Katrina Wilson M.A. RPC
CMHA Mental Health Week - May 3-9, 2021
Author: Katrina Wilson M.A. RPC
The Canadian Mental Health Association holds a week-long focus on destigmatizing mental health each year. During the week of May 3-9, 2021, their message focuses on helping Canadians #GetReal with what they are feeling.
The CMHA is encouraging people to start approaching their emotions – to recognize them, name them, and voice them. It is so important to normalize the presence of emotions and validate the wide range of emotions that we are capable of feeling, and many people don’t – or don’t know how- to do this.
One of the main things people work on when engaging in recovery is getting to know their emotions and learning new ways to navigate their emotional landscape. The eating disorder promotes itself as an effective “coping tool”. However, the eating disorder does not want you to actually cope with your emotions, it wants you to avoid them, stuff them, ignore them, and escape from them. Coping actually occurs when you allow the emotion to exist and help yourself through it. Part of this involves naming the emotion and voicing it – either in your journal, anonymously online, or to a trusted support.
When you start to turn towards your emotions instead of running away from them, they become more familiar and less scary. You can start to recognize when an emotion is starting to bubble up, instead of being caught off guard and surprised by your emotions. A good place to start is taking time out of your day to check in with yourself. To ask yourself “How am I feeling right now?”. If something comes up, great! If nothing comes up, that’s ok, too.
You can also start to work on distinguishing one emotion from another – what does anxiety feel like as opposed to excitement? How is guilt different from the feeling of shame? How do you know if you are disappointed, or angry? As you get to know your emotions better, you will find it easier to name them and identify what is going on for you, which in itself can help take some of the power away from the emotion.
The Canadian Mental Health Association has some amazing resources on their mental health week website (MHW2021 Homepage - Canadian Mental Health Association (mentalhealthweek.ca) ) . They are committed to ending the stigma associated with mental health. Stigma is fuelled by silence. Shame is fuelled by secrecy. In order to end the stigma and shame, we have to start talking about how we feel.