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Supporting Someone with Mental Health Issues

When it comes to talking to a loved one about mental health, it can be very uncomfortable. As a society, we are still living with a lot of stigma when

 it comes to mental health. There is not enough information out there to help us know how to start; however, we are making some great strides in mental health awareness, for example, with Canada’s annual Bell Let’s Talk Day this past Wednesday.

 

Try these R-E-S-P-E-C-T tips to support your loved one with mental health issues:

 

Realize it will take them time to understand where you are coming from.

When you approach the topic of mental illness with a loved one you know/ suspect are struggling, they might be having a hard time coming to terms with their mental health condition. Some might experience “anosognosia”, a symptom where one does not have self-awareness of the condition they are experiencing. Their acknowledgement of your concerns may take time. This TED Talk by Dr. Xavier Amador might be helpful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXxytf6kfPM

 

Educate yourself and others.

It can be really helpful to speak to a professional about your concerns and what you are observing. While you may not be suffering from mental health symptoms as a primary patient, you certainly experience secondary symptoms, which are equally deserving of support and conversations with a professional.

 

Say to yourself “it’s okay to feel what I’m feeling”.

It can be really challenging for family members to support a loved one with mental health concerns. Caregiver burnout is a feeling of mental, physical, and/or emotional exhaustion due to the demands of providing care. It is important to have support if you relate to feelings of this ‘caregiver burnout’. Your loved one needs you to be healthy in order for them to be healthy.

 

Patience is a virtue, and definitely hard to practice.

Not only will you need to be patient with your loved one, but it is also important to be patient with yourself and the difficult feelings that might come up for you. We want ourselves and others to stop feeling bad right now, and we want the solution to our problem to come more quickly. Remember: recovery usually takes longer than we thought it would, and it can become frustrating… but you can push through. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

 

Expect that there will be good days and bad days.

In supporting a loved one with mental illness, it is important to know that healing is not a linear path. There are ups and downs and some days feel like you are taking 10 steps backwards instead of forwards.This can trigger feelings of anxiety and/ or depression. When we are not intentional in caring for our mental health, we can be more susceptible to experiencing bad mental health days. Remind your loved one of the simple self-care items they could try to get back on track.

 

Crisis plans are important.

A crisis plan is a plan that is discussed in calm moments to decide which supports (personal and professional) to access and how we can keep our loved ones safe. Here is a great template to use: https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/samhs/mentalhealth/rights-legal/crisis-plan/home.html.

 

Teamwork makes the dream work.

Think about who to involve in your “team” to support your loved one and you as well. List out people like mental health professionals (e.g. psychiatrists, family doctors, therapists), peer support (e.g. groups, crisis helplines), and family and/or friends. It can be a lot easier, and less painful, if we all contribute to one’s healing together.

 

To learn more about how we can support you in managing your stress and feelings of anxiety about your loved one, please contact Vivian Zhang at vivian@balancedmindandwellness.com.

Please see our previous blog post for some more tips on how to talk about mental health.

How to Deal with Grief During the Holidays

Grief during the holidays is a common reason people come in for therapy in December.

Because of your grief, this holiday might prove to be a very difficult experience. It is important to focus on believing that you will come through stronger than before. If you need to scale back on some festivities, that is okay. People will understand, and if they don’t, it’s ok – you are doing what you know you need for yourself.

These strategies can help you get through the holidays while grieving your loved one:

  1. Trust that Grief is Part of Healing

Experiencing the pain, rather than constantly trying to escape it, can actually help you feel better in the long-term. Eventually, the holidays will get easier, but only if you allow yourself to experience the sadness of getting through it without your loved one.

 

  1. Set Healthy Boundaries

You do not have to do it all. Be willing to say no to certain traditions, but also try to engage in others. People will encourage you to participate, but you do not have to do it for them. Do what makes you happy.

 

  1. Focus on What You Can Control

There are some things that are out of our control, such as Christmas songs that surround public places in December. Things that you can control are the number of decorations you put up, where you shop for presents (online may be less overwhelming), and when you spend time with others. Be mindful that others will want to celebrate and enjoy this time of year.

 

  1. Plan Ahead

Often, the anticipation over how hard something is going to be is worse than the actual event. Create a simple plan for how you’ll get through the holidays with some tips here: “6 tips for Overcoming Holiday Anxiety and Stress” and “Holiday Social Anxiety: 6 Common Causes and How to Cope”.

 

  1. Allow yourself to feel all of the emotions

It’s healthy to cry, and let yourself express sadness, rather than hold it in. You do not need to be ashamed of this emotion, and those close to you will help support you. If you notice glimmers of happiness, let yourself enjoy those positive feelings. It is common to feel guilty for feeling happiness during a sad time, when really, those you are remembering would want you to be happy. You deserve to be.

 

  1. Find happiness in memories

Create a special way to remember the person you have lost. Whether you decide to watch their favourite movie or make their favourite food, this can be a helpful tip that, even though your loved one is gone, you can keep happy memories of them around you.

 

  1. Adapt, or create, new traditions

Some holiday traditions can sometimes serve as painful reminders of your loss. It is perfectly okay to create new traditions this year, too. You can also modify old traditions to adapt better to this new stage of your life.

 

  1. Acts of kindness

Even when you’re in the midst of grief, you still have something to offer the world. Performing a few acts of kindness, such as donating your time or gifts to those in need, can be really beneficial for the grieving soul.

 

  1. Ask for Help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you are struggling with getting through the holidays. You might want to reach out for support, or therapy.

 

If you have any questions or would like help with working to reduce depression and anxiety during the holiday season, call Carly at 647-961-9669, or email carly@balancedmindandwellness.com