It’s Time For A Pep Talk

Got a bad case of the winter “blahs”? With all the cold weather and grey slush surrounding us, the winter months can seem like a pretty miserable time. For a while, all I wanted to do was stay curled up in a warm bed. But over the past month or so, I’ve been working hard to try and stick to my new year’s resolution and get UP and MOVING.

I’m proud to say I’ve done pretty well so far. I do cardio/weight training twice a week, and quick yoga sessions whenever I can. I’m only working part-time at Toronto General Hospital, but on the days I am working I make every effort to walk to/from Union Station in order to get to the hospital. This takes me about half an hour, each way. Despite the mind-numbing, teeth-chattering cold that hit us last week, I still forced myself to walk to Union. And guess what.. it felt great!

In fact, I’ve been feeling so great that I woke up at 5am yesterday to squeeze in a quick cardio workout before leaving for work. For me, this is pretty impressive since I am FAR from a morning person. I plan on making this a more regular occurrence, because I found I had SO much more energy throughout the day. I didn’t crave coffee once, and I usually drink one cup first thing in the morning on the days I have to wake up early for work. Instead, I spent the day sipping on cups of steaming hot peppermint tea (so delicious – and so many health benefits!).

If the winter months have you feeling like you’re in a bit of a rut, or you’re just having a bad day and need a little pick-me-up, I think it’s time for a pep talk. My mom forwarded me this video earlier today and it brought a smile to my face. I hope it inspires you and makes you smile too!

Be Well xo

The Movember Movement

It’s everyone’s favourite time of the year.. Movember! For those of you that have never heard of Movember, this initiative encourages men to sport a moustache for the month of November and raise funds to support men’s health, specifically for prostate cancer and mental health.

Now, normally I don’t mind when guys have a bit of facial hair, but when Movember comes around I have to admit… sometimes people have a tendency to look downright creepy. Sorry fellas, but not everyone suits a ‘stache.

That being said, Movember is still a great cause and I especially appreciate the fact that it seeks to raise awareness about men’s mental health. For those of you that read my blog regularly, you will know that mental health is something I feel very passionately about. In fact, one of the first blog posts I ever did discussed Bell’s ‘Let’s Talk’ mental health initiative.

If you’re curious to know why we should be raising more awareness about mental health, here are a few statistics that might help shed some light on the topic (source: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health):

  • 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime
  • 10% of Canadian men experience mental health symptoms
  • Men are four times more likely than women to commit suicide
  • Mental illness is estimated to cost the Canadian economy more than $51 billion
  • Only one-third of those who need mental health services in Canada actually receive them

This last statistic is particularly troubling. Stigma can be a significant reason why people fail to seek help. This is why raising awareness about mental health is so important – the stigma can only be reduced once people start to gain a greater understanding of mental health issues.

So, although I’m not a dude, I can still support my “Mo Bros” and take a stand against stigma by sporting my own ‘stache. I hope others will do the same! :)

Be Well xo

Check out my latest guest blog for UHN. How do YOU like to exercise your mental health?

Living Well @ UHN

It’s Mental Health Weekfor the Canadian Mental Health Association!

We all know that staying physically active and eating well are important aspects of healthy living. However, exercising our mental health can be JUST as important! Managing stress can be a large component of staying healthy, especially considering stress has been determined to be a contributing factor to a majority of illnesses.

Check out these simple ways to practice mental fitness, courtesy of the Canadian Mental Health Association:

  • Learn how to cope with negative thoughts: Don’t let that negative self-talk take over! Try to distract yourself or seek comfort elsewhere if you can’t solve a problem right away. Try seeing the issue from all sides rather than from just one point of view.
  • Be in the present: Stop and smell those roses! Try to rid yourself of any distractions and focus your awareness on the “here-and-now”.
  • “Collect” positive emotional moments

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Taking A Stand Against Stigma

No Meatless Monday recipe tonight, folks! It’s Mental Health Week for the Canadian Mental Health Association!

As some of you may already know, I am very interested in mental health and raising awareness about the stigma surrounding mental illness (perhaps you remember my very first post about Bell’s Let’s Talk Day). It amazes me sometimes what poor attitudes and perceptions people can have towards those coping with mental health issues – even if it’s a close friend, loved one or relative. One can still be mentally healthy while coping with a mental illness, just as one can be mentally unhealthy even without a mental illness.

