Get Real About How You Feel
In Colchester and East Hants, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) and Hospice Society have always had to find ways to navigate around topics that nobody seems to want to talk about. Grief, mental illness, death, loss, anxiety… Since the first week of May is both Mental Health Week and Hospice Palliative Care Week, these two organizations have joined forces to get some of these topics out in the open.
Stigma, a fear of judgment, and a desire to not make others uncomfortable often prevent us from opening up about difficult topics, including our feelings. The past year – where everyone collectively feels varying degrees of fear, uncertainty and despair – has helped level the playing field a bit when it comes to having tough conversations about how we feel, but we still have a long way to go.
“This past year has been tough in ways we could never have imagined,” says Susan Henderson, Executive Director of the Colchester East Hants branch of the CMHA. “The impacts of COVID and the heaviness of the grief our community has experienced made the partnership between us and the Colchester Hospice Society a natural fit. This year’s Mental Health Week theme is ‘get real about how you feel’, which takes a lot of courage. Many of us automatically say we are fine when we are not. When we open up and share our feelings with others, the burden we carry can seem a lot lighter.”
For Stacey Harrison, Executive Director of the Colchester East Hants Hospice Society, the opportunity to collaborate offers many benefits. “Every day, our team does whatever we can to create a safe and accessible space for our clients and communities to come together to understand and navigate their grief. This is another chance to get people talking about the impacts of grief, when it isn’t generally a topic people want to talk about. Collectively, we are also able to extend our reach and provide support resources to our community. Having our teams come together also allows us to continue to build our own support networks.”
Though CMHA and Hospice had planned to host an event encouraging people to get outside and take their lunch break with them this week, the recent provincial shutdown prevented that from happening. The event would have involved gathering safely, checking out the resources offered by both organizations, grabbing a to-go lunch, and taking a stroll to stay active. Despite this necessary shift, they are still encouraging people to get out and stay active this week.
As we all work our way through the next couple of weeks and months, it is important to go easy on ourselves. According to a recent article by Alexandra Efthymiades, our fight, flight, or freeze response (FFF, or acute stress response) has been activated in relation to the pandemic, which affects our ability to think clearly. One of her recommendations to achieve calm in conflict is to move your body. “Any movement helps to decrease stress hormones, and different forms of physical activity work for different people,” says Efthymiades. “For some, it may be running, dancing or yoga. For others, a walk in nature or around the block.”
Even if it’s simply taking a quick walk through your neighbourhood with your family in the morning or on your lunch break, every step helps on your path to improving your mental wellness. And it may just make it a little bit easier to have some of those tough conversations too.
Join us as we chat with Susan Henderson from CMHA: Colchester East Hants and Stacey Harrison from Colchester East Hants Hospice Society Live at the Hive on Wednesday, May 5 at 7:00 p.m.