Living with chronic pain is a struggle every day; you have aches and pains but it seems like there’s no answers for you. While I can’t say that I’ve experienced chronic pain myself, my mother, Lisa, has been living with Crohn’s disease, Fibromyalgia, and chronic pain for most of her life.

This is what she had to say about living with chronic pain:

“Chronic pain affects every aspect of daily living. Most mornings I am so stiff it is hard to get out of bed; it takes over an hour to get moving normally. Everything you do is affected by the pain. I have frequent body aches and spasms – it’s exhausting to deal with. The fatigue takes over and most days I have to lay down and rest.”

Everyone’s experience with chronic pain is different, but in my experience the general idea is the same; dealing with constant pain and aches is exhausting and it truly does affect every single thing you do.

Chronic pain can be extremely debilitating, and even lead to symptoms of depression. Studies have found that those with multiple pain symptoms are three to five times more likely to experience depression than those without pain (Meshreki & Cosio, 2017).

While I can’t cure your chronic pain with extensive Psychotherapy or by having you read this blog, I hope that I can help provide you with some tips to be able to cope a little more easily with your pain.

Spend Time with Loved Ones

Jennifer and her mother, Lisa

This is important for everyone; not just those who suffer from chronic pain. Spending time with loved ones can be beneficial because we receive love, compassion, and care from that that we may not be getting from ourselves.

Being grateful for the wonderful people in our lives can help to lift our spirits and remind us of how lucky we are. We can also benefit from helping those around us; helping others reminds us that we have purpose and meaning in our own lives and the lives of others.

Ask for Help

This is a big one, and one that I know a lot of people struggle with (even those without chronic pain). Asking for help is tough. It can make us feel weak and lead to feelings of ‘less than’. The reality is, we all need help from time to time. Whether or not we ask for it, we inevitably get help from others, whether it’s emotional, physical, financial, or otherwise.

If you have a good circle of people around you, they won’t mind if you ask for help. And asking for help when you need it can alleviate some of the pressure that you put on yourself to do things on your own.

Often, when we begin to ask others for help, it opens up for them to ask as well. Once we know that we have an opportunity to help someone that we’ve asked for help, it can make us feel more at peace with the process, as we’ve developed a sense of reciprocity in the relationship.

Remember: you don’t have to do this alone.

Embrace Your Body

It’s understandable that when you’re experiencing chronic pain, you may not have a lot of appreciation for your body, what it can do, how it looks, or how it feels. We feel like we have no control over how our body feels, so we can sometimes take that as we have no control over our bodies at all.

Lisa recently lost over 30 pounds by making some changes to her diet, and has begun going to the gym. While she doesn’t indicate that going to the gym improves her symptoms, her weight loss has done wonders for her confidence and her mental health.

“I push myself to work out and to keep my muscles working, but it is definitely a struggle.”

Knowing that you have some control over your body and being able to see that it can improve and do wonderful things (like lift heavy weights or increase your time doing cardio) can be truly empowering.

Work on Your Mental Health

As I mentioned earlier, the rates of depression in individuals with chronic pain are higher than the general population. While this may not come as a surprise to many, what may surprise you is that your mental health can actually impact your physical health.

The Medical Journal of Australia reports that chronic pain patients who struggle with depression report decreased function and have poorer responses to treatment (Holmes, Christelis, & Arnold, 2013). Not only that, but the link between mental and physical health has been widely recognize for quite some time, yet it is often overlooked by physicians.

If you notice that your mental health is suffering, there are some things you can do to help. You can speak with your doctor, turn to self-help books or mental health blogs, or seek out Psychotherapy. It’s okay to ask for help!

Do Things that you Love

Lisa with some of her crafts

Lisa didn’t mention this when we spoke, but she loves to do crafts. She does woodworking, painting, and other home décor-type projects. But doing these things is difficult for her as she experiences tingling and numbness in her hands and fingers at times. So how does she deal?

She takes her time, listens to her body, and takes frequent breaks. She will often spend more frequent, shorter periods of time working on her crafts instead of a full day to ensure she doesn’t overdo it.

There may be things you used to love to do that you can’t do anymore. Sometimes we have to be creative and really dig deep down to find something we will enjoy.

For example, let’s say you love to play soccer, but as your symptoms increase, you find you can no longer play. So what now? Well, I would encourage you to ask yourself what it was about soccer that you enjoyed.

If it’s being competitive, that’s great! There are lots of less physical or non-physical things that are competitive, so perhaps looking into those options. If it’s the team aspect, then maybe you look into a lower-impact team sport. And if it’s the physical work that you enjoy, getting a gym membership and doing what you can on your own time and at your own pace may be a great way to push yourself physically without overdoing it.

It’s difficult to look at some of these things because we often associate our hobbies and interests with our identities. It’s a hard thing to redefine who you are, but having chronic pain doesn’t make you less of a person; it may just make your life look a little different.

