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Last year I embarked on an exciting adventure as I moved to the Yukon for work. Unfortunately, soon after I arrived, I found myself in an extremely negative environment and anxiety began to take over. I was struggling in a difficult situation while feeling isolated in a new town and I just couldn’t cope. 

It became so dreadful that for the first time in my life my mental health plummeted as my battle with anxiety became debilitating. I was in a dark place that I just couldn’t get out of, constantly in my head, judging myself, and imagining everyone else was judging me too.

I decided to move back to Kelowna in the hope that things might improve. Once I was back home my anxiety was still so bad that I ended up seeking help for my mental health. I took a semester off from University and stopped working in order to regroup and focus on my wellbeing. My counsellor referred me to the YMCA of Okanagan’s Youth Mindfulness Program, a free seven week support group for young adults who struggle with anxiety.

The program sounded like a perfect fit, but it took me a while to reach out as I was terrified. I remember feeling extremely nervous initially when I walked into the info session. There’s so much stigma around anxiety and I feared everyone in the room knowing my struggle. 
 
During the program, we learned what anxiety feels like for different people and surprisingly, the positive aspects of the so-called disorder. It made me like myself a little more and helped me realize there’s nothing wrong with me. 

The program provided me with a space to let my emotions out and connect with people similar to myself so that I didn’t feel so alone. My family lives out of town and my fiancé is up north and while they are very supportive, it’s hard for anyone without anxiety to understand how to help.

After completing the program, I am enjoying life again, and I am proud to say that I have started back at work and have re-enrolled in my studies at UBCO to become a teacher.

My university program is intense, and before attending the program I hadn’t realized that I was not coping well. Each day now, I use the tools and techniques I’ve learned with the Mindfulness Program, and as a result I am a better student and I am not so hard on myself. The program has taught me that I can work and attend school at the same time without being overwhelmed.

In addition to learning what types of coping mechanisms work best for my wellbeing, I’ve also learned that I need to workout often and practise yoga and meditation to regulate myself. The facilitators recommended I participate in the Y’s meditation classes and they are something I can do every week to help manage my mental health. 

The facilitators were great! I always felt as though they were completely invested in our wellbeing and wanted us all to succeed. It was unbelievable seeing them reach the participants who struggled the most. These individuals, who started out completely in their head became so much more present by the end of the program. It really was amazing to observe! 

If I’d never taken the YMCA of Okanagan’s Mindfulness Program, I would not have learned how to regulate my emotions or how beneficial meditation is for my mental wellbeing, I would not have made the friends I met through the program, and I would not be able to balance my schooling and return to work effectively. 

The program truly changed my life and it presents an opportunity for others to do the same. I really feel anyone considering the program probably needs it and should take the plunge.

Those that donate to the YMCA are awesome, there’s really no other way to put it. The Y helps people manage a healthy life and opens up so many opportunities for people to improve all aspects of their wellbeing. 

For more information on the YMCA of Okanagan’s mental wellness offerings, including free Mindfulness Programs for those 13-30, please call 250-317-7980 or email ymind@ymcaokanagan.ca. Interested participants are encouraged to register for info sessions coming up this September.