay attention to my sleep schedule – it’s easy to fall into the cycle of late-night bedtimes and lazy mornings when working from home. I find I feel much better when I maintain a proper sleep-wake routine on weekdays.
I make time for some personal projects – perhaps it’s working on a photo album, reading or listening to a book, or watching a series I enjoy
Day-to-day I try to tune out the big picture of what’s happening right now, but sometimes it does hit. When it does, I acknowledge how overwhelming it feels in that moment. These are likely the times I reach out to a family member or friend to talk, which helps to validate the emotional experience and get me back on track.
This is a good question. First of all, we live in a busy community and city. Many of us have a lot of responsibilities. I’m now in the “sandwich generation” which means I’m working full-time and looking after both an older generation and a younger generation. So it isn’t always easy to find the right balance with taking care of our own mental health.
Everyone has their own unique needs with mental health. For me, I need my own therapy, exercise, good nutrition, enough sleep and connection with others. Sometimes I need to combine them to get close to fitting them in. For example, I’ll go for walks with friends so I get connection with someone and exercise at the same time. Since before covid, I was already doing groceries online and picking them up at the store to get good nutrition but to still save time. It’s hard for me to get enough sleep. My partner and kids are often gracious enough to let me sleep in on Saturdays just to catch up. They also know that when I’m well slept, I’m happy and they like a happy me.
I see you, I care about you, and I care about your suffering and pain. What you feel is valid, it is real, and it is worthy- it is worthy. You are worthy, and you are deserving of care and compassion.
Since I work primarily with children and teens, I know that their struggles with mental health can feel very lonely and sometimes frightening. Oftentimes, they think they’re the only one that has ever gone through what they’re going through. When we validate the experience and tell them they’re not alone, teens often express a sense of relief and hope for moving forward.
It’s perhaps also important that if we are going to offer support to someone, we offer specifics. With the best of intentions, we often say ‘let me know if or how I can help’. That person might not know how to tell you what they need or when they need it. How about letting them know you’re going to call them in 1 hour, or that you’re headed to the store and will pick up a few groceries for them? Maybe you’ll share an article you’ve found after doing a bit of research yourself, or text them the phone number to a specific helpline.
Finally, even if some time passes and the person appears to be doing better, keep that door for conversation open – you might ask, “I know we talked last week about how things were difficult for you right now, how’ve you been this week?” Sometimes it’s really hard for people that need help to open that door themselves, but if someone else opens it even just a little – they will often walk through it!
Have hope. Most people experience this for a season and recover. If that’s not you and this does end up being a life-long struggle for you, there are ways of managing it and living a great, satisfying, healthy and happy life.
I know I’m not alone in saying my answer to this question today is slightly different, and involves a lot more creativity, than it would have one year ago. Genuine connection and conversation with my people; Self-Compassion practices; Movement, in whatever form my body desires; Meditation; Cooking and enjoying nourishing meals; Play- literally anything that makes me laugh, smile, or be creative.
I’m biased. I’m a therapist. So I would start with therapy. I’d recommend they see a therapist I know from the community or someone on this team.
Naturopathic doctors and Registered Dietitians can help a tremendous amount with mental health. We have a registered dietitian on our team and I know a great ND in the community.
I’d also want to make sure they were connecting with others as much as they are able to. We’re not meant to experience this life alone.
– Jessica Zeyl, RP
The Toronto Counselling Centre for Teens is offering online therapy, and in-person therapy for those whom online or over the phone is not an option.
If you are in an adult exploring the idea of therapy for yourself, please visit us over at Jessica Zeyl Psychotherapy and Associates.
All consultation calls are confidential and commitment free. If we believe you need help that we are not equipped to provide we are happy to refer you.
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