Creating Healthy Boundaries
Creating Healthy Boundaries
July 8, 2022 – by Mona Ammad
Do you feel compelled into saying “yes” when others ask you favors, even though youdon’t really want to? Do you feel excessively guilty for not always being readilyavailable to others? Do you find yourself ruminating about what other people think orfeel about you? Do you worry you might jeopardize your relationship by saying “no”? Do you always feel pressed for time? Do you find yourself being excessively apologeticeven for things out of your control? Do you feel guilty for taking time for self-care?
If you said yes to some of the above, you may want to re-think your personal boundaries.
Personal boundaries are the limits and rules we set for ourselves within relationships. Aperson with healthy boundaries can say “no” to others when they want to and feelcomfortable opening themselves to intimacy and relationships. Boundaries can bephysical, intellectual, emotional, sexual, material or even those of time. Healthy boundaries can be flexible and adaptable; and help create safety for self and others.
Signs of Boundary Issues:
● Your mood being entirely dependent on someone else’s mood
● Being preoccupied with how others are feeling/thinking about you
● Lack of reciprocation in your relationship
● Depriving yourself of self-care or enjoyment to accommodate others
● Feeling excessively guilty for saying “no”
● Inability to share your honest feelings or be vulnerable with your personTips to Support You in Upholding Boundaries:
● It is okay to need to say “no” to others in order to say “yes” to yourself● Remember you are not responsible for the other person’sreaction/feelings/thoughts (assuming you are clear, respectful etc.)
● Remember, honesty creates intimacy and makes healthy relationships stronger
● Practice and rehearse what you want to say to increase the chance that what yousay has your desired impact/outcome
● Be curious about what core beliefs or cultural assumptions inform your fears● Remind yourself that self-care is NOT selfish
Try it out and start noticing a difference!!!
o Najavits, L. M. (2002). Seeking Safety: A Treatment Manual for PTSD and Substance Abuse. New York; London: The Guilford Press.
Simple Grounding Techniques
July 4, 2022 – by Kim Thompson
For many of us, Covid-19 does not have many silver linings, but what it has done is expedited and normalized the conversation regarding mental health. It has increased our awareness that we all struggle with mental health and that accessing support is a critical component to our health and well-being. What we have also learned is that we have some very powerful tools at our disposal to help us manage the many challenging and uncomfortable emotions we may experience on any given day. These tools are known as grounding techniques, and they only require our awareness and a willingness to try them.
Grounding techniques are effective tools and strategies that help us re-orient ourselves to the present and decrease the intensity of the anxiety, panic, and/or flashbacks that are impacting us. They help separate us from the distress of our emotions and can be anything that orient us back to the present. This is done by reducing the feelings of anxiety and panic we may be experiencing. When our brain is sensing there is a threat, whether it is real or perceived, our nervous system is activated and firing on all cylinders. Grounding techniques, allow our body calm down and recognize that the threat is not real and turning off the “fight, flight, or freeze” response. They allow us to think more clearly, be aware of our surroundings, and remind us we are in control.
Anyone can benefit from using grounding techniques. Grounding techniques can support us as we navigate distressing situations and emotions or even the many challenges we face daily. They allow us to slow down, become aware of our surroundings, and feel in greater control. They are powerful calming tools that we can use, anywhere, anytime – it just takes awareness, practice, and self-compassion to try.
Several examples of Grounding techniques include:
Name 4 things you can touch
Name 3 things you can hear
Name 2 things we can smell
Name 1 thing you can taste
Take a deep breath, notice how you feel and repeat if needed
When to practice grounding techniques?
Anytime you need it! We also know that practicing and using grounding techniques when we are not in the throws of anxiety or panic can help us better tap into them when we need them most. The more we tap into grounding exercises as effective tools to manage anxiety, panic, and everyday stressors, the more effective they become.
Try it, you may just be amazed at how you feel!
