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Drawing the Line in the Sand: Boundary Setting (Part 3)

One of the most difficult parts of setting boundaries for most is to actually say “no” and turn down requests. This is difficult because it can bring up feelings of guilt and perhaps inadequacy or the fear of hurting others’ feelings. It can be difficult to say “no” because you believe you are ‘not allowed to’ or that you do not want to take responsibility for the result of saying no. Usually, in my mind, there is a fear of “what if they get mad or upset?”

Some things to consider in saying “no” include:

– Waiting for the question or request from another person
– Not answering until you have decided your position on the request. You might want to say “let me think about that and I’ll get back to you”
– Using clear language. Instead of saying “maybe, it’s possible ..” say “No, I can’t do that”
– Limiting apologies unless if it’s necessary, because “sorry” holds less value if you use it too often
– Don’t make excuses or defend yourself as it may result in others offering solutions to the barriers you’re proposing and then you can find yourself in a spiral of lies
– Saying “no” without asking for permission or acceptance since it’s your right to say “no” to requests
– Accepting the consequences since the person on the receiving end may not like it and show it. They’re allowed to feel what they feel just as much as you are allowed to say “no” to their request

Now that have identified items to consider, here are a few examples ways you can say “no”:

– “No, thank you”

– “I have a policy of not making impulsive decisions. I need time to think about this before”

– “I appreciate that you’re asking me this. However, I am not able to help you with that”

– “This seems really important for you. At the moment, I don’t have the ability to put the attention into this as you will need, so I have to say no”

– “I can’t say yes at this time”

– “I don’t want to commit and then disappoint you”

– “I’d love to help; however, I’m feeling overextended and cannot provide what you need”

It can be helpful to practice this on people who you feel safe and close to before trying this in situations and with people you might find saying “no” to be more challenging with.

 

Written by Vivian Zhang, Clinical Therapist at Balanced Mind and Wellness Inc.

To learn more about how we can support you with developing healthy boundaries and communication tools, contact us at info@balancedmindandwellness.com or 647-961-9669.

Supporting Someone with Mental Health Issues

When it comes to talking to a loved one about mental health, it can be very uncomfortable. As a society, we are still living with a lot of stigma when

 it comes to mental health. There is not enough information out there to help us know how to start; however, we are making some great strides in mental health awareness, for example, with Canada’s annual Bell Let’s Talk Day this past Wednesday.

 

Try these R-E-S-P-E-C-T tips to support your loved one with mental health issues:

 

Realize it will take them time to understand where you are coming from.

When you approach the topic of mental illness with a loved one you know/ suspect are struggling, they might be having a hard time coming to terms with their mental health condition. Some might experience “anosognosia”, a symptom where one does not have self-awareness of the condition they are experiencing. Their acknowledgement of your concerns may take time. This TED Talk by Dr. Xavier Amador might be helpful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXxytf6kfPM

 

Educate yourself and others.

It can be really helpful to speak to a professional about your concerns and what you are observing. While you may not be suffering from mental health symptoms as a primary patient, you certainly experience secondary symptoms, which are equally deserving of support and conversations with a professional.

 

Say to yourself “it’s okay to feel what I’m feeling”.

It can be really challenging for family members to support a loved one with mental health concerns. Caregiver burnout is a feeling of mental, physical, and/or emotional exhaustion due to the demands of providing care. It is important to have support if you relate to feelings of this ‘caregiver burnout’. Your loved one needs you to be healthy in order for them to be healthy.

 

Patience is a virtue, and definitely hard to practice.

Not only will you need to be patient with your loved one, but it is also important to be patient with yourself and the difficult feelings that might come up for you. We want ourselves and others to stop feeling bad right now, and we want the solution to our problem to come more quickly. Remember: recovery usually takes longer than we thought it would, and it can become frustrating… but you can push through. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

 

Expect that there will be good days and bad days.

In supporting a loved one with mental illness, it is important to know that healing is not a linear path. There are ups and downs and some days feel like you are taking 10 steps backwards instead of forwards.This can trigger feelings of anxiety and/ or depression. When we are not intentional in caring for our mental health, we can be more susceptible to experiencing bad mental health days. Remind your loved one of the simple self-care items they could try to get back on track.

 

Crisis plans are important.

A crisis plan is a plan that is discussed in calm moments to decide which supports (personal and professional) to access and how we can keep our loved ones safe. Here is a great template to use: https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/samhs/mentalhealth/rights-legal/crisis-plan/home.html.

 

Teamwork makes the dream work.

Think about who to involve in your “team” to support your loved one and you as well. List out people like mental health professionals (e.g. psychiatrists, family doctors, therapists), peer support (e.g. groups, crisis helplines), and family and/or friends. It can be a lot easier, and less painful, if we all contribute to one’s healing together.

 

To learn more about how we can support you in managing your stress and feelings of anxiety about your loved one, please contact Vivian Zhang at vivian@balancedmindandwellness.com.

Please see our previous blog post for some more tips on how to talk about mental health.

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.

