Be Proud for Trying Hard…

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By Anita Manley

I’ve really been taking note of how incredibly amazing my family members are lately.

They have all been showing up everyday, despite obstacles and times when they were feeling very discouraged.

My oldest daughter has been working hard on her Biology and Chemistry assignments, completing them with an A average, while being a full-time Mom to a newborn. My youngest daughter is studing at university full-time while working to put herself through school and live independently. Ron’s oldest daughter is working full-time and taking a university level course towards completing her degree. And Ron’s youngest daughter is working hard at two jobs, plus some musical gigs on the side, while recovering from an injury.

Things have not been smooth sailing for any of them, and I’m just so very proud of how much they have accomplished through sheer willpower.

I know all of you are working hard towards your goals as well. Just remember to be proud of yourselves for how hard you are trying. And if today all you did was hold yourself together, I’m proud of you!

I see you and I’m so proud of how hard you are trying! Keep going!

Thankful for medication…

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By Anita Manley

Yes, that’s right everyone, if you don’t know this by now, I take medications to stay well!

I know that there is a feeling out there by a rather large number of people, that taking medication for a mental illness means you are weak– expecting a pill to fix everything for you. I can tell you that this is simply untrue. I am a very strong, resilient and capable woman, but medication helps to manage my highs and lows, helps to keep my delusions at bay, and more.

On this Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, the birthday of my eldest daughter, I’ve been reflecting upon my past 29 years of motherhood. It can be broken down into two parts: 19 years of instability and 10 years of stable recovery. Although within the past decade, I am older, wiser and have many more life skills and wellness tools in my toolkit (including medication), I resisted taking medication early on, when my children were young.

I will not tell you the exact names of the medications I am taking, but I will let you know what families they fall into. I’m taking a mood stabilizer and an anti-psychotic. The “mood stabilizer” does just that — it stabilizes my moods, evens them out, makes the highs and lows less noticeable. The “anit-psychotic” is something relatively new that has been introduced into my regime and it has been a game-changer. In addition to helping rid me of my delusions, this wonderful little yellow pill helps make me less irritable and also acts as a sleeping aid. In the irritability category, I asked my husband, Ron if he would describe me as being irritable? He said, “not at all, that is not even a word I would use to descibe you. I would describe you as being good humoured, unflappable and resilient.” On the other hand, when I inquired with my eldest daughter Nicola, “would you have described me as being irritable when you were growing up and living at home?”, she responded “oh ya, that’s for sure.” So there you go! A personality enhancer– anti-psychotics! Who knew? Also, many years ago, my psychiatrist advised me that it is imperative I get enough sleep to manage my symptoms. So, having a good night’s sleep on a regular basis, as a result of taking this anti-psychotic, is immensely helpful to my overall mental health and well-being.

Quite frankly, I am a better version of myself because of the medications I take every single night. Don’t get me wrong, I know that all the other things I do for self-care; journaling, deep breathing, knitting, baking, cooking, daily nature walks, cross-country skiing, practising an attitude of gratitude, etc. also play a big role, but I do not underestimate the value of medication for good mental health and wellbeing when prescribed by a doctor.

I am blessed to have so many strong and healthy relationships that I have carefully tended to over the past 10 years, while living in recovery. I have my husband, both daughters, a son-in-law, his family, baby Rowan (my new grandson), my extended family, many friends and neighbours and, of course, my peers at The Royal. All of this has been possible, in part, due to the medications I take to keep me well.

So, if you think that people who take medication for their mental illness are weak — think again. I’m sure you wouldn’t think that someone who takes insulin for diabetes is weak. They are trying to stay alive and live their best life. That’s what I’m trying to do, too — to stay alive and live my best life. Mental health and physical health should be viewed equally. Mental health is health.

I have so much to be grateful for on this Thansgiving weekend — including my medications.

Taking medications, every night before bed, is part of my wellness regime.

When you feel overwhelmed…

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By Anita Manley

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.

I found this to be sage advice.

Children, play and mental health…

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By Anita Manley

In follow-up to last week’s guest blog about perinatal mental health, I thought I’d provide some tips that I found on children’s mental health, involving play.

