Healthy Living in the North

I am not just the reflection in the mirror

Label on mirror reading: "Warning: Reflections  in this mirror may be distorted by socially constructed ideas of "beauty"

“I am a whole person; I am not just a reflection in the mirror.” Mental Health Week is a great opportunity to share Darri’s warning label for mirrors and other suggestions for improving body image, self-esteem, and mood.

Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.

This is a phrase I have unfortunately said to myself over and over, trying to talk myself down from a junk food ledge. My reasons for eating or overeating have never been restricted to one particular feeling – it’s a cycle of emotion, whether it be sadness, happiness or celebration. Feel, eat, guilt, restrict, repeat – for me, it’s a fairly predictable cycle.

The feelings I have about my body image at any particular time are also variable. I have always struggled with my weight, how I look to others, how I feel about myself. Placing value on who I am as a person solely on how I carry the weight of my body. Body image is complicated.

“I know that once I am thin enough, I will be happy.” These thoughts, whether rational or not, have been foremost in my mind most of my life. But I have been “thin” and I have still been unhappy. The thing is, changing my outside does not change how I feel on the inside. This is not a groundbreaking epiphany, yet it has taken years for me to accept that my value as a human being is not based on my weight.

So where did these ideas come from?

I could talk about my family and the emphasis that was placed on appearance. My mom and sisters were constantly riding the yo-yo diet train. The messages I received were subtle and self-esteem shaping. But where did my family members get these messages themselves? I can’t ignore the fact that we live in a superficial world full of glossy magazines and blockbuster movies oozing with sexuality. The basic message that we seem to hear all the time is that your successes in life can equate to how you look. The better looking you are on the outside, the more success, health and happiness you can attain.

In a 2004 paper titled The Impact of Exposure to the Thin-Ideal Media Image on Women, Hawkins and her colleagues found that:

Exposure to thin-ideal magazine images increases body dissatisfaction, negative mood states, and eating disorder symptoms and decreases self-esteem. Exposure to thin-ideal media images may contribute to the development of eating disorders by causing body dissatisfaction, negative moods, low self-esteem, and eating disorders symptoms among women.

The impact of body image on mental health and overall well-being is undeniable. How we see ourselves impacts how we feel about ourselves and how we interact with the world around us. What can I do to improve my body image and lessen the impact on my daughters? I can choose to eat healthy, not restrict, give myself permission to eat a variety of foods without shame or guilt; I can be active and do things that energize and motivate me to feel good about the body I live in. I can be kind to myself and all aspects of which I am.

I am a whole person; I am not just the reflection in the mirror.

As a mental health and addictions clinician for Northern Health, I see how body image directly impacts the mental health of the clients with whom I work. Here are some practical suggestions for improving body image, self-esteem and mood:

  • Stop comparing yourself to others. You are unique and need to celebrate your positive qualities.
  • Practice self-care. Go for a walk in nature, have a bath, read a book, reignite an old hobby you once enjoyed, take time for yourself. Self-care should not be confused with being selfish, it is important for your mental health to take time to re-energize and refresh yourself.
  • Create a support system. Spend time with those who lift you up and support you. They have a positive impact on how you feel about yourself. It’s OK to ask for support!
  • Pay attention to lifestyle. Small changes over time can add up to a large shift in mental health in the future.
  • Seek help from community resources such as Mental Health and Addictions Services. You can contact us through the Northern Health website. For more information on body image, please visit the National Eating Disorders Information Centre or the Canadian Mental Health Association.
Darri O'Neill

About Darri O'Neill

Darri has worked for Northern Health in the position of mental health and addictions clinician for the past six years. Darri enjoys her work and also knows the importance of getting outside to enjoy time with her young family. In the summers, they like to camp at the local lakes and have recently purchased snowshoes which they hope to use to explore the trails around their home in the winter. Darri and her husband were both raised on Vancouver Island and moved to the northwest 10 years ago. They've grown to love the area and appreciate that they can raise their family in such a naturally beautiful part of B.C.

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Emotional regulation – why I’m pretty sure I’m a cat person

Puppy

Although hard to believe that anyone could get frustrated by this adorable face, Nick found grounding techniques really helpful when dealing with the frustrations of housebreaking his puppy, Keto. Grounding is a great tool to shake off negative thoughts before they get out of hand.

I’ve just gotten home for what used to be my lunch break. I’m standing outside in the rain. I’m tired, stressed, and I was already irritable before I got home. I am repeating a phrase loudly and evenly. A phrase that apparently only has meaning to me.

