What causes addiction, and why is it so hard to treat? from TED-Ed.

Mental health and resilience – the secrets of inner strength from DW Documentary.

The practice of self-compassion: What is it?

We may not always have control over the events and emotions that unfold in our day-to-day lives. Yet, what is within our control is how we view difficult situations and engage with our thoughts and feelings. Being able to do so in a self-compassionate manner enhances our well-being and our ability to cope with life’s challenges.

“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete”- Jack Kornfield

Defining Self-Compassion

Practicing self-compassion means approaching ourselves with the same kindness we extend to others such as our family and friends. In moments of difficulty, failure, or self-doubt, we recognize our pain instead of ignoring it and provide ourselves with comfort and care. It’s acknowledging that everyone experiences challenges, as this is simply part of being human.

The Three Key Elements of Self-Compassion

  1. Self-kindness vs. Self-judgment: Offering ourselves warmth and acceptance during difficult times or when making mistakes, rather than judging ourselves harshly.
  2. Common Humanity vs. Isolation: Recognizing that no one is perfect and that we aren’t alone in our struggles are key elements of our shared human experience.
  3. Mindfulness vs. Over-identification: Bringing awareness to painful thoughts and feelings and taking a step back to see them as they are, rather than getting overwhelmed by them.

How to Practice Self-Compassion

  • Pay attention to your inner voice. Is it supportive or overly critical?
  • Replace unhelpful thoughts, such as “I shouldn’t feel this way” or “I’ll never fit in” with more helpful ones, like “anyone would feel disappointed in these circumstances” or “I accept my whole self.”
  • Try specific self-compassion exercises such as writing a letter to yourself or engaging in a loving-kindness meditation.
  • Prioritize self-care with activities like going for a walk, journaling, calling a friend, or treating yourself to your favorite dinner.
  • Cultivate a mindfulness practice.

Why Start?

We’re all deserving of compassion, kindness, and understanding. Cultivating self-compassion not only fosters more positive mental health but also supports the development of stronger connections with others. This powerful tool empowers us to lead more fulfilling lives. By approaching it in a manner that respects our individual needs and journeys, we contribute to bringing healing into the world. The journey starts with each one of us.


Originally shared by the Canadian Mental Health Association

Detox from alcohol can be a complicated process, but before you can recover from alcohol addiction, you need to get all the alcohol out of your system. The alcohol withdrawal timeline can vary, and how long it takes to get alcohol out of your system depends on how long you’ve been drinking and your overall health.

Some people are able to recover from mild alcohol use problems without experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms, while others have symptoms that could cause permanent disability or death.

An effective detox and alcohol addiction treatment program can help you get through this risky process safely. To be prepared for what comes next, learn more about the benefits of detoxing from alcohol and the typical withdrawal timeline after admission to an inpatient rehab program.

What is alcohol detox?

People who have an alcohol use disorder often find it difficult to stop drinking. Alcohol affects the brain by raising levels of dopamine, which interrupts the brain’s natural dopamine production. It depresses natural brain functioning, which can lead to overstimulation of those systems when the person stops drinking. Frequent and heavy drinking can damage the brain in ways that make it dependent on alcohol. Withdrawal symptoms can develop when the person stops drinking.

Alcohol detox is a managed process of stopping alcohol use and letting the brain clear itself of the negative effects of alcohol. Because withdrawal symptoms can sometimes be dangerous, detox from alcohol should only be attempted under medical supervision. Alcohol self-detox isn’t recommended since some withdrawal symptoms could turn deadly.

When it comes to long-term rehabilitation from addiction, detox is only the first step. After going through detox, you still need to participate in a comprehensive rehab program that addresses the underlying causes of alcohol addiction and teaches you techniques to avoid a relapse.

What withdrawal symptoms can you experience during alcohol detox?