 

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

Rise Above Stigma! Mental Health Awareness

Rise Above Stigma! Bell Let’s Talk Day: Wednesday, January 28, 2015!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015 is an important reminder of how we should think about, talk about, act, and treat others with mental illness. Not just today, but every day.

WHY? Most people cannot afford treatment to or are on a wait list for months.

MESSAGE:

If you are currently experiencing concerns about your own mental health, having difficulty managing emotions, or having trouble creating or maintaining healthy relationships, please act now. Remember that it takes courage and strength to reach out for help from loved ones or a mental health professional. This help is one difficult, yet life-changing step away. Help yourself and get help from people who care about you (and want to help you)!

We all struggle in life from time to time in our own ways. Take the time to assess your own self-esteem and emotional well-being, noticing any negative changes in your usual behaviours. Awareness of such changes, a strong desire for the suffering to end, and a willingness to help others is that next step you need toward reestablishing more meaning and positivity.

TAKE ACTION:

Take care of yourself, first and foremost. Practice mental wellness. Do what it takes to make you happy. Actively set aside that extra time in a day, week, and month to focus on you and how you can continually contribute to your overall wellbeing.
-Spend less on takeout, and more on pampering yourself.

Refrain from judging or criticizing those who have been labelled with or who have symptoms of a mental health disorder.
-Be conscious to avoid derogatory or hurtful terms that may offend those suffering with a disease.

Talk about therapy and encourage those around you to go. Never judge or criticize those who are seeking treatment for mental illness.
-Why don’t question medication for physical illness?

Listen to those around you with mental illness and ask questions.
-Learn about what they are going through and how you can help them, or how you can help prevent others from experiencing the negative effects of a similar disease.

Educate yourself on how you can help to spread awareness of the life-threatening effects of a mental health disorder (and how it impacts you or loved ones).

FAQS

– Mental health problems and illnesses also account for more than $6 billion in lost productivity costs due to absenteeism and presenteeism. (The Mental Health Commission of Canada)

– 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a form of mental illness at some point in their life. (Canadian Institute of Health Research)

– At this very moment, some 3 million Canadians are suffering from depression. (CMHA)

MOTIVATION TO END STIGMA:

**Make the choice to rise above stigma and be more aware of your acceptance and non-judgment, toward yourself, those around you, and society in general.

**We need to make mental healthcare more accessible, affordable, and acceptable. You, as members in society, as a collective, have the power to influence that. Start by taking care of ‘you’ and others around you!

Here is more information on how psychotherapy or counselling can benefit you or those around you: https://www.etobicokepsychotherapy.com/etobicoke-psychotherapy-counselling/

What is Social Anxiety? Learn more for you or someone you know

Social anxiety is one of the most common psychological disorders that is affecting more people than we may realize. It is important to be aware of you or people around you who may be showing variations of these symptoms. Extreme shyness is one way to think of social anxiety. Social anxiety exists along a continuum, ranging from normal shyness to high degrees of social anxiety. Social anxiety can be characterized by an intense fear of specific or all social settings. This usually also involves a heightened self-focus, and avoidance or escaping social situations. Sound familiar? This could be finding excuses not to attend a certain party or to socialize with certain people that make you feel uncomfortable. And if you do go to an uncomfortable event or surround yourself with people who make you feel this way, you may often leave early.

People who experience this social anxiety are extremely attentive to other people’s feelings, but they misread them, over-interpreting anything that could be taken as a negative reaction. They are oversensitive to criticism or negative comments. As a result, people who are highly sensitive tend to be overly aware of one’s behavior and how they think they should act in certain situations. They are so caught up in how they may appear to others that they often do not enjoy many simple experiences, for fear of negative evaluation by others.

This anxious feeling and desire to avoid an event manifests in physical ways, even before they encounter the social situation. This could be shortness of breath, faster heart rates, sweating, and stomach pains. Of course, then one would worry that people around them notice these physical signs of what they are thinking and feeling. After the encounter, they replay the situation over and over in their mind. They are so hard on themselves, and falsely accuse themselves of being ineffective or appearing insecure compared to others. Consequently, these individuals want to avoid situations with people and in places that these situations have occurred in the past.

Social anxiety is highly linked to eating disorders as well. This comes from the fear of people negatively evaluating them as overweight or unattractive, leading to dietary restriction and purging behaviours. (Please see https://www.etobicokepsychotherapy.com/eating-disorder-counselling-etobicoke/ for more information on eating disorders).

There are many basic techniques that you can work on to feel more confident and worry less about what others think of you. Please be aware if you or someone around you seems to be displaying signs of anxiety or social anxiety. Start enjoying, be comfortable with, and stop avoiding social events and people where you want to be yourself!

