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The Greatest Gift(s) You Can Give Your Relationship this Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day holds a lot of weight for many couples. The expectations and pressure that come with this holiday dedicated to love leads couples to focus on the “perfect” way to shower their partners with romance. While gifting roses and chocolate covered strawberries are lovely romantic gestures, discovering deeper sources of intimacy and connection in your partnership this Valentine’s Day might be one of the greatest gifts you can give to your relationship. This post offers 4 suggestions to connect with your partner in deeper ways.

 

  1. Reflect on the Positive Aspects of the Relationship

It’s important to take the time to acknowledge and celebrate all the positive aspects of your relationship. Showing gratitude for all the small and big ways that you and your partner contribute to your relationship prevents you from taking each other for granted.

Consider:In what ways do I enhance our relationship? Be specific. In what ways does my partner enhance our relationship? Be specific. What parts of our relationship do my partner and I typically excel at? What was a recent relational issue that we handled well? What is it about each of us individually and as a couple that makes these successes possible?

What answers did you have in common? Which of your partner’s answers surprised you? Can you thank yourselves and each other for the ways that you contribute to your relationship?

 

  1. Explore Each Other’s Love Languages

Everyone has a preferred way to show and receive love; that is, we all speak different love languages. Gary Chapman, the author of The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, writes, “We tend to speak our primary love language, and we become confused when our [partner] does not understand what we are communicating. We are expressing our love, but the message does not come through because we are speaking what, to them, is a foreign language.” The goal is to understand each other’s love languages and learn to express love in your partner’s language.

Chapman highlights that there are 5 Basic Love Languages:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Acts of Service
  3. Receiving Gifts
  4. Quality Time
  5. Physical Touch

This Valentine’s Day, consider taking the Love Language Quiz with your partner. If you’d like to explore the concept of love languages a little deeper, consider reading The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lastsby Gary Chapman with your partner.

 

  1. Ignite the Spark: Open up Communication about Your Sexual Desires

Sexual intimacy can be one of the most vulnerable experiences between partners. Partners may hold back on expressing their sexual desires and needs for a variety of reasons. Consider reflecting on your sexual needs and desires and exploring this with your partner. Remember that sexual intimacy is a mutual experience, and each partners’ preferences and vulnerabilities must be validated.

4 Ways to Talk about Sexual Desires:

“It really turns me on when you/we/I…”

“It would feel really good if you/we/I… Can I show you?”

“I’ve been thinking a lot about … Is this something we can try together?”

“If I’m not feeling particularly sexual, how can I communicate this to you in a way that doesn’t make you feel unwanted/unloved?”

Valentine’s Day can bring on pressures and expectations around what sexual intimacy should look like. Put the “shoulds” aside, and think about what would feel satisfying to you and your partner. This invites you to think about mutual pleasure and satisfaction, rather than trying to fit into an external sexual script. To discover more about intimacy in long-term relationships, consider reading Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence by Esther Perel.

 

  1. Get to Know Your Partner’s Inner World

We are individuals before we are partners. Sometimes our individuality (e.g. values, preferences, interests, etc.) is neglected in the context of our relationships. How can you invite your partner into your inner world and allow them to know you in new ways?

3 Suggestions to Invite Your Partner in Your Inner World:

  1. YouTube Swap. Each of you get to pick a few YouTube videos (10 minutes or less) on different topics or forms of entertainment that interest you (e.g. comedy sketch, Ted Talk, sports clip, etc.). Watch each video together, switching between yours and theirs. Feel free to discuss why you chose the videos you did, or enjoy the videos without talking.
  2. Plan your own dream date. Take your partner on a date that feels satisfying and exciting to you.
  3. Download the Gottman Card Decks App. This app suggests meaningful questions for partners to ask each other on a variety of topics, in order to get to know each other in deeper ways.

 

You and your partner may find it difficult to connect with each other in these ways. Addressing the challenges you and your partner are facing together is another great gift you can give your relationship this Valentine’s Day. It might be helpful to seek out a couple’s therapist to support you through this journey.

To learn more about how we can support you with relationship concerns, contact Nikki Sedaghat at nikki@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.

Relationship Issues: Let Your Guard Down

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

1. Find the right people to trust

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

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

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

3. Let your feelings show

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

4. Stop avoiding being vulnerable

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

5. Be forward

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

6. Stop being pessimistic and critical

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

7. Give people a chance

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

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

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

 

Relationship Issues: Does Your Partner Know the Real You?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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/

How can I fix my relationship?

By the time most couples look to repair their relationship and go to couples counselling, it is usually so far in and the last stop on their list of ‘things to do’. Even though unhelpful patterns in communication and lifestyle have enveloped the relationship, it is not too late to work on improving and reinventing it. Read below for some important ways to recreate life and love in your relationship.

It is important to restore and revive your connection. Get rid of boredom in your relationship by being aware of when you get caught in daily stresses and distractions like technology. It is the simple things in life that make us happy and bring us closer together. Go back to those deep conversations you used to have. Just because you feel you know each other so well, it doesn’t mean that opinions and perspectives have stayed the same all these years. We grow and change, and it is important to do this together.

