A lot has happened in our sleepy town since the last time I posted in mid-January. Ottawa, our nation’s capital city, was invaded by what was dubiously named the “Freedom Convoy” and approximately 400 trucks took over our downtown core, including in front of Parliament Hill. But today, on Family Day 2022, we are finally breathing a collective sigh of relief! Ottawa Police, with the assistance of the OPP and RCMP, have taken back our streets after a 24 day occupation.
This was by no means a peaceful protest as the occupiers claimed. They took over our streets with their blockades, idling trucks, diesel fumes, blaring horns, noisy partying, loud music, chanting, fireworks, bullying of our residents, racial, homophopic and transphobic slurs, and symbols of hate for over 3 weeks! Many businesses in the area had to close, or had very little business as a result of people feeling unsafe in their own city. Parked cars had their windows smashed. Our residents in the downtown core couldn’t sleep with all the noise and many people, including those with disabilities, and people of colour stayed in their homes for fear of violence. I know people who live in the area who said they could not get the sound of honking horns out of their head, even after a class-action suit brought the horn sounds to an end, thus affecting their mental health. Others, trying to get to work, were harrassed for wearing masks. Thousands, were unable to work due to business closures, but still had to pay their rent. The amount of economic devastation alone is appalling, especially after the past two years. All of this happening over a period that is usually a fun, festive and huge tourist attraction for everyone in our city, Winterlude.
And then there are the children who were brought to this protest by their parents. Protesters travelling with their families and Ottawa families bringing children to the protest as “an educational moment”. Honestly, even during the period of time when police were moving the protestors out of town, families insisted on having their children there witnessing it, despite frequent warnings that it was a conflict zone. I will never understand this logic.
We are all tired of COVID. I know that this far right movement has not come to an end, even if the immediate occupation of Ottawa has.
In the meantime, Ottawa will be getting back to business and to “the city that fun forgot”. I am relieved that this horror show is over… for now!
A couple of weeks ago, in preparation for a big week of presentations and a meeting, I felt completely overwhelmed. After a meeting, I had a meltdown.
“How was I going to get everything done in such a short period of time?”, I exclaimed to my husband. He gave me a big bear hug in response. It felt good, but it didn’t help me with my long “to do” list. “What are you going to do?”, Ron queried. I replied, “Absolutely nothing, I’m feeling paralyzed, I cannot do one more thing, so I am going to bake muffins.”
I also decided to call a close friend. She very calmly broke down my tasks into three easy to manage pieces.
The baking was so incredibly therapeutic for me. It was almost meditative, as I had to concentrate on one thing at a time: one cup of flour, one teaspoon of vanilla, etc. And then, listening to my friend break things down for me, just made everything seem so much more manageable. Afterwards, I felt calm, relaxed and capable of continuing with my “to do” list, one step at a time.
What do you do when you feel overwhelmed? Share in the comments. I love hearing from you all.
BIO: Firstly, Nancy is my friend and colleague at The Royal. She is also a Peer Specialist/Mental Health Worker in Women’s Mental Health at the Royal. Nancy has a Master’s in Social Work and is the proud mom of three teens.
Most people have heard of postpartum depression. Not as many people have heard that you can experience anxiety, bipolar disorder or psychosis for the first time while pregnant and after giving birth. Depression is not the only type of mental illness that can emerge during the perinatal period.
Before the pandemic, 1 in 7 perinatal people would have a mood or anxiety disorder. We know these numbers are higher for black, indigenous, people of colour, LGBTQIA2+ people and people who have experienced trauma.
Although I could not find an exact percentage, one Canadian study reported a significant increase in depression and anxiety during the pandemic compared to pre-pandemic numbers. COVID and physical distancing has really changed the way people experience pregnancy, birth and postpartum.
During COVID, formal and informal support for perinatal people has been impacted. Pre-pandemic a person who gave birth would go to their midwife or doctor’s office for an appointment and they would sit in the park with others. Their parents, friends or relatives would drop by to chat, hold the baby or do a small chore. With physical distancing and COVID regulations, these meetings and supports diminished, if not altogether disappeared.