KETO, COME!

The puppy looks at me long enough for me to decide that she has heard me, decided that she wants to make me angry and waste my time, and then resume her attempts at inhaling the pine cone in front of her.

KETO, COME!!

I don’t have time for this. I have a bunch of emails to return, education to plan, and an errand to run before I scramble back to work. Keto has now approached me slowly, but right before she mounts the couple of stairs leading back to the house, she suddenly prances into the thicket in my backyard and starts to roll in what I’m sure will be an aromatic pleasure to remove from her fur and my carpet.

KETO, COME!!

It is decided. I already know the picture that my wife will choose for the “Missing Puppy” poster. I’m kidding, of course!

Here’s the thing: when Keto finally does listen and come to the doorstep, I need to be able to greet her and praise her and use positive reinforcement to help her learn to associate coming back to me with a positive memory. I need to be able to separate my busy schedule, work and life stressors, and frustration from the fact that this is a puppy just being a puppy. She is not deliberately trying to get on my nerves. In fact, most things in my life have not been set in place just to get on my nerves.

When it comes to maintaining my wellness and dismissing negative thoughts, generalizations, and distortions, I often find it helpful to use a tool called grounding. At its core, grounding helps to reorient me to the present and keeps me fixed in reality. It lets me shake off some of the negative thinking before it gets out of hand and I end up acting on thoughts that aren’t helpful to me.

My personal favorite way to do it is a simple exercise where I work my way through my five senses (sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste) and list 3 things that I perceive with each sense. I deliberately focus on each item for a couple of seconds before moving to the next. I can work my way through this exercise in just a minute and nobody around me would have any indication of what I’m doing. When I’m done, I find that it helps me come back to reality and lets me be effective. Sometimes, I need to do the exercise a couple times in a row.

The great thing about grounding is that there are many different ways to do it. Some people like the exercise I described, other people will do things like run their hands under cold water for a few seconds. Others will keep a smooth rock in their pocket and run their fingers over it, focusing on the way that it feels, the weight, whether it is warm or cool. Essentially, you are interrupting yourself before you get carried away with unhelpful thoughts. By choosing an exercise and practising it before you’re in the midst of a really stressful event, you can add another tool to your coping skills that will help keep you well.

So, on days where the housebreaking is failing and Keto has decided to try to eat the only bee stupid enough to be outside this early in the season, I remind myself to be thankful for all this practice I get to have with my grounding and coping skills.

If you would like to try grounding, I would recommend looking at the links below or inquiring at a Northern Health Mental Health and Addictions office. I hope you find it as effective as I have!

Grounding info and exercises:

Nick Rempel

About Nick Rempel

Nick Rempel is the clinical educator for Mental Health and Addictions, northwest B.C. Nick has lived in northern B.C. his entire life and received his education from the University of Northern BC with a degree in nursing. He enjoys playing music, going to the gym, and watching movies in his spare time.

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The Stigma Stompers

Three runners

The Stigma Stompers just finished their half marathon in Vancouver. Along the way, they discovered that running had a really positive impact on their mental wellness.

Yesterday, Rai wrote about running to give her mind a little breathing space. Here’s my story of our road to running a half marathon:

It all began with the motivation to improve our physical wellness. What we found, though, was a huge improvement on our mental health as well!

As full-time working mothers with young children at home, time to enjoy extracurricular activities is limited so we started using our lunch hours and hiking up Terrace Mountain behind our office building. We would set out, huffing and puffing, until we reached the half-hour mark, then turn around.

Gradually, we felt stronger and got a little bit further each week. Then we started running parts of the trail. From this achievement, we somehow made the leap to making the decision to train for a half marathon, choosing the BMO race in Vancouver on May 3rd.

Through the experience of training to reach our goal, we have done some research on not only good running form and technique, but also on the reasons why people actually run. It’s not always fun waking up early, running in all types of weather conditions (we do live in the north, after all!), or running during lunch hours and spending the afternoon at work feeling sweaty. With our eyes on the goal of running 21 km in May, we initially had to force ourselves to run longer and longer distances, but with time, we actually started to look forward to our training runs. The sense of accomplishment, camaraderie, and support we both feel from this endeavour is incredibly motivating, not to mention the fact that our community has really come together to support us!

