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Why change can be stressful and how to manage it

Why change can be stressful

The only thing constant in life is change. But the scale of how stressful those changes are can differ. Experiences like landing a job and losing a job, entering a relationship and a relationship breakdown, becoming a parent and losing a loved one can create waves of change that may trigger stress and affect mental health. Change can be especially difficult for those who have depression, anxiety or neurodivergency.  

So why are some life changes more stressful than others? It comes down to our perception towards the change and the resources we have to cope with stressful situations.  

Perception towards the change plays a major role on how negatively it affects mental health and stress. Our perception is molded by how much the change is desired, if it was expected or controllable, and our window of tolerance (our capacity to manage our emotions).  


Window of Tolerance (Image provided by the Imagine Institute for Learning)


Some life changes can improve a person’s mental health and lower stress, such as a job promotion into a role that is more fulfilling, while unexpectedly losing a job you enjoyed can lead to major stress and lower mental wellbeing. However, two people who go through the same loss of a fulfilling job might have different reactions based on how wide their window of tolerance is. A person who has a narrow window of tolerance might feel more threatened by the change and have more fear and stress towards it.  

Having the resources to manage stress lays the foundation to cope better when unexpected and undesired life changes happen. These resources can be coping skills you already practice, such as regular meditation, connecting with your social network, and services you have access to (therapy, coaching, etc.). Applying these resources also helps to widen your window of tolerance.  

And how to manage it

Here are some tangible ways you can cope with change that feels stressful:  

  1. Confiding with people close to you. Being able to connect and be vulnerable about your struggles with your social network is important for you to process your thoughts around the change and feel supported.  
  1. Prioritizing habits that are beneficial for you. The activities you do frequently for your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs are often pushed to the side when you feel stressed. However, they are critical to reducing the likelihood and impact of stress. By introducing and being consistent with wellness-promoting habits, they not only help to reduce stress but also provides a sense of structure in the midst of change. 
  1. Reframing your perception of the change. The mind can often ruminate on negative feelings and get stuck in thoughts that increase stress. Reframing your thoughts around the change that is causing stress can reduce the stress or even shift it into being motivating. Especially if you are able to feel more agency and understand the ways this change can help you learn and grow. Journaling can help you to increase your awareness of your current perceptions and reframe them. Another tool to reframe your perception is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which can help you to explore and change your thoughts and feelings towards stressful situations with a professional therapist. 
  1. Creating more change. This might seem counter-intuitive, but introducing a change you chose and wanted can lead you to feeling more in control of your situation and give you a sense of agency in your life. The change could be something as large as moving to a new city to as small as starting a new hobby. 

Further resources:  



2023-09-27T21:13:04+00:00Blog, Featured Content|

Three Mental Health Benefits of Getting Outside

It is no secret that getting outside has been known to improve mental health. Think back to the last time you spent time outside. How did you feel? Chances are you felt a bit better after breathing in the fresh air and taking in some sunshine. From stepping out your front door for a 10-minute walk to a multi-day camping trip, spending time outdoors provides many benefits for your mental health.

Energizes the brain

Our senses take in experiences and send them to the brain, where they are processed and either creates positive, negative, or neutral outcomes. Studies have shown that just looking at nature (like a picture of flowering green roof) and hearing nature sounds (like crickets and crashing waves) can energize and help the brain to perform better.

Sunshine also has a positive impact on the brain, especially in the morning. Sunlight affects our sleep-wake cycle, also known as circadian rhythm. Taking in sunlight when you first wake up can help you be more alert during the day and have a better sleep at night. Sunlight also has been shown to boost mood because exposure to sunlight releases “the happy hormone”, known as serotonin.

Lowers stress

Historically, stress helped our ancestors to survive in life-threatening events by triggering the fight or flight response. However, in our modern society there has been an increase in chronic stress, resulting in many physical and mental problems, such as high blood pressure and burnout.

More than one hundred studies show that being in nature reduces stress by lowering cortisol levels, which is the hormone responsible for triggering stress in the body. Stress decreases within minutes of being in nature, which is measured by muscle tension, blood pressure, and brain activity.

Increases self-belief

The outdoors offers many opportunities for new experiences and to challenge yourself. Self-belief (also known as self-efficacy) is your belief in your own abilities to accomplish tasks and goals. The more you build your self-belief, the better you are at facing hard times. In other words, it builds your resiliency.

