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Five mental health tips from Dr. Megan McElheran

For Bell Let’s Talk Day, we asked Dr. Megan McElheran to offer some tips for improving your mental health during uncertain times.

This past year has challenged Canadians on many levels. Social distancing guidelines, though necessary to reduce the spread of the virus, have challenged our basic need to connect with those around us, including our loved ones. The pandemic and necessary health response measures have also caused economic hardship and uncertainty. The need for helpful and compassionate conversations about mental health is as important as ever.

Here are five tips you can practice to strengthen your mental health.

  1. Slow down and tune in
    One of the best things we can do for ourselves at regular intervals throughout the day is to slow down and pay attention to what our bodies are telling us. Turning our attention inward can help us learn how things affect us in the moment, and can help us deeply understand our emotions and how they connect to reactions in our bodies.

  2. Get present
    When we experience periods of depression, we often regret things that have happened in the past. When we feel anxious and are worrying about things that could happen, we are living in the future. What we miss in the process is the present. If you can strengthen your ability to focus on the present, you might find that nothing is happening in the present moment that you need to fear or regret.

  3. Learn how to curate your thoughts
    Our minds are often on the go. The more stress we experience, the more our thoughts race and become catastrophic. If you notice that you’re starting to feel anxious, ask yourself if you have any tangible evidence to support what your mind is telling you. Often times we can trick ourselves into thinking that something is wrong, when instead, it’s our mind that has been racing. If we can learn to notice when this happens, and seek out the facts instead of the emotions, we may find that things aren’t as bad as they seem.

  4. Express yourself
    This can mean many different things, like expressing yourself through art or music. Sometimes it can be hard to articulate exactly what we are feeling, and we can find that release through a song or an instrumental or art piece. Art and music can help us therapeutically work through difficult emotions. It can lift our spirits with a hopeful message.

  5. Identify your values
    We all have a code we live by that is different from person to person, but that helps each of us figure out what our path through this life should be. Try to identify the two to three most important values in your life and seek to make decisions every day that are consistent with these values. Doing this can be helpful for times when we have strayed from our values and we are struggling. Reconnecting with the things that are most important in our lives helps us feel that life has meaning and purpose.