Psychotherapy  & Naturopathic Services in Etobicoke

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2021: New Year, New Shift

We tend to think of the New Year as the ideal moment to start fresh.

We see themes of what others are doing, which inspire us to improve and move forward.

What will help us is one of the keys to self-development: adopting a fresh mindset. If we are able to reframe, or think differently, we are able to create a new perspective for ourselves and our lives.

This past year, we have been tested and challenged in many ways that we never could have imagined. We have all felt symptoms of anxiety and/ or depression at one time or another.

 

Please know that, if you are reading this, YOU ARE RESILIENT. Just getting through, and tending to your basic needs, is sometimes the most important starting point.

 

It’s 2021: New Year, New Shift!

Rather than making New Year’s resolutions, I think that putting new habits and routines into practice are important throughout the year. I do, though, think it is important for us to take what we learned in 2020, and use it to make decisions and changes with a new, fresh perspective in mind. While uncertainty is there (and we do not know what 2021 will hold), we do know that it will be different. What we do have control over is the ability to choose what we focus on that is helpful, and to turn away from what may be harmful.

2020 has taught us that we cannot always be in control and that we must be willing to adapt. One thing we can control is our attitude and how we choose to approach conversations and/or minor and major decisions. An optimistic attitude is critical and necessary for 2021. It pushes us forward, encourages us, and helps us overcome obstacles. It inspires those around us and helps us in accomplishing dreams and goals. A positive attitude also helps with making difficult tasks easier to complete. A positive frame of mind increases our motivation to push forward – and do well as a result.

 

Here are some helpful tips and ideas to help you find what works for you this year:

 

One Step at a Time

The mere act of engaging in a positive action is all that matters. One action  as tiny as it may seem  can have an impact that you may not have anticipated. Do not overthink your actions or try to judge them for being too small. Just focus on implementing an action per month, then one per week, then one per day. By breaking things down, you will be able to reach certain goals and milestones you set for yourself.

 

Accept, Process, and Learn from Shortcomings

Not succeeding is scary. When faced with a task that feels impossible, some people do not even try it because it is more reassuring and there is no risk of failure. We learn this at a very young age – a baby does not stop trying to walk even after countless falls. We can do the same. The less fearful of failing you are, the more opportunities will naturally start presenting themselves in your life… and you will be able to welcome them.

Embrace and Adapt

Whether it is working from home, having our kids attend school virtually, and/ or finding a way to live and work in the same space as others, we have all faced a massive year of change. What we have learned is that we are able to adapt in extreme circumstances. We have had no choice but to find a way. What can be less exhausting, and create a smoother transition, is embracing rather than resisting. What I mean by this is the ability to accept a new obstacle and be curious about it, rather than allowing it be a barrier to our growth.

 

How We Can Help YOU:

 

  • Mental Health: There are several psychotherapists on our team who are here to provide a safe place, and to give you the ability to speak to someone subjective about your issues or concerns. This is an opportunity to build a trusting therapeutic relationship, where you can feel accepted and not judged. We are happy to work with you in individual counselling, relationship counselling, and/ or family therapy. Each of our therapists have different therapy styles and client focuses, and we provide a complimentary 15 minute meet and greet appointment so that you may ask questions and ensure the therapist you select is the right fit for you.

 

  • Naturopathic Medicine: We have two lovely practitioners on our team who utilize conventional and naturopathic diagnostic tools to assess health concerns and to determine the most appropriate treatment methods. Typically, the first session, or initial intake, is longer than your subsequent sessions, involving a comprehensive health history (a detailed family history, lifestyle analysis of nutritional status and eating habits, description of stressors, past medical history, history of injury, or physical/ mental/ emotional trauma) that may be impacting your wellbeing. If you are curious to learn more about how naturopathic doctors can help you achieve optimal health, please feel free to book a complimentary meet and greet with them here.

 

Most importantly, a positive attitude awakens happiness within ourselves and those around us. We have all recognized that we need hope, positivity, joy and happiness in 2021. We will get through this pandemic if we stay positive together!

 

Still finding it hard to think this way? It can be challenging at times to find a more positive perspective, and we can show you how. To learn more, or to make a therapy appointment, email us at info@balancedmindandwellness.com or 416-232-2780 to connect with a therapist in our practice. You can also book online here.

