How’s Your Mental/Emotional Fitness?

So much talk about physical fitness! We have a culture that is obsessed with food, fitness and thinness. Hardly a conversation goes by where somebody doesn’t bring up their weight, someone else’s weight or what they are eating. imagesSo much judgment and obsession! Next time you find yourself in one of these conversations, try re-directing it to the topic of mental, emotional and spiritual fitness. Ask the person what they are doing for their workout in THESE areas. How are they taking care of these very important areas of the self? Share what you are doing about your mental or spiritual health.

How’s your heart these days? If your answer to that was along the lines of ‘huh’ perhaps you need to spend a bit more time checking in with yourself about how you are feeling and how things are going ‘underneath the hood’ in your life. If my magic wand was working, I images-1would love to make a mental health fit bit! Strap that on your arm and pay attention to how many steps you are making in dealing with your stuff and taking proper care of your soul.

We all have basic human needs, including healthy interaction with others, connection in community, affirmation, sense of purpose, safety and a sense of security, etc. If we don’t meet these needs, we find ourselves turning to addiction and other numbing techniques to deal with the emotional/mental distress we are encountering. This can include perfectionism, workaholism, over-exercise, and addiction to continually needing to be productive. The core of all these behaviours is images-1a lack of room for rest, rejuvenation and recharging in a person’s life. If these behaviours get no energy or time (priority), we find ourselves in a deficit where we give to others out of place of absence rather than a place of excess flowing out over the top.  If I don’t continually put into my energy/positive tank, it becomes depleted and before I know it, giving to those around me becomes a chore and can leave me feeling drained, sometimes even resentful.

What are you doing this fall to become more healthy mentally? Spiritually? Emotionally? Think of ways to promote overall wellness in your life. Let’s shift the discussion! Imagine how life could change if you spent as much time taking care of your mental and spiritual health needs as you spend on your physical wellness.

Here’s a few ideas:

Take a course/learn something. Journal. Sing along with your favourite songs. Dance. Nap. Take photos outside. Sip a cup of tea. Listen to music or a podcast. Read a book. Colour. Paint. Knit. Go for a leisure walk/nature walk. imagesPractice gratitude. Choose a positive attitude. Set aside some ‘me’ time. Volunteer. Be kind to yourself. No negative self-talk. Have fun. Laugh. Rest with your feet up. Soak in the bath tub. Have a good soul talk with a close friend. Pray or meditate. Do something to ‘pay it forward.’ Appreciate the simple things. Smile more. Fill your mind with enriching things not just distraction and fluff. Say no. Go home. Put some lotion on your skin. Be spontaneous. Bake something. Visit an old friend. Slow down. Kiss your loved ones.


“I hate my body!! And what am I supposed to do when it’s summertime?!”

I hear these words frequently as I work with clients who have eating disorders — even more so if they have BDD (Body Dysmorphic Disorder). ‘BDD is characterized by a preoccupation with one or more perceived defects or flaws in appearance, which is unnoticeable to others. Sometimes the flaw is noticeable but is a normal variation (e.g. male pattern baldness)arizona 022 or is not as prominent as the sufferer believes.’ It is now included in the DSM V. In years of working with eating disordered clients, I have often encountered BDD, along with distressing body image issues. These tend to worsen during the summer months when it is normal and appropriate to wear shorts, T-shirts, sleeveless tops and bathing suits for trips to the lake or pool.

People who hate their body and have body image issues tend to struggle with going to social events, even small family gatherings, without covering up their body. For example, they might wear long sleeved shirts with jeans or long pants even though it is in the high 20’s temperature-wise.  Some other behaviours might include avoiding social situations, weighing themselves frequently, harshly comparing their bodies to others, rejecting compliments from loved ones (and strangers), emotional outbursts and fear related to going to weddings, pool parties and other events where they feel like others may be judging or even just noticing their appearance.

