Mental Health During Isolation

The emergence of the new coronavirus has changed our lives immensely. Differences in our daily routine, the constant buzz of negative media reports, fears about losing our jobs and the economy in general can play havoc with our peace of mind. And to make matters worse, we can’t even meet up with friends for a chat and a comforting hug.

Fortunately, social distancing or isolation does not reach as far as our digital devices and we can catch up with friends and colleagues on our phones, tablets and laptops, if only to share a smiling emoji. Being alone can have a few benefits when we know it won’t last forever. We could, for example, learn a new language, read a book or two in the time we’d normally spend commuting, or take up a new hobby. And if we feel fear amid these activities—or during working hours if we’re working from home­—a few deep breaths or short meditation will help alleviate anxiety.

Practicing meditation at home is a great way to calm and relax the mind.

If you are a parent of little ones, you will naturally have concerns about their wellbeing, and find it challenging if you are also working from home. If elderly parents, or loved ones with compromised immune systems live with you, you may be wondering how best to protect them from the virus when you yourself have been out of the house on a food run, for example.

Perhaps it brings some solace to remember that everyone is in the same place; that all over the world, in universities and private labs, the best scientific minds of our time are working on developing vaccines that will help restore some normalcy to our lives.

Until then, we must try to relax, to seek out reliable online resources that can help us, and share our fears and questions in online groups and forums for those with similar concerns.

Reaching out to friends and family through video calls can help provide comfort during this time.

For children, teens and adults, it is important to maintain as normal a routine as possible, getting up at the same time as usual, eating regular meals, exercising (think stretches, yoga, dancing and getting in your 10,000 steps by walking around the house). Make sure you are getting to bed reasonably early and don’t make it your second job to watch the news on TV. Instead, get caught up once a day then find something positive to focus on. (If you are seriously troubled by what you are hearing, ask a partner or friend to fill you in on anything that is important for you to know.)

Talk openly to those in your care, making sure your language is age-appropriate. Find out their concerns and open them up for discussion. There is truth to the adage A trouble shared is a trouble halved. Above all, however frightening the spread of this virus may seem, remember to breathe and stay calm.

6 Strategies for Starting the Year with a Positive Mindset

Start the year with a positive mindset

We live in a culture that often delights in focusing on the negative: a constant stream of bad news, fear-based headlines, guilt-inducing ads, and social media shaming. It’s no wonder it’s so easy to dwell on everything that’s wrong with the world; but doing so can take a heavy toll.  

Research has shown that your mindset affects your mood, your relationships, and your well-being. Thinking positively rather than focusing on the negative can even mean the difference between success or failure in your endeavours. Cultivating a positive mindset means looking for the bright side in every situation, choosing to see the good in the world, and finding the silver linings no matter what’s going on in your life. Cultivating that optimism is possible with a few solid strategies.

Here are six ways to start the new year with a powerfully positive mindset.

Use a selective focus

Focus on the positive

Consciously focusing your mind onto something positive is a powerful way to change your mindset. For example, choosing to focus on the silver lining in a bad situation, the good in someone you might not get along with, or the learning opportunities in a challenging time turns your view from negative to positive and lets you approach things in a new light.

If you tend to worry about the future or stew in the past, you might also try focusing only on the present and on the things you can control.

Cultivate an attitude of gratitude An attitude of gratitude can shift your mindset

Gratitude is a powerful feeling, and an excellent tool to reset your mindset. No matter how dire the circumstances, we can all find something to be grateful for: a good friend or family member, community support, a sunrise, happy memories, the air we breathe. Tapping into the power of gratitude takes your mind off negative scenarios and opens it up to a more positive perspective.

Use a one-word mantra

Choosing a one-word mantra that is motivating, uplifting, or meaningful can help you to refocus your mindset whenever the need arises. For example, if you find yourself getting weighed down by the heaviness of the world, choose a word like “joy” or “goodness”. If you lose steam with your goals and feel like giving up, try a word like “focus” or “forward” to keep you on track.

Once you’ve got your word, repeat it often. Post it on your fridge or keep it in your phone and reflect on it whenever you feel the need for a boost of positivity.

Nurture your sense of humour

Strategies for cultivating a positive mindset

Nurturing your sense of humour is a great way to cope with stress and negativity. The physical act of smiling and laughing has been shown to actually make you feel happier. So watching a comedy, telling a joke, or just thinking back to a positive memory that brings a smile to your face can turn a grumpy mindset around.

Surround yourself with positive influences

Surround yourself with positive people

They say we become like those we hang out with, so choose your companions carefully. There’s nothing more uplifting than happy people who view life through rose-coloured glasses. Surrounding yourself with positive people will undoubtedly have a positive influence on your own mindset. Can’t find anyone positive around you? Read positive books or watch positive shows.