When you make a commitment to go for walk and follow through, your self-belief increases. Another way you can build your self-belief is by stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new, like a solo camping trip. It is important to frame your success by accomplishing your goal to step out of your comfort zone instead of how good you think you were at the activity.

Where to go and what to do

For those of us in the Alberta Capital Region, you don’t have to go far to experience the benefits of nature! Edmonton is home to the largest urban park in Canada, with more than 160 kilometers of maintained pathways and 20 major parks.

Looking to challenge yourself with something new?

As the days get warmer, try out some of these experiences around the Edmonton area:




2022-04-22T17:52:55+00:00Blog, Featured Content|

Learning to Listen for Bell Let’s Talk Day

Since 2010, Bell Let’s Talk Day has been opening up the conversation on mental health to break down stigma, raise funds and awareness, and educate. This year is no different—except for the fact that our mental health is getting worse.

Before the pandemic, 1 in 5 Canadians experienced symptoms of mental health disorders but now 1 in 4 Canadians are experiencing these challenges. Even if you’re not experiencing mental health challenges yourself, chances are you will encounter someone in your life who is.

For a person experiencing a mental health challenge, talking about it can be a huge step – sometimes the hardest step. When someone chooses to confide in you about their mental health struggles, how you respond matters. It can be hard to know what to say and how to offer help if they need it.

Fill your own cup

“We can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly.” –  Brené Brown

As the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Before we can help others, we need to be aware of our own mental state and how we are taking care of ourselves. It’s important to take a regular inventory of our mental, physical, social, and emotional states and take care of the areas that are lagging.

Use the Continuum Self Check to see where you are at.

Use these tools if you find you need to support yourself:

For immediate Alberta-specific support services and resources, call 211 Alberta or text INFO to 211.

Listen without judgement

One of the main fears for someone opening up about their mental health is that others will view them differently. Often, we tend to tie mental health to personal identity, so when something is wrong with our mental health, we may think that something is wrong with us as a person. We may even put this judgement on other people, reinforcing the stigma around mental health. It is important to understand that a person’s mental state is not attached to who they are as a person or their worth.

Listening without judgement means taking that internal step to change how you view mental health within yourself and towards others. This will go a long way to reducing the stigma of mental health and allowing people to feel like they can share their challenges about their mental health without being judged.

Respond with compassion

It may be the case that all they need is to talk through their mental health struggles with you and feel heard and understood. Even if you don’t quite understand what they are feeling or going through, it is impactful to show that you care just by being there and listening. Validate how they are feeling by acknowledging what they are saying and ask questions to encourage the conversation.

Avoid responding with toxic positivity. When you respond by dismissing negative emotions and false reassurances, it might actually be harmful.

Check in with them after the conversation and ask them how they are doing. By following up, it emphasizes that you care and are there to help.

Educate yourself

When you know better, you do better. Learning more about mental health and how you can support yourself and others helps to build a community’s natural support system, which is the relationships we have in our everyday lives. There are many opportunities to learn more about mental health through recognised sources.

For Bell Let’s Talk Day, think about how you view mental health and people with mental health disorders. Take a moment to reflect on how you would respond to a friend or relative who tells you, “I don’t feel like myself lately”.  If you think you have room to grow, seek out opportunities to learn. Talking about mental health is difficult but it can be better if we build a community that knows how to listen without judgement and respond with compassion.



2022-01-17T21:40:53+00:00Blog, Featured Content|

Introducing the Community Engagement Toolkit

The Community Mental Health Engagement Toolkit was developed to support people looking to engage their communities in impactful ways around the conversation of mental health.  It provides a framework as well as some engagement tools people can use to start the conversation and explore possibilities – whether that is in the workplace or beyond.


This blog was written by Launa Clark, Community Mental Health Facilitator at Imagine Institute of Learning 

The role of mental health has become a top conversation on front porches, zoom rooms, and Olympic arenas –  basically through all communities. It is clearly becoming evident that everyone has their own mental health story.  It is in that spirit that we have created a tool to support community members and organizations to continue the conversation and engage others to build a safe and common language to talk about our mental health stories.

This tool starts with you, the person reading this, Your Story Matters! The tools and activities in this resource focus on how you can build relationships, awareness, opportunities, and innovation about mental well-being in your community.  This tool includes 15 ready-to-go activities focused on building a communities common language and understanding of what is need to care for each other within a community.