Not everyone experiences the same withdrawal symptoms during detox from alcohol. Symptoms range from mild to severe, and the severity is often tied to the severity of the alcohol use. Some typical alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Sweating
  • Shakiness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Depression
  • Foggy thinking
  • Disorientation
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Severe agitation

For some people, the risks of alcohol withdrawal include long-term disability and death. This is particularly true for those who have been through multiple detoxification and addiction cycles. People with liver disease, older individuals, and those with a history of withdrawal seizures may also have a higher risk of dangerous withdrawal symptoms. In particularly dangerous cases, the person undergoing alcohol detox develops a condition called delirium tremens. This life-threatening condition involves confusion, restlessness, fever and seizures. Delirium tremens is potentially fatal.

Various factors can influence the type and severity of withdrawal symptoms during detox from alcohol. Factors that might increase your risk of severe symptoms include:

  • A family history of alcoholism or drug addiction
  • How long you have been addicted to alcohol
  • The amount of alcohol you typically drink in one drinking session
  • Medical history
  • Childhood trauma
  • Stress levels
  • Co-occurring mental health issues
  • Co-occurring substance abuse problems

Medically managed detox helps reduce the risks during this potentially dangerous time period. During a medically managed detox program, doctors and nurses monitor the person for a few days so they can intervene if symptoms become problematic. The individual in recovery may be prescribed medicine to ease symptoms.

Doctors and rehabilitation center staff use a scale called the Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment for Alcohol (CIWA) to assess where the person is in the detoxification process. This helps them decide what interventions are appropriate at different stages of withdrawal.

What factors influence alcohol withdrawal?

Several factors influence the severity of alcohol withdrawal, making it a highly individual condition. These factors include the following:

  • medical history
  • stress levels
  • how long the individual has been drinking
  • family history of addiction
  • how much alcohol was consumed each time
  • presence of a co-occurring mental health disorder
  • childhood trauma

Another factor that can influence alcohol withdrawal symptoms is using other drugs and alcohol simultaneously. It can also increase the potential side effects and dangers.

Generally speaking, the more dependent on alcohol an individual is, the more likely the individual is to encounter severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol withdrawal can be fatal since the central nervous system and brain experience a revival after being restrained by alcohol for an extended period of time. Alcohol acts as a central nervous depressant and its sudden removal can be life-threatening.

It is never recommended that an individual stops drinking completely without professional supervision since symptoms can occur and magnify at a rapid rate. Even after the physical side effects of alcohol withdrawal have subdued, cravings and emotional symptoms can continue without the proper treatment and support.

How long is alcohol detox?

An alcohol detox program takes from three to ten days. During this time, you stay onsite at the rehab facility and receive 24-hour monitoring for withdrawal symptoms.

The alcohol withdrawal timeline typically occurs over 12 to 72 hours and progresses in stages. The first symptoms usually begin to show up about 12 hours after the last drink. Depending on the severity of the addiction, withdrawal symptoms can start even before all the alcohol has left your system.

The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal may last up to a week. Most people going through detox experience the worst symptoms around 24 to 72 hours after the last drink. If hallucinations occur during withdrawal and detox, these typically start 12 to 24 hours after the final drink and dissipate by 48 hours after the last drink. Delirium tremens begins around 48 to 72 hours after halting all drinking. If someone in detox doesn’t progress to severe symptoms by 24 to 48 hours after the last drink, they are unlikely to have a significant increase in symptoms after this point.

Once you’ve gone through alcohol detox, rehab from addiction can begin. A typical addiction rehabilitation program takes around 7 weeks, but the program can be tailored to your specific needs. Some people require more time in rehab before they are ready to live a sober life and deal with regular activities using the techniques they learned in therapy. If you are dealing with other substance abuse issues or mental health problems, you may need a longer rehab program to address these issues alongside the addiction.

After completing a rehab program, you may remain in an aftercare program for a year or more. These therapy sessions, peer group meetings and check-ins help you assess your progress and reduce the chances of a relapse into addiction.

What are the stages of alcohol withdrawal?

There are three stages of severity when it comes to alcohol withdrawal side effects ranging from mild to severe.

