The tool belt

Many of us struggle with our mental health. (Photo by Pixabay)

Many of us struggle with our mental health. (Photo by Pixabay)

April 17, 2019 | by Kayla Burak

What? A tool belt for mental health?

Close your eyes and picture a place that makes you happy. Maybe it’s your grandma’s house; maybe it’s somewhere outdoors that holds a special place in your heart. Think of things that make you feel good and put them in your tool belt. Let’s be clear: I don’t pretend to have this all figured out. Sometimes my tool belt is strapped on tight and ready to go, and sometimes it is nowhere to be found. But I do know that being in nature clears my head and puts things into perspective. Nature’s raw beauty and honesty reminds me of what is important.

There is mounting research and evidence that people who spend time outside are happier and more connected to those around them. Spending time outside builds positive emotions, broadened perspectives and enhanced personal values. I can’t say I find this surprising, considering everything that we have in common with nature.

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Mother Nature struggles, too

Tree planting at Meeting Lake 03 property in Saskatchewan (Photo by NCC)

Tree planting at Meeting Lake 03 property in Saskatchewan (Photo by NCC)

Mother Nature struggles with the changing seasons, bitter cold and smoldering heat. She must deal with climate change and invasive species. She is strong yet vulnerable, and experiences a lot of trauma. When she is torn down by wildfire, she rebuilds. She also knows a great deal about loss — and sometimes she needs our help to re-build. She is always there for us with her arms open and no judgement. She forces you to be quiet and present.

Mental health and mental illness

Many of us struggle with our mental health, whether it is our emotions, thoughts, ability to solve problems or overcome difficulties. Mental illnesses include mood, anxiety, personality, eating, trauma-related and substance abuse disorders. You do not need to be diagnosed with a mental illness in order to put your mental well-being first; everyone’s mental health is important.

The stigma

Stigmas are based on fear, and people fear what they don’t feel comfortable with, can’t see or can’t describe. In the eyes of our family, friends and co-workers, we often find strength in proving how strong, tough, independent, hardworking and busy we are. Saying anything that suggests we might be struggling or falling apart might come across as a vulnerability or weakness. And who has time for that?

Who am I to be talking about this?

Kayla Burak with her daughter (Photo courtesy of Kayla Burak)

Kayla Burak with her daughter (Photo courtesy of Kayla Burak)

When I had my daughter two years ago, I struggled with post-partum anxiety. I can’t believe I’m writing that in a blog post that many people might see, but maybe that’s the point. I had debilitating fears of something bad happening to my daughter, panic attacks and rage. I am fortunate that I was of the mind to seek help and learn about different tools to put in my tool belt for managing my anxiety.

In my tool belt, Mother Nature is the hammer. Allow yourself to be vulnerable with her, and let her help improve your mental health.

Kayla Burak (Photo courtesy of Kayla Burak)

About the Author

Kayla Burak is the engagement manager for the Nature Conservancy of Canada's Saskatchewan region.

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