Employees: Natural Mental Health Coping Mechanisms

Written by Jenna Kressler | Curriculum Developer

With the Bell Let’s Talk initiative raising over $6.5 million this past January for mental health programs, the discussions and openness surrounding mental illness is becoming less stigmatized in Canada. However, there still is a great deal of discrimination and difficulties surrounding these types of illnesses, especially in the workplace.

Mental illnesses are health problems that affect the way we operate, think about ourselves, and relate and interact with others. They affect our thoughts, feelings, behaviours and abilities to perform routine tasks. Mental illnesses may cause doubt in our ability to perform at work, can cause strain in our professional relationships, and impede on working efficiently and making sound decisions.

Each year, employers lose billions of dollars due to absenteeism, sick days, and presenteeism (at work, but does not work well). However, by law workplaces have to provide reasonable accommodations for any employee who experiences a disability, which includes mental illness. Employees do not have to disclose their diagnosis to their employer, but they may choose to share that they are enduring health challenges and communicate what they need in order to work well, whether it’s taking time off or working shorter days.

Aside from taking medicinal remedies to help alleviate symptoms of stress and anxiety, there are natural coping mechanisms individuals can utilize to feel a sense of relief and calm. However, if you are experiencing signs and symptoms of any mental illnesses, please contact your health provider to determine the best course of action; you don’t have to do this on your own.

  • Exercise – releases endorphins = elevates and stabilizes mood and improves sleep
  • Eat healthy – complex carbs are metabolized more slowly = even blood sugar levels = calmer feeling
  • Get adequate sleep – body temperature and heart rate decreases, and breathing is slowed down
  • Talk to someone! Counselling and support groups (online or in-person) are available
  • Click to locate the nearest Canadian Mental Health Association to you!
  • Herbal remedies – kava, passion flower, lavender, chamomile
  • Keep a journal – assists with keeping track and identifying triggers and symptoms
  • Meditate/ Deep breathing / Mindfulness – can reduce reactivity in the amygdala (part of the brain that regulates emotions, including fear)

Calm Breathing Techniques – Try it for yourself

Calm breathing involves taking smooth, slow, and regular breaths. Sitting upright is usually better than lying down or slouching, because it can increase the capacity of your lungs to fill with air. It is best to ‘take the weight’ off your shoulders by supporting your arms on the side arms of a chair, or on your lap

  1. Take a slow breath in through the nose, breathing into your lower belly (for about 4 seconds)
  2. Hold your breath for 1 or 2 seconds
  3. Exhale slowly through the mouth (for about 4 seconds)
  4. Wait a few seconds before taking another breath

Now that you know some techniques for dealing with mental health illness, don’t be afraid to try them out and always seek help if you are feeling too overwhelmed!

As seen in our February Be Safe Newsletter


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