Psychotherapy  & Naturopathic Services in Etobicoke

How to Start Therapy

We all know the feeling of putting something off ‘until we are ready’. Therapy can be daunting – you will be meeting someone for the first time, to start (or continue) a self-development process. But, it does not have to be so intimidating, and there is never a ‘right time’ to start.

Try and think of it as an adventure your therapist will join you on. Your therapist will sit with you to learn about your life story, and help you understand the meaning and weight of experiences you have had so far. A lot of the therapy relationship is about establishing goals, together, so that you can feel more confident in how you approach certain aspects of your life.


Here are a few commonly asked questions we hear, and some answers to provide you some more information:

Is there an initial consultation?

We always provide the option of a free 15-minute phone or video consultation. It is important that you have a connection with the therapist you choose. Although it can be hard to know from an initial meeting, you will be able to feel a certain level of comfort with that person.

We encourage you to book that first, with one or more therapists, to ensure you find someone you feel comfortable with. In the consultation, we will provide answers to any questions you may have and listen to information you would like to share. Some things we might cover include: what you would like to work on, fees and payment methods, the therapist’s training and background, treatment approach, and finally, if you’d like to move forward, scheduling a first appointment. In speaking with you, we hope you feel more comfortable speaking to someone with whom you may potentially invest time and effort.


What should you expect during the first appointment?

During your first appointment, it is important that we further explore the ‘why’ for therapy at this time. We will also complete a thorough intake, which involves your therapist asking questions to understand where you came from, your personal life history, and any other details you feel comfortable sharing about your upbringing. This helps us understand who you are as a person, which will tie into developing a plan tailored to you and your needs. By the end of the first appointment, we will identify and agree on realistic, clear goals that we can achieve together.


What should you expect in sessions after the first appointment?

Each session will involve reflection and insight into what you are experiencing, and a plan to help you create changes. Sessions will also include learning clear strategies and tools to work on that can be adapted outside of our appointments. We work together to create shifts and progress in between appointments. Your therapist also wants to know:what has and has not been helpful, and what is or is not working. This process is about you and what you take away from when we meet.

If you want to learn more about Etobicoke psychotherapy at Balanced Mind and Wellness, we have more FAQ’s here, or you may contact us directly.

How do I start?

You can easily book online, fill out our contact page, email us at, or call us at 416-232-2780. Our admin team is happy to speak to you. We are here to help and answer any questions you may have!

New Year: A Recipe for Success 

As we continue our path into 2024, many of us set the year’s intentions, goals and resolutions. Some may be setting defined work goals, others may be related to family planning, organizing a trip, or enrolling in that class you have always wanted to take. Regardless of the plan (or lackthereof), many people have thought of how they would like the year to go, and yet understandably, feel overwhelmed with how to approach it.



When we set goals, this can bring validation and confidence. It may feel uncomfortable to cheer yourself on or to share wins with others. Tracking and acknowledging your wins, at any size, has been shown to help increase motivation and boost self-confidence and performance (Amabile, 2011).

Everyone is going to experience good days and bad days. And often, those bad days occur because of a setback. Acknowledging the successes and progress emphasizes how good it can feel to accomplish something and boost positive feelings. It can also reduce a lot of stress we feel with the impending year ahead.


So, how can you celebrate and acknowledge success? Using a journal to write down daily, weekly or monthly successes – this will help you to visualize your wins. Telling people about them allows for a support system to cheer you on alongside you.

Rewarding yourself with something can elicit emotions, and help to show that your efforts produce good feelings. A reward could be just a fancy coffee or something small – it does not have to be large or expensive.  

Whatever you choose to celebrate or acknowledge, ensure it is meaningful to you and that you are passionate about it. Working with a therapist can also help you to identify goals that are unique to you.


Work with us

To understand more about how to enjoy finding and setting these goals for yourself, please contact us to book an appointment.

Amabile , T. (2011). The power of small wins. Harvard Business Review.

Strategies to Improve Your Focus

Focus is the dynamic process of choosing what is critical to notice, do, or recall. Each of us have areas of focus that are easier for us and areas that are more challenging to focus on. This article draws from Dr. Sharon Saline’s work on helping adults with ADHD manage their focus. However, those without ADHD can also struggle with things like prioritization, focus, and task-completion. Understanding the four types of focus can help you step away from the self-criticism that often happens when we have “wasted our time” and to apply strategies to better manage your focus.


