Canadian Health and Wellness Innovations Conference
The theme at this year’s International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans Canadian Health and Wellness Conference was Innovative Solutions to Addiction and Mental Health. This four-day conference held a variety of sessions centered around improving employee’s mental health and had a focus on employees who are dealing with addiction in their lives.
The keynote speaker began the conference with a session on “The Science of Sleep and Stress”, something many of us teachers have issues with throughout the year. Dr. Payne likened going to work sleep deprived the same as going to work under the influence, you are just as impaired. We should be getting 7-9 hours of sleep a night, and if we are not feeling rested during the day, she emphasized the importance of a 20-minute power nap (but no more!). Stress enhances memory for the negative and can lead to anxiety and depression. We need to learn to master emotion regulation strategies and use mindfulness to find a few minutes of calm every day.
A number of sessions were focused on dealing with a family member or friend who is dealing with mental health issues or addiction. Many of the speakers provided coping mechanisms to help while creating healthy emotional boundaries. The overall message was to listen, check in to see how they’re doing, and refrain from offering advice or opinions. Leave that for the medical professionals.
The session entitled “Stand up for mental health: creating recovery – one laugh at a time!” was a fantastic session on how to break the stigma around people with mental health. David Granirer’s message was simple – Listen, don’t fix. His program helps people to become stand up comedians, where they use their dysfunctions to become their strengths. It is a method to create positive self-esteem, to encourage mastery and find social support. The videos from his group were inspiring and also hilarious.
Another session to note was presented by BCTF and looked at provided cognitive behavioural therapy online. To address stigma, geography, and cost, BCTF partnered with counsellors to provide support for mental health in the digital age. MTS has launched a similar program this month. Members are encouraged to access via MyProfile the LifeSpeak Wellness Platform. On this platform members have access to videos concerning mindfulness, mental health stigma, parenting, stress mastery, and many other mental health related topics.
Mental health illness has quickly become the leading disability in the world. BCTF noted 3 in 5 teachers have missed work due to a mental health related issue. There are a number of ways to help yourself and your mental health. It could be as simple as a 2-minute meditative break in the day, cutting down on sugar in your diet and improving your healthy eating, taking advantage of the MTS EAP counselling or WTA counselling, taking a 20-minute power nap at lunch, finding something to laugh at during the day, or simply let gratitude be your attitude. You matter and your health matters, so please take care of yourself.