Body image issues and body hatred are part of any eating disorder. It plays into the development of shame which fuels the eating disorder. The eating disorder voice makes a point of fear mongering and bullying the person with harsh, intrusive thoughts that go so far as to create distortions. It is almost like thenwaz_01_img0034 person develops ‘fun house’ mirrors in their eyes which literally keep them from seeing their body accurately. This is why someone with an eating disorder believes that they are much larger than they actually are. They often refer to themselves as being hideous, fat and ugly, or other demeaning terms.

Challenging the eating disorder voice and tending to these body image issues is a part of every recovery.  Our culture doesn’t help either as we flaunt air-brushed photos of stars who potentially have eating disorders themselves. These unrealistic standards of beauty and thinness create an unattainable goal which many women and men are buying into. As a culture, we need to reject these messages and attack the myths surrounding the idea that everyone can be the same size or ending up looking a certain way. We must embrace the diversity of size, shape, height and appearance that we have as the human race.

Here are a few ways to challenge body image issues this summer:

  • Tell the eating disorder voice to “Shut Up!” Refuse to listen to it and engage with it. Even if you agree with what you are hearing, if it is harsh and critical, shut it down!
  • Challenge what it is telling you to do. If it is telling you that you can’t wear a T-shirt and show your arms, disagree with it and then disobey. Dawn that T-shirt and wear it unashamedly!
  • Take baby steps. If you are terrified to put on a bathing suit and go out to the pool, start by wearing a bathing suit around your house. If it helps, wear a cover-up ’til you get to your locale.
  • Make things as comfortable as possible. Wear clothes that fit comfortably. Don’t hide in bulky sweaters or hoodies — wear something that fits your body and fits the weather.
  • If you’re having a bad body image day, acknowledge how that feels. Every856body has them once in a while! Make sure you dress comfortably in something that doesn’t pinch or bind.
  • If you’re going to a wedding, remember that everyone is going to see the bride and groom, not you! And you are going to the wedding to celebrate with your friends/family — not to go on a fashion run way. Don’t let your fears rob you of a wonderful day celebrating!
  • Keep challenging yourself with repetitive exposure in the clothing that has mad you feel uncomfortable. If it’s hot and sunny, wear shorts and a T-shirt/tank top. That IS appropriate summer wear for anyone, including you.
  • Remember that you may have distortions and are not the best judge of what your body actually looks like. Get dressed and go live your life!
  • If you are going shopping for new clothes or a bathing suit, get changed facing away from the mirror. When you are fully dressed in the item(s) of clothing, turn around and give a quick assessment as to whether you like it. If so, buy it and leave! Don’t spend long periods of time looking in the mirror or ‘playing’ with fat rolls, it will only feed the body image distress and serves no good.
  • Go enjoy your life.images Period. It’s the only one you’ve got and your body is simply the carrying case for your soul. Focus more on the inside and what you want to see happen in your life than fretting about the container.


How Do I Turn my Mind Off?!

Have you ever felt like your brain was being run by a hamster on a wheel…rutted thoughts circling around and around as your mind continues to spin? This is normal at times but if thinking becomes too rutted, it might be an indication of obsessive thinking. Obsessive thoughts are different than our normal thoughts as they feel like they are out of control and our minds seeimagesm fixated on them. When these thoughts become intrusive, and potentially, distressing, it is time to seek help.

‘How do I turn my mind off?’ Firstly, why does a mind get stuck in the ‘on’ position? There are several reasons why your mind might feel like it has become rutted. Here are five reasons:

  1. One common reason is being overwhelmed. When we have a lot going on we can get stuck in cyclical thinking.
  2. Another reason is underlying anxiety. If a person has generalized anxiety that seems to come and go for no apparent reason or have a clear trigger, anxiety can cause the thoughts to loop.
  3. Jumping ahead and reading into things can create a rutted thought pattern. “But what if…”
  4. Being overly tired. A tired brain can get more easily stuck on an anxious thought.
  5. Facing a lot of unknowns.  Most people like to know what is going to happen and can become fixated on trying to make an ‘unknown’ become known.

