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Mental health and excercise

Exercise and physical activity

Overall, Canadians greatly value physical well-being. Each city offers a huge variety of health and fitness clubs and sport-based community centres. Some of the private, brand-name clubs may charge a fairly large fee for their membership. However, they often offer pools, private training, saunas, tanning booths and a more secluded, private environment.

Community fitness centres are cheaper alternatives to such private gyms. They are run by municipalities. Usually there is a small gym, some exercise classes, a pool and saunas (wet and dry). These community centres are frequented by families, children and seniors.

Also, look on your city’s website where you are sure to find sports programs, arts and craft classes, and dance lessons that suit your time schedule and your budget. Activities run by the city are often the most affordable. The YMCA and Boys and Girls Club also offer recreational opportunities.

There are also leagues for sports such as soccer, baseball and hockey for both children and adults. Working as part of a team is a core Canadian value; many adults and children are engaged in competitive sports where they make their best friends.

The best and easiest exercise is just outside your door. Canadians in every province take great pride of everything nature has to offer. In every community, depending on where you live in Canada, you will find a variety of parks, hiking trails, lakes or mountains.

Your province’s and/or city’s websites will have detailed lists and current conditions of parks and campgrounds near you! Do not be afraid to venture out and go on longer drives to really explore your province. British Columbia, for example, is much more diverse than just the city of Vancouver! Do not limit yourself to the urban districts; acquaint yourself with small towns and well-kept traditions of First Nations settlements. The majority of parks are free and offer well-maintained playgrounds, walking trails (use them for exercise!) or campgrounds (for a small fee if you are looking for a washroom and a water supply).

Mental health

Should you face mental health problems, your family physician can refer you to a specialist able to administer psychiatric help. This is covered under Canada’s universal health care program, and you should not have to pay for these services. However, prevention is key and maintaining strong mental health when dealing with settling in to a new country is important.

After the initial excitement of immigration wears off, you are likely to feel alienated or doubting your decision to immigrate. This stage is usually full of extreme emotions, doubts, anxieties, homesickness, loneliness and frustration. If you have language difficulties and few ties to your ethnic community, you may experience a deep feeling of isolation. You may also be tempted to compare Canada to your home country and point out everything you feel was better back home. Such stress may trigger depressive or anxious symptoms including insomnia, and increase in consumption of food, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, etc.

To help you cope with your anxiety and confusion, here are a few tips.

1. Reach out. If you don’t know anyone in Canada, go to an immigrant-serving organization or community centre. When you arrive at the airport, the immigration officer will give you a booklet with useful contacts, in which you will find all the addresses of the cultural community centres in your area. Also, work on building a supportive social network. Make use of all available technology and social networks to maintain your contacts at home. Participate in real-life activities, join the gym or take up dance classes to meet new people! Although, be careful in terms of creating your social circle exclusively from people of your own ethnic backgrounds or new immigrants like yourself. While knowing that you are not alone in your struggles is great for support, it is not necessarily the best way to learn and progress in a new society. Try to connect with people who have accomplished something you only wish to accomplish and learn from them.

2. Try to avoid comparisons. While it’s very normal to miss home, realize that Canada will never be exactly like the country you left behind. Some of the good things you had at home may not be available here; no country is perfect. Focus on the positives.

3. Manage your budget carefully.
Shrinking savings are one of the major sources of panic for new immigrants. Avoid overspending, in order to preserve your sense of security for as long as possible. Also, do not fall into the common trap of constantly comparing Canadian prices with the prices in your home country. “Back home this or that costs a lot less” — such a mindset can only put you in a pessimistic mood.

4. Get involved. The best way to forget about your problems is to devote yourself to others. Volunteer at an organization or a cause that you feel could use your skills and knowledge. You will make friends, gain a sense of community and learn new things. And guess what? In Canada, volunteering counts as work experience that you can add to your resumé.

5. Keep your expectations realistic. Success won’t happen overnight. It is very unlikely that you will easily find a job that matches the status you had in your home country. It’s no piece of cake even for Canadian-born citizens to reach a higher professional level. Accept that it takes time and that you may have to start low and work your way up. All this being said, it is still normal to feel confused and scared occasionally. Acknowledge your feelings, but don’t let them overwhelm you.