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World Mental Health Day: creating a toolbox of strategies

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In celebration of World Mental Health Day on October 10, area counsellor Claire Pijanowski joins us to talk about the importance of mental health. Pijanowski’s role involves delivering social-emotional learning to classrooms, conducting individual and small group counselling sessions, connecting with parents and families, and coordinating meetings with school staff to support students at Queen Mary and Kerrisdale Elementary schools.

Mental health is just as important as your physical health – it affects how you think, feel, and act. Our mental health also affects how we make choices, handle stress, and relate to others. When we practice good mental health strategies, it makes it easier for us to cope with problems that we face in everyday life.

Taking care of mental health looks different for everyone. This could mean getting exercise, spending time in nature, getting a good night’s sleep, connecting with loved ones, or taking some quality leisure time. One can maintain good mental health by talking about their feelings, helping others, engaging in life-long learning, taking care of their body, or staying connected to the people and activities that bring them joy. 

Teaching has opened my eyes to the incredible relationships that are formed inside the classroom. Working with students everyday has also shown me the possibilities to have a profound and lasting impact on their lives. 

As a school counsellor, I focus on being a supportive person. One example on how I teach my students to practice good mental health is to help them build their own mental health toolbox. They fill their toolbox with different strategies to help them regulate their emotions, problem solve, or cope with stress. When they find a strategy that works for them, they put it in their toolbox. These strategies could range from taking five deep breaths, doing mindfulness exercises, or doing a favourite hobby.

I think the most important part of self-care is realizing you need to find balance in your life. As a working mom of two young kids, I need to prioritize my mental health by planning and implementing self-care in my daily life. I practice self-care by using positive affirmations (for positive thinking), meditation (for sleep), and gratitude (for joy). Here are four practical strategies for students, staff, and families if you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed lately:  

  1. Tip #1 - Try this grounding exercise if you are feeling anxious: write down 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can feel, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
  2. Tip #2 - Start a gratitude journal to promote joy and positivity. Write down specific things you are grateful for each day. 
  3. Tip #3 - Boost your confidence and self-esteem by giving yourself positive affirmations. Say them out loud, in your head, in the mirror, or when faced with a challenging situation. 
  4. Tip #4 - Find something that brings you joy. Play with your friends outdoors, go for a walk, limit your screen time, or be in nature. 

Today on World Mental Health Day, make yourself a toolbox and fill it with all the strategies that will improve your mental health. Put your toolbox in a place where you will see it every day so you will remember all the ways you can care for your mental well-being. It’s worth it!

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