The Roller Coaster of Grief
June 28, 2022 – by Kim Thompson
Grief never ends. When someone you love dies, you grieve their loss. This grief goes on forever. This grief can change over time, the intensity to which you feel the many emotions can ebb and flow, intensify and soften. This grief can feel like the waves of the ocean, crashing in and rollingout at times and then, calm, still, and peaceful. It can sneak up on us and then disappear. It is what I call the roller coaster of grief and loss.
Often in society, there is a lack of recognition that grief lasts longer than a year or two and there can be a sense that we must be done grieving and hurting after the 1st year or, generously, after the 2nd year. The reality is, grief is with us forever, BUT, it does not have to define us, destroy usor control us. This part of grief and loss is not often talked about or shared. When we are experiencing the ups and downs, we can feel alone and wonder “what is wrong with me” or “when will this ever end”. Grief is part of our fabric, our make-up, our lives. With support, validation, and guidance, we can learn to live with grief and honour the memories and life of our loved ones we’ve lost. We can learn to laugh and cry and celebrate and live. We can do this. We can move forward. We can honour. We can celebrate. We can love. We can be. We can thrive.
Grief can feel like a circular story, we can find ourselves back in the moment, the beginning and then suddenly, we can be OK. This is not a sign of failure, that we haven’t accepted the loss or completed the journey, but rather a part of the journey. Feeling this way, experiencing these emotions and ups and downs is normal. You are not alone. It can feel hard as there can be a sense that we should just be able to “move on,” to “tuck the loss away,” if only we could just “work harder” to feel better and be back to “normal.” Grief is not about working harder or getting back to normal. Grief is a lived experience. Grief is an emotion. Grief can hurt. Grief can be hard. Grief can lighten. Grief is a journey. You are not alone.
Reaching out to your support system. Reaching out to speak to a therapist. Accessing support and guidance. Know that you are not alone. Counselling can make a difference and we are here to help.
Manifesting: What’s The Hype?
May 2, 2022 – by Irina Koturic
It seems that everywhere you look lately, people are talking about “manifesting” their dreams into reality. Social media would have you believe that creating the life of your dreams is as simple as announcing your desires to the universe and then watching it unfold in front of your eyes. But what is manifesting really about? And does it work?
Manifesting is actually nothing new – it’s similar to the visualization technique that many people, particularly professional athletes, have used for decades. Social media may have given it a new name but the point of visualizing what you want and really feeling it is something that athletes (and others) have always had in their toolkit to help them achieve their goals. This process of aligning your energy and what your brain “sees” as future reality helps your mind look for ways to create that reality for you. But you can’t just say you dreams out loud, make a vision board and sit back to wait. Manifesting takes inner work and daily focus:
The Science: Although you won’t hear scientists using the term manifesting, there is agreement that this process is rooted in neuroscience. Visualizing your dreams and goals vividly and in detail activates your prefrontal cortex. This is the region in your brain that is responsible for planning and executing what you want – it thinks through plans and consequences for you. When you “tell” your prefrontal cortex what you want (via visualizing your goals), it begins to scan the environment around you for opportunities to make this happen and how to change your behavior to match your ultimate goals. This is the process behind what social media has been calling “attracting what you want” or “creating the energy to match what you want”.
Growth Mindset: Manifesting is also related to developing a Growth Mindset – the belief that your abilities and talents are not set in stone and can be created and developed into what you need them to be. Another way we sometimes hear about this concept is by way of affirmations. Many of us have heard that repeating certain phrases to ourselves daily (“I will succeed at my goal”, “I am excellent at managing my finances” “I am fit and strong”) will help shift our thinking over time into believing these things to be true for us. The intention here is to purposefully guide your thoughts and beliefs into ones that support what you want from your life – rather than focusing on thoughts and beliefs of what you don’t want. In this way you can shift your brain into knowing that your abilities are not static – they can evolve and change into what you need them to be to achieve your goals and dreams.
