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Sophie Grégoire Trudeau is more than an ambassador of WE Well-being, she is its mentor, booster and champion.
“Lead Influencer,” she says with a laugh as she reflects on her new role with WE’s mental well-being initiative for young people, families and educators.
“I want people to see and feel their own source of inspiration in themselves.”
The mental health advocate and former journalist has shared the WE Day stage many times with her husband, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. At WE Day UN in New York this fall, she appeared solo to talk about mental well-being—“the real stuff,” as she describes it: “Who we are when no one is watching. The struggles we face alone.”
It is an urgent conversation that she is willing and eager to initiate.
One in five people lives with a mental health or addiction challenge. “Addictions are on the rise. Eating disorders are on the rise … anxiety, depression,” Grégoire Trudeau says. It is believed 70 per cent of mental health problems have their onset during childhood or adolescence. “We need to look at ourselves and see where we’re suffering, because we truly are.”
WE Well-being was created by experts, educators, youth and innovators to empower people to nurture their mental well-being and resiliency with a focus on prevention strategies, awareness and actions. This fall celebrates the launch of a pilot series of curriculum devoted to social-emotional learning, nurturing safe and caring schools, and changing the way we talk about mental well-being.
“We need to break down the stigma,” she says. “Awkward conversations are 10 times better than silence.”
Grégoire Trudeau has spoken openly about living with anxiety and an eating disorder as a young woman.
When asked what she wishes she’d known during those years of struggle, she offers a list: “That I did not have to be everything to everyone. That I was perfect just the way I was, I did not have to change anything. That I was not responsible for all the anxiety I was feeling. That I could just be.”
Now she is 43 and raising her own crew—Xavier, 11, Ella-Grace, 9, and four-year-old Hadrien. “What I love most is looking at my kids and seeing that they feel loved,” she has shared with Instagram followers, “and to see it reflected in the way they act towards themselves and others.”
Rather than telling her kids “do this” and “don’t do that,” Grégoire Trudeau says she tries to model authenticity, integrity and honesty. “It’s in my actions. It’s how I interact with other human beings. It’s how I am grateful every day.”
On gloomy days, or when faced with adversity, Grégoire Trudeau says she works to stay open to her family. “It’s not about hiding my weaknesses, or my sadness, or my anxiety that arises in some moments, it’s about them knowing it and knowing what we can do to take care of it.”
In tough times it helps to remember that life unfolds in phases and cycles, she says. “It’s not one straight line. It’s okay to go through things.”
Small actions in daily routines help build grit and resiliency. “Day by day,” she says. “Baby step by baby step.” Grégoire Trudeau describes self-care as a form of hygiene. Just as you might brush your teeth, you can find ways to show yourself respect and love.
“It allows you to find centre,” says Grégoire Trudeau, a trained yoga teacher, “and to be less drained by the chaotic rhythm of daily life”
The WE Well-being curriculum combines social, emotional and mental well-being with experiential service-learning. Students learn about empathy, gratitude, compassion, altruism and resilience.
They will also discover tips and tools that nurture positive mental well-being.
Although not always easy, it’s simpler than you think, Grégoire Trudeau says. “Your actions do not need to be big. You don’t have to meditate for an hour to get the benefits.” She begins to rhyme off suggestions:
Move your body: “The human body needs to move! You always feel better after moving. Always! Choose whatever makes you feel good.”
Sleep: “Science is showing that even an hour extra sleep can change your mood and your emotional stability during the day.”
Connect: “Most humans feel happier when connected to other people. Build sustainable, intimate relationships.”
Disconnect: “Find time during your day—whether it’s two minutes, five minutes or an hour—to disconnect from the chaotic rhythm of life.”
Nourish your body: “Eat the right amount of the right food at the right time.”
Try new things: “Take that little leap. Every time I’ve said, ‘I don’t know what’s going to be on the other side, but let me try,’ something happens along the way, even if it’s not perfect.”
Don’t underestimate the number of allies you have: “Family, friends and others along the way.”
Once connected to your inner resources, they are always there, she says. “It allows you to serve better and be more present in your life—and the lives of others.”
Self-care is the biggest gift you will ever give yourself and the world, Grégoire Trudeau says. “With more consciousness, self-respect, compassion, truth and unity: the world would be a better place for all!”