 

How Social Comparison is Related to Anxiety and Depression

Technology provides various forms of social comparison that can be taxing on our mental health and wellbeing, such as anxiety. It’s no wonder that youth today are experiencing higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. The platforms provide so many ways for us to compare ourselves to the people around us. And of course, most want to publicize and upload visions and notes on their most positive experiences and moments. These sources are constantly updated by the second, providing no escape from viewing others’ happiness. We are continually dissatisfied, as we are comparing ourselves to someone we think is or who has something better. But hey, who says the numbers of ‘happy’ pictures and notifications we send out determines our happiness?
Social comparison is part of human nature, and social media and technology have made this inescapable. We tend to rank ourselves according to social groups or classes, which can be determined by behaviours or hobbies (constantly posted on social media). Trends and fads can be picked up from following different sites or people online, and we choose to follow specific ones. This means that sometimes we are selecting unrealistic forms of social comparison (such as celebrities), which can cause great stress and anxiety. At times of unemployment or stress, some people may feel hopeless when they see large amounts of success. This feeling of being overwhelmed can lead to a downward spiral into depression. As a result of constant social comparison, we aren’t happy with ourselves and have low self-esteem.
If you haven’t thought of this, take note that people who post excessive happy notes and pictures sometimes do this as a form of insecurity. Even if this is not an insecurity, chances are, they aren’t always as happy as they appear in social media. It’s doubtful they would post a picture of a moment where they felt depressed.
It is important for us to learn to gain a healthier perspective on how we do compare ourselves to others. We must remember our strengths, and ask ourselves if our desires and goals are realistic. We need to be more accepting of what we have and who we are. We need eliminate feelings of anxiety, by creating goals for the future based on our strengths and abilities.

You determine your success, which should not be measured by social comparison. You determine your happiness – not anyone else.

For more information on anxiety counselling or anxiety psychotherapy, click here: https://www.etobicokepsychotherapy.com/anxiety-counselling-etobicoke/

For more information on relationship counselling or relationship therapy, click here: https://www.etobicokepsychotherapy.com/relationship-counselling-etobicoke/

The Benefits of Relaxation for Anxiety

There are various positive benefits of relaxation for anxiety. The ability to relax or to decrease anxiety issues is becoming more and more difficult with modern technology and other disruptions in our life. In order to relax with more awareness or to alleviate feelings of anxiety, please continue reading.

– Deep relaxation can help reduce anxiety. Regular practice of deep relaxation of 20 to 30 minutes on a daily basis can produce, over time, a generalization of relaxation to the rest of your life. That is, after several weeks of practicing deep relaxation once per day, you will tend to feel more relaxed all the time.

– Reduces the frequency and severity of panic attacks

– Increased energy level

– Prevention and/or reduction of migraines, headaches, ulcers, etc

– Decreased muscular tension

– Decrease in heart rate and blood pressure

 

Relaxation Script

Find a quiet comfortable place. Get into a relaxed and comfortable position. Close your eyes.

Think of relaxing every muscle in your body, from the top of your head to the tips of your toes.

Focus on your breathing; draw deep, full breaths, let them out slowly, and feel yourself relax as you breathe out.

As you exhale, imagine releasing any remaining tension from your body, mind, or thoughts, letting all your stress and worries go.

With every breath you inhale, feel your body drifting down deeper…down deeper into total relaxation. Now imagine yourself in the midst of a peaceful scene. This could be the beach, the forest, somewhere you’ve been before, or somewhere you imagine.

Imagine your peaceful place as vividly as possible, as if you were really there.

What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell? How do you feel?

Feeling relaxed and peaceful in your special place, continue to draw deep full breaths, letting them out slowly – feel yourself relax as you breathe out.

Relaxation techniques can be very helpful for someone with mild to severe feelings of anxiety. It can be helpful to practice these techniques on your own as well as with a therapist, who can guide you through obstacles you may face while attempting the exercises.

Please contact me for help with relaxation for anxiety or anxiety counselling and psychotherapy.

https://www.etobicokepsychotherapy.com/anxiety-counselling-etobicoke/

What is anxiety? What is anxiety counselling?

Anxiety is the feeling we get when our body responds to a frightening or threatening experience. It has been called the fight or flight response. It is simply your body preparing for action either to fight danger or run away from it as fast as possible. At this point, you probably notice different sensations in your body. The purpose of the physical symptoms of anxiety is to prepare your body to cope with threat. To understand what is happening in your body, imagine that you are about to be attacked. As soon as you are aware of the threat, your muscles tense so they are ready for action. Your heard beats faster to carry blood to your muscles and brain, where it is most needed. You breathe faster to provide oxygen that is needed for energy. You sweat to stop your body overheating. Your mouth becomes dry and your stomach may have butterflies. Unfortunately many of the stresses we face cannot be fought or run away from, so the symptoms do not help or make us feel better. In fact they often make us feel worse, especially if we don’t understand them.

What causes anxiety? 
There are many reasons why someone becomes anxious.

– Some people may have an anxious personality and have learned to worry.

– Others may have a series of stressful life events to cope with.

– Others may be under pressure, at school or at home.

What keeps anxiety going?
Thoughts (something awful is going to happen to me) -> Feeling anxious -> Feel bodily symptoms -> Feeling anxious

Anxiety can be very manageable. There are many ways to cope with anxiety when it is often persistent and invasive in your life. As long as you dedicate time to teaching yourself, there are techniques that you are able to learn and use to get past this unbearable feeling.

Please contact me today for an initial consult regarding anxiety counselling or anxiety psychotherapy.

https://www.etobicokepsychotherapy.com/anxiety-counselling-etobicoke/