1. Selecting – Choosing what to focus on

Selecting which tasks you’re going to prioritize is the first step in approaching and focusing on a task. Selecting involves task-prioritization, which is often a challenge with those who have ADHD. Prioritization requires you to decide what is most urgent (what task is most time-dependent and needs your immediate attention?) and what’s most important (what task will help you move closer to achieving your goals?).

When we have a long list of to-do’s, it can be overwhelming and unclear to select which task we focus on. This is when we are most likely to procrastinate. To work around this, start with a brain dump: write down all of your to-do’s and create a large list of tasks. From there, pick the three tasks that are most urgent and important and write them down on a separate list.

After this, select which of these three tasks are easiest, hardest, or somewhere in the middle, in terms of the amount of effort they require. Break down the harder tasks into two easier parts. When you break things down, they feel more approachable and achievable.

Lastly, think about the way that you like to work. Do you prefer to get easier tasks out of the way and then shift to harder ones? Do you prefer to start with the hardest task and use the feeling of accomplishment from completing that task to then focus on the easier tasks? When you know the order you like to work (e.g. easy, hard, medium), you can use that as your map of how to plan your activities and where to begin.


2. Monitoring – Noticing where your attention is and where it is not

You have to be as intentional about what you are not going to pay attention to as what you are going to pay attention to

To improve your ability to notice where your attention is going to, write down a list of all the things that typically distract you. These could be things like your phone, noises, social media, someone talking to you, a thought/idea, etc. Which of these distractions are most likely to occur when you are focusing on your selected task?

When you are doing your selected task, notice when your attention starts to drift away from the task towards a distraction. Instead of criticizing yourself for your brain naturally becoming distracted, bring yourself back to the selected task.



Reducing distractions for a set amount of time can be helpful. Here are some strategies:

  • Pomodoro Method: Set a 25-minute timer for focused work, then reward yourself with a 5-minute break or “distraction time”
  • Turn on ‘Do Not Disturb’ on your phone and/or turn off ‘Push Notifications’
  • Wear noise-cancelling headphones to reduce noise distraction
  • Play white/brown noise in the background
  • Write your selected task on a sticky note and place it on your computer screen as a reminder of the task you’re working on when you do get distracted


3. Shifting – Moving smoothly from one task to another

Shifting from one task to another can be challenging. 

Many of us like to multitask, trying to do multiple things at once. Multitasking can fatigue the brain, because you are not really doing multiple things at once, instead you are shifting your focus between multiple different tasks, which requires energy and effort. Often when we are multitasking, we find that we get a little bit of multiple things done, but do not get any one task done to completion.

Focus on solo-tasking (one task at a time) or dual-tasking (shifting between two tasks), but no more than that at a time. Know what ‘completion’ of your task would look like and use that as your marker for when you are ready to shift to another task. For example, if your selected task is to write an email, completion would be finishing the writing and sending the email off.

Once you complete your task, leave yourself a post-it note of what you are going to do next.

Set a 10-minute timer and take a break following this. Then when your break is done, come back to the next task that you have noted for yourself.


4. Hyperfocusing – Complete absorption into a task and tuning out the world around you

Hyperfocusing often happens with those who have ADHD, especially when a task is interesting, new, urgent, or requires problem solving skills. Hyperfocusing can be a strength, as it helps us stay “zoomed in” on a task and ignore our surroundings (and distractions!). While hyperfocusing can involve long periods of high productivity, it can also lead to things like losing track of time or ignoring bodily needs (e.g. eating, drinking water, going to the bathroom, stretching, etc.).

In contrast to hyperfocusing, when people are in a ‘flow state’, they are concentrating, but they are not so “zoomed into” a task that they’re unaware of their surroundings.

Give yourself an hour to use your strength of hyperfocusing (use a timer). Then follow this with a break, where you intentionally meet your physical and mental needs.

Developing strategies to manage focus takes time, effort, and practice. If you need additional support with this, working with a therapist can help. To learn more about how we can support you with focus, contact Nikki Sedaghat at


For any questions about our clinic, starting therapy, or understanding how we work, feel free to reach out to us at or 416-232-2780. We’re here to help!

