If you are feeling exhausted and numb these days, you are not alone.
Many of us are entering the new year with some degree of heightened anxiety. Over 33% of Canadians - particularly the vulnerable such as new mothers, the unemployed, and those with physical impairments, mental health disorders, or substance dependency - are dealing with food insecurity. 1 in 2 Canadians are experiencing some level of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and 1 in 10 are dealing with a mental health disorder and need support but are not accessing it (source).
With these reporting numbers, it’s not surprising to know that two-fifths of Canadians are actively thinking about their mental health but not talking about it, and a third of us are thinking about the mental health of others at least a few times a week (source).
These statistics are incredibly alarming, showing how many of us across Canada are struggling with mental health. In addition, the rising cost of living and ongoing conversations about an impending recession is more than enough to leave people anxious, scared, and uncertain about the future.
This year, the Bell Let’s Talk campaign reports that 1 in 4 Canadians are experiencing high levels of anxiety, 1 in 2 Canadians are not receiving the mental health support they need, and more than 200 Canadians will attempt suicide daily - twelve will die every day.
Anxiety about how life will look like in the future is a reality and a stressor that many of us face on a daily basis. No matter how helpless you may feel, there are coping mechanisms that help us better deal with the uncertainty and negative feelings that many of us are going through.
Taking care of your mental health and focusing on things that bring you joy won’t make the large-scale issues disappear, but it can improve your daily happiness and outlook on life. Taking the time to incorporate mini self-care and mindset rituals will help process these difficult emotions in healthy ways and make progress towards a more positive mindset.
Here are 7 tips you can try out:
1. Focus on what you can control
No matter what situation you are in, there are still some things that you can control. For example, recognizing and practicing gratitude for the small things, such as having a roof over your head, food in your belly, and people around you that you love.
Recognizing the small blessings in your life will give you a better perspective of the things you do have right now versus what you do not, and also provides a greater sense of control in your life while avoiding the feeling of being overwhelmed by the larger picture of things.
Focusing in on things we can control can soothe our anxiety by being practical about how we exert our power. Instead of worrying aimlessly, it prompts us to become actively involved in how our experience of everyday life is.
2. Be Present
When you fully focus on the present, you don’t worry as much. Don’t try to predict what may happen, and don’t let yourself think of everything that could go wrong. Instead, connect to and appreciate the present moment.
Meditation is such a widespread practice because it is a powerful tool to practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness grounds us by returning our thoughts and emotions to the present moment rather than letting it drift off into the past or future, which can induce anxiety or depression.
If you feel especially anxious, try this practice to ground yourself back to the present moment:
5 things you can see
4 things you can feel (your feet against the floor, palms against the table etc.)
3 things you can hear
2 things you can smell
1 thing you can taste (you can leave your spot to find something to savour)
3. Take Care of Your Well-Being
Taking care of your mental and physical well-being means you are more capable to deal with what life throws at you. This includes:
Exercise - try to move a little bit every day
Get enough sleep
Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Do your best to avoid sugary or processed foods
Spend time outdoors
Do activities you enjoy that help you relax
4. Eliminate Your Triggers
Do you know what your triggers are? Are you able to avoid or reduce those triggers so that you can worry less?
For example, limiting your time on social media might help you feel more optimistic about your life and reduce comparisons.
5. Reflect on Your Need for Certainty
As much as we’d like to, we can never control absolutely everything in our lives. Change is the only constant part of life, and no matter how much we plan and prepare, unexpected events can still happen.
Dealing with change is difficult, even if the change is for the better. It’s okay to feel sad about it and mourn the way things were.
Some of us may avoid or fight against changes that are inevitable that we have no control over. To cope with change, try to reframe your thinking and see the positives.
Unexpected events aren’t always a bad thing - good things can happen out of the blue too! Have you ever met someone unexpectedly that turned out to become one of your nearest and dearest? Have you stumbled upon a fun, memorable experience when you least expected it?
You can answer these questions to challenge your need for certainty and reflect on the coping mechanism that you already use.
What are some good things about uncertainty?
In the past, did things turn out well even though you were not certain about what would happen?
What did you do to cope if things did not turn out okay?
Can you use those coping strategies again?
6. Learn to Tolerate Change and Uncertainty
If you feel ready, you can try to build your tolerance for change and uncertainty slowly. Start with something that gives you just a little bit of anxiety.
For example, you might always feel the need to drink in social situations to ease your nerves. Challenge yourself to drink less, or put off your first drink for at least 1 hour into the gathering, or try to avoid drinking completely.
Afterwards, reflect on your experience:
How did you feel?
What happened? Did everything turn out okay?
What did you do if things did not go as you expected?
When you keep practicing, in time, you may notice that things that once caused you anxiety have become much easier to handle and that your tolerance for the unexpected has grown.
7. Do Not Hesitate to Seek Professional Help
Mental health is something that everyone should be paying attention to. If your anxiety is more than just passing feelings for you, a mental health therapist can help identify your coping mechanisms for you.
Counseling may feel like a big step to take, but please know that many people turn to professional help each year. It’s okay to feel nervous at your first session. Counseling is a great way to help you think more clearly and work through your thoughts and feelings when you feel stuck.
If you feel ready for professional support, FSEAP’s Counseling, Guided iCBT Program, and Work/Life Balance Support services can help.