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End the Stigma. Break the Silence.

In Canada, every year we celebrate Bell Let’s Talk Day – coming up on January 30, 2019. While this day is a great reminder that it’s important to talk about mental illness, we need to be mindful 365 days of the year.

Today’s post will be focused on awareness – something we can accomplish simply by talking about ours and addressing others’ mental health.

Remember: one in five Canadians will suffer from mental illness at some point in their lifetime. 20% is substantial – this is proof you are not alone! Two thirds of those living with mental illness do not seek help or counselling due to stigma.

It can be difficult to bring up any struggles that you, someone you know, or someone you suspect are having. Here are a few reminders on ‘how to’ talk about mental health with others:

 

If someone brings up the topic with you…

– Listen. Let them finish their sentences and complete thoughts without interrupting.

– Let them know you understand. Avoid being judgmental.

– Acknowledge their feelings, and let them know they are not alone. Tell a story of someone you know who is struggling and recently sought help.

– Try not to dismiss their feelings or brush it off. (Examples of this would be: ‘you’re just having a bad week’, or ‘it’s not that bad’).

– If they are open to it, offer to help them find a professional. This one task may seem overwhelming to them and your help may be much appreciated.

 

If you want to bring up the topic with someone, try these prompting phrases:

– I’m sorry you aren’t feeling well

– I’ve noticed you seem down lately

– Is everything okay?

– How can I help?

– What do you need right now?

 

After the conversation…

– Respect if they ask you to keep it between the two of you.

– Ensure to follow up with them, rather than having this one-time conversation. After this moment, they will appreciate your continued support.

 

For more tips on how to contribute to funding for care, access, and research for mental health through the Bell Let’s Talk campaign, look for our next blog post this coming week.

 

Try talking to one person about something you have found challenging lately. Tell someone you have noticed they have been struggling. If you would like to learn more about how to talk about mental health, to learn more about psychotherapy, to book or to help someone book an appointment, please call Carly at 647-961-9669, or or email carly@balancedmindandwellness.com.

New Year, New Goals

It’s that time of year again. We are almost two weeks into the new year, and despite well-intentioned resolutions that started full throttle, most of us are already losing steam and making exceptions, or excuses. As a result, we are well on our way back to old habits.

So, we ask: why do most resolutions fail and what helps some of them succeed? Some people lack the self-discipline it takes to maintain their resolutions. Others are not yet ready to change their habits, particularly the bad ones. Some people set unrealistic goals and expectations even before attempting them.

To execute resolutions, we need to change our behaviours. In order to change a behaviour, we have to develop a new thought behind it. Creating healthy habits involves creating thought patterns in the brain, which generate memories – the default for our behaviour when we have to make a decision.

 

To help change your thinking and make success happen, here is a list of 7 ways to follow through with resolutions and keep healthy habits:

1. Start small

One year is a strong commitment. Thinking about changing habits for an entire year may seem overwhelming. Start with one month, keep track and add another on, etc. If you can make it successfully through just the first month of a resolution, you are more likely to keep it as a habit through the rest of the year.

2. Be accountable

When you find it hard to hold yourself accountable, try telling somebody about your resolution. This will create a healthy sense of pressure to achieve it. When this person follows up and asks how it is going, this can help you check in with and track your progress.

3. Plan for setbacks

Going from point A to point B is not always a straight line. Think of it more like a treasure map with many twists and turns before the goal can be achieved.

4. Be specific

Instead of saying “I want to eat healthy,” make it measurable. Rather than stating you’ll get out of debt, be specific about how much per month you will pay off on your credit card.

5. Connect the goal to core values

When you can see how a goal may positively impact or improve a relationship, this makes the goal much more rewarding.

6. Focus on success

It can be easy to adopt the ‘glass half empty’ mindset. Instead, think about gains and small successes, rather than how much more needs to be done. Celebrate weekly and monthly milestones. Use a calendar or checklist to visually track progress.

7. Keep adding resolutions

You do not need to wait until New Year’s Eve to make resolutions. Improving ourselves is an ongoing process. Set monthly reminders in your phone, write them on your calendar, or have a meeting with someone who helps you set goals.

