I LOVE to swim…

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By Anita Manley

I just returned from the pool!

Since May, with the exception of vacation time, I’ve been swimming three days a week. I’m a life-long swimmer. I learned how to swim at a very young age, and later I progressed through all the necessary Red Cross levels to become a Lifeguard/Instructor. I have swam on swim teams, swam lengths alone and gone for periods of time when I was not swimming at all, with the exception of an occasional dip in a friend’s pool or a lake. (COVID was especially difficult as, like many others, I could not swim at all during that long, very stressful period).

I know this for sure… I am happiest when I am swimming regularly. I can cope with the stresses of life much more effectively and the regular cardio exercise just brings an authentic smile to my face. Not to mention, my doctor always sees improved results with my bloodwork when I am swimming.

I do prefer swimming on a swim team with a coach and other teammates. The rules and lane etiquette that come with this atmosphere are what I appreciate the most. Everyone knows what they are doing and where they should be swimming. If not, the coach helps with this. The odd time while swimming at the club that I belong to now, the average swimmer just doesn’t know about lane etiquette, and it can send me into a frazzled state. “Can’t they see that I’m swimming in this lane!” I think to myself. “There is room over there, why don’t they just stay in their lane! UGH!” But, without a coach and also without extensive swimming experience, some people just are not aware of the rules. I need to simmer down, be patient, and just move into another lane.

Thanks for letting me vent!

Back to the benefits of swimming and the inspiration for this post. I was reading some information on social media about swimming and came across this TED post on Instagram:

3 reasons swimming is good for your brain:

from neurobiologist Seena Matthew PhD

“It’s no secret that aerobic exercise is important to your overall health– but when it comes to your brain, swimming can make an extra splash. Let’s dive into the benefits!”

  1. Swimming can boost your memory.
    Studies have shown that swimming (even 20 minutes a day!) can improve attention span, short-and long-term memory– and even reduce the cognitive impacts of aging.
  2. Swimming can boost your mood.
    Because swimming is a full-body workout, it increases blood flow which releases feel-good hormones like endorphins.
    It also promotes the release of neurotransmitters– like serotonin– which can help reduce depression and anxiety.
  3. Swimming can boost your ability to learn.
    Aerobic exercise improves cell growth and builds new pathways in your brain. This can help you learn and store new information and recall it with higher accuracy.

So, not only is swimming helping me with overall physical health, it is also helping to improve my mental health. I hope to be able to keep up this routine well into my eighties, or even longer!

What do you do to stay healthy? Drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you!

This is the pool I generally swim laps in 3 days a week! Looks inviting doesn’t it?

Be Kind.

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By Anita Manley

Last weekend, we were so honoured and privileged to be invited to our friends’ “Guest Cottage” near Renfrew, ON, along the Ottawa River.

Not only were we invited, but we received red carpet treatment the entire time we were there. Activities were planned, spa music was playing in the background, excellent meals were prepared and served, there was a hot tub and big screen TV outside so we could enjoy both at the same time. We went on a group kayak, did aerobic drumming and even danced in the rain!! Janet and Joe even treated everyone in the resort to a pizza party! Quite simply, the 4 days away was completely FABULOUS and it felt as though we had been away for two weeks!

It is so important for everyone to escape for a bit of a vacation, every now and again. Ron and I do not have the means to spend on hotels, transportation, etc. for a holiday, but these friends of ours did and were happy to have us stay at their “Guest Cottage”. We had the place to ourselves, complete with a kitchen, air conditioning, heating and a fireplace for those cool evenings. They even provided cozy jackets and blankets that we were able to wear around the firepit without worrying about spark damage from the fire.

There were so many mental health benefits of being out in nature, listening to the birds, the crackling of the fire, seeing nature’s beatuy all around us. I personally really enjoyed the long group kayak that we all went on Saturday morning. There is something very calming about being on the water, engaged in converstion with friends.

I recently read a post that said:

“We are not all in the same boat.

We are in the same storm.

Some have yachts, some canoes,

and some are drowning.

