Resilience key to boosting mental health

January 28, 2022
Resilience key to boosting mental health

The last two years have caused great waves of depression and anxiety, so much so that it has presented unexpected and unique challenges to our mental health. To better prepare ourselves for the years to come it is crucial to develop resilience in order to maintain our mental health and overall well-being.

To make a positive change, Associate professor Suzette Brémault-Phillips of the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Alberta (U of A), Canada, said a complete routine overhaul isn’t quite necessary.

“Everyone’s going through it: the amount of fear and anxiety, the fragility of life, people wondering about their own well-being and what happens if they get sick and how quickly things can change on a dime.

“These things seem so small—going for a walk, getting out in the sunshine, expressing gratitude, lending a helping hand—and yet what it does is it actually changes our biochemistry and our thinking processes. It gives us a break and enables us to look at things in a different way,” she surmised.

Here are some simple tips by Brémault-Phillips that help build up resilience:

a. Take care of your physical health

Simple things like going for a walk, doing an at-home workout, getting enough sleep every night or choosing healthy foods – our physical and mental health are both important when it comes to developing resilience.

“We know exercise works. We know sleep is imperative. We know eating properly makes a difference,” said Brémault-Phillips. “If we don’t take care of those little things, if one building block flips, all of a sudden the rest of the tower starts to collapse. It’s the same thing with our well-being and our health.”

b. Get out in nature

Spending time outdoors helps our well-being in a number of ways, giving us a dose of sunlight, some exercise, and a bit of a mental break.

Brémault-Phillips goes a step further: on cold winter days, she places a treadmill in front of a screen showing a nature scene, to be able to have a quick but enjoyable exercise session.

c. Evaluate your environment

If you dread sitting down at your remote workstation in a gloomy, windowless corner of your home every day, Brémault-Phillips suggests finding ways to make your surroundings more uplifting. This can be done by placing a few small plants near your workspace or playing some of your favorite music out loud.

Another key component of a healthy environment depends on the amount of light available. Work whilst facing a window, take a midday break to walk outside in the sunshine, or invest in a “SAD lamp,” which simulates sunlight to alleviate seasonal affective disorder.

d. Reconnect with your playful side

Whether you’re a devoted gamer or someone who hasn’t touched a console since you were a child, consider exploring some of the many games and resources available. “Video games and virtual reality can be really connecting,” said Brémault-Phillips. “Engaging in parallel or collaborative games is also good, be it video games, a virtual puzzle, [or] Scrabble, whatever someone may be able to do.”

e. Be optimistic

News feeds and conversations nowadays seem like a black cloud with no relief in sight. If you’ve picked up the habit of “doomscrolling,” especially focusing on the latest news on COVID-19, take a moment to reframe the situation and see whether you can bring a different mindset to it that isn’t so depressing.

“Also be aware. Make informed decisions and respond to different situations rather than just reacting to them,” said Brémault-Phillips. “Be a little bit flexible in your thinking, not thinking the worst all the time, but choosing to see what might be good in a situation, however unfortunate it may be.”

f. Lend a hand if you can

Over the course of the pandemic, social circles have contracted and feelings of loneliness have plagued many people, from children to older adults. Brémault-Phillips suggests finding a way to reach out to others, whether that involves going for a walk with a friend, scheduling a Zoom game night with extended family or hopping on the phone for a quick chat.

“We’re not built to be alone. There needs to be an intentionality about connection.”

As Director of the U of A-led Heroes in Mind, Advocacy and Research Consortium (HiMARC), Brémault-Phillips helps deliver immersive virtual reality therapy to military members and veterans as well as front-line health workers and others who have experienced trauma because of the pandemic. Besides the above, she also mentioned apps to help develop the habit of mindfulness, to learn to meditate, to guide you through workout routines and more.

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Category: Features, Wellness and Complementary Therapies

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