Attracting What you Want: Notice the negative thoughts you have on repeat in your head and ask whether they are serving you. What purpose is there in thinking the same negative thoughts hundreds of times per day? Try to just notice the thought, acknowledge it as just a thought (rather than truth) and release it instead. Then choose a thought or belief that serves you better and moves you closer to your goals or who you want to be. It’s important that this new thought you choose is still something believable for you. For example, if you have no money but start saying “I’m a billionaire”, your brain is not going to believe that. But if you say “I believe that money can flow more easily to me” or “I welcome more money into my life” – that can feel like a more realistic and believable starting point.
Vision Boards: Vision boards can be a fun activity in general and an effective part of your manifesting plan. But the idea is not just to create the vision board and tuck it away. Its meant to be a constant visual cue to remind you to shift your thoughts and behaviours to pursuing what you want – to literally visualize your goals and dreams via the pictures you have chosen for your vision board. It really just makes the visualization process easier for your brain because you are providing the pictures for it instead of only using your imagination. But it has to be in a spot where you cannot help but notice it and reflect on it frequently (above the desk in your office? You phone lock screen?) The point is for it to serve as a constant visualization for your brain on what it’s scanning the environment for and what it’s aligning your energy and behavior with. Having the board tucked away in your closet won’t do that.
So there you have it – the science and process behind manifesting. Most importantly, remember that manifestation (or visualization) is about creating the life that you want, not what you, society or others in your life think it should be. Focus on the goals and dreams that feel true to who you are or who you want to create in yourself. Avoid comparing your dream and goals to others and look for what bring a sense of meaning and joy for you.
Creating Great Habits
April 7, 2022 – by Irina Koturic
Motivation and willpower get all the glory in our world but what really makes you reach your goals is creating great habits in your life – and sticking to them. We often like to wait for motivation to strike us so we can feel like doing something important to us (going to the gym, tackling a new project at home or at work) but that leaves us no control or autonomy over our goals and our days. Why wait around waiting for a feeling to chase your dreams? Instead of waiting for motivation (for “feeling like it”) to achieve what you want, start with creating habits that help you work towards your goals. Creating habits over time will eliminate your reliance on a passing feeling, such as motivation, and cement the habits into your days. Before you know it, you will be checking off your goals!
- Start small and specific – one habit at a time – how often do our thoughts go like this: “Well, I’d like to start exercising regularly, and eating healthy, and meditating, eating more kale and having a smoothie for breakfast…” We end up with a huge list of what we want to achieve and change all at once. Often, that’s a recipe for overwhelm. Instead, try starting with one small and very specific habit. For example, if your overall goal is to be more present and mindful in your life, the small and specific habit may be “I will meditate for 5 minutes every night at bedtime”. Making it very specific (How often with you meditate? For how long? Where exactly in your home?) takes out the guess work or decision-making when the time comes.
- Know your why – clearly identify to yourself why this habit, and therefore, this overall goal is important to you. It should be a why that resonates with YOU, rather than society or other people in your life. Why is it important to you to be more present and mindful in your days? For example, “I want to be more present and mindful so I create a calm and loving energy in my home for my kids”
- Make an association – making a pleasant association with your habit is a great way to make it feel good to you so you are more excited to stick with it. If its exercising – save your most favorite songs to listen to only during exercise. If its meditating, put lovely-smelling lotion on your hands before you begin or diffuse some essential oils and put on soft PJs. Find a way to make the habit feel good to you!
- Create a reward – give yourself small rewards along the way that encourage you to keep going. Your overall goal may take weeks or months but there is no reason to not have small wins along the way. If you’ve stuck with meditating for 1 week, reward yourself with a relaxing bubble bath on night 7. Stuck to your exercise plan for 4 weeks? How about a dinner out with a friend or a new pair of running shoes?
- Don’t just remove; replace – When your new habit involves removing something, be sure to replace it with something, too! When you remove something, you will not only miss whatever you removed, you will also feel at a loss of what else to do with that time or energy. For example, if you’ve decided to cut back your time on social media identify what you will do instead of scrolling. Have a ready replacement with you and ready to go – maybe its reading a book, calling a friend to check in or stretching for a few minutes.