We chose to run the BMO half marathon in support of the Canadian Mental Health Association and have named ourselves the “Stigma Stompers.” Two members of the community heard about us and also joined our team, and yet another community member is volunteering her time to manage our Facebook page and coordinate our fundraising efforts.

The positive effects this training has had on our stress levels and mental alertness throughout the day have (so far) surpassed any of the physical ailments along the way!

What are you waiting for?

Melanie Abbott

About Melanie Abbott

Melanie is a social worker, currently working as a mental health and addictions clinician in Terrace. She started out her social work career in the north in Prince Rupert with the Ministry of Children and Family Development before moving to the Okanagan where she worked for a non-profit organization supporting families and children. Melanie has also done international volunteer work and is a board member for Some Day Is Now International, supporting women and children in South Sudan. When she is not working or training for a half-marathon, Melanie is spending time with her husband and two young children, 1 and 3.

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Making a little breathing space

Three people running outdoors in the winter.

Mental Health Week is the perfect time to ask what you can do to invest in your mental wellness. For Rai, it’s about giving her mind a little breathing space – which she did while running at lunch time!

I think. A lot. In fact, my mind rather resembles the ticker tape along the bottom of CNN. Or, rather, CNN, Fox, CBC, Global, CTV, and BBC News 24 at the same time. All whirling with lists, schedules and responsibilities. It’s often overwhelming.

I had taken on a new health challenge about two years ago as a way of working out stress. It appears that it had not really worked since I think that I acquired at least another 2 ticker tapes along the way.

As team leader to a large, busy and vibrant team, I always talked about self-care and creating a healthy work-life balance. Yet I struggled to practise what I preached. I even found that trying to make time for exercise became a chore in and of itself. It was only when a new colleague started with the team and expressed a desire to get back into a fitness regime that I became inspired. We formed a partnership where we dedicated 3 lunch hours each week to exercise. Three hours of my time. Not work, not family, but time for me.

I’d never been a runner and when the hikes up Terrace Mountain developed into 5 km runs, I started to look at my form and asked myself why I often struggled to keep going. I discovered that not only do I think a lot, I talk a lot. I needed to be quiet.

To run effectively, you need to breathe, not talk incessantly. So when my running became more serious and I made the commitment to run a half marathon, I really needed to stop talking and start breathing – breathing properly and thinking about my breathing.

By default, I started to practice mindfulness. I quieted my mind (this is no small feat, trust me!). I focused on my breath and on my feet making contact with the ground. I managed to push my ticker tapes to the back of my mind for 30 minute chunks during the week and for 2 hours on the weekends. As a result, I came back from my lunch runs ready to tackle the afternoon. I had given my brain a break while my body got to work.

I just finished my half marathon last weekend and now I plan to continue using running as a way to improve my physical and my mental health. I’ll put new challenges in place and run in new locations, all the while giving my mind a little breathing space.

Rai Read

About Rai Read

Rai has worked for Northern Health for nearly 18 months, starting out as the CRU (community response unit) clinician in Terrace before stepping into the interim team leader position. She came to Terrace after working in as a geriatric nurse in Edmonton, AB and prior to that, working as a psychiatric nurse in Cardiff, Wales. She is passionate about promoting healthy living and nutrition, and thinks it’s key to understand how hard it is to fit everything in to a busy life. Rai is a strong believer is making lots of small positive changes and keeping a good sense of humor.

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Devote time and energy to mental wellness

Graphic reading: How do you really feel?

Like physical wellness, it is important to devote time and energy to developing your mental wellness. What can you do to foster mental wellness each and every day?

For me, one of the exciting things I’ve seen when we’re talking about health is the increased attention on wellness and protective factors, instead of solely on disease and symptoms.

It’s no surprise that this extends to the field of mental health and mental wellness.

This year, for Mental Health Week (May 4-10, 2015), I would encourage you to give some thought to the things that keep you healthy mentally. Similar to physical wellness being more than the absence of disease, mental wellness is a state of well-being. What it looks like for you might be different than what it looks like for me, but the important part is that we dedicate time and energy to keeping ourselves well.

I’ve gotten better at recognizing when I am not doing enough to support my wellness: I am quicker to become irritated, I start to notice some physical symptoms from stress, and I am generally not a whole lot of fun to be around. These are indications for me that it might be time to take some affirmative action. Personally, I know that I sometimes need to give myself some extra time on the drive home to process after a difficult day of work. I also need to maintain my healthy sleep habits. Regular exercise is also important for my mental wellness.