Finding the Good in 2020

Because we are now actively trying to block out all of the negativity brought on by COVID-19, we are able to find some of the light. Even though it may be small in comparison to the bad, there is good nonetheless. We are trying, more than ever, to be more aware of our mental health. Anxiety and depression are on the rise, and we are more open to acknowledging it within ourselves and to others. The psychology behind coping with COVID-19 sheds light on the importance of positivity.

 

Rather than focusing on what 2020 “hasn’t been” for you, try shifting your focus to what it “has been” for you.

 

UNITY. If anything, 2020 has created a collective experience for you to share with others. If you were feeling alone, there are more ways to connect and understand those around you. We have all struggled in one or more ways this year.

INNOVATION. Businesses have had to adapt to a new way of working and this has meant unprecedented levels of innovation and invention. While change can be challenging, it can also bring opportunities.

CHANGE OF PACE. Finding a way to slow down. And noticing that it is okay, and perhaps more effective, to do so.

SIMPLICITY. Finding joy in simple tasks. We now have a new perspective on daily activities, such as trying a new recipe, spending time on doing things for yourself and others.

ADAPTABILITY. There are many ways we have grown to pivot this year. One of the most profound is working remotely. As a result, there are less cars on the road, and more time with family and friends.

COOPERATION & SOCIAL SUPPORT. We are realizing the importance of staying connected. We were becoming a world of individuals, and we now realize the need to remain cohesive. More than ever, we are talking about mental health struggles, or speaking to a psychotherapist.

 

If you are reading this, you have done what it takes to keep afloat. Above are just a few of the ways you can find a different perspective on what may have been a very challenging year.

And you made it – welcome to 2021!

Still finding it hard to think this way? It can be challenging at times to find a more positive perspective, and we can show you how. To learn more, or to make a therapy appointment, email us at info@balancedmindandwellness.com or 416-232-2780 to connect with a therapist in our practice. You can also book online here.

Coping in Uncertain Times with our ND

What wild times we are in right now! There is a lot of uncertainty, fear, stress and heightened emotions. It’s on everyone’s mind and many of you have questions – What’s next? What do I do? What’s going to happen?

Perhaps you are currently unemployed and financially concerned about the future. Perhaps you work in the health care industry and are having to respond on the frontline of this crisis. Perhaps you’re a mom at home with kids, trying desperately to keep them occupied but also trying to keep them safe and healthy.

Like you, I have been struggling to adapt to these extenuating circumstances. What made it easier for me was figuring out how I could take control of my situation and shift my focus away from panic to something more constructive. I’ve put together a list of 5 ways you can do the same.

1. Rethink your exercise routine

With social distancing in effect, many of us are having to rethink our exercise routines. Many studios and gyms have closed or restricted access. The beauty of technology is that these same businesses are adapting quickly and bringing the fitness to us! Businesses like Barre3  has a full library of online barre classes that you can do right from your living room with minimal equipment needed. Bliss Yoga in Etobicoke is offering virtual meditations everyday at noon and will have virtual yoga classes available next week. There are also a multitude of youtube channels offering workout videos like 5 Parks Yoga or apps like Nike Training Club for guided HIIT workouts with varying levels of equipment.

Having to avoid public spaces also presents another great opportunity; GET OUTSIDE! Toronto has a multitude of great parks (High Park, Cedarvale, Brickworks, the beach) where you can maintain your distance from others, get some exercise and it’s all completely free. There has been numerous studies to support that being in nature reduces cortisol levels (our stress hormone) as well as anxiety and depression. A 2015 study compared 90 minutes of walking in a natural setting vs. an urban setting and found that those in the natural setting had reduced rumination on negative thoughts. If you are ruminating over COVID-19, lace up your sneakers and head to your nearest hiking trail!

2. Stay connected

I’ve read some people calling for Social Distancing to be reframed as Social Solidarity. We are not isolating ourselves from each other out of desire to remove ourselves from our community; we are isolating ourselves to protect our community. We all have a moral obligation and responsibility to do our part to prevent the spread of this viral illness. But just because we can’t physically be with each other, doesn’t mean you can’t find other ways to stay connected to the ones you love. There may be many negative things about technology but one thing that it does well is allowing us to stay connected. I’ve been having group FaceTime chats with my friends and family and sending messages to check in on others.