Stage 1: Mild

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Depression
  • Heart palpitations
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Mood swings
  • Abdominal pain
  • Insomnia
  • Foggy thinking

Stage 2: Moderate

  • Increased mood disturbances
  •  Irregular heart rate
  •  Irritability
  • Increase blood pressure
  •  Sweating
  •  Mental confusion

Stage 3: Severe/delirium tremens

  •  Fever
  •  Agitation
  •  Respiration and body temperature
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  •  Severe confusion

How long before symptoms start showing up?

Between 12 and 24 hours, after individuals stop drinking, some people may experience tactile, auditory or visual hallucinations. These typically end within 48 hours.

Withdrawal seizures usually happen between 24 and 48 hours after an individual stops drinking. But in rare cases, seizures can occur as early as 2 hours after drinking stops and up to 10 days after cessation of alcohol. There is an increased risk of seizures for people who have gone through numerous detoxifications or have had previous seizures.

Delirium tremens typically start between 48 and 72 hours after an individual’s last drink. Individuals most at risk of delirium tremens have acute medical illness, a history of withdrawal seizures, abnormal liver function, or are of an older age.

Are there medications that can help during alcohol detox?

In some cases, medication is required to reduce withdrawal symptoms to manageable levels. Alcohol detox medications are administered by the doctor monitoring the withdrawal process.

There are a few different medicines used in detox, and what works for one person may not work for another. The type and amount of medication may be adjusted during detox as the client’s needs change.


Benzodiazepines include short-acting and long-acting versions, both of which can be used in a detox program. These medicines treat anxiety, insomnia and muscle spasms that occur during withdrawal.


This medication reduces alcohol cravings. Because it can cause an increase in withdrawal symptoms, naltrexone is not usually prescribed or administered until a few days into the detox process. Naltrexone is available in pill and injectable forms, and the doctor managing your detox and rehabilitation can determine which version is right for you.


Individuals with a history of withdrawal-induced seizures may be given anticonvulsant drugs during detox. Common anticonvulsant drugs used to manage convulsions during withdrawal include carbamazepine, divalproex sodium, phenobarbital, levetiracetam, and clonazepam.

Anti-Nausea Medication

Because nausea is a common symptom during detox, anti-nausea medication is sometimes used during the withdrawal phase of addiction recovery. Some commonly prescribed anti-nausea medications during detox include ondansetron and metoclopramide.


These drugs reduce psychotic episodes, such as hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia. Individuals experiencing these symptoms as part of their withdrawal from alcohol may be prescribed antipsychotics such as olanzapine and risperidone. These drugs are also used to treat conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, so individuals with these conditions who are going through detox may continue taking these medications during and after rehab.


Individuals with clinically diagnosed depression who are going through detox may be prescribed antidepressants. These medicines also help reduce anxiety, another potential symptom of alcohol withdrawal. In some cases, those with a co-occurring mental health disorder may continue taking medication for depression or anxiety after rehab in order to manage those symptoms. Treating mental health issues is part of rehabilitation because these conditions can increase the risk of a relapse later if left untreated.


Disulfiram is typically used during the later stages of rehabilitation, not during the detoxification process. This drug causes negative side effects when alcohol is consumed. The intended use of disulfiram is to make alcohol use so unpleasant that you don’t want to drink anymore. Someone who drinks alcohol while on disulfiram may experience nausea, headache, body weakness, face flushing and low blood pressure.


Individuals who have been drinking heavily for years may be prescribed acamprosate. This drug helps reduce alcohol cravings and assists the brain in returning to normal functioning after experiencing the effects of long-term alcohol addiction.

What are the risks of attempting alcohol detox at home?

While it may be tempting to attempt alcohol detox at home, it’s important to understand the serious risks involved. Alcohol withdrawal can be a dangerous and potentially life-threatening process, especially for those with a long history of heavy drinking.

One of the biggest concerns with at-home detox is the potential for severe complications and health risks. Alcohol withdrawal can cause a range of physical and psychological symptoms, including seizures, delirium tremens (DTs), and even heart failure. These conditions can escalate quickly and require immediate medical attention. Without proper monitoring and intervention, the consequences could be fatal.

