The first full week in May is Mental Health Awareness Week in Canada, and it is no accident that the central day, May 7th, is National Child & Youth Mental Health Day. These movements present an opportunity to honestly reflect on what mental health means to us all individually, and to check in on how we are managing our own mental well-being. While mental health may mean something different to each of us, there are a few fundamental things that are important to build into our lives that can help us feel positive and connected in order to thrive: having or finding a purpose, a sense of self and belonging, supporting or contributing to something that helps others, and finding ways to build hope in ourselves and those we care for.
Below are some Mind, Body & Spirit tips that can help build resilience and promote mental wellness for you and your families any day, and we offer them in honour of Mental Health Awareness Week and National Child & Youth Mental Health Day.
In honour of Mental Health Awareness Week, take a few moments every day to make a list of the things you love to do, things that make you feel good, things that you are grateful for, and things that you are proud of yourself for. After you have finished your list about you, write one about each member of your household or choose a few friends or other family members to write about. And when you are done, share it with the people you wrote about. We all deserve to think nice things about ourselves, and hear nice things from others. Practicing self-compassion is important. When we are compassionate with ourselves it also becomes easier to be so with others.
A friend of mine recently decided to embark on the ‘Mount Everest Challenge’ to help keep moving during social isolation. In her words, it is only 85,523 steps to climb the virtual height of Mount Everest. Her plan is to do this over the course of three weeks, a little bit every day. I know this is not necessarily an option or an interest for us all, but perhaps there is another challenge that supports your physical well-being that you can think of. What about a seven day around the world culinary challenge to inspire creativity in the kitchen? If doing this as a household challenge, perhaps everyone can help decide what areas of the world to feature, and each member of the house can participate in creating the meal event in an age appropriate way. Older children can help with cooking, younger children can decorate placemats or add a special centrepiece to the table. Tying something educational into this activity so that the family all learn a bit about the region the menu item comes from could add some fun to the learning activity for the whole family – maybe even get dressed up for each meal?
Mental Health Awareness Week is also a great time to engage in random acts of kindness! Random acts of kindness that #SpreadTheLove can actually relieve feelings of stress and have a positive emotional impact. Think simple. A shout out to a group on social media, a picture in the window to brighten a passer-by’s day, a phone call to someone you know might be feeling lonely, funnily shaped pancakes for your kids. Team up with a family member or loved one to perform an act of kindness for another family member… folded laundry, emptying the dishwasher, or placing a special note under a pillow. It doesn’t take much, and random acts of kindness can have a wonderful impact on both the giver and receiver. Go ahead, make someone’s day!
Don’t forget about our special family-friendly social media experiment to #SpreadTheLove #MylesAhead:
If you haven’t already read about it, here are the instructions for the activity.
i. Paint a heart on a rock of your choosing.
ii. Write #SpreadTheLove #MylesAhead
iii. Place it in someone’s garden, or in a public space for others to see.
iv. Take a picture. Share it on social media with your location. Remember to tag us and use the hashtags #SpreadTheLove #MylesAhead!
We will monitor the progress – let’s see how far we can #SpreadTheLove!
For Children: Here is a video narration of Time to Come in Bear, a children’s book on Social Distancing
For Youth: Covid 19 Youth Mental Health Resource Hub, created in collaboration with Jack.org, School Mental Health Ontario and the Kids Help Phone, includes several timely resources for youth
For Teachers/Educators: EdSurge are presenting an article series to support socio-emotional learning and education during Covid 19. Teacher, Interrupted: Leaning into Social-Emotional Learning Amid the COVID-19 Crisis contains some helpful tips on emotional intelligence.
For Caregivers/Parents: The University of Toronto is offering a free online course, Managing Your Mental Health During COVID 19 (approximately 3 hours of content spread over 3-4 weeks)