Another similarity between mental and physical wellness relates to coping tools or what may be referred to as “resiliency factors.” If we have a large range of these tools, even if we do become unwell, we may be sick for less time or not get as sick as we otherwise would. Visit the Canadian Mental Health Association for a self-assessment and some tips on resilience.

Another way that we can enhance our mental wellness is by opening the dialogue about mental health. By having a week to increase attention on mental health, we can address one of the most pervasive things that impedes mental wellness: stigma. Negative attitudes, beliefs, and actions spread misinformation and fear about mental health issues.

The bottom line is that mental illness may affect any one of us over the course of our lives, so let’s do what we can to support one another and help increase the overall level of knowledge and inclusiveness in our home, work, and social environments. To learn more about reducing stigma, visit the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

Nick Rempel

About Nick Rempel

Nick Rempel is the clinical educator for Mental Health and Addictions, northwest B.C. Nick has lived in northern B.C. his entire life and received his education from the University of Northern BC with a degree in nursing. He enjoys playing music, going to the gym, and watching movies in his spare time.

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Mental illness: let’s talk about it

couple; man; woman; walking; nature

What stops you from having a conversation with someone about mental illness?

What do you know about mental illness? The number of people in Canadian society who are living with a mental health concern are astounding. Research tells us that:

  • one in five Canadians will experience a form of mental illness at some point in their life.
  • two in three Canadians will suffer in silence.
  • only one out of five children who require services will obtain them.

When we see mental illness in the media, we see violence, theft, drug use, and family breakdown. When we see mental illness in our office, we see parents, grandparents, employees, children, siblings, best friends, teachers, health providers, fiancés, bankers, and people from all walks of life. We see people who lend helping hands, neighbours who rush to help you unload groceries, and the nice lady who held the door open for you in the pouring rain. All of these people confront stigma on a daily basis, and often suffer in silence from fear of being ostracized, forgotten, or feared by others.

Only 49% of Canadians said they would socialize with a friend who has a serious mental illness, according to Canadian Medical Association. Would you?

Mental Illness Awareness Week is the first full week of October. This is a national campaign that plays a vital role in breaking down stigma, opening Canadian eyes to the reality of mental illness, and bringing mental health information, concerns, and solutions into the community. The week is an opportunity for everyone to learn more. Mental illness affects people and their families in numerous ways. It is a complex and often hidden diagnosis that touches every aspect of someone’s life. Many with concerns are ashamed and do not know where to find help or how to access services. We encourage everyone to join the conversation, help promote understanding, and create a healthier and accepting society.

Mental health is a part of life; everyone has a state of mental health. Being diagnosed with a mental illness is no different than being diagnosed with a physical illness, except that diagnosis might be portrayed on the evening news for a violent crime instead of a research breakthrough.

A wide-variety of companies have acknowledged the prevalence of mental illness and the stigma surrounding it. Bell Canada is a leading supporter with their “Let’s Talk” campaign. Universities, colleges, and hospitals throughout Canada provide support and fundraising. Numerous organizations have developed with the sole purpose of breaking down stigma, supporting those diagnosed and their families, and conducting research.

Northern Health’s Mental Health and Addictions Services (MHAS) offers a variety of programming, such as individual counselling, day treatment, education and outreach, psycho-educational groups, life skills support, medication treatment, and crisis response. Visit our website for more information, or call your local MHAS office.Visit the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health or the Canadian Mental Health Association for more information on mental illness.

Across the north, there will be various events to raise awareness of mental health, wellness, and illness in communities across northern B.C. In 2015, one of these events is a gathering at Totem Mall in Fort St. John on October 7 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.. I hope to see you there!

Are you aware of stigma associated with mental illness? What are your plans during mental illness awareness week? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Stefanie Conn

About Stefanie Conn

Steff is a youth case manager with mental health and addictions services. Originally from Ontario, Steff moved to Fort St. John in 2013 for a change of scenery and career options. Through all seasons, Steff is active in the community – she curls, bowls, plays baseball, and rides horses regularly. Steff loves to go on adventures, whether in the local community or while on vacation. One of her favourite things to do is scuba dive and swim in large bodies of water. Cooking is another passion of hers, and she’s always up for new recipes! (Stefanie no longer works with Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)

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Bringing back play

Slow...adults playing

Play isn’t just for kids! Adults, bring back play.