- Be Imperfect and create your bounce-back plan – Nobody is perfect. Even world-class athletes have days when they disregard their habits! Know that it’s completely OK to miss a day or two. In fact, you should expect it and create a plan to bounce back. What will you do to re-start your habit ASAP when life gets in the way? If your habit is meditating at bedtime, and you’ve missed a few days, maybe you will choose to meditate for 1 minute the moment you think of it and have a chance. Maybe you will squeeze it in at any point of the day instead of waiting for bedtime. Figure out a way that gets you back on track simply and easily. No heroic efforts required!
The longer you stick with your habit, the more it will become automatic to you. This time frame is really different for everyone and depends on you, your chosen habit and how much life gets in the way while you try to establish it. But once you do – you will no longer have to think about it and require discipline or self-control to do it. It just becomes a thing that you do in your life and the kind of person that you are. That’s when you are ready to add on another habit!
Anxiety: Challenging Your Thoughts
April 2, 2022 – by Mona Ammad
Anxiety is one of the most common of all mental health problems. Any one of us may feel anxious at certain times; workplace stress, an upcoming exam, planning an event, all can cause anxiety. While some anxiety is normal, it becomes an issue when it starts interfering with day-to-day life, making it impossible to carry on with daily routines. The good part is that there are many ways to reduce it so that one may enjoy life to its fullest.
If you find yourself worrying excessively, you might find it beneficial to try a simple, yet powerful Cognitive Behaviour Therapy technique called Thought Challenging. It helps you look at multiple angles, using actual evidence from your life, instead of simply assuming the worst.
The ABCDE Technique:
Attention – When you feel distressed, stop doing what you are doing and pay attention to your inner dialogue. What is your mind telling you?
Believe – Do not automatically believe your thoughts. Just because you are thinking about something, does NOT mean it’s true!
Challenge – Challenge your thought; is the thought a fact or an opinion? Would you think the same if you were feeling calmer?
Discount – Acknowledge that anxiety and let the unhelpful thoughts go.
Explore options – What would be helpful to focus on right now? What options do I have available?
(Adapted from Carol Vivyan 2016)
Try it out yourself and start noticing a difference!!
When the Caregiver Needs to be Cared For
February 14, 2022 – by Sarah Gabriel
Between running around after the kids, keeping up with work, trying to maintain a social life and looking after others, caring for yourself is nonexistent. Who has time to look after themselves when your “to do” list is never ending?
Before you know it, the hours within the day are gone and you’re heading to bed. Sometimes I’m sure you even wonder where the days go, where the weeks go, where the months go.
But we can’t pour from any empty cup. You cannot continue to put yourself on the back burner because before you know it, you’ll be drained and maybe even dreading the next day. I’ll be the first to admit that I have felt what its like to be emotionally exhausted, mentally drained, and completely burnt out. There is nothing wrong with caring for others deeply. It’s a gift to be the one people can count on and the one people seek when times are tough. But its an expensive gift that can cost us our mental and emotional health if we don’t look after ourselves.
So where do you start?
You start with reflecting on you. What brings you genuine joy? What have you not done in a long time that’s just for you? What do you miss doing? It could be catching up on a good book or show. It could be going for coffee with a friend. It could even be going for a drive and blasting your favourite playlist. It doesn’t have to be complicated or fancy. Figure out what it is that you’re missing and fit it into your schedule.
Then create boundaries. Its not just about doing something for yourself once in a while. Its about making time for yourself everyday. Its about handing off some tasks to others without feeling guilty. it’s about saying, “I’m sorry, I can’t do that”, “I’m not available right now” or “I need some time for myself”. Building boundaries helps to protect your needs and prevents you from overcommitting to people and tasks.
Now remember, this is just a start. Its not going to solve all of humanity, but it will bring back some joy and sanity into your life.