Choose healthy habits

Healthy habits help to cultivate a positive mindset

Ever tried to be positive when you feel sick, exhausted, or in pain? It’s tough. Your physical body affects the state of your mind, so building healthy practices into your life can completely change your state of mind. Exercise, for example, increases serotonin in the brain, which boosts your mood and well-being. Eating a balanced diet, drinking plenty of water, and getting enough rest also have a huge impact on your outlook.

Looking for more healthy habits inspiration and support? Come talk to an expert at the LD Pharmacy anytime.

 

How to Cope With Travel Anxiety on Your Next Vacation

How to Deal with Travel Anxiety London Drugs Blog

Travel offers a host of health benefits for your mind, body, and soul. It relieves stress, boosts happiness, strengthens mental resilience, and increases cognitive flexibility. Vacations break the cycle of stress which permeates our daily lives, allowing us some time out from usual routines—and it allows us to gain a new perspective on our problems. After a successful trip, we feel energized and refreshed, ready to take on the world again.

Travel can also lead to an improved connection to ourselves and others. Research shows that when we go beyond our social comfort zone and immerse ourselves into different cultures, we strengthen our personal identity and increase our confidence.  Vacations also promote “shared experience” with others by fostering connections. Shared memories and time spent together, outside of usual mundane routines, help to promote these positive ties with family and friends.

Dealing with Travel Anxiety London Drugs Blog

All that said, when leaving your usual routine and surroundings, challenges might come up. One challenge is that traveling may cause symptoms of a mental health condition to flare. Regardless of whatever idyllic and peaceful location you are headed to, most people experience some level of stress both before and/or during any trip.

Research has found that the most common stressful travel experiences are related to pre-travel issues such as planning, financial concerns, packing, making travel arrangements, and developing the itinerary. But some people also have stressful experiences during the trip, such as coping with weather conditions, traffic jams, flight delays, conflict with travel partners, and transportation.

The good news, however, is that in many cases, there are ways to prevent travel anxiety from ruining our vacations!

Plan ahead:

  • Research your destination, especially if you might experience cultural and linguistic differences
  • Learn a few common phrases to help you get by in the local language, if needed
  • Find out where to exchange currency for the best rate
  • Know what kind of electrical outlets people use so you can recharge your phone, tablet or use your curling irons!

Be organized:

  • Ensure that your passport is current and you have the necessary visas
  • Book your hotel before you arrive and keep a copy of your confirmation with you
  • Check in for your flight online the day before and leave extra time at the airport to get through security

Be prepared for emergencies:

  • Look up the local emergency number so that you have it, just in case
  • Don’t leave home without travel insurance!

Know the rules when it comes to medications:

If you are travelling with prescription medication for a mental health condition, it’s important to research your destination country’s drug importation laws to see if your medication is regulated. Many medications for treating mental health conditions are highly regulated and countries impose restrictions on the amount and type of medication that can be imported.

  • Know whether you can travel with it to your destination
  • Carry your medications in their original containers
  • Bring a letter from the prescribing physician indicating that the medicines have been prescribed for medical reasons (including health condition, and the dosage prescribed)

Coping with Travel Stress and Anxiety on Vacation London Drugs Blog

Try to relax and don’t feel guilty:

  • Do remember that you are not indispensable to your workplace—they will manage without you
  • Don’t check work emails
  • Do remember that recharging is just as important as working
  • Remind yourself that you deserve this time off
  • If you’re a caregiver and feel guilty leaving your charge with someone else, try to focus on the reality vs. your anxieties and worst case scenarios

Be mindful of how you’re feeling:

  • Don’t be afraid to take a break from your planned activities if you need to relax and recharge
  • Keep up routines that make you feel stable
  • Pack a few items to help you relax at the end of a challenging day, such as a journal, music or your running shoes
  • Music is great for reducing anxiety when travel becomes stressful—listening to your favourite songs can have a huge difference on your mood

Stay healthy:


Written by Lorna Allen, CMHA BC

6 Ways Exercise Benefits Your Mental Health

We all know the physical benefits of exercise. It helps keep excess pounds at bay, increases stamina, strengthens our heart, keeps arteries clear, and wards off illness. But did you know that exercise can improve the structure and functionality of our brains, as well as improving our overall mental health?

There’s no denying exercise should be a key part of any strategy to combat depression, anxiety, and the general stress of daily life, but “green exercise” in particular, such as cycling, brings with it added psychological health benefits compared to exercising in synthetic environments such as gyms!