The ‘Coping Plateau’

When it Hits and How to Fight Back

by Latoya Reid, Registered Social Worker at BMAW


As I pondered about this commonplace issue of reaching a plateau within our coping with mental health, the following personal anecdote populates my mind:

I struggle with seborrheic dermatitis; consequently, I exercise mindfulness in my dietary selections, skin routine, managing my stress levels, coupled with consistently taking my medication. There are, however, episodes of flare-ups that leave me feeling despondent, frustrated and unmotivated. I was forced to assimilate the knowledge that I was consistently following my routine and adhering to the administration of my medications, yet all this proved futile in keeping my flare-ups at bay. Even increased use of my current dosage of medication or combination/ cocktail of several strategies proved ineffective. In that moment, I am left wondering about where I may have gone wrong and what more I needed to do to improve things. Broken, disheartened, feeling helpless and hopeless while feeling embarrassed about my facial blemishes/disfiguration, I am forced to consult with my medical professional for a way to rise above this ‘plateau’ in my health regime.


Plateaux in wellness are not uncommon. Individuals on weight loss or fitness journeys can relate to occasionally hitting a plateau and feeling stagnant. This plateau can often have the impact of discouraging individuals from triumphing or continuing the path to their wellness goals. Nutritionists and fitness coaches, when consulted, find this stage of stagnation (plateau) all too familiar. Their simple recommendation? Diversification.



Diversify or add something unfamiliar to your current fitness regime. This small but significant effort tends to push the body and mind out of its routine and comfort zone into the proximal zone of trying to adjust, adapt and accommodate in creating a new comfort zone. Rather ironic, right? I know. Why push yourself out of one comfort zone in order to be pushed out of that zone again. Albert Einstein sums this idea in one simple quote: “A ship is always safe at shore but that is not what it is built for”.

As human we thrive on overcoming hurdles and testing our limits. This feeling of accomplishing has a dual role of providing reassurance and also motivation. The moment we allow ourselves to stay in areas of comfort and continue to do the same tasks, boredom sets in and that is when we feel stuck or underchallenged.

Injecting diversity into our lives reaffirms our ability to be adaptable and versatile. This, however, should not be done dramatically; instead, progressively so that we can slowly adjust and still experience the joy of accomplishment enough to keep us motivated. Without strategic timing and proper guidance, the adverse effect can lead to a plummet in self-despair and doubt where we are fearful of progressing past our comfort zones.

This anecdote can be applied to coping mechanisms for stress, anxiety, depression, and a gamut of mental health disorders. Whatsoever your mental health struggle you may be experiencing or may have experienced a period when previous coping mechanisms are found to be ineffective in getting you to self-regulate. Once strategies and efforts of coping are normalized/sensationalized and become a routine that no longer requires purposeful effort or mindfulness, we become susceptible and vulnerable to a stagnated phase. During episodes of vulnerability or increased stress where that which we found effective in bringing about reprieve or resolution is no longer having the same effect. This is what I coined to be known as the ‘coping plateau’.


Coping plateaux are indications of the need to diversify or adjust our current regime. If making adjustments were the simple resolution when this segment hits, there would be no need for this blog. The complexity with coping plateaus is that they are often aligned with the awkward timing of increased vulnerability due to a crisis or triggering event which can lead to regression to maladaptive ways of coping, feeling stuck, lacking motivation, negative/ intrusive thoughts, diminished self-confidence, among so many others. All are contributing factors to anxiety, depression, cognitive distortions, etc. with a snowball effect of potentially leading to self-sabotaging behaviours.


Once we understand the nature of these behaviours or patterns, it is easier for us to know how to adjust our sails and not internalize or personalize that problem as rooted in us. After, consulting my medical doctor about my recent flare of seborrheic dermatitis, I was reassured that it was not my fault. It was the nature of my illness. Just as human was evolve, it was the same for my illness. It had grown the ability to rebuff the attacks from my current regime and could only be combatted by adjusting or diversifying my regime. I was able to settle a mixture of new and old medications, and increase the frequency of my hair washing, then gradually reintroduce my exposure to sunlight. All this information was certainly not new to me. I should have known. This has been an issue for the past 20 years, but quite naturally I was back in my comfort zone of thinking that by some miracle I was cured.

To some of you, this blog provides no new knowledge. It is just a refresher that was needed.  For others who may not have had this insight, this information can act as a resource if and when you meet a plateau in your mental health coping.