Another significant risk of attempting detox at home is the lack of medical supervision and support. Detoxing under the care of trained professionals ensures that individuals receive the necessary medications to manage withdrawal symptoms and prevent complications. Medical staff can also monitor vital signs and intervene if any health issues arise. At home, individuals are left to manage the process on their own, which can be overwhelming and dangerous.

Furthermore, attempting detox at home can increase the likelihood of relapse. Withdrawal symptoms can be intense and challenging to manage without professional support. The urge to drink to alleviate these symptoms can be incredibly strong, leading many individuals to return to alcohol use. In a supervised detox setting, individuals have access to round-the-clock support and are removed from triggers and temptations, increasing their chances of successful completion.

It’s crucial to remember that alcohol detox is just the first step in recovery. Without proper aftercare and ongoing treatment, the risk of relapse remains high. Professional treatment programs not only provide a safe and supportive environment for detox but also offer the therapy and tools necessary for long-term recovery.

What happens after alcohol detox?

After completing alcohol detox, it’s essential to recognize that this is just the beginning of the recovery journey. Detox is a crucial first step, as it allows the body to rid itself of the physical dependence on alcohol. However, to maintain sobriety and prevent relapse, individuals must engage in ongoing treatment and therapy.

Continued care focuses on developing coping strategies and relapse prevention skills. This involves learning how to manage stress, identify and avoid triggers, and build a strong support network. Therapy sessions, whether individual or group, provide a safe space to explore the underlying causes of addiction and develop healthier coping mechanisms. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a commonly used approach that helps individuals recognize and change negative thought patterns and behaviors.

It’s also crucial to address any underlying mental health issues or trauma that may have contributed to the development of alcohol addiction. Many people use alcohol as a way to self-medicate or cope with unresolved emotional pain. By working with a mental health professional, individuals can begin to heal from past traumas and learn to manage symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other mental health disorders in a healthy way.

Seek professional help.

Self-detox generally isn’t advised, and often isn’t effective. Willpower can only take you so far, and it may not be enough to counter the physical changes that alcohol has caused in your system.

For managed detox that helps you get through withdrawal symptoms as comfortably as possible and a rehab program that maximizes your chances of long-term success, you’re likely to need professional help.

Originally posted by Edgewood Health Network

Teresa Bansen, Director, Quality and Patient Experience at Edgewood Health Network sheds some light on what’s troubling young people – and where they can find help.

Recent findings by the Mental Health Commission of Canada found that 1.2 million children in Canada are experiencing mental health issues. And less than 20% get the care they need.

A perfect storm of conditions is putting today’s youth at greater risk for addiction and mental health disorders. Social media, video games, peer pressure, and an intense political climate are all playing a part.

EHN Canada offers a virtual Healthy Minds Teen Comprehensive Program available to youth across the country. Teresa talked to us about what’s on young people’s minds and what makes our program uniquely positioned to help.


Teresa: While substance use and mental health concerns have been impacting youth for ages, there are some relatively newer concerns that young people are facing.

One concern, unsurprisingly, is the impact of the pandemic on children and youth. I don’t know that we fully understand or can anticipate how COVID has impacted youth. To speak to what I’ve seen with youth I’ve worked with, along with what other professionals in the field have noted, is that we’re seeing an increased tendency to isolate and that youths’ social batteries are running out more quickly.

We know that because of the pandemic’s closures and lockdowns, many children and adolescents missed out on very important socialization and developmental milestones. In some ways, children and youth are presenting a bit younger developmentally because they haven’t had as many opportunities to gain experiences with their peers, interests, and academics in the way that the generations before them have.

Other concerns many young people are struggling with are technology and social media, which has likely been reinforced and worsened by the pandemic and lockdowns. There’s also typically a pretty large discrepancy between the capacity and understanding adults have of social media and technology when compared to the knowledge of young people. Gaming has also been identified as a growing concern brought forward by parents and caregivers. Many parents I’ve worked with are expressing concern about their children and teens spending excessive amounts of time playing video games, as well as time on their screens.


