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Most of us have experienced more stress than usual from the pandemic. It has been unpredictable, disruptive and has made us feel unsafe. For those who are not normally affected by bouts of anxiety and depression, feeling our spirits dip can be confusing and scary. According to the Morneau Shepell mental health index, there has been a dramatic 16% drop in the mental health of Canadians compared to pre-Covid statistics. The full report is available at https://lifeworks.com/en/mental-health-index.

As scientists race to create vaccines and public health officials strategize ways to contain the spread, the Canadian Mental Health Association strongly recommends “self-care” as an important coping strategy during this difficult time.

Regular self-care can be a powerful healing tool, but getting the best results requires discipline. It is not just about reaching for what’s comfortable or pleasurable. Self-care is about giving the body what it needs to help us stay well. While a sugary treat may feel good at the time, as a regular habit it does not provide the body with the quality nutrients it needs to keep us healthy.

Our body has an innate intelligence and can repair and heal itself with the right tools. It sends us “self-care” messages all the time. For instance, it makes us aware of muscle pain when it is time to take a break from the computer, to move and stretch. Other times, the message is for a nutritious snack to help with our energy and creative thought process, or fatigue when we need to rest. The more care we take of our body, the more we will benefit. While it is not always easy to maintain wellness practices, amazingly, the more we make these a regular part of our lives, the more our body craves them.

The rewards for listening and responding to our body’s signals with the best tools are well worth the effort. We sleep better, have more energy, think clearer and feel happier.

Vital also to our physical and mental health is the ability to experience a sense of calm. The “Calm” state has both a psychological and a physiological effect on the body. It helps to release the nervous system from the “stress defensive” mode. The body can then direct its resources to aid in the repair and recovery process, open our capacity for creativity and all elements essential to our well-being.

These days getting our nervous system out of defense mode and into a “calm” state of being is not an easy feat. Some find breathing techniques or meditation an effective way to get into a relaxed state. Others find they are too restless to harness their thoughts and sit in stillness. Movement meditation is a great alternative to achieve the same calm state for both our body and mind. According to the Mayo Clinic, any form of meditation can help us improve our stress management skills, increase our self-awareness, and reduce the intensity of negative emotions.

We are very lucky to live in a city with so many beautiful parks and a walk in nature is just the dose of calm we all need. Just remember to notice the beauty around you and breathe it all in.

This month’s Massage Therapy specials focus on bringing the body and mind into a calm state. Just relax and enjoy while your body heals and recharges.