It is crucial that we remember to connect with those that are the most vulnerable right now. The elderly and those with mobility issues are some of the more obvious answers here but also the new moms who may already feel isolated or those suffering from mental illness. Reach out. Offer to help. It is good for the soul.

3. Keep yourself occupied

Many people are finding themselves with some extra time to spare these days. There are two options for how some may be responding to this abundance of time: more time to panic scroll through news releases and social media OR an opportunity to constructively keep yourself busy.
• Pick up a creative project that you have put on hold
• Re-examine your 2020 goals and how you could use this time to get closer to meeting them
• Write letters to your family and friends
• Organize your closets
• Take this time to rest, relax and practice some self care!

Give yourself a time limit each day to read the news (credible sources only!) and after that, engage in activities that fill you up and nourish your soul.

4. Boost your immune system

Due to the novel nature of this viral pandemic, we are still uncertain on prevention and treatment options. That being said, we know that those most at risk for contracting coronavirus are those that are immunocompromised. Many of you may be feeling a lack of control with respect to protecting yourself against coronavirus. So why don’t we focus on what we can control?
Boosting your immune system is something we can all do to optimize our chances of staying healthy (in addition to social distancing and hand washing of course). Here are 5 things you can do today to boost your immune system:

 

  • Get 8 hours of sleep per night – with restricted sleep, there is a 70% drop in an immune cell called Natural Killer cells. With restricted sleep, genes that control our immune system are turned off and genes that promote tumors, stress and chronic inflammation are turned on. Dr. Matthew Walker’s TED talk Sleep Is Your Superpower is a great resource on the importance of sleep.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet with lots of vegetables, fruits, lean protein (fish, poultry, legumes), whole grains and healthy fats (extra virgin oil and nuts/seeds). Avoid or reduce processed foods, fried foods and refined sugar as these contribute to systemic inflammation in the body which impacts our immune function. Go Mediterranean! The Mediterranean diet has great evidence to reduce cardiovascular disease, metabolic disease, obesity and systemic inflammation.
  • Reduce stress! Stress raises our cortisol levels which suppress our immune system. Meditate, go for walks in nature and read a book.
  • Aim to get 150 minutes per week of vigorous exercise which are the current guidelines based on scientific evidence supporting the association of physical activity with health and well being, disease prevention and overall quality of life.
  • Consult your Naturopathic Doctor about supplementing with zinc, selenium, n-acetyl cysteine, spirulina and elderberry which have some evidence to support their use to boost the immune response to RNA viruses like influenza and coronavirus.

5. Reach out for help

During these challenging times, it is normal to experience heightened anxiety, worry and depression. Don’t go it alone. Reach out to your psychotherapists or social workers for help with coping strategies and processing these heavy emotions. Reach out to your Naturopathic Doctor for help with calming your nervous system, boosting your immune system and ensuring you stay on track with your health goals. At Balanced Mind and Wellness, we have adapted our practice to be entirely virtual so that we can continue to serve our community during these difficult times. You can book your appointment today here.

Virtual care is convenient, secure and our safest option for delivery of care at times of social distancing. You can stay in your PJ’s, get cozy on your couch and get the care you need right from the comfort of your home.

 

Staying Informed

If you would like more information on COVID 19 and the most up to date recommendations, visit the Public Health Agency of Canada website here.

 

Written by Dr. Laura MacLeod, Naturopathic Doctor at Balanced Mind and Wellness Inc.

 

To learn more about how we can support you during this challenging time, please contact us at 647-961-9669 or info@balancedmindandwellness.com.

10 Ways to Remain Grounded for Trauma Survivors

Grounding techniques are strategies that can help us to stay in the present moment. Grounding can often be used as a way to cope with flashbacks or dissociation, commonly experienced symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD

 

Grounding can be very useful in providing a temporary distraction from upsetting thoughts, memories, or feelings that may be overwhelming and/ or harmful to your mental health at the time.

 

How Grounding Works

Grounding techniques often use the five senses (sound, touch, smell, taste, and sight) to immediately connect you with the present. By allowing you the opportunity to be present, it also reduces the likelihood that you will slip into an extremely painful flashback or dissociative moment.