This is from the Canadian Public Health Association (cpha.ca):

5 Key Findings on Unstructured Play & Mental Health:

  1. Promotes positive feelings: When children engage in unstructured play, they report feeling joy, thrill and competence. When they don’t, they report feeling bored, sad and angry.
  2. Builds resilience: When children experience the uncertainty of challenging or risky play, they can develop emotional reactions, physical capabilities and coping skills that expand their capacity to manage adversity. These skills are important for resilience and good mental health in childhood and into adolescence.
  3. Improves concentration: Unstructured play is associated with improved attention span, especially in children who have trouble focusing for long periods of time.
  4. Helps develop & maintain healthy relationships: Evidence indicates that unstructured play can provide the opportunity to improve social competence. This means that children can improve their problem-solving skills, emotional intelligence, and ability to empathize. Children can become more self-aware and are better able to compromise and cooperate.
  5. Improves undesireable behaviours: Studies with schools report fewer problems with undesireable behaviours like bullying when unstructured play is increased. When children lead their own play, they can engage in social and emotional learning, such as the ability to control aggression and regulate feelings of anger and frustration.

    Never undervalue the importance of unstructured play-time for your child. Perhaps this has been one advantage of COVID, without many organized activities, there has been more time for unstructured play.
Children love unstructured play-time, and it does them a world of good.

Perinatal Mental Health During COVID Times…

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GUEST BLOG by Nancy McLaren Kennedy

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: nancy.mclarenkennedy@theroyal.ca

Recovery is possible after experiencing perinatal mental health issues. Help is available.

Mental Health in the Workplace

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By Anita Manley

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 Olympics and Mental Health

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By Anita Manley

Who’s watching the Olympics? What an absolute thrill to see so many Canadians winning medals– and I cannot help but mention that 99% of them are women! What incredible heroes– all of the competitors, not just those who arrive on the podium.

Of course, we cannot talk about mental health and the 2021 Olympic games in Tokyo, without mentioning Simone Biles. This 24-year-old gymnast from the U.S. made a brave and courageous decision to not compete in the women’s team final.

Unlike what some trolls are saying, Simone is not “a quitter” or “letting her country down”, she is being honest about her mental health by saying “the mental’s not there”, after losing her spatial awareness in a twist that she’d done thousands of times before.

Simone Biles has proven to be the utmost mental health advocate and is a great role model for other Olympians and aspiring athletes around the world. She knew she was not ready to compete for fear of injury (have you seen what those gymnasts actually do in competition?), so she spoke up and stood on the sidelines (at the Olympics, when she’d been training her whole life for this moment!) cheering on her teammates.

What a hero, and what a champion to advocate for mental wellness on the world stage.

My former sister-in-law, Olympic Silver medalist in figure skating (Calgary 88), Elizabeth Manley says it best in her recent video on Instagram. Follow her @lizmanley88 and check out her video on Simone Biles.

Mental Health is, and should be treated the same as physical health. If Simone had broken an ankle on that twist, we would not have expected her to compete. Why then, do some people feel she should compete when she is not feeling mentally fit?

In other good news, I just heard today that Simone will return to compete in the balance beam final tomorrow. (Update– she won the Bronze medal!) I know that I will be cheering her on, as well as most of the world — save for a few mean-spirited trolls.

Take care of your mental health folks! You are worth it!

Simone Biles is the ultimate mental health advocate at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics!

There is No Mental Health without Gut Health

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Guest Blog by Tay Gendron

Tay Gendron is a Holistic Nutritionist (CNP, NNCP) and yoga teacher who helps women fix their gut and balance their hormones so they can Break Up with their Anxiety for good. 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tay.gendron/

Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/tayy.gendron

Website:https://www.taygendron.com/

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.

If you’re reading this and have no idea where to start my Gut Health for Mental Health EBook walks you through the three pillars of optimizing gut health.

And remember — gut health isn’t just important for mental health, when you can clean the gut, you can clean up body-wide health!

Tay Gendron teaches us all about gut health in this week’s Guest Blog. Follow Tay on social media and check out her website and EBook.

A dose of hope…

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By Anita Manley

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.

Take good care, Canada! This is our shot!

The COVID vaccine is like a dose of hope for our future.

Who Knew?

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By Anita Manley

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.

For more important and interesting points about oral health, follow Holly’s Blog at: https://www.mytoothbetold.com/

It’s what you do for your oral hygiene between dental appointments that really counts!