Caring for Ourselves: Self-Care Can Improve Mental Health
Published Tuesday, March 24, 2020
1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental health concern within their lifetime. Kristine Lake, Psychologist at Thunder Bay Regional Health Science Centre, spoke at this month’s Healthy Get Together, on caring for ourselves and shared her expertise on ways we can help our mental health.
By Amanda Walberg, Prevention and Screening Services
Along with the words ‘mental health’, often comes a stigma of weakness, uncontrollability and negativity. In recent years, many organizations and individuals have been working to end this stigma and normalize mental health concerns. “We now understand that mental health concerns are very common and that there are things we can do to provide effective help and support,” states Kristine Lake, Psychologist at Thunder Bay Regional Health Science Centre.
1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental health concern or illness in their lifetime. Mental health issues vary in type and severity, and there are always things you can be doing to improve the mental health of you and your loved ones.
Kristine recently spoke about mental health and caring for ourselves at our Hospital’s Healthy Get-Together, a speaker series aimed at improving overall health. She shared her expertise and touched on many excellent ways in which we can take care of ourselves when mental health concerns arise.
Specifically, Kristine focused on self-care as a way to improve our personal mental health. This can include: restful sleep, healthy eating, regular exercise and making time for the hobbies you enjoy. It can also include mindfulness.
Mindfulness has become a very popular practice with the evolution of normalizing mental health concerns. The practice of mindfulness can involve something as simple as observing your thoughts, breathing and bodily sensations. This method of focusing our attention can bring us more fully into the present moment and away from our worries and ruminations. Mindfulness can be done formally in sessions, or informally at home, making it accessible for anyone. We can do anything mindfully just by bringing our full attention to it.
There are many other ways that we can take care of ourselves on a daily basis. Psychotherapy is commonly used when treating mental health issues. Kristine specifically focused on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) during the Healthy Get-Together session. She shared many techniques within CBT and expanded on their benefits.
Kristine also stated that “CBT helps us to identify and address thoughts, beliefs, and behaviours that may be causing us some problems. As humans we are designed to think negatively and it is important as a human to know that.” Various techniques and concepts are involved with psychotherapy, such as Radical Acceptance from Dialectical Behaviour Therapy and Nourishing vs. Depleting Activities from Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy. These are techniques within cognitive behavior therapy that can treat your anxiety and stresses in a variety of ways. You can find out more information on these techniques by viewing Kristine’s Healthy Get-Together online at: bit.ly/healthygettogether.
As Kristine states, “Self-care does not look the same for everybody. It is important to find what works for you.” She also encourages us to be gentle with ourselves and to appreciate when we are doing the best that we can. “Self-care can be a challenge, particularly when we are faced with distressing environments and circumstances that are beyond our control.” Kristine wants us to remember that self-care alone, while important, is not always enough. That, in addition to caring for ourselves, we also need to care for each other including our family, friends, colleagues, employees and anyone else who might need our support. This is best done together, as a community, through genuine concern, support and advocacy.
For more information about self-care or to watch Kristine Lake’s presentation, ‘Caring for Ourselves: A Path to Mental Health’, visit: bit.ly/healthygettogether.
If you want to give mindfulness a try, visit: www.tbrhsc.net/relax. This link includes three relaxation videos, 5 minutes, 15 minutes and 30 minutes.