You must also acknowledge unhelpful patterns in your relationship, and then attend to them. The most common situation is when one partner demands and critiques their partner, and the other pulls back in return. The constant demands turn into a feeling of nagging, and this becomes a negative cycle. It is important to recognize it and work at stopping it, most importantly, when both partners are in a calm frame of mind.

If you find you are constantly arguing or nagging at each other, it is important to learn how to constructively communicate.  Be mature and be the one who puts an end to arguments that go back and forth like a ping pong match. Why not stop while you’re ahead? If you see a fight coming, take note to step back and think about what you say before you say it. Express your feelings to your partner. Let them know when they do something to upset you, and how it made you feel. As well as your partner may know you, you cannot expect them to always read your mind and predict your emotions.

Physical connection is also important to reconnect and repair your relationship. Placing a hand on your partner’s shoulder, for example, is a simple way to show compassion and care for your partner. Gestures like these may have been so commonplace in your relationship in the past. Check in and search to see if you are mindful of physical connection and its importance in your relationship. Physical touch only helps to reaffirm and strengthen your bond. Since the really destructive forms of interaction or communication in relationships include defensive and/ or hurtful behaviors, touch is one way of re-establishing connection.

Another step in repairing your relationship is taking time to talk about your differences, in a way that reaffirms the way they make your relationship and your bond stronger. Talking about these differences can help you understand why you may argue or have different viewpoints. For example, if you find it it hard to express emotions to your partner, let them know that. You may be with someone who speaks their mind on how they feel, and they may find it frustrating that you do not. Unless these differences are talked about, we cannot understand each other or know why it is harder for our partner to do things the same way we do. Talk about struggles you face and challenges you see in your relationship – it can only provide insight and opportunities to discuss solutions.

Finally, ask yourself if you are thankful and grateful for your partner and your relationship, and express it. Make your partner aware of your love and connection, and your willingness to repair the relationship. Make your partner feel appreciated, and good things will come. As the old saying goes, do unto others as they unto you. If you want your partner to treat you better and put more effort into the relationship, chances are you can do the same.

Fore more information on relationship counselling or couples counselling, please visit: https://www.etobicokepsychotherapy.com/relationship-counselling-etobicoke/

To book an appointment, please call 647-961-9669 or email carly_clifton@gmail.com

Miscommunication: A Personal Setback in Relationships

One of the most common sources of tension in relationships is miscommunication or no communication. We often do not realize how little or how poorly we communicate with our partners. We may think we have said more than we have or we may think we have stated our point more clearly. We make assumptions. How do we really know if this is the case, though?

This assumption is also known as the ‘signal amplification bias’. Most of us tend to believe that our behavior is much more expressive than it actually is, and this is true across a variety of situations. We also assume that others understand our goals and what we’re trying to accomplish, when in fact they often don’t have a clue. The reality is that most of what we say and do every day is open to multiple interpretations. This means that any of the other person’s interpretations may have slim chances of being what we actually meant to convey.

This effect is further amplified with those we are closer to: our best friends, family, and partners. We assume that these people know us best – and they might – but this does not mean they can read our thoughts and behaviours to a tee in any given situation. This assumption actually leads to greater miscommunication with our romantic partner than with a stranger on the street. We are more clear and direct with our intentions and desires with someone we don’t know as well, and we leave less up to their interpretation. When we assume that other people know what we’re thinking, and what we expect of them, we actually complicate this relationship more than it needs to be. It is unfair to assume others know what we want and when things do not go the way we want or expect. Thus, nothing is ever obvious until you actually spell it out.

The moral here is end all roads that lead to miscommunication, and to stop personally creating setbacks in relationships. Make a point of saying exactly what you mean or feel, and asking for exactly what you need. In the end, this will provide you with more success, rewards, and happiness in all interactions you come across.

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

 

Happiness and Relationships

Daily happiness with your partner is the key to total and long-term happiness in relationships.Set aside time to talk… do you do this with your partner as often as you should? It seems this is the key to every happy couple, and if not, one of the missing pieces to every dissatisifed couple and relationship problems. Relationships require effort – it’s too easy to assume the other is doing well.

10-15 minutes with one another on a daily basis with no interruptions (cell phones, laptops, work, tv shows). The conversation must not include work or kids. It is simply about how you are feeling, what was good about your day, and what was bad about your day (without delving too much into work issues). This is a bit of an emotional check-in, to make sure you are in tune with your partner and understanding how they are doing.

To remember this daily ritual, a symbol is quite helpful. A couple I worked with used a cup of tea after putting the kids to bed to signify their ‘us time’. Of course, this symbol can be adapted to your lifestyle and what works for both of you.

If this element is absent from your current relationship, you may feel pressured at first to fit this into your day. Please trust the process, and you will grow naturally into it with time.

It really sounds quite easy,  but consistency is everything. Committing to this ‘us time’ on a regular basis is what makes this element of ‘talk’ powerful.

Couples counselling or couples therapy can be a very instrumental factor in changing old routines or re-creating the spark in your relationship.

 Please contact me for minor or major improvements in your relationship, with relationship counselling.

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