 

Counselling is a great way to hold yourself accountable to your goals and resolutions. If you have any questions or would like help with working to set goals and increase your mental wellness, call Carly at 647-961-9669, or email carly@balancedmindandwellness.com

Self-Care in Our Technology Driven World

I admit, it is very tempting to throw around words like “self-care” in the context of therapy. Sometimes, what ends up happening when words are so easily used is that we forget their true intention and meaning.

Self-care as it is used today is about finding ways to attend to ourselves. In today’s busy world we really forget to pay attention to ourselves as boundaries and limits are blurred by technology and the mentality of always “being on”. Without giving ourselves any true time off, we tend to feel anxious, stressed, stuck, alone, unable to connect with others, and unproductive to name a few things. It is now more important than ever to use self-care strategies in order to maintain our physical and mental health, which ultimately helps to manage our stress.

Here are three self-care strategies to use in our technology driven world:

  • Unplug from technology. In theory, this is about taking time away from technology so we can have a few minutes of peace in our lives. It’s important to think about how you’ll unplug from technology. This can include:
    • deactivating a social media account for awhile (for example, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat)
    • putting your phone on airplane mode for at least an hour
    • putting your gadgets away in a drawer or another room – out of sight, out of mind
  • Use the time you’re unplugging from technology to do something you enjoy or used to enjoy. Go for a walk, read a book, go see family and/or friends, try a new hobby, take a nap, or maybe learn to practice mindfulness.
  • When you reconnect with technology, challenge yourself to delay responding to texts and emails unless if it’s urgent. This one can be tricky, because it’s easy to tell ourselves something is super important and needs to be responded to immediately.
    • Put your thoughts through a test: if you wouldn’t call someone that moment to respond to them, it’s probably not urgent and can wait.
    • By setting different expectations we ourselves can feel less of an urgency, which will make it easier to unplug from technology.

There are some very interesting pieces on the history and importance of self-care you can read about:

By taking time away from technology we are caring for ourselves and giving ourselves opportunities to connect with our internal needs. If you’re wondering about how to develop more strategies to help improve your life, you can always develop these strategies with a life coach, counsellor, or therapist. Please visit here for more information, or email vivian@balancedmindandwellness.com to book an appointment.

 

How to Deal with Grief During the Holidays

Grief during the holidays is a common reason people come in for therapy in December.

Because of your grief, this holiday might prove to be a very difficult experience. It is important to focus on believing that you will come through stronger than before. If you need to scale back on some festivities, that is okay. People will understand, and if they don’t, it’s ok – you are doing what you know you need for yourself.

These strategies can help you get through the holidays while grieving your loved one:

  1. Trust that Grief is Part of Healing

Experiencing the pain, rather than constantly trying to escape it, can actually help you feel better in the long-term. Eventually, the holidays will get easier, but only if you allow yourself to experience the sadness of getting through it without your loved one.

 

  1. Set Healthy Boundaries

You do not have to do it all. Be willing to say no to certain traditions, but also try to engage in others. People will encourage you to participate, but you do not have to do it for them. Do what makes you happy.

 

  1. Focus on What You Can Control

There are some things that are out of our control, such as Christmas songs that surround public places in December. Things that you can control are the number of decorations you put up, where you shop for presents (online may be less overwhelming), and when you spend time with others. Be mindful that others will want to celebrate and enjoy this time of year.

 

  1. Plan Ahead

Often, the anticipation over how hard something is going to be is worse than the actual event. Create a simple plan for how you’ll get through the holidays with some tips here: “6 tips for Overcoming Holiday Anxiety and Stress” and “Holiday Social Anxiety: 6 Common Causes and How to Cope”.

 

  1. Allow yourself to feel all of the emotions

It’s healthy to cry, and let yourself express sadness, rather than hold it in. You do not need to be ashamed of this emotion, and those close to you will help support you. If you notice glimmers of happiness, let yourself enjoy those positive feelings. It is common to feel guilty for feeling happiness during a sad time, when really, those you are remembering would want you to be happy. You deserve to be.

 

  1. Find happiness in memories

Create a special way to remember the person you have lost. Whether you decide to watch their favourite movie or make their favourite food, this can be a helpful tip that, even though your loved one is gone, you can keep happy memories of them around you.

 

  1. Adapt, or create, new traditions

Some holiday traditions can sometimes serve as painful reminders of your loss. It is perfectly okay to create new traditions this year, too. You can also modify old traditions to adapt better to this new stage of your life.