Teresa: Youth tend to be very tech-savvy and can typically find their way through a variety of applications, even providing support and help to their parents or siblings. However, the brain does not stop developing until at least the age of 25, which puts youth in a particularly vulnerable position when consuming media and technology.

We also know that when parents are armed with knowledge and information about risks associated with behaviours or common vulnerabilities for youth, they can facilitate helpful discussions surrounding concerns. However, with social media and access to technology, there is a gap in knowledge and therefore parents are less likely to be able to facilitate meaningful conversations about risk and safety.


Teresa: Yes, absolutely. I am glad you raised this point. I think a large majority of teens have experienced or contributed to various levels of cyberbullying, or perhaps have felt out of control or troubled regarding situations or relationships online. For example, a peer has access to a photo or information that they sent, which then gets shared with others without their consent.

Another potential area for concern is that many adolescents are meeting friends online – friends that they may not ever meet in person. These could be mutual friends they’ve added through a platform such as Snapchat, or it could be people who live on a different continent altogether. And unfortunately, a lot of parents just aren’t aware of the number and nature of relationships their teenagers are making online.

While many parents do a good job of educating their teenagers on the basics about certain risks of the internet, there are still tremendous gaps and blind spots that parents aren’t even aware of.


Teresa: I do believe that social media can have a really positive impact on people’s lives, as well as help to raise understanding and increase access to information and education on important topics. For example, social media can be a great vehicle for increasing representation of certain folx within the media, or for advocacy surrounding equity deserving groups like BIPOC or 2SLGBTQQIA+ communities. Having said that, it’s hard to know how much of this positive content is being consumed by adolescence.

It can be helpful for trusted adults to work with young people to avoid certain topics that might be triggering or unhelpful for them. For example, if a teen is in recovery from an eating disorder or has mental health concerns, it is worth having open, non-judgemental conversations about which pages or accounts they should consider removing from their social media feeds.

Approaching these conversations with curiosity and working with the youth to come up with their own solutions can also be helpful. This could also look like actively searching out and interacting with those more positive accounts and content. Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of really negative content out there that’s misrepresentative of many things, with a large portion of it pertaining to mental health concerns.

Additionally, it is especially hard for adolescents to discern what advice and content is healthy and legitimate versus what isn’t.


Teresa: I’ve seen some examples where I have really admired and been impressed by the level of insight, nuance, and advocacy young people bring to important social justice movements. I personally have had moments where I feel very encouraged and hopeful due to younger generations being so vocal and well-informed on important topics.

However, as you can imagine, the flip side of having so much access to global information can feel very overwhelming and can absolutely have a negative impact on mental health. For example, for an adolescent exploring their own gender identity who isn’t sure how to work through this self-discovery, access to tense political climates regarding gender and sexuality has the potential to significantly impact their mental health. Similarly, it is important to recognize the impact of witnessing collective trauma, which can be quite detrimental for youth given their stage of development.


Teresa: Oh, gosh, and there really isn’t a simple solution to peer pressure because relationships and connection are at the core of our being. Humans are social creatures who have a survival instinct and drive to feel included, valued, loved, connected, and as if we belong.

For many youths, staying connected to peers and being accepted can often override any hesitancy they may feel about engaging in certain behaviours, such as drug use. If being with friends is the only place a teen feels that they really belong, or have a chance of eventually belonging, it makes sense that the adolescent (or anyone, for that matter) may succumb to peer pressure. It’s hard-wired into us.


Teresa: This is a great question. While I can’t say yes or no definitively, I would have to imagine that that is what’s happening to many young people. Because as we talked about, if you’re already in a marginalized position and “othered” within the larger society, it’s hard to find your place of fitting in and connection.

CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT EHN ONLINE’S HEALTHY MINDS TEEN PROGRAM AND HOW IT CAN HELP? Teresa: In light of everything we’ve just been chatting about, there is a great need for youth and for families to navigate what’s happening for them. Specifically, the Healthy Minds Comprehensive Teen Program provides youth with the counselling, education, and support they need to thrive. It is a 6-month program that also includes educational and supportive sessions for caregivers to help foster a healthy and open environment for their teens – all virtually.


Teresa: It’s been my experience working in the field of mental health that teens with concurrent disorders tend to fall through the cracks. For example, if a teen has both substance use and an eating disorder, they may get a referral to an eating disorder program. However, once they complete the assessment and it’s identified that they also use substances,  substance use is a common exclusion criterion, which will likely lead to the assessment team asking the teen to work on their substance use first to access services. Often, a similar situation arises if the same youth attempts to get help for their substance use first.

When we look at human behaviour, what it boils down to is just different symptoms for similar pain and struggles that human beings experience. I think it is important that we offer this treatment so fewer teens will fall through the cracks.


Teresa: Yes, we really encourage parents and caregivers to attend the family support components of our program. Many parents don’t know what to do or how to support their teen, but there’s a clear desire from families to learn.

Specifically, the Healthy Minds Teen Program offers orientation and exit sessions, as well as 12 hours of Emotion-Focused Family Therapy for caregivers. The hope is to build some community and connection not just for the teens, but for parents and caregivers as well. I’ve heard from so many parents that having a child that is struggling can be an incredibly isolating experience, leaving caregivers feeling lost and helpless. And the research shows us that when family is involved, there are much better outcomes for treatment.


Teresa: No, definitely not. As licensed mental health professionals, we have to adhere to personal health privacy laws, which means that what youth share with us must remain confidential. There are always exceptions or limits to confidentiality with regard to imminent harm or safety, but our clinicians do a great job clarifying any questions youth may have.


Teresa: Yes. There are a few different reasons and ideas behind that. These teens are struggling and are in pain. They need support. The behaviours they have are just the surface level symptoms. Having teens together with various struggles can be really helpful for them to not feel like they’re alone or that they’re weird or different.


Teresa: That’s a great question. There is a large range of indicators that parents, teachers or healthcare providers can notice or pick up on when a teen is struggling. Generally speaking, warning signs may include noticing fairly significant shifts in the youth’s mood, whether the teen is a lot more excitable than usual, or perhaps noticing the teen is feeling sad, disengaged, or is self-isolating. If grades start to drop in school, that’s typically an indication that they’re struggling in some way.

You may notice a young person commenting more on their body or on their appearance, which might include really degrading comments toward themselves. It may be helpful to watch out for significant weight loss or weight gain within a short amount of time, as well as changes to how much and what types of foods they’re eating.

We are also starting to see more parents pre-emptively connect teens with a therapist or support program. The teen may not be expressing significant distress, but it can still be very helpful to make that connection with a trusted person or therapist before things get really bad. Having an existing connection and learning skills in advance can help with preventative work.


Originally posted on Edgewood Health Network

Loss is one of life’s most stressful events. It takes time to heal, and everyone responds differently. We may need help to cope with the changes in our lives. Grief is part of being human, but that doesn’t mean we have to go through the journey alone.

What is grief?

Grief (also called bereavement) is the experience of loss. Many people associate grief with the death of an important person or pet. However, people experience grief after any important loss that affects their life, such as the loss of a job or relationship. Grief after diagnosis of an illness or other health problem is also common.

People experience grief in many different ways—and experience many different thoughts or feelings during the journey. People may feel shocked, sad, angry, scared, or anxious. Some feel numb or have a hard time feeling emotions at all. At times, many people even feel relief or peace after a loss.

Grief is complicated. There is no one way to experience grief. Feelings, thoughts, reactions, and challenges related to grief are very personal. Some people have thoughts or feelings that seem at odds with each other. For example, someone may feel very depressed about their loss but accept the loss at the same time. Many people find that the intensity of their grief changes a lot over time. Holidays can often bring up strong feelings, for example. People work through grief in their own time and on their own path.