Play is just for kids….right? Wrong! As adults, it’s sometimes easy for us to get bogged down in the stresses of everyday life and responsibilities. We may find ourselves being caught up in personal and professional duties, such as being someone’s parent or being someone’s employee, and losing sight of ourselves as individuals. We may forget the importance of self-care, and living a truly balanced life.

For me, play has become an integral part of my life. There is something about devoting time to just having fun that helps create a sense of light-heartedness, that feeling like I’m a kid again which keeps me positive, smiling and happy. Often when I come home from work, I feel exhausted. Instantly, my mind and body go to battle as I try hard to resist the urge to pull on my sweats, curl up on the couch with the remote and a bowl of popcorn, watching some mind-numbing reality TV. Instead, I walk through the door, my kids come running, they wrestle me to the ground, and somehow I am instantly transformed into a human horse, toting a three-year-old around the house on my back as she laughs hysterically. I can feel the stress leave my body and I begin to relax, recharge, and revitalize. Other days, play may take the form of camping trips, kayaking, team sports, building blanket tents with my kids, summer BBQs with friends, and above all enjoying life surrounded by the people I love, doing the things I love to do.

Experts seem to agree that free, open-ended, pointless play is important to people of all ages. We stand to reap several benefits from play such as release from stress and anxiety, enjoyment, and enhancement of memory and imagination, all of which can help us to stay mentally fit.

I encourage everyone to start looking at play differently and not as something that is exclusively owned by children. Give yourself permission to have fun and make it part of your daily routine. Your body, mind and spirit will thank you in the end.

When was the last time you truly played?

Maria Bunkowski

About Maria Bunkowski

Maria Bunkowski is the Community Response Nurse for mental health and addictions services in Prince Rupert. She has been nursing since 2006 with a background primarily in internal medicine, and is really enjoying the challenge that this new position brings. When she isn't working, Maria enjoys spending time with her young family, interior design, and exploring the great outdoors.

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A balanced lifestyle for balanced mental health

mental wellness

Kerry’s key to mental wellness is being self aware – what’s yours?

When asked to write a post about staying mentally healthy, I initially thought I was going to write about an intense fitness program I recently completed or my new running schedule that allows me to burn off some “steam.” However, with a little more thought I realized that exercise alone is not what ensures my mental wellness; instead I determined that the key to my personal mental health is finding a healthy balance of lifestyle.

I’m the first to admit that having a healthy balance is very difficult to achieve especially with all that life entails – children, partners, family, work and everything else in between. Often, I might be overly concerned with making sure I get in a certain amount of exercise throughout the week not realizing that I have neglected other important aspects of my life, ultimately leaving me feeling mentally and physically unbalanced.

Therefore, I think the most important way that I ensure that I stay mentally healthy is by considering all facets of my life and ensuring that I am inclusive and thoughtful  of each of these areas in a balanced way. Some areas I consider are:

  • Quality time with loved ones and friends
  • Quiet relaxing time – time to let my mind rest
  • Physical exercise
  • Eating healthy
  • Connecting with my environment/mother nature
  • Finding time to laugh
  • Ensuring a healthy sleep schedule
  • Having a realistic work schedule
  • Being creative
  • Making space for music
  • Remembering to generally slow life down to provide time for gratitude and appreciation for all that I have

When I notice that I feel off balance, I do “a check” – what in my life is missing or what area is taking away from other important areas – where is the imbalance? I then ask myself: what needs to happen to achieve a sense of balance and how do I go about making this happen? In general, I think my key to mental wellness is being self-aware and remembering that we have to care for ourselves in order to have the ability to care for others. So keep running, but remember to stop to have tea and a good laugh with an old friend as well!

What’s your key to mental wellness?

Kerrie Scott

About Kerrie Scott

Kerrie Scott is a clinician within mental health and addictions services in Prince Rupert. She has a bachelor of Social Work from the University of Victoria from which she graduated in 2004. Kerrie keeps very busy and enjoys spending time with her two young children.

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Modeling healthy behaviours

Rai with her son and dog.

Rai with her son and dog. How do you model healthy behaviours?

