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“Sitting With” Your Emotions

Painful emotions can be challenging to sit with. In an effort to “feel better” and prevent our feelings from “taking over,” many of us try to push away our feelings by avoiding them. If we keep turning our backs to the emotions that are trying to get our attention, we end up ignoring important information about our internal experiences that can help us learn and grow. “Sitting with” our emotions invites us to consider the space between Self and Emotion, and focus on the relationship we want to develop with our emotions. This blog post outlines 5 ways to “sit with” our internal experiences.

 

 

  • Be mindful of the emotional experience you are having and the thoughts, physical sensations, and behaviours that accompany it. Turning towards our internal experiences allows us to be aware of what we’re experiencing and how we’re responding to that experience.

 

      1. Name the emotion(s) you are experiencing. Get as specific as possible. Use a feelings wheel to identify what feeling(s) are present for you.
      2. Notice the sensations in your body. Is there any part of your body that feels activated or tense? Is that sensation familiar? How long has that sensation been present? When was the last time you felt this sensation?
      3. Notice the thoughts that you’re having about your current experiences. Are there any strong or repetitive thoughts that are present for you? If someone else was inside your head in this moment, what would they hear? Are you experiencing any thoughts involving self-criticism, shame, or minimization of your current state?
      4. Notice how the thoughts, physical sensations, and emotions are inviting you to behave. How are these experiences impacting how you’re engaging with others? How are these experiences impacting how you’re choosing to spend your time? How are these experiences impacting how you’re handling or managing current stressors?

 

  • Give up the agenda to “stop feeling this way.” Demonstrating patience for, and acceptance of, our current state allows us to “be with” our experiences without the pressure to feel differently. Acceptance and patience does not mean that you ignore that this experience is difficult. Instead, it means that these difficult experiences deserve the space and time they need. It also reminds you that unpleasant feelings also deserve the attention, time, and space that you give to pleasant ones.
  • Now that you’ve recognized what your internal experiences are and how you’re responding to them, practice demonstrating compassion towards yourself and your experiences. Self-compassion involves responding to ourselves in times of difficulty in the same way we would want to respond to a loved one. When someone we love is going through a hard time, we typically try to respond with understanding, kindness, and patience. What we typically don’t do is respond with criticism for how they’re feeling, judgment about how they “should” feel, or by ignoring their needs. For more information on Mindful Self-Compassion, what it is, and how to practice it, click here.
  • Demonstrate a sense of non-judgmental curiosity towards your experiences, instead of self-critical interrogation. This approach recognizes that you are separate from your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations, and that you can build a relationship of curiosity, openness, and non-judgment towards these experiences. Some questions to ask the internal experience: What is it like to feel this way? When did you first start feeling this way? Was there something that happened that initially triggered you? Have you felt this way before? What function does this particular thought you’re having serve? What is it that this particular emotion, thought, or physical sensation is trying to communicate with me? What is it that you need most right now?
  • Reflect on what your emotions are telling you about your needs. If you’re experiencing a sense of sadness that is fuelled by a feeling of loneliness, this may tell you that you’re needing connection with others. If you’re experiencing anger that is being fuelled by feeling disrespected by someone, this may tell you that you need to set an appropriate boundary with this person. Whatever the feeling may be, there is typically an underlying need that you’d like to have met.

 

Written by Nikki Sedaghat, Registered Psychotherapist at Balanced Mind and Wellness Inc.

How we relate and respond to our emotions are strongly impacted by our life experiences. It might be helpful to seek out a therapist to support you as you work on improving the ways in which you respond to yourself during difficult times. To learn more about how we can support you with emotional concerns, contact Nikki Sedaghat at nikki@balancedmindandwellness.com.