 

  1. Acts of kindness

Even when you’re in the midst of grief, you still have something to offer the world. Performing a few acts of kindness, such as donating your time or gifts to those in need, can be really beneficial for the grieving soul.

 

  1. Ask for Help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you are struggling with getting through the holidays. You might want to reach out for support, or therapy.

 

If you have any questions or would like help with working to reduce depression and anxiety during the holiday season, call Carly at 647-961-9669, or email carly@balancedmindandwellness.com

Holiday Social Anxiety: 6 Common Causes and How to Cope

  1. Staying with friends or relatives (unfamiliar surroundings)…

If you are going to be staying with friends or relatives in unfamiliar surroundings, ensure you have your regular comfort items and some coping strategies on hand. These might include: your usual snacks, a good book, a friend to call, or an ‘excuse’ to remove yourself from any uncomfortable situations.

 

  1. Spending time with your significant others’ friends and/or family…

If you are with your significant other and worried about spending more time with someone on their side, let them know what might make you feel more comfortable. This might include a pre-established signal to help you both step away from the group at times.

 

  1. You feel like you’re bad at small talk and don’t know what to say…

Ask yourself if it’s really true that you have nothing to talk about. You probably have at least one or two interests or experiences you can talk about, but you may be dismissing them as silly or uninteresting. If this is the case, you’re likely being too self-critical. Or, if talking about yourself makes you nervous, focus instead on learning three new things about the person you’re talking to.

 

  1. Being questioned…

This is often uncomfortable at family and friend gatherings when you haven’t seen them in a while. Rather than focusing on being put on the spot, remember that they miss you and are genuinely interested in hearing about what’s going on in your life.

 

  1. Coping with loneliness…

Spending too much time on your own can make you feel anxious, lonely and depressed. Part of why the holidays feel more lonely is high societal expectations for this time of year. Not having a romantic partner or close family can feel more uncomfortable than usual. Try re-thinking your expectations, and shift your focus to the things that you do have (and are grateful for) in your life. Bring a friend as your plus one, or that the sometimes sporadic love of a difficult family member still counts as love, has helped many people feel less lonely.

 

  1. Coping with large numbers of people…

You might worry that other people are watching you, judging your appearance, or judging what you are doing. Shopping malls are especially packed this time of year and can cause a great deal of stress. If these thoughts resonate with you, remember that most people are there with their own worries/ shopping lists, and likely are too preoccupied to be worrying about what you are. If malls generally overwhelm you, go in with a specific list and make a plan according to the mall map ahead of time.

 

Do you want to conquer your social anxiety and be more comfortable around new people? If you spend time thinking about what other people think, that’s when people notice. So, have fun, and do what feels right to you.

If you’re constantly worried about others judging you and it’s getting in the way of your work, life or relationships, you might consider seeking help. There’s no quick-fix for social anxiety therapy involving Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help you overcome your social anxiety over time.

6 Tips for Overcoming Holiday Anxiety and Stress

It is known that a stable routine can reduce psychological problems like anxiety. Our daily schedule is safe and predictable. The end of the year involves an unavoidable change of routine. While we may look forward to the change, it can also cause us to feel unsafe and overwhelmed.

 

These six tips may help lower your stress levels during the holidays:

 

  1. Plan ahead

Create a list of people you would like to buy gifts for, and some ideas you have for them. Look up some fun recipes for meals or baking that you want to try this year. Have fun with it, too – pick up some decorations to get yourself in the spirit ahead of time!

 

  1. Stick to a budget

Decide what you want to spend over Christmas and stick to your budget to avoid anxiety over money. If your family and/ or friends are up for it, secret Santa (a draw) can also reduce anxiety by avoiding last-minute shopping and the need to find the ‘right gift’.

 

  1. Stay Social

Surround yourself with people you like. If being around your relatives provides stress, keep family gatherings to a minimum and celebrate with friends who you can just be yourself with.

 

  1. Learn to say no

You don’t have to attend every social occasion you’re invited to. It’s okay to put yourself first and balance what’s important to you this season. Make a list and prioritize your needs for the month or week ahead to ensure you’re taking care of (and enjoying) yourself.

 

  1. Don’t abandon healthy habits

It’s important to maintain some of your healthy habits. You may not feel like it, but there’s a lot of evidence that exercise can help with anxiety and depression. It will be worth cutting back on some of the ‘holiday hangover’.

