Family Day 2022 in Ottawa, Canada

Featured

By Anita Manley

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 peaceful moment captured along the Rideau River, away from “The Red Zone”. I am feeling relieved and grateful to police on this Family Day.

Coping Strategies

Featured

By Anita Manley

I think we all need a little extra help these days– strategizing on how to cope.

Here are some very helpful tips from The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC):

Strategies to help you cope:

1. Accept and validate your feelings,

understanding that stress and anxiety are normal during challenging times.

2. Recognize what’s within your control

and focus on those factors when trying to mitigate the stress.

3. Remember that this is temporary

and will pass.

4. Take care of your health

by eating and sleeping well, exercising and meditating.

5. Make time for yourself

with activities you enjoy that are free from COVID-19 related topics.

Remember– you are worth it! Take time out for self-care everyday.

Among other things, take time to enjoy yourself everyday!

Resiliency

Featured

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

Featured

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.

It’s OK to not be OK

by Anita Manley

Well folks, after a much needed hiatus, I’m back! I’ve missed you all.

Since the beginning of May, I’ve been struggling with all the rules, regulations, isolation, distancing from friends and family (mostly the no-hugs rule) and basically had the novel coronavirus blues. I am sure many of you can relate. I felt a deep connection (and still do) to that very popular song from early 70’s, called Signs by Ottawa’s very own Five Man Electrical Band. “Do this, don’t do that…can’t you read the sign?” I loved that song while listening to it on the radio growing up, but I can really relate to it even more now. There are signs and rules for EVERYTHING these days. Stay six feet or two meters apart. No mask, no entry. Turn left upon entry, follow arrows and physical distancing marks on floor. Do not bring your own reusable grocery bags. One person per family. The list goes on.

Just some of the signs I see everyday.

How are you coping during this pandemic? Are you also feeling as though it will never end? Of course, it will end… and things are opening up gradually — very gradually. I was able to give my daughter a very long hug on her recent birthday. What joy!

Here are some of the things I’ve been doing to improve my mental health over the past month:* (perhaps you can incorporate some of these into your routine)

  1. Breathe — that’s right, just take a time out and concentrate on your breath. I have been using the free app called INSIGHT TIMER as recommended by my family doctor. It has helped me a great deal.
  2. Give myself and my husband a hug — nothing better than a hug every day to fuel connection. If you cannot hug someone else, then hug yourself. It sure does feel great.
  3. Journal — Just write it down, get all those thoughts out on paper to clear your mind.
  4. Be compassionate — everyone has their own beliefs and feelings about COVID, if they are impatiently awaiting in line, or not wearing a mask or swearing at you for taking too long — it is their issue so I try not to take it personally. You never know someone else’s story.
  5. Create positive experiences — make it a point to ramp up the little things that bring you joy. A nature walk, reading a good book, or watch your favourite series on Netflix with a bowl of popcorn.
  6. Set boundaries — limit news consumption, and perhaps the time you spend on social media.
  7. Reach out for support — talk to friends and family about how you are feeling and give them some support as well. I have a friend who delivered a meal to me when she heard I was struggling. In turn, I paid it forward to someone else by delivering a meal to them.
  8. Write gratitudes — my husband and I have started a bowl of joy, by writing a gratitude each night and placing it in the bowl and reading them at the end of each month.
  9. Tell yourself: you’ve got this!

    I have learned lots over the past month.  I have learned that “it really is OK not to be OK” — just be in the moment, feel all the feelings and do the rest of the things on this list …and you will come out the other side.


    * adapted from Noom.
Since we are in Phase 2 of opening up in Ontario, I was able to give my daughter, Julia a big hug for her birthday last week. What joy!