Recent studies suggest that exercising in nature gives a quick and significant boost to our mental health. Researchers analyzed studies encompassing more than 1,200 participants involved in outdoor activities such as cycling, walking, horseback riding, and fishing. They found that outdoor exercise improved mood and self-esteem significantly, with the biggest effects coming within just five minutes. The study also found that the trials also showed an improvement in mental well-being.

Compared with exercising indoors, exercising in natural environments is associated with greater feelings of revitalization, increased energy and enjoyment, together with decreases in tension, confusion, anger, and depression. Here are six interesting ways exercise can positively affect our brains.

1. Improves cognitive functioning

The overlooked cousin of “grey matter,” white matter is comprised of millions of bundles of nerve fibers acting as the computer cables that connect various parts of the brain. Research has shown than exercise enhances white matter integrity and improves conductivity resulting in better cognitive functioning.

2. Promotes brain health

Intense exercise results in elevated levels of brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) – an important protein that that promotes brain health and memory. BDNF prevents the death of existing brain cells and supports cognitive function. Low levels of BDNF have been linked to obesity, depression and even schizophrenia. Therefore maintaining satisfactory levels of BDNF results in optimal neurotransmission and potentially prevents a myriad of physical as well as mental diseases.

3. Improves memory and reasoning

Exercise acts directly on the body by stimulating physiological changes such as reductions in insulin resistance and inflammation and by encouraging production of chemicals that affect the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and the overall health of new brain cells. Studies show that the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory are larger in volume in people who exercise than in people who don’t. Exercise also boosts memory and thinking indirectly by improving mood and sleep.

4. Reduces anxiety and stress

Exercise is a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment. It produced endorphins—chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers. Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood. Even five minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects. Physical activity helps to relax muscles and relieve tension in the body and also improves the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress.

5. Acts as a natural antidepressant

Studies show that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication—but without the side-effects.  It promotes changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being. It also increases blood flow to the brain, releases endorphins and other neurotransmitters, like serotonin, which makes you feel good.

6. Increases self-esteem

Regular activity is an investment in YOU. When it becomes habit, it increases feelings of self-worth, achievement and make you feel stronger. It also helps you feel more confident in your physical appearance too!

And if you still aren’t convinced that getting outside is worth the effort then consider this: Science also suggests that mental health may be an even stronger predictor of life expectancy than physical health or even heavy smoking. If we’ve got you motivated, throw on some shoes and head outside this summer!


Written by Lorna Allen, CMHA BC

Support Youth in Need with Kids Help Phone

There are times when a child or teenager needs a safe space to talk about what is happening in their lives. Whether it’s dealing with anxiety or depression, coping with tragedy, or facing cyberbullying, kids can come up against several hardships at a young age—and it’s important to let them know that they are not alone.

Kids Help Phone London Drugs Blog

This May, London Drugs is supporting Kids Help Phone, Canada’s only 24/7 national service offering professional counselling, information, and referrals to young people across Canada. Customers will be invited to donate $3 at checkout when shopping at London Drugs, starting May 14 until May 31, and all proceeds raised will go directly to Kids Help Phone to help them always be there to support youth in need.

The impact of Kids Help Phone in Canada

Kids Help Phone is a Canadian leader, known for their expertise and continuous innovation as Canada’s only 24/7, bilingual (English and French) professional counselling, information and volunteer support service for young people.

Since 1989, they have offered kids, teens, and young adults a critical lifeline of hope and support through their free, anonymous service, which research shows significantly improves youth mental health. Young people reach out to Kids Help Phone from every corner of the country via phone, Live Chat, an internationally-recognized website, and through a confidential volunteer-led texting service (available nationwide by the end of 2018) in addition to having access to a database of local youth-serving programs.

Kids Help Phone Donate London Drugs in May

Kids Help Phone speaks with young people every day—often acting as the only mental health and well-being support available to vulnerable and at-risk youth across the country. In 2017, Kids Help Phone provided over 59,000 counselling sessions in total across Canada, and youth reached out to Kids Help Phone an average of 530 times per day for counselling, information or referrals.

Kids Help Phone is a registered Canadian charity, and the majority of their revenue is raised from individuals, foundations, corporations, and community fundraising. It takes courage for a young person to reach out to Kids Help Phone and it takes courage for the community to stand behind and support them. With the support of supporters like London Drugs and its customers, Kids Help Phone can work to achieve their vision of a future where every young person in Canada will access the support they need, in the way they need it most. 


To learn more about Kids Help Phone, please visit kidshelpphone.ca.

