Mindfulness and cognitive behaviour strategist Nancy Brownsberger said the pandemic has taken its toll on her clients.

The social services worker described the experience as a “globally traumatic event” that will seriously impact mental health and wellbeing in the long-term. She said our society struggled with expressing emotions even before the pandemic began, but the last year has forced people to deal with them in a way that will leave a mark.

“All of a sudden, we’re here holding the bag of, ‘here I am in this situation and I’m not really clear on how to feel better’,” she said. “The slowdown caused a lot of us to really halt in our tracks.”

To help address that, Brownsberger launched her Grow Optimism mental health consulting business full-time in December, after running it part-time since 2015.

She also began a Zoom training program March 6 entitled “Life Hacks for Uncertain Times,” teaching people skills to help alleviate anxiety. She said she is responding to a community need.

“There’s a need in this community for some more folks that offer counselling and emotional wellness supports,” Brownsberger said. She added that she wants to provide that in collaboration with all the existing supports in the County.

Statistics Canada found fewer Canadians reporting having excellent or very good mental health in July 2020 (55 per cent), compared to 2019 (68 per cent). The study also found those reporting poor mental health were more likely to report substance use and that the mental health decline was most prominent amongst youth.

Brownsberger said the toll could extend beyond the pandemic. With people grappling more with their mental health, Brownsberger said they should seek ways to better manage it in the long-term.

“Maybe we don’t return to normal. I think the biggest missteps would be marching back onto the lives we once had,” she said. “Because we’ve all been altered on some level.”

She said we should be aware that we have gone through a collective trauma that will impact people differently. She noted though there will be celebration after the pandemic, there will also be anxieties about returning to larger gatherings.

“Kindness and patience and understanding,” she said. “The experience on a personal level can look and sound very differently for everyone.”

Brownsberger said she is pleased by the reception of her program and business so far. She said people should reach out and connect.

“It’s really important to not feel alone in the struggle,” she said. “If I can just add to the landscape of voices and connections to assist others on their wellness path, then to me, that just feels like a deep honour and privilege.”

The business is available at 705-854- 1189 or brownsbergernancy@gmail.com.

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