Example Activity:

What if… everyone completed their own 7-sentence story about mental health? What a story we could tell.  How would you finish each of the following prompts using your story?

  1. In my life, I am a … (what roles do you play? Parent, caregiver, spouse …)
  2. I work / live with … (identify your connection to mental health – personal or professional)
  3. I frequently experience … (how does this work impact you? Physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally …)
  4. Because of this … (what impact does this have on your behaviour?)
  5. Because of that … (how has this impacted your life / attitudes?)
  6. It would make a difference in my life if I had …
  7. My biggest wish is … (what would make thesystem / services / providers, better?)

What if we had everyone’s 7-sentence story to build our own community story? It will surely show the impact that Our Story Matters! Give it a try, you don’t need anyone’s permission to take care of your community.

2021-11-25T15:40:02+00:00Blog, Featured Content|

When Workplaces Don’t Work with Mental Health

Written by Allison Tunis, an award-winning visual artist and community arts facilitator working on Treaty 6 land in Amiskwaciwâskahikan. She is also the Administrative Backbone Support for the Community Mental Health Action Plan and active in community organizing. 

When we think about disabilities, especially in the workplace, mental illness is often overlooked . While we may recognize that mental illnesses can be difficult to cope with and impact someone’s ability to work, employees with disabilities are often under-supported. Layers of ableism (the discrimination and social prejudice against people with disabilities or perceived to be disabled), ignorance, misinformation, and lack of consideration have created barriers to accessing supports for people with mental illnesses. When we talk about equity for people with disabilities in the workplace, we need to include people with mental illnesses and include disabled people of all backgrounds in the creation of policies and supports.  

Over the last 14 years, I have worked 15 different jobs, with many resulting in burn-out and mental health decline. Despite being diagnosed with multiple mental illnesses in my early 20s, for a long time I thought it was just me—that I just hadn’t found the right work or maybe everyone felt like this about their jobs and I just needed to learn to cope.  

Even as a trained mental health therapist and frontline social services worker, I did not have the resources or supports to effectively care for my own mental health and was not supported to work in ways that might promote better personal mental health.  

For instance, many Employee Assistance and benefits programs have strict limitations for counselling and mental health support, with maximums of $350 per year, even for those working in high trauma work. For many years, I alternated between working full-time (struggling with mental health because I needed to work to survive), and not working at all (or working very minimally) while recovering from the mental health episodes and reduced capacity that that would inevitably come from working in ways that my body, mind, and soul could not sustain.  

After repeated burn-outs and added trauma from frontline work, I finally had no choice but to start working in ways that actually prioritized my mental health needs, such as reducing my hours per week, flexing my days and hours based on my day-to-day health, and working from home (an option that has been much more common since the pandemic began and which has made work significantly more accessible for many people). However, most workplaces don’t support these types of accommodations or don’t plan to indefinitely. This means that out of necessity, I am now self-employed, less stable in my financial security, and without benefits. Yet, I  am paying $180 per session for counselling and nearly $200 per month in mental health prescriptions, as these are non-negotiable in my treatment. I still struggle to effectively take care of my mental health, mainly because I do not have the resources to do so, even when making it the top priority in my life. 

So what?

I am not unique. There are millions of people who live with mental health-related disabilities, and many of them are not able to access the needed supports, health benefits, or accommodations to allow them to contribute in the ways they are able to. The barriers of conventional, inaccessible workplaces are actually part of what is contributing to people with mental health disabilities being “unable” to work.

If we put more consideration into making workplaces inclusive for people with mental illnesses, ultimately we end up with a larger, more diverse, and healthier workforce. I see no downsides. I want to work, but I don’t want to make myself sick to do so. 

 To read more about implementing innovative and evidence-informed practices around mental health, please visit the Community Mental Health Action Plan’s Shared Wisdom Guide

The Mental Health Commission of Canada also offers Workplace Mental Health toolkits and resources to help workplaces support the mental health of their employees.

Learn more about mental health disabilities:


Image List:

‘Internal Thoughts, mixed media and gel transfer on mylar, Allison Tunis, 2007.

An exploration of my intrusive thoughts and complex feelings when I was first seeking treatment and support for mental health issues.

‘Untitled’ Chronic Illness Self-Portrait, mixed media and embroidery on Aida cloth, Allison Tunis, 2020.