Here are some ways of coping (in no order priority nor is the list exhaustive):

  • Do not avoid the emotions; allow yourself to notice and experience the emotions associated with your triggers
  • Listen to your body and look for the signs of fatigue and burnout
  • Be mindful of when your current coping strategies start to feel like a routine or requires little effort on your pa
  • Be open-minded and look into discovering new interests to add to your current list of coping strategies
  • Never lose sight of your progress and past/current accomplishments
  • Give yourself credit for even what you perceive as small successes
  • Take time to reassure yourself with positive self-talk/ affirmations when unhealthy or irrational thoughts creep into the mind
  • Self-soothe using your senses to reduce the intensity of unwelcomed emotions
  • Connect with positive supports or join peer support groups
  • Focus on the now; live in the moment with mindfulness
  • Do something you enjoy
  • Speak to your health practitioner about making adjustments to current medication or to start on medications
  • Reach out for support from a mental health therapist


If you have questions, or feel that you need more support trying to find this balance, please contact us or book an appointment, or contact Latoya at for individual counselling.

We are here for you and any of your questions… reach out to us via or 416-232-2780.

The Four Styles of Communication

As social beings, we are in constant communication with others. The way we communicate impacts how other people experience us and guides the trajectory of our conversations and interactions. There are four primary communication styles: Passive, Aggressive, Passive-Aggressive, and Assertive.

This blog post will outline each style of communication and the consequences of adopting each style. Identifying your primary style of communication can offer insight into the roles you take in your relationships and how you can approach your interactions more effectively.


The Passive Communication Style

Passiveness is a communication style rooted in fear. It involves a pattern of avoiding conflict at all costs. Passive communicators will often avoid expressing their opinions, feelings, and needs, in fear that this will attract disapproval or conflict. Passive communicators typically allow others to infringe on their rights and boundaries, either advertently or inadvertently. The impact of consistently adopting a passive style is that these individuals often feel disconnected from their own needs and wants, as they work to meet the needs and wants of others. Passive communicators often feel anxious and helpless, because it seems that their life, behaviours, and relationships are outside their control. Passiveness gets in the way of individual and relational growth and development, as real issues go unaddressed.


The Aggressive Communication Style

Aggressiveness is a communication style rooted in anger. It involves expression of one’s feelings and opinions and advocating for one’s needs at the expense of others’ rights and boundaries. Aggressiveness is the opposite of passiveness. Instead of submitting to others, the aggressive communicator tries to get others to submit to them. Aggressive communicators try to dominate and control others by blaming, criticizing, and humiliating others, often using an overbearing, loud, demanding, and rude tone. The impact of adopting an aggressive style is that these individuals often become alienated from others, as they generate fear, discomfort, and threat in others. Aggressiveness gets in the way of self growth, as these individuals are quick to blame others instead of owning and taking accountability for their actions and issues.


The Passive-Aggressive Communication Style

As you may have guessed, passive-aggressiveness is a communication style rooted in both anger and fear. Passive-aggressive communicators often mask their aggression by appearing passive on the surface, but will act out their anger in indirect or subtle ways. These communicators have a hard time acknowledging their anger, and will often deny that there is a problem, use sarcasm, demonstrate a mismatch between their feelings and expressions, speak “under their breath” instead of confronting the person or the issue, and try to “get even” with others in subtle ways. The passiveness in this communication style allows individuals to hide their aggression just enough so they can avoid taking responsibility for it. When confronted about their words or actions, passive-aggressive communicators typically deny any aggressive intent behind their behaviours. The impacts of adopting a passive-aggressive communication style is a feeling of powerlessness and resentment, as individuals are unable to deal with their problems or interpersonal issues head on. Passive-aggressive communicators often experience a build up of anxiety, as there is always the potential of others seeing through their passiveness and confronting them about their aggression.


The Assertive Communication Style

Assertiveness is a communication style rooted in openness and mutual respect. This style involves clear and firm expression of one’s opinions and feelings and a value for one’s own needs, wants, and rights, without violating the rights and boundaries of other people. Assertiveness is the most effective of the four communication styles, as these communicators are able to engage in open dialogue in their interactions, with a calm, clear, respectful, and regulated stance. Assertive communicators often use “I statements,” feel calm and in control, listen without interrupting, and are clear about their boundaries and limits. Assertive communicators are able to acknowledge their feelings and needs directly, without the expectation that others must give into their requests. These communicators recognize that they are only able to control themselves and their choices, and they respect that others are responsible for their own choices and have control over their own lives. Assertiveness benefits you and others, simultaneously. The impact of assertive communication is that these individuals feel more connected to others, feel in control of their own lives, and navigate their relationships with less conflict, anxiety, and resentment.


