Meet Jenna. An avid outdoor enthusiast, Jenna was injured from a fall in 2014 that triggered a whirlwind of trauma and struggles with her mental health. Now a graduate student at York University, she has learnt to nurture her mental wellness and embrace self-awareness by connecting to natural environments, and practicing meditation and yoga. Read on as she speaks her truth to inspire others to speak theirs.
UR Enough: Mental wellness means something different to each of us. When and how did you start to embrace your own mental wellness?
Jenna: If I were to pinpoint a time when I began to really value mental wellness, it would be after getting a bad concussion from a fall in 2014. Leading up to the incident, I had become aware of my negative habits, the damaging relationship I had to my body, and the depression I had been denying. After the fall, I pitched into a whirlwind of trauma and bottled up emotions, without the resources to properly cope with them. I had trouble sleeping, communicating, feeding myself properly, let alone completing the final semesters of my undergraduate university studies. I felt terribly inadequate, anxious, lost and depressed, until I sought professional help from therapists and naturopaths to begin the long process of recovery and healing. I figured the longest relationship I’m ever going to have is the one with myself, so I’d better start exploring ways to nurture it.
UR Enough: A year ago you went on a 10 day silent Vipassana Meditation retreat in Tiruvannamalai, India. These retreats tend to be focused on the interconnection between the body and mind, so how did this experience help you personally with your own mental wellness?
Jenna: Vipassana Meditation provided yet another avenue for connecting to and understanding myself as a whole being. It was not undertaken in isolation to other events, but rather as part of a series of practices and excursions I built on over the course of my travels. For example, one of my goals was to become certified to teach yoga, which I was able to achieve in Rishikesh, India. After the training, I left India to trek the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal, which in its own way offered a unique meditative and spiritual experience. A second goal while travelling was to develop a regular meditation practice, in part to continue on the path of healing I knew I needed. As well, it gave my inner world a chance to find quiet and peace, despite the busy, loud, and sometimes chaotic places I visited. When you’re on the road in foreign lands, constantly moving from place to place, a healthy mind to settle into is the greatest sense of home.
UR Enough: Being left alone with just your thoughts for that long you must have become aware of your own inner dialogue. What is something that you learnt about yourself from going through that experience?
Jenna: Vipassana taught me discipline, determination, forgiveness, letting go of old habits and patterns of thought, self-reflection, change, growth, and awareness. It was incredibly challenging – both mentally and physically – to sit in meditation for a total of 11 hours each day, notice the thoughts that comes to mind, and work through every sensation that surfaces. It feels like running 10 marathons back to back. In my experience, I imagined the layers of myself that were no longer serving me had peeled away, and I felt physically and emotionally lighter.
I want to be careful neither to romanticize the Vipassana technique as a key to unlocking all, nor essentialize the privilege of experiencing it in India, close to its origins in Myanmar (Burma). It was an important step in my journey, however there are many other paths one can take to self-care and self-inquiry. It is just another tool for the growing toolbox of techniques for the maintenance of one’s personal sense of health and wellness; possibly the greatest souvenir I brought home to apply to life in Canada. I hope to invest 10 more days of silent retreat again soon, at one of the Ontario centers.
UR Enough: When you are faced with a difficult or stressful circumstance, what are coping skills that you use to to maintain mental wellness?
Jenna: When faced with a difficult or stressful situation, I go back to the basics of what I’ve learned is best for me. Feeling organized, being active, and eating and sleeping well in routine fashion are the essentials. A simple run or yoga practice will always guarantee a fresh mind, while nourishing foods, tea, and morning meditation ground me in knowing I have the physical and emotional strength to move forward. In a stressful moment, I try to remember that the only thing I can control in this wild, wonderful world of ours is how I react. Compassion is a practice.
UR Enough: What is one thing you love most about yourself?
Jenna: One thing I love about myself is my capacity to relate to others.
UR Enough: In five words, what does the messaging and community of UR Enough mean to you?
Jenna: The UR Enough community means to me: Potent people sharing inspiring stories!
Watch and listen to Jenna speak her truth in The #UREnough Campaign, and become inspired to nurture your own mental wellness and speak your truth, too.