The first of a larger dual-sided embroidery portrait series that explores multiple individuals’ experiences with chronic illness, including mental health. Supported by the Edmonton Arts Council, the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, and the Canada Council for the Arts. Series completion expected end of 2022.


2021-11-19T20:25:25+00:00Blog, Featured Content|

Trauma-Informed Care: Training that can Benefit Anyone

The Community Mental Health Action Plan partners with many organizations that play a significant role in improving addiction and mental health supports and services in Edmonton and surrounding areas. One of our valued partners is the Imagine Institute For Learning, a provincial organization dedicated to the advancement of best practices, research-based professional learning, and community engagement for everyone who works with children and families. Imagine offers a variety of training courses for mental health and suicide prevention, one of which is Trauma-Informed Care.

70% of people have experienced at least one traumatic event in their life.1

Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) training takes an in-depth look at what trauma is, the biological response to trauma, and behaviours that it may cause. It teaches people how to apply this knowledge to their work and personal life. Although this training is often taken by service providers in the social and mental health fields, it is a course that can be beneficial for anyone. There is a high likelihood that any person you interact with is coping with one or more traumas1. Most people do not develop a disorder from a traumatic event; however, it can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in some cases. Research shows that creating awareness and recognition in the community can go a long way to preventing difficulties for those coping with trauma.

“It is not what’s wrong with them. It’s what happened to them.”

Through understanding trauma, we can approach others with more empathy, and perhaps too, be kinder to ourselves as we may also be coping with trauma. TIC training has already been expanding beyond the service provider sector to areas such as education. Imagine Institute recently held a training session for teachers in the Red Deer area that demonstrated the need for this training.

“I believe every person involved in a child’s development (from parents to bus drivers to school staff) should have some level of training in Trauma Informed Care. It has been very informative and provides tools that can be employed starting today.” – Testimonial from a teacher in the Red Deer Trauma-Informed Care Training session

You can find upcoming courses for Trauma-Informed Care or other free training sessions on the Imagine Institute For Learning website. AHS also has online Trauma-Informed Care modules available that are valuable for learning about trauma for those who are unable to make the in-person (currently virtual) TIC training. If you want to find more opportunities to learn about TIC and other mental health training, check out the Mental Health Training Framework.

Please note:  Course content has sensitive topics that may be triggering for some people.



2022-06-27T17:22:24+00:00Blog, Featured Content|

How 211 Alberta Can Help During a Pandemic

How 211 Alberta Can Help During a Pandemic

During a pandemic or disaster, things change quickly. Government supports and social services might be closed, have limited hours, or have significant phone wait times. New community resources might pop up as people try their best to respond to community needs.

Information and referral services such as 211 Alberta are essential in reducing the strain on emergency services, government departments and support service agencies during disaster situations by handling non-emergency calls.

211 is an essential service that helps Albertans find the right resource or service for whatever issue they need help with, at the right time.

How 211 Alberta can help you during the COVID-19 pandemic

As a government or social services agency

  • 211 acts as a communication hub. One phone call, text conversation or online chat is all that is needed to get people to the right place, limiting the number of instances of misinformation and misdirection for those seeking support. 211 also prevents a large number of confusing help lines from being developed.
  • 211 hosts a comprehensive database of resources and services. The need for this information during a disaster when available resources can change on a daily, or even hourly basis. New resources surface while others may become unavailable. 211 Information and Referral Specialist can also use this data to identify unmet needs and monitor the allocation of available resources. For the most up-to-date information 211 has, here’s 211’s COVID-19 Resource List.
  • 211 can expand the capacity of first responders by diverting calls from emergency responders during a disaster.
  • 211’s data has the potential to play a key role in identifying trends of previous disaster response to help in shaping the response of future disasters. To subscribe to 211’s Weekly Covid-19 Report, click here.
    211 can help build up sector capacity and build connections by linking community organizations together prior to disaster striking.

As someone who needs help:

  • 211’s infrastructure and network allows for the system to have extended capacity and reach during a disaster. Since the comprehensive database is online, it can be accessed from many regions, and makes resources accessible beyond the communities from which they originate.
  • 211 Information and Referral Specialists can provide support to callers post-disaster, connect them with services and meet new needs that may have surfaced because of the disaster.
  • 211 Information and Referral Specialists are highly skilled in crisis intervention.
  • To reach 211, dial 2-1-1, text INFO to 211 or visit and click “live chat.”