While assertiveness is the most effective form of communication, these skills can be difficult to adopt, as many of us did not learn how to engage assertively with others growing up. Our flight (passive) or fight (aggressive) reactions are often triggered more quickly, and involve less intentionality. Assertive communication requires mindful awareness and responsiveness.


By now, you may have identified the communication style that you, or, others you know, use most often. If assertive communication feels difficult for you, it can be helpful to work with a therapist to explore the underlying experiences and beliefs that invite you to adopt a passive, aggressive, or passive-aggressive approach in your interactions with others.


To learn more about how we can support you with communication, contact Nikki Sedaghat at for individual counselling for relationships or relationship counselling.


If you are looking to improve your assertiveness skills on your own, check out ‘The Assertiveness Workbook: How to Express Your Ideas and Stand Up for Yourself at Work and in Relationships’ by Randy J. Paterson

Acknowledging Grief during COVID-19

The loss that we are all feeling right now is profound. It is okay to grieve the loss of what last month was, this week is, and next month was to be. We are all imperfect beings. We have all suffered losses. We are all vulnerable.


We have the chance to change that feeling.

Right now, there is a common darkness. We can find a light together, in this unusually unpredictable collective grief.


Let me help you understand three different types of grief you might be relating to right now:

  • Anticipatory grief – This can be described as the intense sadness that sits with you before a likely event takes place (such as the foreseen the loss of a family member who is very unwell). Anticipatory grief can be as intense or more intense than the actual pain than when the event happens.
  • Disenfranchised grief  –  This occurs when our own intense grief feels downplayed by others or the world in general.  For example: if you feel the intense negative sadness and emptiness connected to Coronavirus, and at the same time, others around you believe that you are overreacting and diminishing your feelings around it.
  • Ambiguous grief – the overall sadness and emptiness we feel, which can be described as a ‘general malaise’. At times, this can be when we see that what is happening is happening to all humanity in the world. This collective grief can be feeling sad for the planet and our fellow human beings.


Using a two-step process, and elements of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), we can work together to lessen some of this pain and discomfort.

* First, we acknowledge the losses, and second, we find ways to commit to a more positive mindset. *


1. Acknowledge the losses you identify with

a. Identify the losses you are feeling right now…

  • Loss of certainty
  • Loss of future plans
  • Loss of structure and routine
  • Loss of boundaries between home and work life
  • Loss of sense of security
  • Loss of social connection
  • Loss of community
  • Loss of in-person social gatherings
  • Loss of some connection to faith
  • Loss of job or income
  • Loss of health
  • Loss of freedom
  • Loss of optimism and hope


b. Past loss or grief coming to the surface

You might be wondering why this time feels especially challenging. While we are grieving the loss of one or more of those listed above, it is important to remember that all current loss can trigger loss from the past (especially that which is buried or unresolved). This is often referred to as ‘cumulative grief’. This can happen when:

  • We do not have the time we need to process what just happened before another loss occurs
  • We feel overwhelmed, we avoid dealing with ‘hard feelings’ at the time, and ‘save it for later’
  • All these toxins from the past bubble up and come to the surface
  • Example: I lost my mother last year, I have shifted to ‘doing mode’ (highly effective with day-to-day activities), and
  • To process past losses, we have to go back to that place of darkness and experience that suffering and pain
  • Today, we might feel unprepared to deal with COVID-19 in general, in addition to all of the old losses that are coming up
  • We don’t have the time we need before another loss occurs we end up overwhelmed by these multiple losses and unable to give them the attention they need.


When we are overwhelmed, our mind typically reverts to one of the most common defense mechanisms: avoidance. Though avoidance, denial, and shock may seem like a really bad thing (and it can be if it is never resolved), it can be our body’s way of keeping us functioning in the short term. Sometimes, it was the best way we were mentally and physically able to deal with it at the time of the event.  What will be important for us, as losses accumulate, is that we have an awareness of the effort that we must begin working toward, facing reality of the loss. Unfortunately, this avoidance cannot continue indefinitely.


2. Let’s commit to change, and move to a more positive mindset.

Right now, this world is not the same – so how can we make it better? We realize we have not been prepared, and that we need to be more prepared in future. We can grieve the loss of the old unprepared world, and help to develop a new, prepared, more grateful world. My challenge for you is to reflect on these questions:

  • What value are we discovering?
  • What priorities have shifted?
  • What new or existing relationships have you built or rekindled?
  • What are we able to see that was unclear or blinded before?
  • Who depends on you and why?
  • Whom do you depend on and why?
  • How do you take care of yourself?
  • How do you provide for yourself and your family?
  • What opportunities have you created for yourself?
  • What new ways of living have you embraced?
  • What are you grateful for?
  • What do you love doing?