What can I do about it?

People express or talk about grief in different ways, but we all feel grief after a loss. In most cases, people navigate through grief with help from loved ones and other supporters and, in time, go back to their daily life.

Some people need extra help from a mental health professional. Grief can be more complicated when the loss is sudden or unexpected, frightening, the result of an accident or disaster, or the result of a crime. Other factors also play a role. A person’s experience of mental illness, lack of personal and social supports, and difficult personal relationships can also affect the impact of grief. A type of counselling called grief counselling supports people through difficulties around grief.

Here are some tips to help you through your journey:

  • Connect with caring and supportive people. This might include loved ones, neighbours, and co-workers. It could also include a bereavement support group or community organization.
  • Give yourself enough time. Everyone reacts differently to a loss and there is no normal grieving period.
  • Let yourself feel sadness, anger, or whatever you need to feel. Find healthy ways to share your feelings and express yourself, such as talking with friends or writing in a journal.
  • Recognize that your life has changed. You may feel less engaged with work or relationships for some time. This is a natural part of loss and grief.
  • Reach out for help. Loved ones may want to give you privacy and may not feel comfortable asking you how you’re doing, so don’t be afraid to ask for their support.
  • Holidays and other important days can be very hard. It may be helpful to plan ahead and think about new traditions or celebrations that support healing.
  • Take care of your physical health. Be aware of any physical signs of stress or illness, and speak with your doctor if you feel that your grief is affecting your health.
  • Offer support to other loved ones who are grieving. Reaching out to others may be helpful in your own journey.
  • Be honest with young people about what has happened and about how you feel, and encourage them to share their feelings, too.
  • Work through difficult feelings like bitterness and blame. These feelings can make it harder to move forward in your life.
  • Make a new beginning. As the feelings of grief become less intense, return to interests and activities you may have dropped and think about trying something new.
  • Think about waiting before making major life decisions. You may feel differently as your feelings of grief lose their intensity, and the changes may add to the stress you’re already experiencing.

How can I help a loved one?

Many people feel like they don’t know what to do or say when a loved one if experiencing loss. If the loss also affected you, you may be working through your own experiences of grief. One of the most important things you can do is to simply be there for your loved one. Grief can feel overwhelming, but support and understanding can make a huge difference.

Here are some tips for supporting a loved one:

  • Understand that a loved one needs to follow their own journey in their own way and express their feelings in their own way.
  • Ask your loved one what they need, and regularly remind them that you’re there for support if they aren’t ready to talk with others yet. Remember to offer practical help, too.
  • Talk about the loss. It’s common to avoid the topic and focus on a loved one’s feelings instead, but many people find sharing thoughts, memories, and stories helpful or comforting.
  • Remember that grief may be bigger than the loss. For example, someone who loses a partner may also experience a lot of fear or stress around financial security and other important matters.
  • Include your loved one in social activities. Even if they often decline, it’s important to show that they are still an important member of your community.
  • Help your loved one connect with support services if they experience a lot of difficulties.
  • Take care of your own well-being and seek extra help for yourself if you need it.


Originally posted on the Canadian Mental Health Association

These simple and proven strategies will help you manage stress and find meaning in the new year.

Since the height of the pandemic, there has been a cultural shift in the way we talk about mental health. It’s as though the years of isolation and uncertainty helped us understand how vital our emotional needs were to our overall well-being.

Now that we’re paying more attention to our inner lives, it’s also essential that we take action. Fortunately, there are a number of things that everyone can do to nourish their mental health and find moments of joy.

Here are some of our favorite tips from the past year as we prepare to enter 2024.

Experts say that getting enough sleep is one of the most important things we can do for our mental health. If you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep, studies have found that cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, or C.B.T.-I., is as effective as using sleep medications in the short term — and more effective in the long term. C.B.T.-I. helps people address anxieties about sleep and find ways to relax. To find a provider, try the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine directory.

