Get Ready to #GetReal
The current COVID-19 crisis and the disaster anniversaries of the 2016 Wildfire and 2020 Spring Flood can be leaving many people feeling emotional distress.
As part of Mental Health Week (May 3 to May 9), the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is raising awareness to understand emotions as part of their nationwide 2021 #GetReal for Expanding Awareness of Emotions and Increasing Spontaneity and Intimacy campaign.
Emma Jones of the CMHA of Wood Buffalo weighs into the overall scope of how residents may be feeling with the additional stress of the disaster anniversaries.
“A pandemic and natural disaster is a very stressful event for individuals and communities, so it’s normal to feel some stress and anxiety. It is also important to note that it’s also common for people to display great resiliency during times of crisis,” she said.
For those looking to ease their mental stress, Jones suggests taking breaks, practicing self-care and reaching out to others for help.
“Take breaks from following the news and social media regarding the outbreak or memory of our region’s natural disasters. It’s important to be informed but there’s evidence that constantly hearing about an upsetting event can worsen the stress and worry,” she stated.
The CMHA of Wood Buffalo has coping mechanism tools and online resources for residents to manage mental health at home. One of the first steps is understanding the emotions.
Understanding Your Emotions
According to CMHA, the lack of emotional literacy can leave people feeling ill-equipped to manage the variety of emotions we experience on a regular day, let alone during the pandemic crisis and disaster anniversaries.
In CMHA’s article, “Understanding your emotions, understand yourself,” it states.
“Focusing on naming, expressing and dealing with our emotions — the ones we like and the ones we don’t — is important for our mental health. By learning more about your emotions and how to name them, express them, and deal with them, you can use them to better navigate your daily life, make better decisions and feel more at ease.”
The Feelings Wheel is a tool used for understanding emotions. The inner circle is labelled with names of primary feelings (mad, sad, scared, joyful, powerful, and peaceful). The outer ring contains names of secondary feelings related to the primary ones.
What to do when you’re overwhelmed
The CMHA recommends using the STOPP strategy to help deal with intense emotions. This technique allows people to gain distance between distressing thoughts and feelings. It also reduces the physical reaction of emotion/adrenaline at times of high stress and creates calmness to help people think more logically and rationally.
S – Stop! Just pause for a moment.
T – Take a breath. Notice your breathing as you breathe in and out.
O – Observe. What thoughts are going through your mind right now? Where is your focus of attention? What are you reacting to? What sensations do you notice in your body?
P – Pull Back. Put in some perspective. What’s the bigger picture? What is another way of looking at this situation? Is this thought a fact or an opinion? What is a more reasonable explanation? How important is it?
P – Practice What Works – Proceed. What is the best thing to do right now? For me? For others? For the situation? What can I do that fits with my values? Do what will be effective and appropriate?
If your emotions are overwhelming, persistent and/or interfering with your daily functioning, the CMHA advises seeking mental health support by contacting a health care professional or a recognized local agency. Find more local resources at the Canadian Mental Health Association of Wood Buffalo’s website at www.woodbuffalo.cmha.ca.