New parents are also concerned about the physical safety of their baby and this can lead to stopping visits with friends and family. Participants in the peer groups that I co-facilitate have told us that in addition to depression and anxiety they are also experiencing loneliness and isolation.
During the pandemic, pregnant people have had to give up their expectation of an in-person baby shower and spending time with relatives while they are pregnant. Birthing people would have limitations imposed on the number of people who could be present at their baby’s birth. There would be restrictions on coming into and leaving the hospital while their partner is labouring.
In Women’s Mental Health at the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group we recognized that pregnant people and people who have given birth, would need support during the pandemic. We were not able to offer in person services so we moved to online delivery. At the Royal, in the Women’s Mental Health program we have peer facilitated groups that include: Journaling as a Wellness Tool-Perinatal version, Life with a Baby and 2 Wellness (virtual) drop-ins. Our groups are built on peer support principles: we don’t try to fix anyone and we believe that people are the experts of themselves.
The reason I am interested in supporting pregnant and postpartum people is because I also struggled with mental illness during my perinatal period, years ago. When I was pregnant and after I gave birth to my son, I thought it was normal to be sad all the time, crying, worried about the safety of my baby and having intrusive thoughts of dying and my baby dying. This is not a normal part of pregnancy and early parenthood. After the birth of my twin daughters, I again stopped sleeping, felt unreal and began to hear voices. I was hospitalized and moved towards wellness with medication and informal peer support from people who had similar experiences.
I knew I wanted to use my lived expertise to help other women experiencing mental illness during pregnancy and birth. I wanted to show people that it is possible to have a mental illness and then feel better. You can get pregnant, give birth and be a mother/parent/caregiver with a mental illness.
To register for one of our virtual groups you can email me at: email@example.com
In honour of Labour Day, I thought I’d quote some statistics.
– Just 50% of Canadians would tell friends or co-workers that they have a family member with a mental illness, compared to 72% who would discuss a diagnosis of cancer and 68% who would talk about a family member having diabetes.
– 64% of Ontario workers would be concerned about how work would be affected if a colleague had a mental illness.
– 39% of Ontario workers indicate that they would not tell their managers if they were experiencing a mental health problem.
– 40% of respondents to a 2016 survey agreed they have experienced feelings of anxiety or depression but never sought medical help for it.
– 46% of Canadians thought people use the term mental illness as an excuse for bad behaviour, and 27% said they would be fearful of being around someone who suffers from serious mental illness.
If you are in a leadership position in the workplace, what are you doing to create an inclusive and healthy environment for everyone? Do people in your workplace feel comfortable talking about their mental health, without feeling it would be a career limiting move?
I would love to hear from you all in the comments.
The health of your gut plays an absolutely massive role in how well your brain functions, how your body produces hormones, neurotransmitters, vitamins, minerals, and other compounds critical for keeping your mood and mental health balanced, and keeping anxiety far, far away.
But, and this is a big but, gut health isn’t just important for mental health. The gastrointestinal tract is home to trillions of bacteria that play a major role in how well (or not well) your body functions. Good gut health is the cornerstone of your entire body’s function and I’ll go so far as to say that you can’t have a healthy body without having a healthy gut (and I know I’d get backed up on that one…). If you’re experiencing chronic pain, look at your gut. Headaches, look at your gut. Fatigue, poor sleep, poor digestion (obviously), look at your gut. It’s where everything traces back to and you can’t have one without the other.
So you can see just how important gut health really is, take a look at what can happen if you have what is called dysbiosis (imbalanced gut microbiome):
● Inflammation ● Poor digestion ● Joint and muscle pain ● Autoimmune diseases ● Immune dysfunction ● Cancer ● Metabolic dysfunction ● Mental health conditions
That doesn’t cover all of it, but you can see how each of these categories is the umbrella for several other conditions. So, if your gut isn’t a healthy place, the risk of developing any number of these conditions increases exponentially.