Okay Rai, put down the delicious cake with chocolate marshmallow butter-cream and walk away. Seriously, keeping walking girl, keep walking. A little further, a little faster. Hey, this could turn into a cardio workout! What is it about chocolate cake that turns me into the equivalent of the cookie monster? I have always had a sweet tooth and it seems once I start eating, I struggle to stop. After I had my son two and half years ago, I strived to be a healthy role model for him. How can I tell him “no” to the cookies when I’m in the kitchen secretly trough-ing half a pack? So I decided enough was enough.  I’ll be honest: I can’t totally write chocolate out of my life. So let’s talk about implementing a little harm reduction, right? Now it’s about moderation and allowable only if I’ve exercised. So far it seems to be working, mostly…

As part of being a role model, I felt it was important to instill the value of exercise. But how do you exercise with a small child, and a dog? I see these elegant moms dressed in Lululemon, running effortlessly with their calm toddlers who sit in jogging strollers and their well-trained dogs trotting alongside. I tried this, once. We made it three houses down before my kid tried to throw himself out of the stroller and my dog? Well, he was so scared of the stroller he tried to drag us into a ditch. And once my kid started screaming, my dog did his usual howling chorus. Elegant huh?

So, what works for me? I work full-time, I have a toddler. I needed to look at what worked for my life style. I realized I had a great space in my basement and the previous homeowner kindly left a rather nice treadmill behind when they moved out. I complemented this with a spinning bike. I added an art easel and toys for my kid to keep himself occupied and I now have a safe space to work out. We make it a special time for my son to come down in the basement each evening after supper and we spend an hour or so down there while I exercise and he plays with his toys. My workouts are usually complemented with a 35lb+ toddler sitting on me – I think of him as a rather cute dumbbell. I don’t know if you ever tried cycling with a kid on your knee, but it really works those thigh muscles. To mix things up and keep me interested I alternate with one day running the treadmill the other on the spinning bike. I also found YouTube has a great variety of workouts to suit my needs. I am not the most coordinated of people; trust me I am no dancer. When I watch an exercise DVD, I usually go the wrong way and spend most of my time trying to figure out what my arms are supposed to be doing, but after searching I found a video that is an idiot’s guide to exercising and with numerous choices, you can tailor your workout.

I started by making small changes and looking at what would work for me. By making sure it’s a good fit it allows me to keep motivated. I can still make improvements and educating my son at this young age about healthy choices is a great way to start him on the road for healthy choices for life.

How do you model healthy behaviours?

“Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.” -Steven Wright

Rai Read

About Rai Read

Rai has worked for Northern Health for nearly 18 months, starting out as the CRU (community response unit) clinician in Terrace before stepping into the interim team leader position. She came to Terrace after working in as a geriatric nurse in Edmonton, AB and prior to that, working as a psychiatric nurse in Cardiff, Wales. She is passionate about promoting healthy living and nutrition, and thinks it’s key to understand how hard it is to fit everything in to a busy life. Rai is a strong believer is making lots of small positive changes and keeping a good sense of humor.

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Pets as personal therapy

Pets are therapy

Nancy’s dog, Teva. Do you have a pet that helps with your mental wellness?

Socks, toilet paper and underwear – that’s what you would find on the floor of my house if you came over to visit me. But before you got in the door, you’d probably be greeted by a 90-pound German Shepherd named Teva.

Teva has been my friend for three years; I have not been able to break her habit of bringing me socks or eating the toilet paper rolls, but I have had a constant companion and outdoor buddy.

If you were to search Google, you’d find a lot of information discussing the benefits of pets and pet therapy – so much so that during my academic years, one of my papers discussed the pros and cons of pets in a health care setting. I laughed so hard when my paper came back with an A, and took it as definitive proof of the healing power of pets. I discovered the true benefits, though, when I got Teva, many years later. She was a mail order dog – and maybe just a wee bit of an impulse purchase. She arrived in Masset by air, and then home to Queen Charlotte City on her first long car ride, where I also experienced yet another first – dog car sickness, a nasty smell in my really clean, brand new-to-me car.

My original plan was to train Teva for a therapy dog but I have since decided she would be my therapy dog and it wouldn’t really matter if she brought me socks and chewed the toilet paper rolls.

So now I have a constant companion, someone to walk with every day, and who gives me huge dog hugs and licks and is always glad to see me…a perfect de-stress solution for my own mental well-being.

Your turn to share: tell me about a pet that helps your mental wellness.

Nancy Smith

About Nancy Smith

Nancy is a registered social worker who works with the youth in Prince Rupert. New to the north, she is happy to play outdoors and explore the trails and lakes in the good company of her German Shepherd, Teva. Nancy also enjoys gardening, music, and hunting for treasures at garage sales. (Nancy no longer works with Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)

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