Mental Health

CARING FOR OUR

MENTAL HEALTH

Listen to our
curated playlist while you Read!
caring for our mental health

Taking care of your mental health can be a 👏 full 👏 time 👏 job.

Everyone’s experience with their mental health is unique.
Your family history, upbringing, relationships with others, and past experiences can all impact how your mental health shows up in your everyday life.

Chances are, you or someone you care about may be dealing with challenges with their mental health. It’s an experience that many of us share, even though it doesn’t always seem like it. Oftentimes, these experiences aren’t talked about because there’s still a lot of stigma around mental health, especially in communities that have less awareness or understanding of it. Many of us weren’t shown how to express our emotions growing up or given the opportunity to talk about our feelings.

Regularly checking in on how you’re feeling, communicating your emotions and needs with others, and learning how to manage your emotions and know when and where to seek help, are all ways you can strengthen your relationship with yourself and the people around you. 💞

Everyone’s Mental Health is Unique 🌈

Mental health looks different for everyone and can be about how your mind and body are constantly adapting and responding to your environment, circumstances, past experiences, family history, genetic makeup, and even your physical condition (such as chronic physical pain). Your mental health can also be impacted by larger systems at work in our society, such as racism, homophobia, transphobia, colonialism, and ableism. Click here to learn more about how some of these experiences may impact your mental health.  

Mental health can be understood as a spectrum, or a window of tolerance. Your experiences or feelings can range anywhere from, “I notice ____ feelings from time to time,” all the way to “It’s really hard to get through each day.” And these feelings can change day to day, or even throughout the day. When we’re in our window of tolerance, life’s obstacles feel manageable. But when prolonged stress or other life challenges occur, it can shrink our window of tolerance, making it more difficult for us to respond to situations.
Everyone's window of tolerance is different – that’s why the same experience can affect people in different ways.
Learning skills to help us return to our window of tolerance when we’ve been triggered, or expand our window of tolerance, can help us manage the difficult situations we may encounter throughout our lives.

When We’re Hurting

Content Warning: The information below discusses experiences that may be triggering for some, such as self-harm and suicide.
Content Warning: The information below discusses experiences that may be triggering for some, such as self-harm and suicide.
When we’re hurting, we may do things or act in ways that make visible to the outside world how we’re feeling on the inside. Self-harm can mean a lot of different things, from hurting your body, like cutting yourself, picking your skin, or not eating enough, to betraying yourself or your needs. For example, some people may self-harm through substance use, dropping the ball on commitments, or choosing to engage with unsafe people or situations. In these cases, folks may be harming themselves through self-betrayal, self-punishment, or as RuPaul calls it, their inner saboteur!  

Remember: self-harm can be a coping strategy that helps many folks survive really hard relationships, environments, or experiences that shouldn't have happened to them.
There is no shame in self-harm.
If you choose, there are other ways to cope that may be safer, like reaching out to a friend, family member, community member, or a mental health service provider who can help you understand, work through, and heal the root cause of your pain. Click here to learn more about different ways to cope.

Sometimes when we’re hurting, we may also think more about suicide. Thoughts about self-harm and suicide are much more common than what’s talked about in our society and culture. Thinking about suicide can look like a range of thoughts and feelings that vary in terms of how urgent they are. For example, thoughts of suicide can be a passing moment during the day. For others, the thoughts may feel harder to ignore.  

If you find yourself thinking a lot about suicide, try your best to check in with yourself and the people you trust in your life about how urgent these feelings are, and ways you might be able to manage them, whether on your own or together. 

***Just FYI: if you’re under 16 years old, your family, teachers or healthcare providers (like your doctor or mental health service providers) may have a duty to call 9-1-1 if you tell them you’re thinking of completing suicide.***
If you’re thinking of suicide but aren’t sure who to talk to, here are some places you can reach out to:
Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566 (24/7) or text 45645.
The number will redirect you to the closest crisis centre – you’ll be talking to a trained suicide prevention responder.
Kids Help Phone (for anyone 25 or under): 1-800-668-6868 (24/7) or text CONNECT to 686868. They also have a Facebook Messenger option.
Hope for Wellness Help Line (for Indigenous folks): 1-855-242-3310 (24/7) or chat online. On request, phone counselling is also available in Cree, Ojibway, and Inuktitut.
Trans Lifeline (for folks who identify as trans, non-binary, or any gender non-conforming identity): 1-877-330-6366. Services are available from 5pm – 1am EST, 7 days a week. You’ll be connected with a trans, non-binary, or gender non-conforming volunteer who is trained in peer support.