It’s normal to feel anxious from time to time. In fact, having some anxiety can actually be useful. Experts say an internal alarm system can improve our performance, help us recognize danger and even encourage us to be more conscientious. So we asked Dr. Petros Levounis, the president of the American Psychiatric Association: How much anxiety is too much?

“If you start to notice that worry and fear are there constantly, that is a signal that you need some help,” he said.

Other signs to look out for include restlessness, a sense of fear or doom, increased heart rate, sweating, trembling and trouble concentrating.

If you have a tendency to ruminate, there are a few simple ways to curb the habit. The first is to distract yourself: Research shows that diversions can help get your mind off whatever is stressing you out. Try playing a word game or listening to music, paying close attention to the lyrics.

Other times, it’s better not to fight the urge — but that doesn’t mean you should let your thoughts spiral out of control. Set a timer for 10 to 30 minutes of dedicated rumination time, and give yourself permission to mentally mull things over. When the timer goes off, it’s time to move on.

When you’re struggling with your mental health, basic tasks like washing dishes or doing laundry can feel impossible. But living amid mess can make you feel even worse. KC Davis, a licensed professional counselor and author of the book “How to Keep House While Drowning,” advises focusing on function over aesthetics — your home doesn’t have to be perfect, but it should be livable.

An efficient way to keep things from getting out of hand is to practice what she calls “five things tidying.” Tackle the five main categories of clutter — trash, dishes, laundry, things with a place and things without a place — one at a time to help cleaning feel more manageable.

Gratitude is a positive emotion that can arise when you acknowledge that you have goodness in your life and that other people — or higher powers, if you believe in them — have helped you achieve that goodness.

To really reap the benefits of gratitude, experts say, it’s important to express it whenever possible. That might include writing letters of thanks or listing the positive things in your life in a journal. Giving thanks to friends, romantic partners and even co-workers can also offer a relationship boost.

Research shows that mindset really matters when it comes to health, and it can even extend your life. A classic study found that people who were optimistic about aging lived seven and a half years longer than those who had negative perceptions of it.

To adopt a more positive outlook about getting older, shift your focus to the benefits of aging, like better emotional well-being and higher emotional intelligence. Look for aging role models, too: older people who stay physically active and engaged in their communities, or those with traits that you admire.

The notion that art can improve mental well-being is something many people intuitively understand but don’t necessarily put into practice.

You don’t need talent to give it a try, experts say. Writing a poem, singing or drawing can all help elevate your mood, no matter how creative you consider yourself to be. One of the easiest ways to get started is to color something intricate: Spending 20 minutes coloring a mandala (a complex geometric design) is more helpful for reducing anxiety than free-form coloring for the same length of time, research has found.

Sometimes we have to remind ourselves to connect with the physical world around us. Enter the awe walk.

Pick a walking spot (either new or familiar) and imagine that you’re seeing it for the first time. Then pay attention to your senses. Feel the wind on your face, touch the petals of a flower. Simply notice the sky. It can be more restorative than you might expect.

If you’re having trouble focusing, it’s not just you. Research has found that over the past two decades, the amount of time we spend on a given task has shrunk to an average of just 47 seconds, down from two and a half minutes. Technology is often to blame.

To regain control of your concentration, Larry Rosen, a professor emeritus of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, suggested a strategy he calls “tech breaks.” Set a timer for 15 minutes, then silence and set aside your phone. When time is up, take one or two minutes to check your favorite apps — that’s your tech break — and get back to work for another 15-minute cycle. The goal is to gradually increase the time between your tech breaks, building up to 45 minutes (or more) away from your phone.

One of the fastest, easiest ways you can calm your mind and body is by taking slow, deep breaths. Doing so helps to turn up your parasympathetic nervous system — the counterbalance to the “fight or flight” stress response — and lower your blood pressure and regulate your heart rate.

One breathing exercise that can be particularly helpful for mitigating fear and anxiety is 4-4-8 breathing, where you inhale for four counts, hold your breath for four counts and exhale for eight counts.


Originally posted on New York Times