 

  1. Take a breather

Take time to do things you want to do, rather than things you feel you have to do. When you feel overwhelmed, go for a walk, have a bath, or take that little break to spend some time with you.

 

If you have any questions or would like help with working to reduce stress and anxiety during the holiday season, call Carly at 647-961-9669, or email carly@balancedmindandwellness.com

How to Beat the Winter Blues

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that is related to changes in seasons. To understand more about SAD, refer back to our previous article here.

 

There are a variety of options available to help you combat the symptoms associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder. You might find it helpful to try one or more of the following:

 

Light Therapy/ phototherapy

This is one of the first and most popular treatments for SAD. During light therapy, you sit a few feet from a special light box which mimics natural outdoor light. Over time, studies have shown that this treatment appears to cause a change in brain chemicals linked to mood. It has been said that it generally starts working in a few days to a few weeks with minimal side effects. It is highly recommended to speak to a medical professional before purchasing a light box in order to determine what the best option for you might be.

 

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is another option to treat SAD. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (or CBT) can help to work through negative thought patterns that may be making you feel worse. A psychotherapist can also help you find healthy ways to cope, to reduce avoidance behaviour, and to manage stress.

 

Medications

If symptoms are severe, some people with SAD benefit from antidepressant treatment. It is recommended that you speak to your doctor or psychiatrist about some options that would suit your needs, and to revisit this discussion pre-season each subsequent year. Your medical professional may or may not recommend you continue taking this medication past fall/winter. It will likely take several weeks for the medication to take effect, and for you to notice the full benefits. Should you decide it is not for you, or that you are feeling better at the end of the season, it is important to wean off the medication properly to minimize side effects.

 

Other Lifestyle Recommendations:

  • Relaxation techniques: yoga and/or meditation
  • Increase sun and light exposure: open window coverings; sit closer to bright windows while at home or in the office
  • Spend more time outdoors during the day
  • Regular exercise: to reduce stress and anxiety and improve mood
  • Healthy diet: to increase good nutrients and blood flow to the brain, and reduce junk foods that cause lethargy
  • Good sleep habits
  • Stay connected and social with your support network
  • Take Vitamin D due to less exposure to sunlight during these seasons

 

These recommendations have all been shown to reduce the symptoms of depression. If you have any questions or would like help with working to reduce symptoms of depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder, call Carly at 647-961-9669, or email carly@balancedmindandwellness.com

Seasonal Affective Disorder: The Winter Blues

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that is related to changes in seasons. More specifically, entering the cold fall and/or winter seasons for us Canadians can be challenging. Long term changes in the weather, like harsh winters, can affect our sense of well-being. If you find yourself feeling very different dependent on the season, you may be experiencing symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or depression.

 

What we recognize:

  • It is colder and darker out
  • You have less energy
  • You feel like ‘hibernating’, since it is harder to go outside
  • Social withdrawal: it is harder to make plans, or stick to them
  • You feel like sleeping all the time, or you are having trouble getting a good night’s sleep
  • You are tired all the time
  • Your appetite has changed, particularly more cravings for sugar and carbohydrate rich foods
  • You feel hopeless
  • You feel more irritable
  • You feel sad, guilty, and down on yourself

 

What is really happening:

  • Our biological clocks, or circadian rhythms are thrown off. Due to reduced levels of sunlight, our bodies feel a disruption to our internal clocks.
  • Our serotonin levels can drop, which creates a decline in positive moods, or happiness. The reduced sunlight this time of year can cause less serotonin production in our bodies. This can trigger depression, or depressive periods.
  • Our melatonin levels can become imbalanced time of year. As a result, our sleep patterns and mood change, making both unpredictable and more challenging to regulate.

 

You do not have to struggle with these symptoms. Break the cycle with tips from our upcoming article: How to Beat the Winter Blues.

To learn more about depression counselling and how to reduce symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), visit https://etobicokepsychotherapy.com/depression-counselling-etobicoke/, call Carly at 647-961-9669, or email carly@balancedmindandwellness.com

Relationship Issues: Let Your Guard Down

One of the most common relationship issues is not being able to let your guard down. We become defensive when we don’t want to expose our feelings or ‘true self’. It’s time to be vulnerable and stop pushing people away! How? Read the following tips to being more open and stop shutting out opportunities!