Talking It Out

When we feel guilty or ashamed about our mental health, we’re more likely to stay silent about what we’re going through or pull away from the people in our lives. Talking about your mental health with someone you trust and love can make you feel more seen, heard, connected, and grounded. It’s important, though, to be mindful of how someone’s own life experiences and mental health can also be affected by the information you share with them. Make sure to check-in with someone before sharing experiences that could be triggering, or a lot to process. This can be as simple as saying:
  • “Hey, I’ve got some things on my mind that I want to get off my chest, but they might be a lot to take in. How would you feel about hearing them right now?”
  • “Do you have time to talk? I’ve been having a rough time lately and could use some support.”
  • “I have something to tell you. It’s hard for me to talk about it, but I’m hoping I can let you know more about what’s been going on.”
  • “I’m not sure what I need right now but I could use some company / some space.”
  • “I trust you and I’m wondering if you can hold space for something I need to talk about.”

On the other hand, maybe you want to try and start a conversation with a friend or loved one about their mental health. Some ways to start this can look like:

  • “I feel like I’m missing a lot of what’s been going on for you. Could we catch up?”
  • “I want you to know that I see you and what you’re going through.”
  • “I want to show up for you. What would be most helpful for you right now?”
  • “I don’t think I have the right tools to support you on this one alone. Can we brainstorm other ideas together?”
A conversation can be an opportunity to connect. When we learn how to have compassion for ourselves, we are in a better position to care for our own mental health as well as our relationships with other people, too. 🥰

Finding Community

Finding and surrounding yourself with people who accept and respect you as you are can be an important part of your mental health journey. Society doesn’t always embrace our differences as it should, whether that be because of our abilities, minds, gender identities or sexualities, races, or religions. You deserve to be surrounded by people who support and love you at every point throughout your mental health journey. 💖

Finding community means connecting with people who share any aspect of your identity that’s important to you. You can find community through school groups, organizations, online communities, in-person events, forums or servers, groups in your area, or places nearby, and so much more. There are people out there who have gone through similar things or can relate your experiences, and they’re probably hoping to meet someone like you, too!
Some ways you can connect with your community include:
  • Learning more about  your family’s heritage, ethnic, or cultural history
  • Learning more about your gender identity and sexuality
  • Talking to Elders or older folks in your community who can pass down stories, histories, ceremonies, and traditions to you 
  • Learning the language of your parents, ancestors or heritage
  • Finding role models in your community (online, too) who share aspects of your identity
  • Setting healthy boundaries and developing healthier relationships with friends, intimate partner(s), and family members (that includes chosen family! 🌈)
  • Finding support groups with other folks living with similar mental health conditions or experiences
At our core, we all want to be seen, heard and loved by the people in our lives. Finding and getting connected to your communities, having supportive friends by your side, and having other resources to support your mental health can help you manage through difficult times. 💫

You’ve Got Options

When it comes to taking care of your mental health, there are some different options you can consider. Remember, these might not all work for you, and they can also change over time!
For some people, it can be helpful to put a name to their experience with mental health. This can feel validating for some people and help connect them to care. For others, these names may not feel accurate, or maybe they just aren’t as important to your personal journey with mental health – and that’s totally okay! 👌

Some examples of common names for mental health conditions include depression and anxiety. But there’s lots of other names given to different mental health experiences, which you can check out here. Remember that these lists don’t describe every person’s experiences.  
***A note on mental health resources: The way many people, including mental health professionals and counsellors, learn and talk about mental health is informed through a colonial or Western approach. This means that wellness is often understood through an individual and medical lens that doesn’t recognize how historical forces, social structures or cultural dynamics impact our health and mental health. This can sometimes create pressure to put a name to your mental health experience, begin treatment, and more. It's completely understandable not to seek the support of mental health professionals or treatments informed by a Western approach if that doesn't feel right for you. Remember that you deserve to decide what is best for your healing.
Some people find that talking about their feelings and experiences with a counsellor can help them identify where their emotions, thoughts, and patterns of behaviour may be coming from, in ways they maybe didn’t think of before. Some counsellors can also help you work through your emotions through a body-focused approach that goes beyond talk therapy, such as somatic therapy.

Some folks think of counselling as another part of their healthcare routine, like getting an annual check-up at the doctor, or getting routinely tested for STIs and HIV. Talking to your doctor, a social worker, community health worker, or any other person who looks after your health can help you get referred to a counsellor, if that’s something you’re interested in.  

We know counselling services can cost a lot of money or have long wait times that make it difficult for people to access it. If you’re not sure where to begin, click here for counselling services available across Canada. (Btw, taking the first step to get connected to care is HUGE and we love to see it!)🙌
Some folks may also get a prescription from a doctor for medication that can help keep their body in a more balanced state. There can still be some stigma surrounding taking medication to treat mental health conditions, which can stem from people’s cultural or personal beliefs, or a general lack of awareness or education around mental health. But medication can be a lifeline for many! It can make getting through each day a little easier while practicing other strategies to care for your mental health. 💓
There are also so many other ways of caring for your mental health, like learning how to regulate difficult emotions, talking to friends and family that you trust,  connecting with community and nature, moving your body, creative outlets, meditation, journaling, and much more – check out our blog post here for some more ideas!