One helpful way to turn your mind off, especially when trying to go to sleep, is with a skill called “Self-soothe with the Senses.” In this scenario, we want to bump the mind out of it’s thinking rut and into the sensory side of the brain. We can do this by simply halting our thought process — ‘I don’t want to think about this anymore, I am going to focus on everything that I see/hear/touch/smell or taste. [Proviso: if it is night time or dark, don’t use the ‘hearing’ one and if you have food issues, don’t use taste].

To use the tactile/touch sense, direct your thinking like this: “I am no longer thinking about ______, I’m paying attention to everything I touch.” For the touch receptors on my fingers to relay that information, it has to go into the sensory side of the brain. If the brain jumps back into thinking (which it will do initially as you learn  this imgresskill) simply re-direct it back to ‘No, I’m paying attention to everything I touch, what does that feel like?’ If you are alone, say it out loud so you are also engaging another one of your senses. After 5-10 minutes of using the self-soothe skill, you will typically notice a drop in the level of distress that you have been feeling. If you are wanting more relief/distraction just choose a different sense to focus on, e.g. notice what you see. The descriptions need to be specific and detailed…”I see a cherry wood desk with black knobs and a large leather chair on rollers…” In this scenario, the brain is noticing everything it sees by directing the visual receptors to pass information along to the sensory side of the brain.

As the brain is directed out of the rutted thinking loop you become less distressed, and more able to shift your attention to doing something more helpful or effective.  When your distress is at a 9/10, reducing that distress may be the most effective first step. By using ‘self soothe with the senses,’ the distress can drop to a 6-7 and then a person is able to make a less emotionally charged decision and not a knee-jerk reaction. purestock_1574r-019802.mediumIntervening in the rutted thinking cycle is somewhat like poking a hockey stick into a bicycle wheel that is turning quickly. The cycle stops NOW! That is what we want to do with those rutted thought patterns, break them/stop them, calm ourselves down/self-soothe with the senses and re-direct or distract ourselves so that we think about the things we want to think about.

Crisis! What to do?!

Our hearts go out to the tens of thousands of people who have been displaced by the forest fires in Fort Mac. Many friends and some family members have224470d6-3f81-4d1f-ac29-e1cee0b15cc8_500 been directly impacted by this devastation.

Dealing with times of crisis and trauma are difficult! People tend to experience a number of mental and emotional symptoms, including disbelief and shock. There is often fear and anxiety, especially with all the unknowns that people are facing. Sometimes people will have flashbacks and nightmares related to what they witnessed. This can cause trouble sleeping, mood swings, tearful outbursts, and lack of focus and concentration.

Some normal physical reactions include: aches and pains, like headaches, sleeplessness, rushes of panic/anxiety, sudden rush of sweating/heart palpitations, loss of interest in eating/appetite, stomach churning/upset, constipation or diarrhea, rapid breathing, physical shaking, lightheadedness or dizziness, andfirefighters-hands-350 being more easily startled.

Here are some tips to help cope with the crisis and trauma you might be facing:

