The last few weeks have been challenging for many.
As July wraps up, it can be hard not to feel a bit exhausted after days of extreme heat followed by days of hazy skies and poor air quality from wildfire smoke, directly affecting those at most risk and leaving many feeling unwell-physically and mentally.
Some research has been done on the impacts of poor air quality on our mental health and there is a general consensus that it can have an impact on anxiety, depression and general cognitive decline. However, studies have only been conducted on the effects of poor air quality over extended periods in industrialized, urban areas. No research has looked into the impact of short-term bursts of poor air quality.
"So here in Fort Saskatchewan, our air quality is really, really good for the most part," explained Krista Allan, community development coordinator for the city. "It's just been in the last couple of years that forest fires have had such an impact."
Allan explained a bigger concern is the effect poor air quality has on physical health. The smoke might cause tiredness or people with pre-existing conditions may find their symptoms aggravated during periods of poor air quality. This can also make people feel mentally unwell.
She said many are already living in a state of high stress since the start of the pandemic on top of the impact of wildfire smoke.
"For a lot of us, we've been affected emotionally, physically, financially. And this is a lot of stuff that's happening to us outside of our control," she said. "So, when you add the smoky skies, when you add the heatwave, when you add COVID-19 and all of these things that are currently kind of piling up, that does lead to higher stress and anxiety."
Allan added that many people look forward to spending time outdoors and may feel like they're losing a coping mechanism during times when spending too much time outdoors can be harmful to their health.
She concluded by saying that it's ok to feel drained and cut yourself some slack when feeling unwell since there's no one size fits all solution to coping with your health, and we all have different needs and interests.
"Be kind to yourself, take some time to do what you need to feel better."
If anyone feels overwhelmed or is looking for support, they can contact Fort Saskatchewan Family and Community Support Services Support line at 780-992-6281. Fort Saskatchewan, Strathcona County and Leduc also recently partnered up on a mental health campaign to help people better understand their mental health.