Responsive Versus Reactive Parenting Styles

A Guide to Supporting You and Your Child When You Are Both Upset

 

Most parents can think of a handful of moments where they just “lost it” with their kids. These are moments when they were unable to keep their cool and be the bigger person in an overwhelming interaction where their child may have been misbehaving or experiencing a challenging emotion. When parents become activated or triggered by their children, they tend to step away from their preferred ways of parenting – calm, compassionate, curious, and wise. Instead, parents become emotionally flooded by their child’s behaviours or feelings and they react without much thought. Being able to know when you are triggered, attune to your feelings, and respond thoughtfully to your child in an overwhelming situation takes some practice – and it involves shifting your focus away from your child’s behaviour and towards your own internal experiences.

 

Reactive Parenting

 

A reaction is typically quick, without much thought, tense and aggressive. We react when the emotional centre of our brain is so activated that we go into fight, flight, freeze, or appease actions.

 

These reactions are unhelpful to yourself and to your child. They tend to be quick, avoidant, and based off of fear or anger. They give the message to your child that when you are overwhelmed, you make me overwhelmed, and I don’t know how to handle that. Alternatively, we want our children to learn that we can be a container for their emotions. We want to give the message that when you are overwhelmed, I will be there as a wise, calm, strong, and caring parent for you to depend on and learn from. When we deliver the latter message, children actually begin to learn how to manage their big feelings and communicate what’s going on for them more effectively.

 

Responsive Parenting

 

Responsive parenting involves self-awareness and an awareness of your child. It involves being able to hold your internal experiences and your child’s experiences at the same time. With responsive parenting, you are being mindful of how you may be triggered by your child’s behaviours, and how your feelings impact your perceptions of your child and how you are inclined to respond to them. Responsive parenting allows you to deal with your upset feelings, and then support your child through theirs. Here are 12 guidelines that can support you when both you and your child are overwhelmed and upset.

 

  1. Practice self-awareness. When you are particularly activated in a situation with your child, consider asking yourself the following questions: What emotion am I feeling right now? What am I feeling towards my child right now? What thoughts am I having about my child right now? Am I seeing them as a problem? What thoughts am I having about myself as a parent right now? Am I holding an expectation for myself or for my child that isn’t being met in the ways I hoped for at this moment? Can I be okay with that and work with my child rather than against them?

 

  1. Practice self-compassion. Self-compassion involves being empathetic towards yourself, especially during a difficult time. Acknowledge that your child’s behaviours are challenging, and that this is hard. Recognize that you are feeling angry, confused, overwhelmed, disrespected, or uncared for, and that those feelings are really hard to manage. Remind yourself that you are not a bad parent, but that you are going through a difficult moment.

 

  1. Remember that it is the relationship between you and your child that will build their capacity to regulate their feelings. When overwhelmed, children need to feel connected with their parents. By joining your child and coming together when they have difficult feelings, you fulfill their need for connection and closeness and you teach them to handle hard feelings in a safe and secure way. Your child will realize that they have an emotional container (you), who is bigger, stronger, wiser, and kinder.

 

  1. Give yourself a time out. If you are upset, it will be very hard for you to offer the connection, calmness, and understanding that your child needs. Remember that your child is not responsible for your emotions. If you are feeling angry, overwhelmed, confused, or disrespected in a situation, it is your responsibility to recognize what you are feeling and give yourself the care and soothing you need. If your child is not in immediate danger of hurting themselves or someone else, take a Time Out for yourself. Use this time to remind yourself that no matter how you feel, your child needs you. Remind yourself that you are bigger, wiser, stronger, and kinder than your child, which means that you can offer them patience, understanding, connection, and wisdom. You can also refer to #1 and #2. Return to your child when you are calm enough.

 

  1. Remember that your child’s emotional regulation abilities are less developed than an adult’s. When they are emotionally overwhelmed, their decision-making and behaviour control centre of their brain is deactivated. The way that they learn emotional regulation is through you. And they need a caring guide to calm them down enough in order to understand their emotions and come up with alternative ways of expressing themselves. Think of yourself as their external brain as they learn to emotionally regulate themselves.