Emotional Regulation 

One of the things we can do to take care of our mental health and keep us feeling grounded is learn how to regulate our emotions when we become emotionally activated by them. We're talking about those feelings that travel through your nervous system, making your heart race, palms sweaty, or face hot. Challenging emotions, such as grief, anger or hopelessness are all part of being human and can be temporary. It can be helpful to approach these feelings and the changes happening in your body with curiosity.
Shifting our attention to our body’s response(s) can help create some distance from what we’re feeling and help us identify what our emotions are, and potentially, where they’re coming from. For some people, focusing on your body may be triggering – so it's okay if tuning into your body feels too much. Some folks may try breathing to regulate their emotions.
You can pause and ask yourself:
  • What am I feeling? (Tired, frustrated, sad, stressed, disconnected, empty, confused, lonely, hopeless, lost, etc. – check out our feelings wheel here!)
  • How intense are these feelings, on a scale from 1 to 10?
  • Where am I feeling this in my body? (My chest? Heart? The back of my head?)
  • If I imagine pulling these feelings out and holding them in my hand, what is the texture like? (Hot, sharp, spiky, jumbled?) How heavy are they?
  • What comfort can I give myself, in this moment?
  • How can I release these feelings from my body? (Cry, breathe, kick, punch a pillow, etc.)
  • What would I like to do next? When can I do this?
  • If it's far away, what’s another activity I could do right now instead? Do I need support to do that activity?

Breathing  

Another way to regulate your emotions is by using your body, since our mind is connected to our nervous system. Calming your breath can help slow down racing thoughts and help you focus on the present, which can help bring your mind and body to a better balance. Deep belly breathing is a way to re-centre our nervous system when we’re feeling emotionally activated. 

Try this one with us: Breathe in for four seconds, hold your breath for four seconds, exhale for four seconds, then hold for a final four seconds. It can be helpful to mentally picture a square box as you do this. Try following along with ours for a few rotations!   

You can also try closing your eyes and inhaling a long, deep breath until your chest is filled with air. Now, imagine holding a balloon up to your lips and inflate the balloon slowly. Fill it up with all the stress and negative thoughts and feelings that were inside you, until you’ve run out of air. Tie off the end of the imaginary balloon and let it go. 🎈 Watch it float away, slowly, until it gets smaller and smaller, and disappears. Wave goodbye. 👋 Repeat if you still feel like there’s more inside of you that you’d like to release.

Your Personal Mental Health Toolkit

Sometimes it can be hard to remember how to feel balanced again. If things reach an intensity you’ve never experienced before, it can be even harder to know what you need when you’re in the moment.

But what if you prepared a personal toolkit for yourself in advance – something uniquely yours, and totally personalized to you, that you could grab when you need additional supports? You can do this on your own or together with someone you love and want to share this experience with. What would you leave in your toolkit? What are some things that you enjoy doing, that help you relax, stay grounded, feel calm, and bring you joy?
We’ll give you a few examples below, but the possibilities are endless! 😉
  • Your favourite snacks
  • A special playlist 🎶
  • Incense or candles to light
  • Funny memes or videos
  • Written affirmations and notes to yourself 
  • Grounding activities checklist (deep breathing, stretching, cuddling your pet(s)🐾) 
  • Phone numbers of supportive friends, family, or lifelines that you can call 
  • A plan of action for if your toolkit didn’t help – who or what does this look like for you?
Ultimately, taking care of your mental health is an ongoing journey as your life changes and you learn more about yourself.
journal
Thank you! Your submission has been received.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

HEY THERE! TELL US WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT SEXFLUENT.CA AND YOU COULD GET A $20 GIFT CARD.

caring for our mental health
You can get a $20 gift card
for completing a short, 10-minute survey about your opinions on Sexfluent.ca. To see if you’re eligible, answer the following 6 questions!
Please choose a gender(s) before proceeding.
Please choose a language before proceeding.
Thanks for submitting your information. Our research team will reach out in the next 48 hours if you qualify for our survey. Be sure to check your spam folder, too.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email sexfluent@canfar.com. 

We hope you keep getting Sexfluent with us!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

BEFORE YOU GO! SHARE YOUR FEEDBACK AND YOU COULD GET A $20 GIFT CARD.

All you need to do is complete a short, 10-minute survey about your opinions on Sexfluent.ca. To see if you’re eligible, answer the following 6 questions!
Please choose a gender(s) before proceeding.
Please choose a language before proceeding.
Thanks for submitting your information. Our research team will reach out in the next 48 hours if you qualify for our survey. Be sure to check your spam folder, too.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email sexfluent@canfar.com. 

We hope you keep getting Sexfluent with us!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.