Part of the reason I first started this blog was to be able to talk about some of the things that I’ve been through, because I know there are other people out there like me who have been through similar things. Something I have struggled with in the past has been mental health challenges. It was scary to say that for the first time, but it gets easier every time I do.
When I was younger I was anorexic and bulimic. I later struggled with depression and anxiety and prenatal mental health issues. I’ve had panic attacks. It was a lot of really hard stuff to go through, but I was really lucky to have a team of professionals behind me to get me through everything safely. I got through it, and now it’s something I write about and reach out to other women about. I volunteered as an eating disorder support group co-facilitator to help patients with their journey. I’ve written for larger publications to talk about it and I’ve even been on the radio to share my story. I put myself out there with this stuff for the same reason I write – so people don’t feel alone.
If you’re struggling with mental health issues, you are absolutely not alone. Mental illness affects one in five Canadiansincluding an estimated 10 to 20 percent of Canadian youth– making up the single most disabling group of disordersworldwide. 1 in 5 is a lot. People are starting to talk about it more, but more awareness is needed.
Why? By 2020, depression will be the leading cause of disabilityaround the world. That’s why we need to keep building support for mental health awareness and treatment. While it affects everyone, one in eight women will develop depression at some point in their lives; this is twice as likely as men.
Sometimes it can be hard to recognize mental health issues. You might know things aren’t quite right, but do you really have a problem? Here are some signs and symptoms to watch for from our friends at CAMH(because I want to keep you safe).
Depression and anxiety, which occur more often in women than men, has a range of forms. The death of a loved one, divorce or financial pressures are all things which can cause stress, or feelings of sadness. Symptoms of anxiety or depression, however, are more prolonged.
You may not notice if a friend or family member is suffering, but for them, negative feelings will be present most days and they will last more than two weeks. Other important signs to look out for include:
- Withdrawal from family or friends
- Loss of interest in work, hobbies, people or sex
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Sleep problems
- Irritability, fatigue or trouble concentrating
If you, or someone you know, has any signs or symptoms of a depression or anxiety, there are resources to help. If symptoms persist or get worse over time, consider seeing your primary care provider or mental health specialist.
When I was sick, my doctor helped me with a prescription. I do not regret taking it. It was the best thing for me. I had moderate to severe symptoms and it was significantly impacting my life. It almost took my life. The guidance of medical professionals is so key.
These days doctors and pharmacists have even more options for making recommendations, because research is improving all the time. Canadians can now get a prescription to run! Aerobic exercise – like jogging – is newly recommended in clinical guidelines to help treat mild to moderate depression.
Studies have shown that exercise that raises your heart rate for at least 25 minutes can have the same effect on your brain as anti-depressant drugs. Aerobic exercise can help reduce anxiety and improve mood. It enhances the action of endorphins and releases feel-good brain chemicals that can ease depression while reducing immune system chemicals that can worsen depression.
Now, before we go any further, I want to clear some things up. Am I telling you not to take your meds that have been prescribed by your doctor? NO. Am I telling you that you don’t need medication or that people who take medication should just go for a run? ALSO NO. I am not a doctor, I am not your doctor, I am just letting you know what some research says can be helpful. Stay with me, friends, I am on your team.
What I am telling you here is what I have always told you (except this time I have a lot of numbers and citations): joyful movement feels good, and you should try it 🙂 Exercise is not punishment or penance or a way to make up for choices you aren’t proud of, it’s a way to celebrate and honour yourself and what your body needs (and your body needs to move). Because it’s awesome, AND SO ARE YOU. *group hug*
What I am saying is that there is research that suggests that healthy activity can be really helpful to address the symptoms of mild to moderate depression and if you are looking for treatment options, you have manychoices to discuss with your healthcare provider, to set you up with a plan that is going to work. And that plan may change over time. There is no one “right” way to get better for everyone, but research is helping to find different strategies you can combine to start feeling better. Follow your doctor’s advice in getting better. Just know that treatment can look different at different points in your journey and someone else might find other things work better for them. Your treatment plan is as individual as you are. So whatever you choose, you do you and just get better, the world needs you, ok?
Now, back to this thing about how exercise is really good for your mental health. My friends at Shoppers Drug Mart organize the annual Run for Women: to raise funds for programs dedicated to helping women with mental health issues. They are a proud champion of putting women’s health first. I trust them with my family’s health and have for years, long before we decided to work together to bring you this important information.
The SHOPPERS LOVE. YOU. Run for Women is Canada’s first and only running race series, benefitting women’s mental health initiatives across the country. The run is organized in partnership with The Running Room. It’s a great idea because you get to experience how running with friends and family can help motivate you, and it’s a healthy way to help manage your anxiety and depression.
SHOPPERS LOVE.YOU. Run for Women is an amazing experience for mind and body. You can register to walk or run 5K or 10K and Run with your heart to restore your mind – this year’s theme.
On May 12, I will be running in Vancouver, come join me by signing up under the “SHOPPERS LOVE.YOU. Ambassadors” team. (Okay, it’s more likely to be jogging or powerwalking with intention, but I will be there and I will be STOKED to be there and walking/running/jogging/strutting/sauntering with you – you’re coming right? Don’t leave me hanging!)
If you’re not in Vancouver, don’t worry! You can still sign up for the “LOVE.YOU. Ambassadors” team in 14 other runs across Canada(excluding Quebec). In each city, only registrants on the “LOVE. YOU. Ambassadors” team will have a chance to win one $150 gift card from Shoppers Drug Mart, or a pair of Brooks shoes ($200 value) from the Running Room. You might even get a chance to run with one of the other Ambassadors! (They are cool, we chatted on the phone the other day, you will love them, I promise.)
Here’s how to join us:
- Select the city you live in
- Answer whether or not you are an SDM employee
- Copy/Paste “LOVE. YOU. Ambassadors” into the team search bar
- Register for the 5k run/walk team, with your information
It is just that easy! Now, I am on your team, that’s why I’m here, and I hope you will join mine! Let’s go for a run/jog/stroll/saunter and raise money and awareness for women’s mental health issues.
Disclosure: My friends at Shoppers Drug Mart have sponsored this post and have given me all sorts of research to share with you. That said, I don’t tell you about anything I don’t believe in personally with my whole sparkly heart. Talk to your doctor about what we’ve talked about, because the guidance of a medical professional is important.