We live in a world where stress and anxiety are at an all time high. Many agree that it is now an epidemic. According to statistics Canada the Perceived Life Stress by Age Group in 2018 was 13.8% (up from 11.6% in 2017) of teens ages 12 to 17 years of age, “perceived life stress most days quite a bit or extremely stressful”. Between ages 18-34 that number climbed to 22.4% (up from 23.3% in 2017). And between ages 35-49, 29.4% of Canadians (up from 27.5% in 2017), which is almost 1/3 of the population, over 2.1 million people felt stress most days quite a bit or extremely stressful! The age group 50 and older are the only ones that showed a reduced percentage from 2017 to 2018. This means that the the younger generation is feeling the most pressure, stress and anxiety and that these numbers are continuing to climb.
Work, finances, relationships, parenting, technology, social media, mental health issues, world issues, terrorism; these are all issues that contribute to our stress levels and anxiety. There is so much going on around us, and with it, a lot of pressure, that often makes many feel suffocated, unable to get out of bed, scared and worried about so many things in their lives and about things happen in the world around us. Chronic and prolonged stress can lead to a variety of health issues including high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, lower our immunity, higher risk of infertility and miscarriage, headaches, muscle tension and pain, anxiety, depression and thoughts of suicide.
Did you know that according the Government of Canada an estimated 3 million Canadians (11.6%) ages 18 years or older reported that they had a mood and/or anxiety disorder. And that according to the Canadian Mental Health Association suicide is one of the leading causes of death (second to accidents) in Canada in both men and women ages 15-24. That is 4000 young people each year dying prematurely. And only 1 in 5 children who need mental health services receive them. These numbers are from 2013. If the number of people experiencing stress and anxiety are continuing to rise, then the number of suicides and people experiencing mental health issues is also rising.
This is truly heart-braking and should be a wake up call for all of us that it is time to stop and really pay attention to what is important, to check in with ourselves and to pay more attention to our loved ones, and their needs. To notice more what is happening around us, and to talk more about whatever is ailing us so that mental health stops being a stigma!
The tools below are not substitutes for seeking professional help, and if you know of anyone or you yourself are experiencing stress that feels too much to handle, anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts, please ask for help and speak to your health care provider!
You can also call 1-833-456-4566 (available 24/7/365) or text 'Start' 45645 (available 4pm till midnight ET), or call the National Suicide Prevention Line 1-800-273-8255.
Tools That Can Help Reduce Stress and Anxiety
Become aware of what we are experiencing is important in taking the first step to deal with what we are feeling.
Ask: What is it that I am feeling / thinking right now?
Where in my body am I feeling it?
What thoughts are causing me to feel this way?
By talking it out we are able to bring what is happening inside to the surface and and deal with it better. Many times stress comes from overthinking, fears, negative thoughts. Shifting our perspective to a more positive one can really help, but it takes practice.
Ask: Is what I am feeling coming from fear?
What am I afraid of?
Is what I am afraid of a true possibility?
How likely is it that my fears will become true?
What is the worst that can happen?
While we all live busy lives, we often forget to take care of ourselves or don't make time for it and often end up feeling depleted, tired, exhausted and moody. Prioritizing self-care is a form of self-love. It is an important life-tool that greatly benefits our health and wellbeing. Teaching our kids to do the same is one of the best lessons they can learn.
Asking: What things bring me joy?
What time can I block off to do at least one thing a day just for me?
What do I need to feel better?
Loving ourselves may or may not come easy. We all go through various experiences, positive and negative, that we each process differently. Sometimes, our self-talk is negative, something may have happened that doesn't make us feel great, we self-criticize, self-judge, compare ourselves (especially with social media being so influential), and overall we may not feel at our best. However, loving ourselves, the way we love our best friend, or someone we really care about is crucial. There is only one of each of us, that in itself makes us special and unique. We all make mistakes. Its part of life and through them we get an opportunity to learn. We don't need to be so hard on ourselves. We need to love ourselves, give ourselves a break, show compassion and care to ourselves, just as we would when consoling a friend if they felt bad. We are all worthy and deserving. We should always believe and remember this!
It is much easier to say nice things about others. But what about ourselves? Unfortunately its not as easy because we are so self-critical, but pointing out the things we love about ourselves bring those qualities out into our consciousness and helps us manifest them more and build on them. It also helps to change our perspective about ourselves from a possible negative one to a positive one. This may feel weird at first but keep doing it and soon it will be a ritual that you love and look forward to.