I’ve dealt with my fair share of gut health imbalances and it’s led me to really hone in on helping women fix up their gut and hormones through foods and holistic lifestyle practices. Through countless struggles, experiments, and a whole ton of research, I’ve learned about the incredible and crazy strong link between gut health and mental health. This is why cultivating a healthy and balanced gut is the cornerstone of my practice. I work exclusively with women with anxiety and you cannot have mental health without gut health.
Here’s a quick explanation of the link I’m talking about.
If you’re trying to eliminate anxiety, you have to look at two things–neurotransmitters and hormones. When balanced, they lead to a balanced mental state, but when imbalanced, they can lead to disaster in the form of severe anxiety and other chronic health conditions. But where anxiety is concerned, your gut shines.
That’s for a couple reasons: ● More than 90% of serotonin (your happy neurotransmitter) is produced in the gut by your gut bugs, so you need to keep your gut bugs happy! ● Dietary protein provides essential amino acids for forming neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine, GABA). You need enough stomach acid to properly digest and absorb protein. ● Dietary fat is the building blocks for hormone synthesis (estrogen-progesterone balance is key for regulating mood and neurotransmitter synthesis). You need a well-functioning liver to properly digest and absorb fat.
And that doesn’t even touch on inflammation. If your gut isn’t healthy, chances are that you are struggling with some semblance of leaky gut, which means that the gut lining that should be completely sealed and impermeable develops small micropores that allow food particles to leak through. Because your body doesn’t recognize these food particles that aren’t in their simplest form, it sets off alarm bells and your immune system responds by triggering the inflammatory cascade.
Inflammation of the gut stresses the microbiome through the release of cytokines and neurotransmitters, and when coupled with intestinal permeability means these inflammatory molecules can now travel systemically and interfere with the permeability of the blood-brain barrier. Release into the brain influences brain function and leads to mood disorders and imbalances like anxiety, depression, and memory issues.
That’s a pretty simplistic way of looking at it, but it all stems from your gut. When there are imbalances present, it interferes with your entire body function, not just your brain. And it’s why for me, getting my clients gut health under control is the key to eliminating their anxiety and any other existing health conditions.
I’m tired and stressed out about many things, including taking the elevators in my building. I really dislike being “that person” who says “sorry, no, you cannot get on the elevator.” (Public Health rules state: “one person per elevator unless you are from the same household”). Too often, I encounter some very rude and upset people who are in a hurry to get somewhere, and they say something nasty.
But, having had both vaccines… and with restrictions moving into Step 2 in Ontario, I’m beginning to feel hopeful. Just yesterday, I received a photo of my friend’s family up at her cottage. There, sitting on one couch, all together, were: my friend (in her fifties), her 95 year old mom, and her son and his pregnant wife– sitting tightly together with big smiles on their faces and — no masks! WOW! What a great picture! For me, it represented hope! They had all been double vaccinated.
On July 1, my husband’s birthday, we will be gathering as a family of 4 (from 3 different households), and depending on the weather, we may all be indoors. Imagine – indoors… with family, sharing a meal, without masks! WOW! It has been a very long time.
Businesses are starting to open up, patios and soon restaurants will be open for indoor dining and — live music!! This is all very exciting and hopeful. The more people get vaccinated, the more freedom we’ll have.
Let’s not mess this up! Continue to follow public health guidelines by wearing a mask in doors in public areas and staying 2 meters apart. Continue washing your hands with soap and water (while singing happy birthday — twice). I’m sure that all of you, like me, do not want to go backwards with restrictions at any point in the future. I know that I am very much looking forward to getting on a plane to visit my new grandchild. Please, follow guidelines so that we all will be free to travel and resume a somewhat normal life.
This is our shot! Get vaccinated! Wear a mask! Stay 2 meters apart and continue washing your hands. Now is not the time to be lax with any of these measures.
The vaccine is like a dose of hope for our future.