 

Here are some helpful techniques that we might provide you with in therapy. We highly recommend working with a therapist to better understand which strategies may be the most helpful and those that may be more likely to cause distress (triggering to you) based on your experiences with trauma.

 

  1.     Put your feet flat on the floor. It sounds simple; however, doing this can instantly feel stabilizing in painful moments.

 

  1.     Open your eyes. It may seem safer to keep your eyes closed when you feel afraid; however, it is more difficult to stay present when you do not have your eyes open.

 

  1.     Change the positioning of your body. Try wiggling your fingers and toes, and/ or tapping your feet. Pay attention to the movement, and what you feel.

 

  1.   Try repeating a mantra or phrase to yourself, such as “I am safe” or “this too shall pass.”

Choose something that is personal and resonates with you. 

 

  1.     Try counting by 3s or saying the alphabet backward, to maintain focus on something else.

 

  1.     Hold a piece of ice or place an ice pack on the back of your neck or under your feet (if you are severely dissociated, we would not recommend this, as prolonged exposure to ice could damage your skin).

 

  1.     Splash your face with cold water or run your hands under the tap. Notice the sensation.

 

  1.     If you are prone to dissociation, set alarms in increments.

 

  1.     5-5-5 Breathing: When we get anxious our breathing is often the first thing to change, this is also true when re-experiencing traumatic memories. One way to slow down our breathing is the 5-5-5 technique. Try breathing in for 5 seconds, holding the breath in for 5 seconds and breathing out for 5 seconds. Breathing in this way slows everything down, allowing more air into the lungs. BY focusing on our breath it also re-directs our mind off of the distressing event.

 

  1. 5-4-3-2-1 Technique: Name 5 things you can see around you (a tree outside, your television), 4 things you can feel (perhaps this is a blanket beside you or your glasses on your face), 3 sounds you can hear (maybe your pet, a car outside), 2 things you can smell (freshly cut grass or coffee brewing), and finally 1 thing you can taste (maybe you just brushed your teeth and you sense a minty taste or something you just ate).

 

By noticing these sensations, we remove our attention from whatever distress we may have been feeling. This forces us to stay in the present and reduces the potential to get stuck in a painful moment in the past.

 

Written by Kennedy McLean, Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) at Balanced Mind and Wellness Inc.

To learn more about how we can support you processing and coping with your trauma, contact us at 647-961-9669, book online, or email us at info@balancedmindandwellness.com.

 

8 Ways to Stop Negative Thought Patterns

Negative thinking is the easiest way to slow down your progress and goals. But how do you get rid of negative thoughts? Here are 8 ways that can be helpful to shift your thoughts, and as a result, improve your mood.

 

1. BE CURIOUS

Practice curiosity, in trying to be aware of what else is going on when the thought comes up. Are you tired, stressed, or worried about something else?  When we try to ignore or push away negative thoughts, they hide for a small period of time, and then return. To counteract them, acknowledge them. A strategy that might be helpful is written or vocal recognition of the thought (to yourself).

2. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH POSITIVE PEOPLE

Your energy, and others’ energy, is contagious. Just as we know someone’s laugh can be infectious, it is most certainly true of positive and negative attitudes and conversations that we have around us or participate in. Notice who is around you – are their views and perspectives they project filled with optimism or pessimism?

3. REMOVE PERFECTION FROM YOUR EXPECTATIONS

Expecting everything to be perfect can be exhausting. Why continually feel as though you are disappointing yourself by failing your unrealistic expectations? It can be liberating to find a way to live on your own terms while not expecting a flawless path or end result.

4. POSITIVE MORNING ROUTINE

Thinking starts early in the morning. Negative thinking can slow you, your tasks, and your day down. What can be helpful and effective here is to start your day by replacing thoughts of fear with thoughts of hope and belief. A way to kick-start these thoughts is by reading something encouraging and positive every morning. If you prefer to listen to something instead, there are many podcasts that serve as quick mindful reminders, such as one from here or here.

5. JUST BREATHE

Building reminders and scheduling time in your calendar  to relax or to just breathe will bring you more self-awareness. In order to stop negative thoughts, it is important to first acknowledge and recognize which thoughts are negative or judgmental. The trick is not to judge yourself or get caught up in your negative thoughts. Here are some helpful relaxation strategies and techniques that may be helpful.