Just be kind and help whoever you can.” – Damian Barr

This quote epitomizes our friends, Janet and Joe. Due to much hard work, risk and determination they have been very fortunate to reap the financial rewards. They also are very willing to be kind and generous to their friends, who may not be as well off.

I know that their kindness and generosity lifted our spirits immensely, and we feel bouyed to carry on in this ongoing storm, feeling less weight upon our shoulders, all due to the kindness of others.

Of course, it’s not necessary to do such grand gestures as Janet and Joe. For example, I recently gave a Starbucks gift card to a busker, who was extremely grateful for this random act of kindness. Also, it could be as simple as letting someone go in front of you in line, or opening a door for a stranger. I think if we all set out a clear intention to be kind to others, we will find many small ways to do exactly that.

“Just be kind, and help whoever you can.” It will not go unnoticed and may actually change a person’s outlook on life, or at least bring a smile to their face.

Sitting around the campfire, sharing stories and laughing were some of the many highlights of our little getaway! All thanks to the kindness of others.

Blue Monday 2022… “Let’s Dance”!

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By Anita Manley

Today is “Blue Monday”, the third Monday in January. It is called that, as it is thought to be the most depressing day of the year.

Newsweek magazine says, “There are claims around this time of year that this specific day commonly coincides with the arrival of some of the year’s toughest psychological challenges.

Issues can include a combination of particularly bleak winter weather, the post-Christmas comedown and being wracked with guilt over yet more failed New Year’s resolutions.”

More on “Blue Monday” here.

Today, in Ottawa, we had a blizzard or up to 40 cm of snow. Talk about bleak weather! So, I decided to take action.

In follow-up to last week’s blog about turning up some inspirational music, and at the recommendation from Canadian singer/songwriter, Serena Ryder on her January 7th Instagram post, I’ve resolved to turn on some dancing music and dance away the blues, or as David Bowie says, “Let’s dance. Put on your red shoes and dance the blues.” I’ve been doing this for about a week now, to at least one song a day, then maybe more as the mood strikes. It really gets those endorphines moving and helps to cheer me up, so I’ve included it as part of my daily routine. More on the importance of a daily routine for mental wellness here.

So today (on Blue Monday), and everyday, try putting on some upbeat music and “Just Dance”! Be sure to watch Serena Ryder’s post for some inspiration!

Dancing as part of your daily routine can really help boost your mood and burn off some calories. “Let’s dance!”

Resiliency

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By Anita Manley

How do you become resilient? Certainly, resiliency is an attribute many people aspire to have, especially during all the struggles with COVID.

Dr. Raj Bhatla, Psychiatrist in Chief & Chief of Staff at The Royal, tells us there are a few things we can do to attain resiliency:

First, The Basics:

Sleep: getting into a good sleep routine and certainly getting between 7-8 hours of sleep a night is essential to good overall health.

Diet: eating foods that fuel our minds and bodies.

Exercise: Getting out and moving more.

Furthermore, Raj’s Resilience Tips (The Important):

Compassion: Live a life having compassion for others and for yourself.

Meaning: Live a life filled with acts of meaning.

Gratitude: Live a life of gratitude and always look for at least one good thing each day.

I have done a little research into the topic of resiliency, and I’d like to share a few more things you can do to become more resilient during tough times.

Develop a Strong Support Network: Having caring and supportive people surrounding you is important when you are going through a hard time. Share with them, bounce off ideas.

Be Optimistic: Having a positive attitude when things are going wrong around you can be very difficult, but remaining hopeful is an important part of becoming resilient.

Believe in Yourself: Have confidence in your own ability to cope with life’s stresses. Change negative thoughts in your head to positive ones. “I can do this” “I have survived hard times before” “I will get through this”.

Set Goals: Crisis situations are scary and quite daunting. People with resiliency are able to look at a crisis as a problem to solve and set achievable goals to solve the problem. If you feel overwhelmed, break the problem down into manageable steps.

Embrace Change: Be flexible; it is an important part of resiliency. Soon you’ll be able to adapt and thrive when faced with a crisis by seizing the opportunity to branch out in new directions.

I hope you’ve found these tips to be helpful. Let me know in the comments.

By learning to be resilient, you can survive any crisis.