Recently, I had a dentist appointment. I love my dentist, Dr. Chris Granger, and my dental hygienist, Holly. On this visit, I learned some very interesting and important things about oral hygiene.
Did you know that by using whitening toothpaste too often, you can actually make your teeth yellow? No kidding. Holly says that the whitening toothpastes are too abrasive and wear away the enamel (the hard layer of the tooth). Dental enamel covers the softer yellowish dentin layer of the tooth. As the enamel wears away, it will expose the dentin underneath. True story! If you do want to whiten your teeth, Holly recommends Crest Whitening strips. Hydrogen peroxide (its main ingredient) can remove dental stains safely when used as directed.
Did you know that flossing your teeth regulary (every day or every second day) is important– and, not just for the removal of food? I did not! I thought, oh– I don’t have food stuck between my teeth– no need to floss. Not so, says Holly. “You should be flossing regularly to clear your gums from the build-up of harmful bacteria.” I’ve since learned that just brushing often isn’t enough to remove plaque and prevent cavities. Also, floss can get into tight spaces and remove 80% of plaque. (I should tell you that I’ve never had a cavity in my lifetime. I believe that this is the reason I’ve been so lazy about flossing.)
I’ve also learned that, if left untreated, bacteria in an unhealthy mouth can actually harm the rest of your body. Gingivitis (gum disease) can enter the bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body, leading to heart disease, diabetes and respiratory illnesses. (1)
So, since flossing only takes a couple of minutes out of my day, but will have huge benefits for my long-term health– not only my dental health– guess who’s flossing everynight before bed? ME! My goal is to not only make Holly happy at my next appointment, but to improve my dental health as well. Holly says I have several spots of swollen and bleeding gums. She also tells me that with regular brushing and flossing, this can be reversed!
Holly even encouraged me to set up a reminder on my phone. No excuses!
I hope this post encourages you to brush and floss regularly, too. Oh, and I forgot to mention how much money you could save at the dentist!
But wait a minute– you might be saying– what does this post have to do with mental health? Well, many people have anxiety associated with dental appoitnments. For me, I think going to the dentist is so much fun, that I booked my next appointment on my birthday! I get that I’m a little peculiar.
I imagine many of you are way ahead of me in the flossing game. At 56, I’m definitely “late to the party”. Let me know in the comments! I love to hear from you guys.
Hi folks, I’ve been absent for a few weeks now, trying to manage my anxiety around some important issues that are beyond my control. I don’t know about you, but I’m really not good at this. My Mom always told me: “don’t worry about things that you cannot control”. I think of her words regularly and really give it the good ol’ college try, but if I have to do this for too long, I fail miserably. Everyone’s perception of ‘too long’ varies. Mine is about a month. After a month, I start to think of what if, then what, etc.
I’ve had two pretty important issues ‘up in the air’ for over a month, one I’m still waiting on. So, I had to do something to manage my anxiety. I talked to my support people and then I decided to keep busy doing things I love to do, in order to keep my mind from wandering down a potentially negative path. I decided to do more knitting during free moments (I’m now working on a baby blanket and bunny for my new grandbaby, expected in July), journaling and painting (acrylic on canvas). All of these activities help me to stay in the present moment and while doing them, I feel as though I lose track of time. I would even say they are ‘meditative’. It worked! I’m not exactly an expert at “not worrying”, but I have mostly managed to overcome the beast.
So, I’m just going to continue doing what I’m doing, and let the cards fall as they may. Whatever happens, happens! I know that I can deal with the outcome. I’m so much better at coping with the known, than the unknown. I’m a work in progress. In the meantime, I’m creating some wonderful knitted objects and beautiful art, and greatly enjoying it.
I just read a Peanuts posting that said, very fittingly, “Worrying won’t stop the bad stuff from happening, it just stops you from enjoying the good.”
I will continue to do my very best ‘not to worry’ about things beyond my control. Besides, Mother knows best. At least I know my Mom always did!