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During pandemic, it's vital 'to understand our emotions,' CMHA says

'This year, we are hosting virtual events and sharing messages that encourage people to talk about their emotions, even the uncomfortable ones,' official says
Stock image by Polina Zimmerman, via Pexels

The pandemic is taking an emotional toll on people in Canada, as 77 per cent of adults report feeling so-called negative emotions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The five most common responses across Canada were ‘worried or anxious,’ ‘bored,’ ‘stressed,’ ‘lonely or isolated’ and ‘sad’. This is according to the third round of data from the Assessing the Impacts of COVID-19 on Mental Health national monitoring survey released today by the Canadian Mental Health Association in partnership with UBC researchers to mark CMHA’s 70th annual Mental Health Week.

“While it’s discouraging to think that so many Canadians are feeling upset, difficult emotions may actually be an appropriate response to a major event like a global pandemic,” says Margaret Eaton, National CEO of CMHA. “It’s a sign of good mental health when someone can experience a full range of emotions, and recognize, understand and manage how they feel— even when it’s uncomfortable. Being able to make an emotional connection is also part of how we seek comfort and reassurance from people in our lives.”

Emotions represent our inner mental states. They arise in response to life events and experiences and can initiate changes in the body and in our behaviours. Some emotions are a positive experience, such as feeling calm, hopeful or secure and others are more challenging, such as anxiety, sadness, anger and hopelessness. Our emotional responses to significant events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, both reflect and contribute to our overall mental health status.

“The theme of Mental Health Week this year is understanding our emotions,” says Lynne Raimondi, Fundraising and Communications with CMHA Simcoe County. “This year, we are hosting virtual events and sharing messages that encourage people to talk about their emotions, even the uncomfortable ones.”

“Good mental health is not about being happy all the time but having appropriate emotional and behavioural responses to stressors and life events,” says lead researcher Emily Jenkins, a professor of nursing at UBC who studies mental health and substance use.

“Sharing our very normal feelings of sadness, fear and worry is particularly important during this unusual time of stress, uncertainty and loss.”

Research shows that putting your negative emotions into words disrupts and reduces activity in the amygdala, the part of your brain that drives your responses to stress and fear. The act of naming our emotions can actually help us feel calmer and help us understand what we’re going through.