 

  1. Maintain a calm tone of voice that is firm, reassuring, and kind.

 

  1. Look “under” your child’s behaviour. Every behaviour and emotion is a mode of communication. Young children don’t typically have the capacity to communicate their experiences verbally, particularly when they are experiencing a big, negative emotion. Ask yourself: What are they trying to communicate but are having a hard time communicating effectively? What emotion or feeling are they experiencing beneath their behaviour?

 

  1. Describe what you see and understand. It’s helpful to give children the language to describe and understand their experiences and feelings. It also demonstrates wisdom, empathy, understanding, and validation when you describe what you are seeing and what you are taking away from their behaviours. An example of this would be: “I can see that it’s hard for you that iPad time is over. Are you feeling mad? I understand that you love to play on the iPad and it makes sense that it’s disappointing to you that you have to stop.”

 

  1. Talk about your own feelings with respect to what just happened. This helps normalize and model effective communication about hard feelings. It also teaches your child that their behaviours have an impact on others. For example, you might say: “When you threw the book, I felt disrespected and hurt.”

 

  1. Stay with your child until they are calm enough.

 

  1. Avoid trying to “teach them a lesson” or correct their behaviour immediately. When children are emotionally overwhelmed, they are not in a place to learn or take in new information. Meet your child where they are at. You can let them know that their behaviour is not okay (e.g. if they are hitting, using mean words, etc.), but rather than punish or set a consequence, guide them through the emotional experience first (see #6-10).

 

  1. Talk about different ways of handling the problem next time. When both of you are calm enough, you can then offer your child alternative ways of communicating their needs and feelings with you. Next, help your child take responsibility for their part, and demonstrate taking responsibility for your part. Lastly, collaborate together on new options for how both of you can approach and deal with a similar problem in the future.

 

As parents, you may find it challenging to adopt these approaches in your relationship with your children. It might be helpful to seek out a family therapist to support you as you work on developing your responsive parenting skills. To learn more about how we can support you with parenting concerns, contact Nikki Sedaghat at nikki@balancedmindandwellness.com.

 

Content from this blog post is adapted from The Circle of Security Intervention: Enhancing Attachment in Early Parent-Child Relationships (Powell, Cooper, Hoffman, & Marvin, 2016) and Time-in Parenting: How to Teach Children Emotional Self-Control, Life Skills, and Problem Solving by Lending Yourself and Staying Connected (Weininger, 2002).

Understanding and Reducing Anger and Resentment

Many people seem to be carrying their anger and resentment wherever they go. Carrying these heavy, negative emotions weigh you down and demand considerable attention and energy. At times, this negative feeling can impact more than just ‘you’ – it can also impact your actions toward your career, your family, your friends, and/ or your romantic relationship.

Is it Wrong to Feel Angry?

The answer is no. Anger is a normal, natural emotion. In many situations, it’s a healthy and appropriate emotional reaction. Anger is an emotional response to a real or imagined “wrong” or injustice, but sometimes people get angry simply because things took a different course than they feel they should have. Anger can be destructive, as we can experience it as a push against present-moment reality. In a sense, we experience thoughts representing a refusal to accept what is.

Most often, anger is a secondary emotion. It can take shape instantly, and sometimes unconsciously, in response to feelings of being hurt, fear, and/or feelings of inadequacy. When most people experience these primary emotions, they feel vulnerable, and might withdraw, experiencing their feelings internally. This way, it is easy for most to avoid expressing these more difficult emotions, as they can make us feel ‘out of control’. For many people, this revealing of vulnerability creates so much distress that the underlying emotions are automatically transformed into anger, a feeling people are more comfortable with expressing externally/ outwardly. Expressing anger outwardly is often associated with a feeling of being ‘in control’, by projecting focusing on projecting feelings onto others, rather than processing the primary emotion.

Resentment

Resentment is closely related to anger. Resentments are negative feelings, basically ill will, toward someone or something as a result of a past experience. Resentment is the re-experiencing of past injustices. Some people hold resentments for many years, and choose to not let go of them. The trigger for resentment has usually left, while we still may hold onto the emotion connected to it. It is important to note that the stronger the resentment is, the more time you spend thinking about it, caught up in the anger connected to it.