  • Reach out to others — develop a support network.
  • Talk through the events with someone who cares.
  • Move physically — doing some repetitive moment like walking, jogging, swimming, etc. can help to reduce some of the pent up adrenaline and cortisol stress hormones, while releasing endorphins — the relaxing, calming hormones.
  • Volunteer. Do something helpful for someone else. This helps to build support and create a sense of meaning.
  • Avoid media coverage. Too much media input isn’t helpful. Being aware, versus being inundated with triggering images and distressing stories will often make things worse.
  • Engage socially — don’t isolate. Just being with reach-outother people helps to distract and give comfort. This doesn’t have to involve talking about the crisis.
  • Take advantage of any support groups, counselling or services that are being offered for support.
  • Cry. Releasing emotions as they come and go is healthy and helpful. Try not to stuff your emotions and pile them up. Try not to judge your emotions — “I shouldn’t feel this way…” Just notice your emotions without judging them. They aren’t right or wrong, they are giving you information as to how you feel.
  • Make stress reduction a priority. Do some relaxing things and allow for downtime. Try to maintain proper nutrition and sleep patterns. Do some relaxation breathing — pray — meditate — journal — rest — have a soak in the tub — read a book — stretch.
  • Put some routines into place. This is especially helpful if you have children going through crisis. Structure and routine bring a sense of comfort and safety. Children need to know that you love them, are with them, and are able to take care of them now. Answer their questions in an age appropriate way. Don’t say there’s nothing wrong if there is and don’t make promises you can’t keep.
  • Avoid turning to alcohol, drugs or over-eating to numb out . Try to give yourself downtime rather than trying to detach/check-out.
  • Accept your feelings and allow yourself grace. There is no time line for when you ‘should’ be feeling better or how things ought to look right now. You are experiencing grief and loss — allow yourself to feel what you are feeling.

Fresh Hope Counselling is here to help. If you need counselling and support right now, please contact us at 780-487-3456 or EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is an effective and amazing technique for treating trauma in both adults and children. We have two therapists on staff who are trained in EMDR and available to assist you or your loved ones.  You can find out more about EMDR on our website at under the ‘What is EMDR?’ tab. If you have been directly impacted by the Fort Mac fires, let us know and we will try to get you in as quickly as possible.

“How can I reduce my anxiety? Or at least manage it better?!”

Even the question makes some people anxious! Anxiety. Blurg! We all have it at times. Anxiety is just a feeling but for some people it develops into an intrusive thought problem. This can cause frustration and disruption to our daily living. Anxiety doesn’t need to cripple you! So how can a person reduce his/her level of anxiety?

Let’s start by looking at some of the physical manifestations of anxiety:

  • sweating more than usual
  • rapid heart beat
  • clammy palms/hands
  • fidgety behaviour (urge to fidget and inability to remain still)
  • rapid, shallow breathingpurestock_1574r-0795.medium_c24a-1
  • flush of heat/red to the upper body/chest
  • clenching of the jaw, hands or feet (twisting your body up like a pretzel may also occur at times of increased anxiety!)
  • feelings of distress and panic
  • tightness in the throat or chest
  • headache or tightness in the neck and head

These are physical symptoms of anxiety that may occur individually or all at once. Anxiety is one of the most visceral emotions that we have and it triggers physical response. This physical response begins in the sympathetic nervous system. Think of this step as the body being ‘sympathetic’ to how you are feeling. You’re anxious — your body is sympathizing. This causes the body to release cortisol (the stress hormone) and adrenaline. This sensation creates what we call ‘fight or flight syndrome’ or as some psychologist have termed it, ‘fight, flight or freeze.’

Getting to know your physical anxiety markers can quicken your ability to respond to the anxiety when it is at a lower level and therefore more manageable. It’s always easier to bring ourselves down from a 5/10 that is building, than a 10/10!

Here are a four anxiety management skills that can help:

  1. Relaxation breathing. Whenever anxiety builds, we start to breathe in a more rapid and shallow manner. Sit up straight or stand up and take some slow, deep breaths down into the diaphragm. If it helps, count slowly to three as you inhale and then exhale. Inhale, 2, 3 – exhale, 2, 3. Getting air back into your lungs helps to prompt the para-sympathetic nervous system (think paramedics!) to kick in and counter the effects of the ‘flight or fight’ impact.
  2. Shake it off! Just like our dear friend Taylor Swift sings, ‘shake it off.’ Literally shake your hands, arms and feet out to help release the physical hormones of cortisol and adrenaline. Otherwise these hormones circulate through our body looking for physical release, leaving us with a sensation of being revved up.
  3. Cut out the caffeine. If you have a tendency to get anxious or have panic attacks, then caffeine is NOT your friend. Caffeine is a stimulant that already gets the sympathetic nervous system revved up a bit.
  4. Validate the feelings. Why are you anxious? If there is a distinct trigger that has caused the anxiety then validate when and how it kicked in. “I’m feeling anxious because I’ve never been there before…and that’s okay.” It is normal to purestock_1574r-019802.mediumfeel anxiety at times — remember that it is just a feeling. If it is more generalized and has no apparent trigger, you might be dealing with an anxiety disorder that requires professional help. Do not hesitate to get help with anxiety. It can be treated very effectively and give you freedom to rise above the paralyzing impacts it can bring when left unchecked.