As someone who wants to help:

One of the largest gaps that arises during a disaster is coordinating the influx of donation and volunteer offers of support that come in. In many cases, agencies do not have the capacity to respond, and helpers can feel discouraged when their offers are not taken up. 211 can coordinate these offers of help and support by directing people to available opportunities to be of service. In partnership with VolunteerConnector, 211 can refer people to available volunteer opportunities and coach them on how to use the VolunteerConnector website at

To help keep 211 up-to-date, visit the 211 Alberta website to check information about your organization’s
programs and services. If you have any updates, email

211 is here to help individuals looking for support and frontline staff looking for information about changing
resources during a pandemic. It is a part of our community of supports that can help direct you to the right

Learn more:

2021-09-22T17:05:56+00:00Blog, Featured Content|

About the Action Plan in 6 Images

About the Action Plan in 6 Images

1. Easier Access to Services for Individuals and Families Struggling with Mental Health, Mental Illness, and Addiction

The purpose of the Community Mental Health Action Plan is to ensure that everyone involved in mental health and addiction in Alberta has the opportunity to maximize collective resources, leverage opportunities to respond to existing gaps, foster innovative approaches and identify a continuum of integrated supports and services. This will translate into easier access to services for individuals and families struggling with poor mental health, mental illness, and addiction.

2. A Focus on Prevention and Promotion

70% of adult Canadians living with a mental health problem or illness say their symptoms started in childhood.

Once mental illness is recognized, help makes a difference for 80% of the people who are affected

The Community Mental Health Action Plan works within this reality. We know there is much we can do at the community level to work together effectively and provide enhanced services for individuals and their families, focusing on:

  • The promotion of positive mental health
  • Prevention of mental illness through early identification and intervention

3. Strengthening the Capacity of Professionals and Non-traditional Supports

The Community Mental Health Action Plan builds the capacity of organizations and non-traditional allies to make practice shifts that can better support positive mental health of others. 

This capacity building work has brought together diverse government, community, and business stakeholders across sectors. As a result, organizations from different sectors can better integrate their work with each other.

An example of this is the Mental Health Training Framework. It is a guide that helps professionals identify training and resources to support the development of knowledge, behavioural, and activating competencies. The Training Framework leverages existing provincial investments made in training and professional development. 

4. Honouring and Learning from Lived / Living Experience

We regularly engage with individuals and families who have previous, current, or ongoing experience with the mental health system to ensure they are partners in creating practice shifts that will ultimately benefit them. We have done this through large group community meetings, focus groups, one-on-one consultations and outreach, and invitations to our Living Library Task Group. 

Their expertise and perspectives are highlighted in the Living Library, Shared Wisdom stories, and Navigation Findings

5. Supporting Albertans through COVID-19

The Community Mental Health Action Plan is collaborating with provincial organizations to develop a plan to ensure frontline supports are informed about, and have access to, psychosocial supports. 

Mental health is an issue that concerns all of us and it is not a concern specific to COVID-19.  However, during this time, mental health issues can be exacerbated by the stress of not working, conflicting information about how to navigate social distancing, parenting while working from home, and other situations. 

In order to help our community, we are highlighting COVID-19 resources for individuals, staff, and organizations on our home page. Each of the resources has been reviewed by our team to Our goal is not to have a comprehensive list of resources available (that would be overwhelming) but to provide a starting point for support. 

See 211 Alberta and our blog post for information about how 211 can help you during the pandemic. 211 is an essential service and can support government and social service agencies, along with people who need help or want to help. 

6. Many Ways to Use Our Website!

The website has six topic areas that you can find tools and resources under such as these:

  • A Mental Health Training Framework to create a training plan for your organization in the areas of trauma, mental health, suicide, workplace wellness, addictions, and brain development
  • The Need Help for Mental Health Tool, a mental health resource listing that comes in 8 languages. You can use the Edmonton version or customize your own! 
  • Compassion to Action, an innovative training for security guards about supporting vulnerable populations. 
  • Stories about extending mental health and addictions support in non-traditional settings and the Shared Wisdom Resource Guide on how to implement changes for the well-being of your staff and clients.  
  • 211 Alberta which is a 24/7 service available across the province, by phone, text, chat which conducts needs and risk assessments before connecting inquirers with the appropriate support. 
  • And more! 

Sign up to our newsletter to get updates on new content added to the website.  

2021-09-22T17:14:11+00:00Blog, Featured Content, Mental Health|
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