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In tough times we can be more vulnerable to stress, worry, anxiety and depression. It’s important to take care of ourselves. Tough times don’t last. Tough people do.

Traumatic or unsettling events, most of the time unexpected, can have a significant impact on your mental and physical health. Remember, it’s normal to feel stress. Everyone who goes through a traumatic event is affected in some way. Sometimes these stresses may not appear for weeks or months following an event. It is important to watch for warning signs.

There are things you can do to help ease some of the stress you may be feeling. Here are some tips to help you cope:

Talk

Support in your life from family, friends, and your community has a big impact on how you experience stress. Having support in your life can help you stay healthy.

Support means having the love, trust, and advice of others. But support can also be something more concrete, like time or money. It can be hard to ask for help. But doing so doesn’t mean you’re weak.

If you’re feeling stressed, you can look for support from:

  • Family and friends
  • Co-workers, or people you know through hobbies or other interests
  • A professional counsellor
  • Fellow church members, or a member of the clergy
  • Employee assistance programs at work, or stress management classes
  • Support groups, which can be very helpful if your stress is caused by a special situation
Eat and Drink Healthy

Chemicals in your brain affect the way you think, feel, and act while the food you eat influences your health and energy throughout the day. What you eat can affect how you feel, and how you feel can affect your food choices. This is sometimes called the “food-mood connection”.

A well-nourished body will give you the resources to help manage stress.

Here are some things you can do to help regulate your mood through food:

  • Start your day right—have a good breakfast
  • Limit your caffeine intake (e.g., coffee, tea, cola)
  • Drink 5 to 6 glasses of water every day (dehydration can make you tired)
  • Limit your salt, sugar, saturated fats, and refined carbohydrates
  • Eat 5 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. This will help build your immune system.

For more information on nutrition visit, Healthy Eating Starts Here.

Get Moving

Take a break. Participating in regular, aerobic exercise, such as walking or biking, for 30 minutes or more, three to five times a week can have a positive impact on your mental health. Exercise releases chemicals (endorphins) that improve your mood. It also helps increase your blood flow, strength, and ability to cope with stress. Stretching exercises can help decrease headaches and back pain.

Additional information, visit My Health Alberta or read more about exercise and depression.

Get Enough Sleep

Stress affects sleep. Research shows that getting enough sleep is important for your wellbeing. Adults need at least seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Teens need at least nine hours of sleep a night. Getting enough sleep will help you:

  • Concentrate and think clearly
  • Do complex tasks
  • Be in a better mood
  • Maintain a healthy immune system so you can fight off illness and handle stress better
To get more sleep:
  • Get lots of light early in the day
  • Limit alcohol, drug, and tobacco use
  • Don’t have caffeine after 4 p.m.
  • Limit screen time in the evenings (e.g., TV, computer, smart phone, gaming)
  • Keep a regular sleep schedule
Do Something You Enjoy

You may feel that you’re too busy to do these things. But making time to do something you enjoy can help you relax and unwind your mind.

Try something new or make time for you such as:

  • A hobby, such as fishing, gardening, running or cycling
  • A creative activity, such as writing, playing guitar, or photography
  • Volunteering
Connect With Others

Everyone needs social connections with others. Your network of relationships may be big or small. One or two close family members or friends may be all you need to feel supported and valued. Whether your circle is big or small, the important thing is that you are there for each other.

The support you get from your social connections can add to your feelings of meaning and purpose in life. These, in turn, add to your resilience. Happy, resilient people tend to be more connected to the people around them. Resilient people know that they can depend on the strength of their family and friends when the going gets tough.

Visit, My Health Alberta for more information on social connections.

Calm Your Mind

Meditation and relaxation have many health benefits. Deep breathing, reading, stretching, and mindfulness are all ways to train your mind and body to relax while you take time for yourself.

Slow things down with long, deep breaths. This can help you get perspective, come up with creative solutions to problems, and decrease your anxiety.

We all worry, but practicing mindfulness can help train your mind to help you worry less and accept things as they are. Mindfulness teaches you to be in control of your mind so that your mind doesn’t control you. It helps you focus on the present, and not to get lost in regrets from past or worries about the future.

Learn more about breathing techniques and mindfulness.

Focus on the Positive

Research shows that taking time to focus on the positive things in your life has a healing affect. If you express thanks, appreciation, or love, it will energize your mind, body, and spirit. Learn more about practicing gratitude.

Reduce Alcohol or Drug Use

We often reach for a drink because we want to change the way we feel. Maybe we want to relax, to celebrate or simply forget our day at work.

More concerning is that many people drink to try and mask anxiety or depression, or other mental health problems.

While alcohol can have a very temporary positive impact on our mood, in the long term it can cause big problems for our mental health.

Reduce your long-term health risks by drinking no more than:

  • 10 drinks a week for women, with no more than 2 drinks a day most days
  • 15 drinks a week for men, with no more than 3 drinks a day most days
  • Plan non-drinking days every week to avoid developing a habit
  • Know when zero is the limit such as; driving a vehicle, taking medication or other drugs that interact with alcohol, doing anything dangerous, pregnant or planning a pregnancy

Learn more about safer drinking.

Need Help quitting smoking. Call QuitCore: 1-866-710 QUIT (7848)

Volunteer

Donating your time helping others helps you feel good, but it can also help you feel more socially connected, fighting off loneliness and depression.

Volunteering increases self-confidence, provides a sense of purpose, and also helps you stay physically active.

Giving back, no matter what your age or life situation, also helps to take your mind off your own worries, keeps you mentally stimulated and adds more excitement to your life.

Visit Volunteer Alberta for opportunities to give back near you.

Write it Out

Write it out. Spending time writing, whether it’s about the situation itself or creating an action plan, can help lessen depression and stress. Writing out about your worries and then problem solving can help you feel less depressed, and focus on the positives. It can also improve your writing skills and in turn enhance job-related skills.

Here are some ideas on how to get started:

  • Write down your problems. Sometimes on paper it can seem more manageable than the thoughts in your mind
  • List all the solutions you can think of
  • Assess your list
  • Highlight all manageable solutions
  • Don’t get discouraged. Try another solution if one isn’t working, and remember you can create this alone or with the support of family and friends
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