How do you know if your relationship is healthy?

In the early days of coal mining, the canary served as a low-tech gas detection device.  The miners carried a cage into the mine with a bright yellow canary perched in it.  The canary has a high sensitivity to methane and carbon monoxide gases.  If the canary began to pitch and weave on canary_minehis perch (and inevitably drop dead), it signalled that the poisonous gases in the mine were too high and the miners needed to get out.  In some ways, I wish relationships came with such a device – a dating canary!  Not that it would have to die but that the bird would give noticeable signs of danger in the face of an unhealthy or unsafe relationship.

What does an unhealthy relationship look like?  The best way to determine what is healthy verses unhealthy is to compare the two.  In a healthy relationship, each partner has room to grow, each person being supported and encouraged to reach their full potential.  In an unhealthy relationship, one partner restricts and limits the other partner from developing, even isolating them from family and friends.  This is a danger sign!  The canary is starting to twitch!

A healthy relationship is based on trust and mutual openness.  Each party is independent and able to function on his/her own but is linked in a complimenting fashion through inter-dependence.  If one person is fiercely independent it keeps the other from bonding with them.  If one party is entirely dependent they are unable to carve out their own sense of identity and worth.  The only healthy scenario is interdependence.  Unhealthy relationships are forged out of control and a need to hold power over the other person.  Dynamics of such a relationship include insecurity, mistrust, intimidation and forced dependency.  The canary is swaying on its perch.

In regard to communication, a healthy couple can discuss, negotiate and agree to disagree.  They will encounter conflicts but work to resolve them, always returning to a place of mutual respect.  Communication is a strong suit for them.  They can talk through issues and maintain respect and love for one another. images Unhealthy couples have a power struggle in this regard where one partner feels the need to control and win.  He/she tends to give orders and directs the other person on how they should feel, think and behave.  The other partner submits to this because of fear – fear of losing the relationship or fear of reprisal.  Watch out for falling canaries!

Healthy relationships are like a mutual admiration society, where both partners encourage one another to excel and accomplish all that they can.  In an unhealthy relationship, the partners are jealous, insecure and tend to be possessive and intolerant.  The bottom line is they believe someone has to “win” at all times and will pursue that regardless of the cost.  Where there needs to be lots of sharing, “give and take” and shared decision making, there are selfish acts, blaming, humiliation and threats.  This leads to “crazy making” and head games, where manipulation is common and motives are not based on love.  The canary is going into cardiac arrest!

In a healthy relationship, partners are open, upfront and genuine.  They enjoy being with each other and are not insecure when apart from one another.  There is mutual trust, respect and sharing.  They both invest in the relationship and receive the benefits of doing so.  Unhealthy partners keep secrets and have an agenda.  couple-beach-1They view the relationship as a game to win or lose.  They hate to lose so the other partner must always pacify and give in.  If one person tends to do all the giving and the other does most of the taking, the canary may be dead!

Consider investing in your relationship to make it as healthy as possible.  This can begin with an honest assessment of yourself, and the relationship.  Are you living in denial?  Are you excusing the behaviour of your partner?  Do you constantly find yourself doubting your reality – questioning whether something actually happened or not?  Perhaps you are in an unhealthy relationship.  Perhaps your relationship is abusive and violent.  If so, you are not helpless! 