Elizabeth Lesser’s book titled ‘Broken Open’ focuses on a similar theme – how we have the ability to make the choice to be broken down and defeated or broken open and transformed. Lesser draws on different stores of ordinary people who ‘fell and got back up’, as well as some helpful traditions to help us learn ways to grow from difficult times. In light of past challenges you are trying to understand, or current ones you are experiencing, we hope this is helpful to you.


Activity for Processing Grief

I learned a valuable tool from a seminar I attended with Doug Smith, a specialist with years of teaching about grief and loss. Doug introduced a creative and practical tool we can use to process complex grief:

Materials needed: hammer AND small clay pot AND large sealable plastic bag (ziploc) AND glue gun AND marker or paints.
(If you do not have a pot and would like to do this activity, Doug suggested that a candle might have the same effect)

  • Place the clay pot in a large sealable plastic bag, and firmly seal it
  • Take the sealed bag outside. Bring the hammer.
  • Use the hammer to break the clay pot/ candle (healthy form of processing anger)
  • Bring the bag inside, and empty the pieces onto a table
  • Each of these pieces represent all of the smaller losses that the larger loss contains
  • Use a marker or paint to draw images or words that symbolize the aspect of yourself/ your life you have lost.
  • Use a glue gun to re-attach all of the pieces, in whatever way you like.

The idea this activity brings is to be able to rebuild structure out of loss. The shape of the clay pot, or you, will have a different form; however, it is still comprised of all of the same pieces. We can make something beautiful out of brokenness.


Everything can change in a moment. Many times in life, we will have little control over our external environment and cannot do anything to change it. So, we can learn to manage what happens internally, or inside ourselves. The good news is: we can use what happens on the outside to change the way we function on the inside. We can make the choice in times that feel very defeating.



Written by Carly Clifton, Director & Registered Psychotherapist 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, or book online with us.

Coping in Uncertain Times

As I write this on March 30, 2020, it feels like the world as I experience it has changed dramatically over the past two weeks.


Although I have started to adapt to the changing circumstances including social distancing, working from home, and relying on phone and video chats to connect with clients, friends and family, it seems each day brings new changes and my mind and heart are still working to understand and adapt.

I want to share with you 6 ways I have been coping with all the change and uncertainty in the outer world…



1. Acknowledging what I am feeling

In times of uncertainty, disruption and rapid change, it is normal to experience feelings of stress and anxiety. It can be helpful, and important even, to name the emotion, and to share with a trusted friend or therapist. I also remind myself that feelings are just that, and they change with time. Emotions are also not linear or isolated, so it is possible to feel both anxious and appreciative or happy at the same time.


2. Grounding

When we are anxious or stressed, it is common to get lost in thinking, and we can actually feel like our heads are full, and even get a headache. Grounding helps bring energy down through the body, and can help relieve mental tension. There are several simple ways to help ground yourself. Bringing attention to your feet, or your sitting bones (if sitting), and allow the weight of your body to gently “settle” downward, with awareness can be very effective. Even better if you are able to get outside, and have your feet on the earth. If you are familiar with yoga, there are postures such as the mountain pose, or a squat that will help ground your energy.


3. Breathe

Another way to help calm yourself is to slow and deepen your breath. When we feel anxious or stressed, it is common to breathe more quickly and shallowly, which in turn, fuels our anxiety. Slowing and deepening the breath will help create a relaxation response in the body, which helps to calm our thoughts. Even one slower, deeper breath can be helpful.


4. Practice Gratitude

It can help to balance our sense of stress or worry by remembering those things that we appreciate. It may be simple, such as having a good night’s sleep, having friends and family, enjoying a favourite food, or other things that are meaningful to you. If you can remind yourself at least once a day of at least one thing for which you are grateful, you can start to change your experience.


5. Reach out

I keep hearing the phrase “we are in this together” as we experience a truly global pandemic. In this time when many of us are not able to be with our friends, families, or co-workers , it is important to find ways to keep in touch. We can use phone, video chats and social media to visit with people. And, we can smile and say hello as we pass people (at a safe distance) on the street, or to the people working in the grocery stores and other essential businesses that remain open.