6. BE INTENTIONAL

Assuming a positive attitude is an intentional action that starts as soon as you wake up in the morning. You have the ability to acknowledge and remove negative thoughts, by shifting your attitude. You are able to choose to attract what you focus on, and to let go of that which does not serve your goals. The more you practice positive mind-shifts, the easier it becomes. For example, it may be helpful to create a 2 column chart, write the negative thoughts in the left column, and replace them with a positive thought in the right column. After both are complete, cross out the statements in the left column.

7. THE GOAL > WHAT IF

No matter where you are in your life path, there will always be room to let negative thoughts exist. When you start to feel negative, try to remember why you are there (at that time, doing that task, in that moment). Focus on where you are headed and why that is important to you. Think about the goal you have set, and where you want to be.

8. THE ROOT PROBLEM

Most negative thinking stems from a problem is hard to determine from the surface. These negative thought patterns are sometimes ingrained in us early on and have become part of our way of life. In order to overcome these negative thought patterns, it is helpful to figure out the underlying reason these patterns continue to show up. It is only then that you will be able to address and solve the issue. Therapists can help you with this.

 

You can’t get rid of negative thought patterns unless you can understand what they are. Get to know your negative thinking and how it gets triggered. Only with that self-awareness can you begin to identify when it is happening and make a choice to shift your perspective in time

 

Written by Carly Clifton, Director & Registered Psychotherapist at Balanced Mind and Wellness Inc.

 

To learn more about how we can support you with developing positive thought patterns, and shift away from those unrealistic expectations, contact us at 647-961-9669 or info@balancedmindandwellness.com.

Trust and Relationships: Part 2

When we enter a relationship with someone new, when we feel hurt by another person’s actions, or when we hurt our partner, it is common to avoid certain conversations. However, when we pull away, we create distance in our relationship. We fear scaring the other person or pushing them away in the short-term, when in reality, talking to them could help narrow the gap in the long-term.

 

Here are 8 ways to build and maintain trust in relationships:

 

1. Accept the Effort

 

Do not assume you are worthy of or take the concept of trust for granted. We have to be willing to maintain trust within a relationship. It is important to make it a priority so that our partner feels connected to us, and vice versa. It is possible that we may lose pieces of trust from our partner, and it is crucial to be willing to rebuild those elements.

 

2. Stick to Your Word / Do as You Say

 

A large component of trust with your partner is trust relative to reliability. It is important that your partner knows they can ask you for a favour, or to help them with something, and feel confident that you will follow through. These items can be minor or major, and in the end, they add up to your partner knowing they can count on you. For example, if you ask your partner to bring toilet paper home on their way home from work, it is something they can reasonably expect you do (unless you communicate otherwise along the way).

 

3. Communicate Openly and in Person

 

Think about what you would like to know, and provide your partner with that same opportunity. When you are curious, your partner likely is to. In addition to being open, the method of which you choose to relay information is important. The meaning and tone of a message can be misinterpreted over text, or even on the phone. Facial expressions, tone of voice, and overall body language are very important pieces that your partner picks up on. Communicating needs can be hard as is, so removing the extra layers of communication over text can leave less open to interpretation.

 

4. Let Go of Judgments

 

Your partner may bring forth some information, a need, or a request that you may not understand. It is fair to not agree with every item your partner brings forth; however, it is important to acknowledge and try to see their perspective. You might not understand why something is important to your partner, but the fact that it is important is all that matters. Before you can trust, you must respect each other and your differences without judgment.

 

5. Be Vulnerable with Each Other

 

It is much easier to keep information in about yourself than to share it. The deep-seated secrets and fears that you may not feel comfortable sharing are those pieces that can bring you so much closer to each other. How do you feel when others share their fears and struggles with you? Those that share with you have let you in, and made it easier for you to share back. So, you will be amazed at what can happen if you do share one little piece. Chances are, your partner will tell you something new that you can learn about them.

