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My life has taken an exciting and slightly terrifying turn. I recently started a Master’s Arts Counseling Psychology program and my stress level has immediately skyrocketed! As many of you know, I have been a Life Coach for more than seven years. What I have learned on this journey with certainty is that the absence of mental illness is not mental health!

There is a spectrum of mental health. On one end, people are thriving, at the other suffering with mental illness. Many people are living in a range between illness and flourishing, meaning, they are getting by. This does not mean they are healthy and thriving… they are surviving.

Surprisingly, the statistics show that 20% of the population fall at either end of the spectrum leaving 60% of Canadians walking the thin line between flourishing and floundering. It is also highly likely that these individuals are not seeking intervention because they are not what they define as “ill,” or personal barriers around stigma prevent them from seeking help.

Early intervention to support optimal mental health is essential. It is easy to see how slipping from the caution zone into illness would warrant support. I would argue that prevention is just as warranted to keep individuals functioning in the healthy zone.

The world health organization defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”

What does one do to cope when ‘normal stresses of life get to extreme? Here are 7 areas to help keep your life flourishing (a combination of David Rock’s work (Healthy Mind Platter) & the Wellness Wheel of Life:
1. Sleep Time: There is a general consensus that during sleep we not only rest and recuperate strength for the next day, but sleep is also a highly active state that is important for cognitive processes such as memory consolidation, semantic integration, learning, and the processing of emotions
2. Play Time: Being playful and experimenting with life tend to open our minds for creative problem solving and innovation.
3. Physical Exercise Time: Exercise is proven to help with sleep, and keeps the brain flushed with oxygen. Physical exercise of course has been well associated with a reduction in stress and improved mental health.
4. Spiritual Time: Time to bring peace and harmony into our lives. Time to develop congruence between values and actions. Time to realize a common purpose and our inter-relatedness.
5. Social Time: Time spent with friends and family. Our relationships can offer support during difficult times. Social wellness involves building healthy, nurturing and supportive relationships as well as fostering a genuine connection with those around you.
6. Business/Career Time: Your career can be an area for achieving social interaction, providing financial stability and achieving personal growth. When you enjoy your work, it supports both intellectual and occupational wellness. Intellectual wellness refers to active participation in scholastic, cultural, and community activities. It is important to gain and maintain intellectual wellness because it expands knowledge and skills in order to live a stimulating, successful life. Occupational Wellness is the ability to achieve a balance between work and leisure time, addressing workplace stress and building relationships with co-workers. It focuses on our search for a calling and involves exploring various career options and finding where you fit.
7. Healthy Physical Environment Time: Your house, your transportation, access to parks, your work environment, safety and walk-ability of your neighborhood.

So to conclude this article, I am now focusing on including a balance of all these areas so that I can reduce my stress and create more balance in my life. I want to be flourishing not floundering! What about you?

If you think you might need help finding your joy through the chaos, let’s talk.

Written By: Juli Fyfe