Signs You May Need Help with Your Mental Health

Signs You May Need Help With Your Mental Health

During this COVID-19 pandemic, it is normal to experience heightened feelings and emotions. Many of us experience feeling a bit anxious, stressed, or overwhelmed during times when things are not “normal”. These increased feelings and emotions can be from the impact of a lot of rapidly changing information and significant changes in how we go about our daily lives. This can account for the added stress we feel. Worries, fears, and anticipation about community restrictions, how many people will be affected, as well as how long this will last are some of what could be causing these changes in emotion. In short, many people are having a normal reaction to the abnormal stress related to COVID-19.

It is important to recognize when these common responses to the abnormal begin to impact our lives in unexpected or more extreme ways (e.g. being consumed by the need for information to the point of having problems concentrating, or to where you feel like you are “shutting down”).

The more extreme responses may indicate that your usual coping strategies are not sufficient to reduce the impact of this stressful time. If you notice that you are not yourself, that what you are doing to cope isn’t working as effectively, or that you are having more extreme physical or emotional reactions, it may be time to reach out for some additional support.

Stress is a normal response to situations or demands, especially if these demands are perceived by your body as dangerous or threatening. Stress is a normal part of life, as it helps people meet deadlines, be productive, and try their best.1 However, when stress is ongoing with no break, this is called chronic or cumulative stress, there is an increased risk of it causing a range of symptoms. Some symptoms may be physical in nature and some maybe psychological. Either way, they are your bodies way of telling you that you need to pay attention and make some changes.

Mental Health, like physical health, is on a spectrum that ranges from “healthy” to “ill”, and at different places along this spectrum, you may find there are impacts in the way you act, think and feel to different degrees.

Being “mental healthy” like being “physically healthy”, is important for everyone as it determines how we react in situations, relate to other people, the types of decisions we will make, and how we respond to stressors.

“Healthy” mental health is the state of well-being where someone realizes their own potential, can cope with normal stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully, and is able to contribute to their community2. At any given time, in response to any given situation we move back and forth along “the continuum of mental health.” The goal is not to remain in the “Healthy” end of the spectrum, but to recognize where you are on the spectrum at any given moment so that you can use your coping strategies to move back towards “healthy.”

Mental Health Continuum Model

The Canadian Armed Forces model shown here, is a mental health resiliency program that has been used and adapted in many settings, from the Navy Seals to the Mental Health Commission of Canada. This model, called “the Road to Mental Readiness (R2MR)” uses an easy to read continuum or spectrum that helps people to identify changes in their mental health. Using this continuum is an effective way to gauge where you are at and what you might be able to do to move in the direction “healthy”.

Use this mental health continuum model to recognize where you are at any given time or in any given situation.

If you noticed that you are no longer in the green zone for extended periods of time, it might be time to try some strategies from increasing your coping, to reaching out for support, or to accessing more formal assistance. Remember, “healthy” is not a state that you remain at forever. You will not always be in the green zone, but understanding the continuum will provide some insight as to when you might need to try some strategies to help improve your mental health.

If you find yourself needing support, try reaching out to a friend, trusted colleague or family member. Using your network of supports may be helpful to discuss the impact of what you are going though and reconnect you with how to cope. Talking to your supports can be a good way to express how you’re feeling and validate the impact of what your going through. If reaching out to your network of supports does not improve how you’re feeling, there are formal supports and services that you can access including: mental health professionals, formal peer support programs, chaplains, or Employee Assistance Programs (EAP).

If you don’t have access to support locally or don’t feel comfortable reaching out through your employer, you can connect with the  resources below to assist and provide some information on what is available to you locally:


References

  1. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. https://www.camh.ca/en/health-info/mental-illness-and-addiction-index/stress
  2. World Health Organization. (2013). https://www.who.int/mental_health/who_urges_investment/en/
  3. Mental Health Commission of Canada (2013). Making the case for investing in mental health in Canada.
  4. Canadian Armed Forces Road to Mental Readiness (R2MR) program. https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/services/guide/dcsm/r2mr.html