6. Find the silver linings

As these past couple of weeks have unfolded, I have experienced, and heard stories from friends and clients about the unexpected gifts that have come with this time. One woman told me of having a “honeymoon period” with her partner, and experiencing renewed tenderness; another told me she was sleeping better, and sleeping in; a friend told me she was finding time to work on a project that she never seemed to have been able to get too; and there have been countless classes and webinars springing up and opportunities to learn. As for myself, I have started to read books that I have been meaning to get to; cooking favourite foods and experimenting with new recipes, and my cats are happy to have extra belly rubs.


I hope there are even 1 or 2 things that resonate for you, and that you feel you are able to try out in the coming days. May you be safe, and well.


Written by Michele Meehan, Registered Psychotherapist 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

Identifying Your Sexual Beliefs, Preferences, and Boundaries This Valentine’s Day

Sexual communication is an important part of a healthy and satisfying sex life. Understanding yours and your partner’s ideas and preferences about sex can support you in having a more intentional and mutually-fulfilling sexual relationship. Consider using this Valentine’s Day (or, any day!) as an opportunity for a sexual check-in.


Understand Your Ideas and Beliefs About Sex


How do you define “sex”? For many people, “sex” is narrowly defined as a particular sexual act (e.g. sexual intercourse) with a particular outcome (e.g. orgasm). The way you define what sex means to you can impact what “counts” and “doesn’t count” as valid and satisfying sexual activity. When we think about sex as an “all-or-nothing” experience, we undervalue sexual acts that may be satisfying on their own and we put pressure on what “good sex” has to look like.


Can you broaden your definition of sex to include other forms of sexual activity? Can your definition of sex include what we typically only consider as “foreplay”? What difference would it make for you as an individual and for your relationship to identify and potentially re-define your understanding of what “counts” as sex?


You can experience eroticism, sensuality, and sexuality in a wide variety of ways. They can be experienced through solo or partnered sexual activities. Whether it’s through self-stimulation, flirtation, kissing, a massage, or oral sex, all of these acts count as valid ways to access your sexual needs and desires.


Understand Your Preferences and Sexual Boundaries


Take the time to reflect on your own sexual preferences and boundaries. Sex can feel much more satisfying when you are clear about your likes and dislikes.


Self-reflective questions for identifying your likes and preferences:


  • What do I need in order to tap into my sensuality and sexuality? What do I need enjoy sex with my partner? What do I need to enjoy solo sexual activities? Do I need time to get into a sexual headspace? Do I need to feel an emotional connection with my partner?
  • When do I feel most interested in having sex or being erotic with my partner?
  • What do I need from myself or my partner to feel grounded and present in the sexual experience?
  • How do I prefer to initiate sex with my partner? How do I prefer my partner to initiate sex with me?
  • What physical sensations do I enjoy experiencing? What feels good to me? What body parts do I enjoy having stimulated? How do I like those areas to be stimulated (e.g. with a sex toy, my own hand, my partner’s hand, etc.)
  • What sexual dynamics do I enjoy experiencing with my partner? (e.g. power dynamics)
  • What forms of sexual pleasure do I enjoy providing my partner? What do I like about pleasing my partner in this way?
  • Is there anything my partner can do or change in order to make sex feel more safe, pleasurable, and satisfying for me?
  • Is there anything that I want to explore with myself or my partner, but want to learn more about before trying?


Self-reflective questions for identifying your dislikes and sexual boundaries:


  • What physical sensations do I dislike?
  • What turns me off?
  • What sexual behaviours, dynamics, or experiences are off the table for me?
  • What do I need from my partner when I communicate that something that they enjoy sexually is not something that I enjoy?
  • When do I feel least interested in sex?
  • If I am not in the mood for a particular sexual activity, how can I check in with myself about what sexual activity I might be in the mood for? Sex doesn’t have to be an “all-or-nothing” experience.
  • Is there anything that I have previously enjoyed during sex that I no longer enjoy?


Once you have spent some time reflecting on your own sexual preferences and boundaries, dedicate time to share these learnings with your partner. Recognize that communicating one’s sexual likes and dislikes can feel very vulnerable. Ensure that you are supporting your partner in feeling heard, respected, and safe.


You and your partner may find it difficult to identify and communicate your sexual needs and preferences with one another. If you find that sexual communication is a problem in your relationship, 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 sexual concerns, contact Nikki Sedaghat at

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


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.



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).


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?


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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