Managing Stress and Anxiety During COVID-19

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Guest Blog by The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre

“It’s OK to feel stressed and anxious, especially right now. While many of us are finding solace in another NETFLIX marathon, there are lots of other safe activities we can do to help keep our stress levels in check.”

“(The Royal) asked two of (their) recreational therapists– Ashleigh McGuinty and Sara Richardson-Brown– to share their top six anxiety-busting strategies they recommend to clients and families, and this is what they came up with.”

“These are just six out of thousands of options.”

#1. Engage in Creative Arts

Creative activities like visual arts, writing, music, drama, and movement can help decrease anxiety and stress, and promote positive mood & increased confidence and self-identity.

#2. Get out into nature

Promote feelings of well-being, lower blood pressure, decrease feelings of anxiety & depression, and improve physical activity levels by spending time outdoors.

#3. Practice mindfulness

The practice of mindfulness can reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety, and can substantially reduce stress. Techniques like focusing on breath, meditation, and mindful walking are some examples of mindfulness tools.

#4. Spend time with a pet

The companionship of a pet can reduce stress, improve mood and self-esteem, increase happiness, and decrease loneliness & isolation.

#5. Listen to music

Improve your mood, sleep, and overall happiness by making a playlist and throw on some music while doing chores, working, or cooking.

#6. Move more

Regular exercise is shown to help reduce anxiety and tension, promote positive mood, and increase self-esteem and confidence. @fitnessblender has over 600 free home workout videos and programs!

How do you manage stress during COVID? Let me know in the comments.

Keep Moving!

By Anita Manley

It has long been known that exercise improves your mental health.* Exercise causes your body to release chemicals called endorphins, which make you feel good. The feeling is commonly known as a “runners high”.

Regular exercise has been proven to:**

  • Reduce stress
  • Ward off anxiety and feelings of depression
  • Boost self-esteem
  • Improve sleep

    Exercise also has these added health benefits:
  • It strengthens your heart
  • It increases energy levels
  • It lowers blood pressure
  • It improves muscle tone and strength
  • It strengthens and builds bones
  • It helps reduce body fat
  • It makes you look fit and healthy

Years ago, I visited my psychiatrist and complained of mood swings and irritability. She didn’t increase my medication, but rather gave me the names of clubs I could join to get more exercise. So I joined a swim club, a cycling club (during the summer), and signed up to participate in my first and only triathalon. My mood soon regulated, my self-esteem increased and my mind was clearer. After a while, I also had a lean, toned body and during my annual physical I was in the best shape I’d ever been: weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, etc.

Let’s face it: lately, it has been challenging to get exercise with fear of catching COVID-19, if others choose not to follow the 6-foot rule while outside. So I’ve decided to get up earlier and get out for a long walk when hardly anyone else is about. It is peaceful listening to the multitude of birds chirping away while on my morning stroll. A lovely way to start the day and get some exercise at the same time.

Also, my husband and I have dusted off our bikes, filled up the tires and toured the neighbourhood a few times. We live in a beautiful area with parks and waterways, so it is great to be able to expand our exercise area by pedaling rather than walking, at times.

Another activity I do is a Body FX workout in my apartment living room. This is a Latin dance routine which has me moving, sweating and gives me a great all-around exercise session — while having fun at the same time.

There are many forms of exercise you could do in your home — such as chair yoga, or regular yoga. If you have some basic equipment you could lift weights or use resistance bands. Or you could dance or do an aerobic routine — a lot of guidance is provided on YouTube for free. You can also support local businesses with virtual sessions. If you can afford it, they would appreciate it. Some of my friends have supported local gyms, yoga places, dance studios; the list goes on. Bodies by Phil in Ottawa offers daily workouts (with minimal equipment required) for free during the pandemic. Check them out on Instagram.

Whatever you choose to do, just get off the couch and have fun with it! Your mind and body will thank you.

* https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-simply-moving-benefits-your-mental-health-201603289350

** https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/exercise-depression#1

Improve your mood and self-esteem by getting off the couch — and keep moving! It is so important to use exercise as a way to take care of your mental health during this pandemic.