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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

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

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/

Be a happier ‘you’ this holiday season!

Down in the dumps? Holiday blues? A lot of us feel more down in the winter season, especially around the holiday season. This time of year is naturally more stressful. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, the general feeling in the air revolves around financial stress, what gifts to buy or will we be able to buy, or planning get togethers with people we do or do not usually see. That being said, why not take those extra steps to be happier and reduce stress as much as possible. Here is a list of tips to help bring about a happier mood.

Enjoy the moment. Look around your environment and take note of one thing that you need to appreciate more, and maybe that you do take for granted. Bring mindful attention and awareness to it. Notice the positive feelings and associations that go with it.

Practice non-judgmental awareness of yourself and others. Take the time to notice when you are and are not judging yourself or others around you. We often do it without noticing, even if it is just a mental note when someone walks by. If someone is short with you, don’t follow suit. Just remember when you are having a bad day, and accept that this person may be experiencing a loss (job, person) or some other negative event in their life.

Connect with others. Since this is a stressful time of year, positive influences can only help. Think about some positive people in your life that you have been procrastinating to see. Connect with them. Even if you feel down, you will most likely feel happier after reconnecting. There is at least one person who makes you feel good and who you know you enjoy spending time with.

Resolve conflicts. This time of year can be emotional and upsetting for a lot of people, especially if ties have been broken or relationships have ended. Take the time to repair these relationships. Be the bigger person: forgive someone or apologize to someone that hurt you in the past. Chances are, they are feeling the same way.

Make your health a priority. Exercise, eat healthy when you can, sleep at least 7 hours per night, be kind to yourself, and develop good boundaries. If you’ve been meaning to get to the gym, and keep procrastinating, just do it! Take little steps. Whether it’s a 5 minute workout or a 30 minute workout, something is better than nothing! (And you’ll probably stay for longer than you thought you would, once you get your gear on).

Be thankful and express your love. Make a phone call, meet with someone, or write them a nice letter. Show your appreciation for others. Why not brighten someone else’s day?

Focus on the good. If you find yourself to be more down than usual, write down or take pictures of 2-3 good things that happen each day. This will remind you to think more positively, and consequently, to be happier!

Have fun and laugh. Stop being so serious! Laughter has many physical, mental, and emotional health benefits. Whether it is watching a movie, talking to someone that makes you laugh, or just reminiscing about a funny memory, laughing will increase your happiness.

Simplify. Too many things, too many to do lists, and too many unattainable goals lead to a very complex life. Complex lives mean stress and unhappiness. Try to simplify your life by having more realistic expectations and standards for yourself, your job performance, and in your relationships.

Live an authentic and meaningful life. Be true to yourself and live in line with your values. Don’t fall accustom to someone else’s values and someone else’s way of living. You define and create your own happiness!

 

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/

Recover from an Eating Disorder

The road to eating disorder recovery starts with admitting you have a problem. This can be the most difficult part of the recovery process, especially if you’re still clinging to the belief that weight loss is the key to happiness, confidence, and success. The most important roadblock to a successful recovery is when old habits are still hard to break.

If you are  motivated to change, these unhealthy habits and routines can be broken. A more important part of the recovery process, however, is about rediscovering who you are beyond your eating habits, weight, and body image. True recovery from anorexia and bulimia involves learning to listen to your body, listen to your feelings, trust yourself, accept yourself, and to love yourself. These are all major milestones in eating disorder recovery.

Another big step is asking for help. It can be scary and embarrassing to seek help for an eating disorder; however, gaining support from a trusted friend, family member, or work colleague is for many people a major advance on the path to recovery. Alternately, some people find it less threatening to confide in a treatment specialist, such as an eating disorder counsellor.

 

Whoever you select as a confidant, set aside a specific time to discuss your situation with them, ideally in a quiet, comfortable place away from other people and distractions. Whoever you do confide in may be shocked at the news you are telling them, or they may expect it. Chances are, they will be unsure of how to respond or the best way to help you. This is where it is important to take time to educate them about your specific eating disorder and how you would like their support in the eating disorder recovery process.

https://www.etobicokepsychotherapy.com/eating-disorder-counselling-etobicoke/

Acknowledge Your Success and Decrease Low Mood

Chances are, you are succeeding according to yours, others, or both standards. Everyone measures success in different ways. How do you measure your personal success? You need to give yourself more credit than you think you deserve! It is important to remind ourselves of successes we have had when we are down or in a depressed mood.

Depression often arises out of persistent low moods and lack of interest in usual activities. This often stems from low confidence levels. Are you being too hard on yourself?  It is important to acknowledge your success and perhaps re-evaluate your level of personal expectations. It is important to aim high, while setting attainable goals to achieve self-confidence.

For more on how to alleviate depression and depression counselling, please go to: 

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