Contact Fresh Hope Counselling and one of our staff would be pleased to help you with your relationship issues. Book your relationship in for a tune-up! Why wait for counselling until you have huge struggles? A wise couple will be proactive and work to enrich and protect their relationship and invest in it now.

Workplace Wellness

Overall in society, the stigma of mental illness is lessening yet many employers and employees are still in the dark. In a recent article in the “Corporate Health, Wellness and Rejuvenation” section of Business in Edmonton, this alarming statistic leapt off the page
depressed-man“More than 4,000 Canadians commit suicide and more than 500,000 miss work because of a mental health challenge.” The cost of untreated mental illness is extremely high when we consider how it impacts the business sector, family life, relationships and quality of life. I heartily agree with Bruce Baker, founder and president of HR ALL-IN when he says, “companies must come to grips with the fact that mental illness is as real as any other debilitating disease, like diabetes or cancer, and deal with the situation appropriately so that productivity risk for the business and individual is minimized as much as possible.” He goes on to state the importance of companies letting their employees know their willingness to help support individuals  struggling with mental health issues.

David Grauwiler, executive director of the Canadian Mental Health Association, Alberta division, reinforces that “recovery is a better goal [than productivity]. The evidence suggests that the severity and persistence of mental illness can be significantly reduced by early and effective interventions including mental health support, counselling, medication and alternate therapies.”

Whether a person goes on short-term disability, long-term or just takes a leave of absence, think of ways to support them more effectively without judging them. circlecutoutsSupport systems are proven to decrease the length of most struggles related to mental illness. Think of ways to encourage and support a co-worker, just like you would someone who had surgery and was involved in a car accident. In those cases, we don’t hesitate to send flowers, drop off meals or offer to drive kids to events. Even if we don’t understand what the person is going through, there are ways to support.

Here are a few helpful ideas:

  1. Don’t give advice. Even if you’ve been through ‘the same thing’ you don’t know how they are actually feeling. It can feel invalidating to have someone say, “Oh I know how you feel, I’ve been depressed too” or “I was able to keep working when I lost my dad.”
  2. Validate the emotions. If someone shares that they are sad, don’t try to talk them out of it. Let them be sad. If they are angry, there is a reason. Nothing is more invalidating than having someone say, “but you have so much to be grateful for, how can you be struggling?” A good way to respond to the emotions is to say, “I can’t even imagine how you are feeling/what that is like for you.”
  3. Just listen. Try to listen to what the person is actually saying. Think about how you would paraphrase it and re-state what they have said. This is what we call ‘active listening’ and it is a way of helping people to know that we have truly heard what they are saying and we are listening. Another way to think of it is ‘drive-thru’ listening, re-state the ‘order’ to allow for clarification.
  4. Offer to help. They may not know how you can help and that is okay. If you are away of specifics, offer to do something that you know they specifically need help with or need done for them. People struggling with mental illness often feel bad and don’t want to ask for help. If you see a need, meet it, even if they don’t come right out and ask.
  5. Counter the shame by extending grace. There is so much shame surrounding mental illness, even though the stigma is lessening. Be gracious toward someone who is struggling — remember that “but for the grace of God, go I.” Mental illness can strike anyone at anytime, no matter how well equipped you think you are. It is not a sign of weakness.

Here are some less ‘known’ symptoms of depression:

  • having more physical pain
  • odd sleep patterns, either too little or too much
  • increase in weight
  • having a short fuse
  • you’re zoning out a lot through distractions like Facebook
  • you feel blah — flat-lined emotionally
  • you’ve stopped some daily hygiene practices like brushing your hair or teeth
  • you can’t focus and concentrate
  • you have trouble making decisions
  • you just don’t care; apathy
  • you have lost interest in things you typically enjoy

If you are struggling with two or more of these symptoms, you may be depressed.images Consider giving us a call to screen you for depression and start the road to recovery. There is hope. There is healing. There is help and support available. Contact us at Fresh Hope Counselling.

Are you Facing a Blue Christmas?

