Charles Benayon

Founder & CEO of Aspiria

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Feeling “SAD”? You are not alone!

WinterThis winter has been a particularly fierce one and with plenty of snow, grey skies and nippy temperatures, when you find yourself daydreaming of an exotic sunny getaway, just know that you are definitely not alone.

While most of us chalk up these feelings to mild cases of the “winter blues”, some of us feel the impact of winter on our mental health more negatively than others, which can be diagnosed as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.

As the sun’s rays has become weaker with the shortening of daylight, it can take a toll on mental health and symptoms of SAD begin to take shape, which can include extreme fatigue, sadness, emptiness, anxiety, decreased energy, lack of focus, or weight gain.

During the winter months, the winter blues and SAD could affect your productivity and motivation at in all parts of your life. Here are some ways you can combat these symptoms and make yourself feel better:

  1. Use food as fuel: It’s only too easy to reach for comfort food during the winter months, particularly food that “sticks to your ribs”, as they say. Ensure that your diet consists of vitamin-rich foods so that you can combat illness and unhealthy cravings.
  2. Every bit of exercise helps: Even if you don’t enjoy traditional winter sports, don’t put exercise on the backburner for the winter months. Bundle up and go for a walk, invest in at-home yoga videos or take advantage of indoor pools and gyms. Take a few minutes throughout the day to stretch at work, especially if you have a sedentary job.  The endorphins released while exercising increases your energy for the rest of your day.
  3. Take sun breaks: When the sun breaks through the clouds, try to take advantage! Spend a few minutes outside, soak up the vitamin D and enjoy winter’s small miracles.
  4. Honour your commitments: keep your schedule full and don’t let yourself back out of your plans. When you don’t have anywhere to be, hibernating in bed for 11 hours is only too easy.
  5. Plan ahead: When you have something to look forward to, whether that’s a trip, an event, a meaningful purchase or some other life change, every day that passes brings you a step closer. The winter will not last forever, so give yourself reasons to move forward.  It’s almost over!

How do you combat the winter blahs? Do you have any tips or tricks to making the most of the winter season? I look forward to your comments below!

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Sharing a Diagnosis in the Workplace

mental-illness-top-postWith mental health stigma alive and well despite some great strides taken by the global community to bring awareness to mental health, it would still take a great deal of strength and courage for an individual to share with an employer that he or she is struggling with a mental illness. I truly believe that sharing a diagnosis can provide a sense of relief in that it offers a path of treatment and helps family and friends understand what their loved one is going through.  However, labelling can also have an adverse effect on the person suffering if they do not feel supported in the workplace.

How do you ensure that your workplace is a safe environment for someone to share his or her diagnosis?

Open communication, ensuring that confidentiality is respected: Encourage your employees to talk about mental health as a whole, whether that be recent trends in the news, a focus on workplace balance and wellness or even sharing stress-reducing strategies. Ensure that you take the lead from the individual on how much he or she would like to share in the workplace, so that confidentiality is maintained.

Inclusive language in the workplace: Words like “downer” “schizo” or “OCD” can minimize a person’s experience with mental illness and insinuates that there is something strange or abnormal about them. Suggest that your office commit to erasing these negative labels from the culture of the workplace. Think about additional mental health labels or phrases that may offend co-workers and continue this dialogue on the blog or at work to heighten awareness

Understand no one’s experience with mental illness is the same: Education and awareness is a vital first step to appreciating how a person with a mental health issue may be struggling and how it affects his or her day-to-day functioning. Be wary, however, of assuming that you know how “depressed people act” or what “anxiety feels like” regardless of how much experience you may have had with these illnesses personally or from those around you. Everyone experiences his or her illness in a unique way, and you can only aim to listen and empathize with their individual experience with it.

How does your workplace support mental health issues? Are there other ways you can think of that would foster a safe environment to share mental health information? I look forward to your comments below!

Check out the video below, from February 1st, 2014, where Howie Mandel discusses how mental health should be attended to from infancy.