1. Find the right people to trust

Have people let you down in the past? Chances are, this will prevent you from opening up to new people now and in the future. However, the harsh reality is: not everyone is like that, and there are other great people you can rely on… if you let them get to know you. That ‘if’ is key. Communication is key to building relationships and trust. Start looking for those people to build the relationship you want!

 2. Identify your comfort zone… and get out of it

There is comfort and security in keeping to yourself, but now it’s time to experiment by taking risks. Slowly, start exposing yourself by doing things you would not normally do. Introduce yourself to someone that looks friendly. The first step is not easy. Chances are, the other person will be glad you did!

3. Let your feelings show

Don’t be afraid of sharing your feelings with your friends and family. Letting them know what you are feeling and thinking can be a great release, and they can give you valuable advice. This doesn’t mean saying every single thing that’s on your mind – just let go of those worries and stresses you really don’t need to hold onto! Relationship issues often stem from not sharing or communicating enough, even with friends and family. 

4. Stop avoiding being vulnerable

Building a ‘tough’ appearance by holding everything in can be exhausting. You can be fiercely independent and full of emotions. You don’t always have to be on your toes. Stop equating expression of emotions as weak and helpless. Most people see and feel strength in showing vulnerability.

5. Be forward

There is no better way to let your guard down than by just being straightforward with others about your feelings and intentions. Try it – it really is quite liberating! After spending so much hiding your emotions, being straightforward with yourself and others can be very rewarding.

6. Stop being pessimistic and critical

One of the main reasons why many people put up walls is because they are afraid of getting hurt and used by people. This becomes a pattern where we make assumptions and form false perceptions of people who might be honest and sincere. People aren’t always selfish – they are often genuinely interested in you. Let others get to know you on another level – let yourself connect!

7. Give people a chance

Why not take risks and give people a chance? Let them in! It might be hard to do and you might get hurt at some point, but you can also reassure yourself that expressing your feelings or emotions with others is worth it. Risks are meant to be made, and all relationships have some element of risk!

Whether it is at work, in a romantic relationship, or with family and friends, let your guard down! Stop experiencing the same relationship issues when you are the one with the simple fix!

To learn more about relationship counselling and how to work on letting your guard down in specific relationships, visit https://www.etobicokepsychotherapy.com/relationship-counselling-etobicoke/ , call Carly at 647-961-9669, or email carly@balancedmindandwellness.com

 

Relationship Issues: Does Your Partner Know the Real You?

Often, the cause of many relationship issues, is lack of communication. A main reason this happens is because we are worried about or ashamed of what the other person will think if we say what is actually on our mind. This is when we hold back and don’t necessarily show or express our values and beliefs to our partner. So what does it mean to be the ‘real you’ with your partner?

– Would you rather show your partner a ‘false you’ and keep a perfect image? Or would you accept your partner knowing the real, imperfect you, not having the most favourable at all times? If you turn the tables, what do you think your partner would want?

– Would you rather remain guarded and difficult to read? Or would you rather let yourself be vulnerable to your partner? What do you think your partner would want?

It can be intimidating to think deeply about these questions. Being your true self is risky: it opens up the door to rejection. But, ask yourself this: if you haven’t shared your inner feelings or been totally honest, then has your partner accepted a ‘false you’? Honesty and authenticity makes it possible to have a deep connection, supported by acceptance and understanding. Chances are, if you take the risk, your partner will, too. It takes courage to do so, but you will experience relief and a deeper sense of intimacy once you take the plunge.

Being yourself is associated with higher self-esteem and satisfaction in relationships. It is not only associated with benefits for yourself, but also for your relationship. While it is important to make a conscious effort to share more with your partner, it is equally important for you to encourage them to share more with you. Exposing your ‘true self’ to your partner leads to increased trust over time. If you worry about trust or have relationship issues related to it, then consider this as a step to gaining a more secure attachment. Trust drives overall relationship satisfaction and commitment.

Building a relationship in which you can comfortably be yourself may be a great start to a satisfying partnership. Communicate with each other, take a risk, and be yourself.

If you feel stuck and unsure of how to approach sharing this part of you with your partner, relationship counselling with a professional can be extremely beneficial.