The sound of the jingling bells when you walk into the grocery store. The holiday music playing on the radio. There is certainly a lot of festive reminders that we are heading into the holiday season. Christmas. Boxing Day. New Years. They aren’t necessarily happy days for everyone. Holidays have a way of being poignant reminders because they serve as date reminders and potentially triggers for painful past events or grief waves. Even when we aren’t intentionally remembering something from the past, the dates associating with birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries, etc. can serve as spring boards into waves of grief or loss.

So how do you get through the holiday season in the most helpful and effective way? Let’s look four strategic points that might help to ‘put in the stops’ and help carry you through the season.

  1. Validate your loss. Talk about it. If it’s grief from death, talk about your loved one. Often people don’t bring up the one we are missing, somehow thinking we won’t think of them unless they mention it. Not true! Your loved one is always on your mind, especially during the first year of Christmases, birthdays and special dates. If it’s grief from divorce, it’s important to validate the losses as well and talk it through with someone. Journalling can also be helpful.
  2. Validate your emotions. Acknowledge the losses you are experiencing and express your emotions. If you try to deny or stuff your emotions, you will find that you are only numbing and you end up checking out. This often leads to self-destructive behaviours and detachment. Stuffing your feelings does not make them go away, it only makes them go side ways.

3. Be kind to yourself. Even if your heart is broken, you can find simple ways to enjoy life. Find one little thing each day that you can be grateful for.  Soak in the things that are still around you — celebrate the aspects of your health that are good. Don’t forget the loved ones around you who are still there. Let them come alongside you and tell them what you need. Sometimes we just need to be with someone — staying at a friend’s home or sitting and watching a show — saying nothing. Notice the sounds, smells, tastes and sights around you. These can trigger sadness and that’s okay. They can also bring comfort and enjoyment. It’s okay to remember! It’s okay for you to smile and have feelings of happiness and joy, even though there is grief and sadness.

4. Give yourself a break! Be gracious to yourself and try to allow space/margin in your life. Place realistic expectations on yourself. If you struggle with this, consider what you would expect of your best friend and apply it to yourself — no double-standards! This is a hard time. Thankfully the pain of grief doesn’t last forever. If you don’t want to go to an event or party, don’t go. Ask yourself, “what am I up to doing now” as opposed to what ‘should’ I do? Working through grief is tiresome and fatiguing. Give yourself permission to take it easy.

Let me end with this meaningful prayer by Ted Loder which appears in ‘Guerrillas of Grace’,

O God of all seasons and senses,
grant us the sense of your timing
to submit gracefully and rejoice quietly in the turn of the seasons.

In this season of short days and long nights,
of grey and white and cold,
teach us the lessons of endings;
children growing, friends leaving, loved ones dying,
grieving over,
grudges over,
blaming over,
excuses over.

O God, grant us a sense of your timing.
In this season of short days and long nights,
of grey and white and cold,
teach us the lessons of beginnings;
that such waitings and endings may be the starting place,
a planting of seeds which bring to birth what is ready to be born—
something right and just and different,
a new song, a deeper relationship, a fuller love—
in the fullness of your time.

O God, grant us the sense of your timing.

Some churches are starting to have “Blue Christmas” services — check online to see if you can find one in your local area.

Thank Goodness!

Thank Goodness indeed! That pretty much sums up the powerful effects of gratitude. Thankfulness brings goodness. It is a good time to think about gratitude as we head into Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend. imagesThe turkey, the stuffing and cranberries, the smell of pumpkin pie cooling on the counter, and the gathering together of family and friends. Why? Because we want to celebrate the practice of a key virtue — to remind ourselves of how grateful we are for all that we have. Thanksgiving celebrations in Canada have involved an acknowledge of our harvest bounty, especially in the farm and rural communities. The first frost. Indian Summer. An array of colourful leaves. The fattened up turkey who is waddling through the farm yard looking for escape from his own pilgrimage.