In an attempt to take a stand against the stigma surrounding mental illness and mental health issues, I am going to write about the mental health issues I struggled with during university and how stigma served as a significant barrier to seeking help. Hopefully it will open some eyes, minds, and encourage others to share their stories! After all, 1 in 5 Canadians will be affected by a mental illness at some point during their lives.

My Story

For a brief period during my early years of university (about 6 months or so) I was experiencing an emotionally difficult time. Recent life events had me feeling rather unbalanced and insecure. I would cry a lot for no particular reason, I had insomnia and wouldn’t be able to fall asleep until 5 a.m., and on several occasions I experienced anxiety attacks. I knew something was wrong, but I fell victim to negative self-talk by convincing myself that I deserved to feel this way. I deserved to feel unhappy because I was not a good person. The fact that I was normally such a positive person made things worse, because I was scared to tell anyone I knew what I was experiencing. I didn’t want them to see me differently or label me as something I was not. Fear, anger, shame, embarrassment, stress… These, my friends, are the effects of stigma!

Looking back now, I don’t think I always did the best job at hiding my feelings, even though I was trying to. I think subconsciously I was trying not to hide anything in an attempt to “tell” people that I needed help, without actually asking for help (if that makes any sense). Long story short, it got to a point where I broke down and finally told the one person I did not want to reveal anything to – my boyfriend, who I had just started dating at the time – that I needed help.

After making an appointment with a physician, it was determined that I was experiencing some symptoms of depression and anxiety, though not enough to warrant a medically diagnosable mental illness. Although I attended some counselling sessions and took medication for the anxiety issues for a little while, I have to say that what truly helped improve my mental health was social support from others. I will never forget when my boyfriend said, “I may not always know what to do or say, but I am here for you.” That’s all I really needed. Supportive individuals to help drown out the negative self-talk and replace bad thoughts with good ones. I think the real turning point came over the Christmas holidays. I was locked up in my room feeling rather down when a friend of mine called me from a party he was at with a group of my friends. He said he just called to say hi, and that everyone else said hi and they wished I was there. That one phone call, though seemingly insignificant, started to alter my way of thinking. It made me realize what wonderful people I had (and still have) in my life and how much they care about me. It was time to let go of the negative energy that was polluting my life and surround myself with the things that truly mattered – family, friends, laughter and love :)

After that night, things gradually got better and returned to how they used to be. Over the past several years I’ve learned to surround myself with the right people and practice positive self-talk. I’ve adopted healthier habits (which I’m sure you have gathered if you follow my blog regularly!) that have only helped to improve my physical and mental well-being. In my opinion, life can only get better from here :)

Hopefully this story helps inspire some positive change, whether it’s in others’ attitudes, beliefs or actions! It’s been interesting seeing mental health issues getting more attention in the media lately. Check out this article on the Mental Health Commission’s newly proposed $4-billion mental health strategy! In addition, I strongly encourage you to visit the Mental Health Week website to learn more about mental illness, stigma, and how you can exercise your mental health!

– Be Well, Stay Positive  xo

Spread Awareness, Spread The Love

One of the great things I have discovered about blogging is that a simple “like” or comment on an entry can connect you to a complete stranger. Usually when people “like” or comment on things I post I check out their blog as well to see what they’re writing about. Yesterday, one comment in particular lead me to a really fantastic, inspiring blog about healthy living and finding inner peace. Upon visiting this blog I learned that this week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.

It is estimated that eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia affect 1-1.5% of the population, which sounds small, but that is millions of people – most of which are young females. One disturbing statistic I read on the NEDA website is that a 1991 study found that 42% of kids in grades 1-3 had a desire to be thinner. I would hate to know what that percentage is today. Part of being beautiful means being healthy; healthy doesn’t necessarily mean being thin. The numbers on a scale won’t tell you how amazing you are as an individual, both inside and out!

This year’s theme for NEDAwareness Week is “Everybody Knows Somebody”. I know more than one person that has battled an eating disorder. All are beautiful, strong, and well on their way to a healthy, successful recovery. Though I cannot speak to these individuals’ experiences, what I can do is help spread the word and raise awareness about eating disorders.

Upon a little further digging on the NEDA website I found some information about Operation Beautiful. The goal of this campaign is to end negative self-talk and help others transform the way they see themselves through the use of Post-It notes.

Here is a Post-It I made for myself and all you beautiful people out there : )  I encourage you to also spread awareness by spreading some love! Leave a Post-It for yourself, a loved one, or heck, even a total stranger! And it doesn’t just have to be during this week… try to spread some love everyday ♥

– Be Well xo