HomeIn the CommunityDon't Be Afraid to Reach Out for Help

Don't be Afraid to Reach Out for Help

Holidays can be hard.

I’m not going to lie – it’s been really hard since the wildfire. And it’s not always easy thinking about Christmas waiting around the corner. I think most of us have been experiencing a ton of stress since the fire came through. I lost my home and we didn’t have great insurance coverage. Trying to figure out where we’d live was tough, especially with our four fur babies (I love my dogs!) Work has been really busy since we came back and it’s tough to stay focused when you have a million details to sort out as you put your life back together.

Christmas is tough. It’s expensive and busy. We’re stretched pretty thin with all the expenses of recreating a life and I’m worried about buying gifts for my family. And honestly, I don’t always feel very merry these days. I’ve been having trouble sleeping. I still panic a bit when I smell smoke.

I’m sharing all this because I know I’m not alone. I’m sharing because I know there are other people struggling and they need to know they’re not alone. It’s not easy to talk about but a disaster like the wildfire takes a real toll on people’s mental health. It’s part of my job to help others find their way to good mental health and we need to be open about it – a lot of us are finding it hard. It’s normal. It’s expected.

You may need to take extra good care of yourself for a long time. Good self-care can make a big difference. For me, my best self-care tricks are playing with and loving my fur babies, snuggling up with my husband, watching a good chick flick, going for walks with my husband and our dogs or – my favourite – dancing in my kitchen to good music. Other suggestions I have are exercising, eating well and connecting in with friends and family. I know they sound super-obvious but they can help, a lot. Go for a walk, add a few more veggies to your diet and arrange visits with people who lift your spirits.

And if none of your best stress-busting, happiness-inducing tricks are working, it may be time to reach out for help. Call the Mental Health Helpline at 1-877-303-2642 or Health Link at 811 or check out this list of supports: http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/assets/news/advisories/ne-pha-wildfire-mental-health-resources.pdf.

I want to share a story with you, because laughter is important for feeling good, too: One Christmas I was at my mother’s house and asked my husband to go home, cover the turkey with foil, put some water in it (meaning the roasting pan,) and put it in the oven for me. Well, I came home and just about died laughing when I saw what he had done. He had filled the turkey itself with water and then literally wrapped the whole thing in foil, like a Christmas present. So now I remember, when asking my husband to do something … BE VERY CLEAR WITH INSTRUCTIONS.

My final thoughts: we have come a long way in Fort McMurray. We still have high needs and a long way to go but we are strong and resilient people. It’s just going to take time, compassion and positive energy. And as the Tim McGraw song goes, we must “always stay humble and kind.”

Read more about Stephanie’s work here: http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/news/Page13486.aspx.