Every morning and/or evening look in the mirror and say the following. You can even write it down.
I love and admire __________ (3-5 things about myself)!
I am loved!
I am kind!
I am worthy!
I am deserving!
I am caring!
Give yourself a smile at the end, and even a hug if you feel like it, and go on about your day.
Things We Can Do To Help Us Feel Better
Eat nutrient dense whole-foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, organic grass fed meats, poultry, eggs, dairy products, wild caught fish especially ones high in omega 3's, beans/legumes, nuts/seeds, fermented foods and sea vegetables. (Stress depletes our body of nutrients and lowers our immunity. Consult a Registered Holistic Nutritionists if you are interested in having a Nutrition Plan made especially for you, which could include supplementation if needed.)
Hydrate our bodies adequately, (generally half your body weight in litres of water) which can include filtered water, herbal teas (not caffeinated) such as Veda Wellness Organic Teas which are wonderful for balancing and rejuvenating our bodies.
Moving your body, any physical activity that raises your heart rate and gets your blood flowing has been known to increase serotonin levels, mood and feelings of wellbeing, and decrease feelings of stress, anxiety and depression. A combination of aerobic (cardio) and aerobic (weights) exercises is ideal but everyone is different. Find an activity you like and aim for 3-4 days of exercise, allowing your body to rest in between. (If you need help getting started, consult a Health Care Professional, Registered Holistic Nutritionist, and/or a Certified Personal Trainer).
-Get adequate sleep consistently (8-10 hours depending on age)
-Sleep by the latest 10pm. The hours of 10pm - 2am are really important for your body to rest and repair.
-Develop a sleep routine which gives signals to your body that you are getting ready for bed, i.e. Brushing teeth, washing up, reading a book, etc.
-Refrain from using screens an hour before bed.
Taking a warm bath can be very relaxing for your body and mind.
-Add 1-2 cups epsom salt which contains magnesium; acts as a muscle relaxant.
-Add a few drops of lavender essential oil with is calming and relaxing.
-Add 1-2 cups baking soda if you are looking for a detox effects.
Putting thoughts on paper helps us process things better and perhaps workout what we are feeling / thinking. It is an excellent outlet!
“What we focus on grows”. This is a great exercise to do every day, morning or night. It helps to focus on the positive, and be grateful for all that we have. It is a great way to shift our perspective and be mindful of all we have.
Besides its physical benefits through stretching and building strength, it helps us to centre ourselves, be mindful of the present, focus on our breath, and feel the connection we share with others, ourselves and the universe.
Another excellent way to stop, breathe, be present, connect with our inner selves and with the energy of the universe. A great way to also put ourselves in a positive mindset, reduce feelings of stress, calm our minds by shifting our focus from our thoughts to our breath and body, and release negative feelings, thoughts and emotions.
Simple/Quick Breathing Exercises
There are times when we are feeling anxious and stressed and need a method to slow down and calm down. The 3-4-5 Breathing Method is an easy and quick way to do this. It may not resolve all your anxieties but it should help slow your heart rate and shift your focus by focusing on your breath.
Breath in for 3 seconds, hold for 4, and let out for 5. Slowing down our breathe, and becoming aware of it is helpful to relax, slow our heart rate, destress, become present and take our focus away from our thoughts and into our body.
EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique, aka Tapping)
It is a technique that uses nine meridian points (similar to acupuncture points) in the body that help us address and release pressures, negative emotions, fears, anxieties, angst, that we may be experiencing. (You can learn more through a trained EFT specialist or contact a Health Care Practitioner familiar with the technique).
Talking to Someone
Whether it be a trusted friend, loving parent, or a Professional Councillor/ Therapist if and when needed, talking to someone, expressing your thoughts and feelings can really help. There is no shame in admitting that we are struggling. You will find that most people are or have struggled at one point in their lives, and understand. You are not alone!
Taking breaks throughout the day is important for our wellbeing. We can not work on autopilot and never stop. Diverting our attention and giving our brains and bodies a break to rest, relax and recharge is necessary. It helps to clear our minds, and actually helps us be more productive when we get back to what we were doing, because we come back with a fresh mind.
Going out for Walks
Going out for a simple walk gets our bodies moving, our heart rates up, blood flowing, exposes us to the well-needed sunshine vitamin (vitamin D), gives a chance to breathe in some fresh air and re-energize.
Doing something fun, that you enjoy!
Reading a book, listening to music, singing, dancing, cooking, baking, writing, watching your favourite show... whatever brings you joy, do that as much as you can!