Changing Destructive Thoughts

Everyone has bouts of low mood and excessive worrying. Thankfully, these are often temporary. For some, however, the feelings don’t go away on their own and more structured help is needed.

One very effective treatment is cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT is a form of psychotherapy that helps treat problems by modifying our unhealthy thoughts, emotions and behaviors and has been shown to be as effective as medication in the treatment of anxiety and depression in some people.

Whether it’s a job interview, a date or just walking into a meeting, many of us carry our own negative inner voice amplifying small feelings of self-doubt into full on landslides.

Here are a couple of accessible CBT tips which you can employ the next time you are feeling stressed or anxious:

Focus on how these feelings will pass

It can be very calming to remember that feelings, and fears, are fluid and transitory. So when you feel yourself starting to feel overwhelmed by news or an event, try focusing on how you will feel once this initial sense of panic passes.

Write down those expected changes in a few words. For example, if you are a nervous wreck about an impending job interview or an exam, think about how calm and relieved and accomplished you will feel when you walk out the door afterwards! How you will have the rest of your day ahead of you and the anxiety will have dissipated.

Trick anxiety by “acting normal”

Anxiety is a survival response which kicks in when you sense a perceived threat. The key word here is “perceived”, because anxiety can be a little over-protective and tends to over-react! Let’s think of it like a protective lioness – determined to protect her cubs at any cost.

One way to train anxiety to be selective and not pounce into action at the slightest sound or movement is to calmly give it feedback to let it know that its help isn’t currently required and that “you got this”.

If you try and act calmly and without responding physically, anxiety will not be further roused and will follow your example and begin to fade. Talk to yourself softly and calmly, salivate, breathe deeply and try to smile (not always easy, we know!).

By behaving this way we alter the feedback to our fear response system. We are sending our anxiety a message that things aren’t as bad or as scary as they seem so they can “stand down” and this helps dial back the feeling of stress.

The Canadian Mental Health Association’s Bounce Back® program is founded on CBT principles provides and teaches effective skills to help individuals (aged 15+) overcome symptoms of mild to moderate depression or anxiety, and improve their mental health. Participants can learn skills to help combat unhelpful thinking, manage worry and anxiety, and become more active and assertive.

Available for free across BC, Bounce Back® has been shown to help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety by half, and over 90% say they would recommend it to a friend or family member. Bounce Back® is also available in regions of Ontario and Manitoba.

 

For more information on Bounce Back®: https://cmha.bc.ca/programs-services/bounce-back/

 

 

How to Practice Self-Care for Your Mental Health

Woman Relaxing Practicing Self Care London Drugs Blog

Practicing self-care is so important for the maintenance of our personal health and wellness. It’s like how airline attendants instruct passengers to put on their own oxygen masks before assisting others—if you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re affecting your ability to take care of the people around you. Not only that, but neglecting yourself can take a toll on your physical and emotional well-being.

It’s always a good time to identify some everyday things you can do to practice self-care to help your mind and body. Here are some tips on how to take care of yourself without breaking the bank.

Reconnect with your inner self

Self Care Tips London Drugs Blog

When life gets chaotic, it can help to slow down for a minute and listen to your inner dialogue. For some this might involve a creative outlet like drawing, painting or writing, while for others it might be a physical outlet like taking up yoga, going for a jog, or enrolling in a fitness class.  When you are listening to your mind and body, you feel healthy and more productive, and your self-esteem gets a boost.

Pamper yourself

You may not have the time for a spa day, but you can still indulge yourself at home by taking a long bath with your favourite essential oils. You could apply a deep-clean conditioner to your hair or nourish your skin with your favourite lotion. When you’re stressed or overwhelmed, self-care is usually the first thing to go. We may feel guilty or indulgent taking some time to ourselves when we already have so much on our plates, but it’s crucial to look after ourselves if we want to avoid feeling burned out.

Unplug and disconnect

Self Care How To London Drugs Blog

In this digital era, many of us are permanently plugged into the outside world. We’re constantly checking our emails and social media feeds, but now and then stepping away from it all can make a world of difference—even if it’s for an hour or two. Put down the phone, close the lid on your computer, and read a book that’s on your shelf, walk through the park, or meet a friend for coffee.

Consult with an expert

Most of us feel intense pressure to be perfect. We want to excel at work and be good parents to our children. But while we’re focusing all our energy on others we forget to take care of ourselves. If you’re looking for more ways to support your self-care journey, our London Drugs advisors are happy to talk to you about other ways to practice self-care.


Feeling stressed or burnt out? Find out how to simplify your life, get support, and use relaxation techniques to fight stress from our London Drugs Pharmacy.

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