“Its not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself and to make your happiness a priority. Its necessary.” – Mandy Hale
From your fellow caregiver,
7 Tips For Fighting COVID Fatigue
February 7, 2022
Remember the days when we could have a conversation about anything—anything!–and no one mentioned COVID? There was no pandemic, no masks, no debate–we could sit down, have a conversation with someone, and (cue romantic music) it didn’t end in an argument? Wasn’t that amazing? #goodolddays
No matter which side of the debate you fall on, there’s one thing we can all agree on–we. are. done. The struggle has always been real, but now the fatigue is settling in. As healthcare professionals, we see firsthand the effects that quarantine, school shutdowns, and isolation have on people. So we got together to compile a few quick-and-easy tips on how to manage COVID fatigue:
We know everyone says this, but it bears repeating! Reasonable exercise, good sleep, and a balanced diet are necessary elements of maintaining our mental and emotional equilibrium in a rapidly-changing society. Take time out to make space for yourself to process everything you’re going through–even a 15-minute walk around the block can help get fresh air and a fresh perspective into your body and mind. It doesn’t have to be every day; it just has to be a regular habit. Start small, and move up as you’re able. It’s worth every effort you have to make.
Courteous conversation and constructive debate are a wonderful part of a free democracy, but we can all agree that there are appropriate and inappropriate ways to engage with our friends. Vaccines and shutdowns are a prominent part of our lives right now, and it’s helpful if we can discuss them in the right way, at the right time. However, Facebook commenting and Twitter wars are generally not good mediums for this–it’s hard to condense into 250 or 600 characters what takes epidemiologists and scientists entire books to explain and defend. If your conscience or peace of mind requires it, invite your friend out for coffee for a respectful conversation, and listen at least as much as you talk. Likewise, if your sanity and well-being require it, politely decline that invitation. There’s no point in discussing what’s necessary for human flourishing if you’re breaking yourself down by talking about it.
Limit News Exposure
We’re firm believers in being aware of what’s happening in our community and our country, but we believe in mindful awareness. The news cycle does report useful information, but it also reports information in a way that is designed to generate ad revenue and elicit polemical engagement through clicks and comments. Be thoughtful about your sources and tailor your consumption to reporting, not editorials. To stay up-to-date (and not upset!) concentrate your time on getting information, not opinions.
Get Out Into Nature
See point one about those 15-minute walks. 😀 We know, it’s cold and gray outside–but getting the blood moving in the great outdoors on a quiet path in a local park is a great, cost-effective, and safe way to re-centre your mind and soothe a ruffled soul.
The pandemic has affected all of us in some way or another. Some people have lost loved ones, jobs, or educational opportunities, and the loneliness and despair that settles in from prolonged isolation takes a severe toll on adults and children alike. Making a meal for a family, putting together some craft kits for mothers with young children at home, or just popping by for a quick check-in on a neighbour are all great ways to encourage your friends and give yourself a quick boost. It takes so little to make someone feel loved and valued–even a short text or five-minute FaceTime goes a long way. Make a short list of people you’d like to reach out to, follow up, and see if you don’t feel a lot better at the end of the week.
If you’re like us, you have friends and family who fall on both sides of the COVID discussion. It can be tricky navigating those relationships, especially when everyone seems to feel strongly about their position. This is why it’s important to stay connected with our friends and family members–schedule a socially-distanced visit or a ten-minute FaceTime or Zoom call with everyone (if possible–see point 2!) to check in and share how you’re doing. If necessary, make it clear that COVID regulations are off the table–talk about what you’re making for dinner, what shows you’re watching, how work is going, what books you’re reading; anything that will help you remember that this is a person you love, and that they’re more than just their position.
Schedule A Counseling Session
You knew we were going to say it. 🙂 These things are hard to balance in the best of times, and two years of working-from-home, school closures, and lockdowns only make it harder. That’s why we’re here–to help you identify your feelings and process what they mean in a way that’s healthy and constructive. We’re a safe space where you can step away from all the hats you wear–parent, spouse, employee, child, sibling, friend–and process what this time has meant to you personally, and how you want to move forward.