January is Mental Health Wellness Month. In Canada, 1 in 5 people will personally experience a mental health concern no matter their age, education, income level, or culture.
Paul Penner, Executive Director of the Pembina Counselling Centre says, being aware of your own emotions and thoughts is paramount in understanding and dealing with mental health.
"Mental health is an on-going reality that we need to look after. We need to look after ourselves and that comes to include emotional, self-management, relationships, pressures in life, and how we take care of ourselves. So that's always going to be something that we have to consider and build into our lives to do."
He says one of the first things you can do is stop, and think about where your emotions are coming from. When you find the source, this can help you decipher what needs you are missing out on that could be causing mental distress.
"Of course, when we're aware in that way we can come up with better responses and we can focus them on what's needed. Rather than just reacting to a feeling we actually take the time, press the pause button, and think about it. Put it in a context and it will reveal something, and we can act on that better when we're more aware," he says.
Penner notes that anxiety, depression, relationship conflict, and stress management are some of the most common mental health issues that people are experiencing.
He recommends people stop "to think about what would be a good response, what would be a good direction for myself, for others. Sometimes people get stuck, and then it's good to enlist somebody else. Talk to a friend, talk to somebody that you trust, that would hold your concerns in confidence."
Often approaching someone you trust about your mental health can help give a new perspective on what you're dealing with, and can help with processing overwhelming thoughts and emotions. He says professionals are also very helpful in this manner.
One danger to be aware of is becoming too focused on self-care. Penner recommends finding a healthy balance between thinking of yourself and others, especially if you are a caregiver of children or family members.
"We can also do too much self-care and not enough other care. We need to have people involved. We need to care about others. We're healthier when we think about ourselves and others."