 

6. Forgive Each Other

 

You may have a very solid base of trust between each other, and at the same time, it is possible that you may feel hurt or you may hurt your partner. We are imperfect human beings, and mistakes can happen. Know that it is unlikely your partner will say or do something to intentionally hurt you. Holding onto transgressions or mishaps will only erode the trust in the relationship. We should feel the ability to make mistakes and accept responsibility thereafter, without it being a constant source of contention. Letting go of the hurt, accepting the apology and moving on builds a trust based on honesty and love for the other person. If past betrayals surface, resist the urge to dwell on them. It will get in the way of fostering healthy relationships you are working to build now.

 

7. Self-development and Self-care

 

Give yourself the same care and attention that you give to others. Taking care of you is the opposite of being selfish, as it strengthens you, and enables you to better support everyone you are connected to. In any relationship, it is important for the people in it to grow as a couple and as individuals. Personal growth helps maintain the relationship and trust in each other.

 

8. Be Supportive

 

It is important in any relationship to be supportive of the other person. Support may include being physically present and providing physical affection to the person, or it may be giving emotional comfort through validation and words of affirmation. To learn more about the type of support your partner appreciates, and to understand your needs better, take the ‘5 Love Languages’ Quiz. It is even more important to show that support when we are in a stage of building trust. This involves both parties in the relationship feeling comfortable to take a risk, be vulnerable, make mistakes or try new things, knowing their partner will be there to catch them if they fall. Supporting your partner creates a united team, easing the feelings of loneliness.

 

If we do not take the time to understand what our partner is looking for in a relationship, or express our needs and feelings, it can be difficult to build and/ or continue to grow a strong foundation of trust. Relationship counselling can be a helpful way to work through these issues.

 

See our previous article on ‘Trust and Relationships: Part 1’ to understand and check in relationship on some major aspects of trust. 

 

Written by Carly Clifton, Director & Registered Psychotherapist at Balanced Mind and Wellness Inc.

 

To learn more about how we can support you with building trust in your current and/ or future relationships, contact us at 647-961-9669 or info@balancedmindandwellness.com.

 

 

“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.

Drawing the Line in the Sand: Boundary Setting (Part 2)

Asking for What You Need

Boundaries are important for our own understanding of our limits and what we’re comfortable with. When our boundaries are violated, we tend to feel uncomfortable, upset, distant, hurt, or angry (to name a few emotional responses). An important part to setting boundaries is knowing how to ask for what we need.

Some important guidelines to consider before asking for what we need include:

  1. Setting a boundary with an action to follow (e.g. be okay with walking away from a relationship if the other person continues to violate your boundaries)
  2. Being clear, direct, and firm in the words you use
  3. Limiting the use of debating, defending or over-explaining yourself
  4. Knowing and connecting with your support network
  5. Staying grounded in what you need by not giving in if this is important to you

 

Now, you’re ready to ask for what you need. A simple way to structure our conversations in asking for what we need is to use the DEAR MAN strategy:

DEAR MAN” is an acronym, with each letter representing its own skill. As you learn and try to use these skills, you’ll find that having hard conversations becomes easier over time.

Describe the situation (“I’ve noticed that …”). Stay factual and reduce YOU statements

Express your feelings (“I’m feeling …”). Name the emotion and don’t explain the rationale behind your feelings

Assert your needs (“I need …”). Be concrete and direct in your language. Remember you can’t force anyone else to feel a certain way, so try to keep it focused on your needs versus their response

Reinforce the outcome (“And by doing this …”). What will they gain by meeting your needs?

 

Mindful. Take a minute to check in with how you’re feeling. Ask yourself “what’s going on for me?”

Appear confident. Body language and postures are super important, so make sure you are standing or sitting up straight with an open posture. What do you need to do to appear confident?

Negotiate. Be open to making and hearing suggestions. See if you and the other person can agree on something that works for both of you. What is/isn’t negotiable?

 

Learning how to stand up for ourselves while still respecting the needs and limits of other people can take a lot of practice.  Remember to be kind to yourself if some of these interpersonal skills feel newer. Many of us have years of unhealthy relationship habits or patterns to undo. You can and you will undo them – you are making a choice now to do things differently.

It is recommended that you try applying this with someone you trust and can make small requests with before you start using this in more challenging situations.

Good luck!

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.

Content from this blog post is adapted from DBT Skills Training: Handouts and Worksheets (Linehan, 2015).

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).

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.