Ultimately, the person holding the resentment is the one who suffers most. If you allow yourself to become angry or resentful whenever situations do not end up how you want or expect them to, then you are effectively giving control of your feelings to others.

Here are some tips on how to address feelings of anger and resentment in more healthy and helpful ways:

1. Practice identifying and allowing yourself to feel the primary emotions underneath the anger. 

2. Be conscious and present with your anger and resentment. Notice the thoughts, push and pull of different feelings and urges, and/or physical sensations.

3. Identify how you may have contributed to the situation(s) that you are angry or resentful about. Look inward and identify an alternative perspective of the situation which makes you feel anger.

4. Try an alternative method of expressing anger and resentment. Share these feelings with supportive individuals whom you trust. Journal or write about them. Choose a physical outlet, such as going to the gym, walking/ running, going to yoga, etc.

5. Learn and practice relaxation and self-calming techniques. Examples include deep breaths, mindfulness, meditation, and/or detaching from social media.

6. Although challenging, it can be helpful to create an opposite shift in urge and action. Try treating those you feel anger and resentment toward with kindness and compassion. This shift can create a circular effect in that it can also influence their actions in a positive way toward you.

7. Do not give into acting as an avenue for others’ anger and resentment. Try not to get stuck in the toxicity of interactions filled with negative emotions. Disengage from negative, unhelpful thoughts and actions.

8. Remind yourself that you cannot change the past. Acting in anger and resentment will not change or undo what has upset you. Accepting this will enable you to be more present and less stuck in the past.

If you find that you have difficulty letting go of angry feelings, consider consulting a mental health provider to move forward with anger management counselling. Angry thoughts and feelings can be isolated, or they can be part of a mental health disorder that professionals can treat effectively with psychotherapy. Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), among other therapies, can help to work toward enhancing skills for regulating emotions.

If you have any questions or would like help with working to increase your mental wellness, call our Director, Carly, at 647-961-9669, or email us at info@balancedmindandwellness.com

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.

Bell Let’s Talk Day 2019

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

WHAT: Bell Let’s Talk provides the largest corporate fundraising commitment to mental health in Canada. Since its launch in September 2010, Bell Let’s Talk has partnered with more than 900 organizations providing mental health services throughout Canada, including major donations to hospitals, universities and other care and research organizations.

WHY: The overall goal of this initiative is to reduce the stigma around mental health, and to help those struggling with mental illness to access mental health services.

WHEN: On Wednesday, January 30, you can be part of eliminating the stigma around mental illness, by taking part in the Bell Let’s Talk program.

Here’s HOW Bell has made it easy for you to help!

You watch, Bell donates!
With just a tap, click, or text…
you can help fund Canadian mental health!

Bell will donate 5¢ each time that you…

View the Bell Let’s Talk Day video on 
Instagram (@bell_letstalk),
Facebook (BellLetsTalk), or
Twitter (Bell_LetsTalk)
Tweet using #BellLetsTalk
Snap using the Bell Let’s Talk filter

For Bell customers, every text message (turn off iMessage) sent, and each mobile and long distance call made

To find out more about the impact your donation will have, and other ways to help, visit Bell’s page.

IMPACT: Overall, 87% of Canadians say they are more aware of mental health issues than they were a few years ago. What is even more impressive: 85% believe attitudes about mental health have shifted in a positive direction, and 75% believe the stigma around mental illness has been reduced. Source: BCE

To find out how to talk about mental health (from how to help someone with mental illness to how to tell someone you need help), see our previous blog post here.

To learn more about mental health, or to receive information on mental health services at Balanced Mind and Wellness, call Carly at 647-961-9669, or or email carly@balancedmindandwellness.com. We are happy to help you take the next step in your, or someone else’s, mental health journey.

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.