But what if you are alone? What if Thanksgiving is a hard time for you? What if it rips open the wounds and reminds you of loss, and grief, of lost dreams?images Not everybody has a family celebration to bound off to. Some wish they could find any legitimate reason not to go! Holidays are often fun and wonderful but they also point to a time of heightened grief and loneliness for some people.

If you are someone who is alone this Thanksgiving, I would encourage you to do a couple of things to change the trajectory of your weekend. It would be easy to isolate and pull away. Pity parties can pop up during holiday times. It’s okay to go to one but don’t sleepover! Here’s some ideas to ease the distress —

  • Don’t isolate. Withdrawal and isolation will only increase the detached feelings when one checks out. It may feel self-protective but is more often self-destructive. If you want some down time or alone time, work that into your weekend but don’t wall off and keep others from having the chance to be with you.
  • Reach out. Loneliness is the feeling that prompts us to reach out. We all need connection. reach-outPerhaps you know someone who is also alone for Thanksgiving — have them over for a visit or go out for dinner together. Get a group together and play board games. Reach out. Go serve meals at a homeless shelter, and remember that there are always people less fortunate.
  • Do something special for yourself that you wouldn’t normally do. Be kind to yourself. Pick up a special cut of meat to roast. Buy a nice dessert. Get a specialty coffee or confection. Take yourself out to a movie. Go to a bookstore and thumb through some books and magazines. Visit a museum. Treat yourself to lunch.
  • Choose to be grateful for one thing each day over the weekend. Gratitude is an extremely powerful force. It actually has the power to shift our brain chemistry! The neurotransmitters in our brain actually change when we practice a thankful attitude.
  • Get outdoors, even if it’s just to sit on the step or go for a short walk. Staying ‘holed up’ in the house and sleeping or hiding the weekend away has a negative impact on one’s mood, and it tends to trigger addictive behaviours. Find a comfy spot and just sit and be present — notice all that you see, smell and hear.
  • Repeat a breathe prayer/mantra. As you breathe in, simply say, ‘thank you’ or ‘grateful’ and repeat them as you breathe in and breathe out. With each breath, allow your mind to stop on the words, ‘thank you’ or ‘grateful.’

If you know someone in your life is struggling, do something kind for them. imgresThere are so many easy ways to bring a smile to someone’s face. Be grateful and act like you really are. You’ll be surprised at how good it actually feels.


What’s with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)? Why do it?

Cognitive behavioural therapy, CBT, is one of the most frequently recommended therapies in the counselling realm. CBT is often suggested imagesfor recovering from motor vehicle accidents, dealing with depression, managing chronic pain and many other mental health issues, including eating disorders.

Research shows that CBT is actually one of the most effective treatments for anxiety. It is also proven to help with anger issues, addiction recovery and low self-esteem. CBT is a short-term, goal-oriented psychotherapy treatment. It is very hands-on and practical, helping a person to develop skills they can use as they learn to problem solve more effectively.

The goal of CBT is to change a person’s way of thinking or behaving, that is enforcing and possibly causing one’s difficulties. By changing, and challenging, the way we think and behave, we also change the way we feel.

CBT does not involve years of therapy where you lie on a couch and tell a therapist about your mother!147583-150190

Once we help clients identify dysfunction in their thinking, we help them gain more effective and accurate perspectives. This includes learning how to examine the validity and usefulness of their thoughts so they can discern whether a thought pattern is rational and helpful. By delving into the messages we assign, the things we tell ourselves and the meanings we come to, we can breakdown the old messages that are continuing to sabotage and wreak havoc in our lives.

CBT helps a client learn effective ways to get better and stay better. It gives the client a new way of looking at and understanding his/her problem. It also provides you with the skills to deal with the issues that you are struggling with right now.

If you are struggling with any of these issues, please consider doing some CBT with one of our trained counsellors, Cathy Murray, Dr. Cath Thorlakson, or Beth Murray. All three are highly trained in CBT and would be pleased to walk you into health, hope and healing.