Nothing

Sometimes we have to just ‘drop the rope’ and do nothing.

“The fatigue takes over and most days I am forced to lay down and rest. This helps relieve some of the exhaustion.”

Lisa Stere

It’s okay to rest. It’s okay to listen to your body and give it a break. Having some self-compassion and allowing yourself to take care of you and your body is important.

We may have internal judgement for resting, or even external judgement from others. But at the end of the day if resting is what is going to help you live your best life, so that you can wake up from your nap and conquer the rest of the day – then you do that!

“I would love to wake up and feel rested and pain free, just for a few days. The pain is real but I try not to let it take over my life.”

Lisa Stere

Chronic pain is real. It sucks and it is a struggle and it is hard. And you can get through it, because you’ve been getting through it. You can take back some control and keep moving forward the best that you can.

We can’t control everything, but when we focus on the things we can control, we become empowered, strong, and resilient, just like my mom, Lisa.

Thank you to Lisa Stere for speaking to me about her experiences. You’re truly an inspiration.

Jennifer Thomson, RP, MACP

Part 1: How to Stop Hating Your Body and Start Loving Yourself

I’m too fat. I’m too skinny. My butt is too big. I have no curves.

How often have you heard these things from your friends? What about from yourself?

I imagine your response to friends and family is reassurance that their body is beautiful and they have nothing to worry about. But I’m guessing your response to yourself isn’t the same. So why the double-standard?

Body image, self-esteem, and self-worth in general are all things that people struggle with from time to time (some of us more than others). Where does this come from? The answer is likely complicated, but I believe that the media, and in particular social media, has contributed significantly to the decline in self-esteem in women and men.

A study done at Simon Fraser University found that women who used the internet more often were more likely to be dissatisfied with their bodies (Ghoussoub, 2017). Furthermore, a study in Ontario concluded that 30% of females and 25% of males between 10 and 14 years old reported that they had dieted in order to lose weight in the past (National Initiative for Eating Disorders, 2017). These numbers suggest that our self-image begins to decline at a young age and can persist into adulthood, for both women and men.

Think about when you were between the ages of 10 and 14 years old. I know for me, I was never happy with my body at that age. And looking back on photos now, it’s difficult for me to understand why – my body seemed perfectly normal.

Having said all that… what do we do about it? It’s difficult to pinpoint the cause of negative body image, as we have so many factors influencing us: the media, friends and family, how we were raised, the food industry, etc. But regardless of where those negative thoughts come from, there are a few things we can do to help.

Stop Trying to Compare

Social media is filled with success stories of weight loss, athletes, and models showing off their products and bodies to the world. While these stories and images can be inspiring, they can also lead to a great deal of comparisons, which can then lead to negative self-esteem.

If you find yourself saying “I wish I was more like him/her”, or “I’m not as good as him/her” while cruising social media, it might be a good idea to shift gears a little bit. Maybe try filtering what you see so that you see posts of people who can lift you up rather than making you feel down about yourself. This may be more body-positive blogs, or just accounts that focus less on body image and more on other values or interests that you have. Taking a break from social media altogether might be something to think about as well, as for some of us, the pressure to be like others and compare ourselves can become too much.  

Remember, your journey is uniquely yours. No one else has been through what you’ve been through with the tools that you have, surrounded by the people you’re around. You have to decide what you want your journey to look like, and it doesn’t have to (and probably won’t) look like anyone else’s.

You are More than Just the Way You Look

Who are you? How would you describe yourself? You might include your age, your family, your occupation… do you include your weight? While we may not explicitly describe ourselves to others based on our weight, many people have their identity tied to their size.

Perhaps you’ve always seen yourself as the chubby one in your group, or you’ve always been known to be petite. We can get really fused to these ideas and it can be difficult to step away from that and envision ourselves as anything else.

Your identity is tied to a lot of different, least of which is likely your appearance. Whether you are tall, short, thin, or heavy-set, the important aspects of who you are are unlikely to change. So the next time you find yourself focusing on the negative aspects of your body, try refocusing to the positive aspects of your personality and who you are.

Having said that…

Appreciate Your Body

Our bodies are amazing things. From our digestive systems breaking down food and nutrients to fuel our bodies, to our musculoskeletal system that allows us to move around, we’re a lucky species!

We often neglect to focus on what our body can do for us, and instead focus on how our bodies look. Think about it, for most of us, our bodies allow us to: breathe automatically without thinking about it; digest a wide array of foods; fuel our bodies for intense exercise; support our bodies through walking, sitting, twisting, and other movements; grow a baby inside a woman’s body; and so much more!

These things are all amazing, and even if your body can’t do some of these, it can still do unbelievable things. Rather than focusing on how your body looks, remind yourself of what it can do for you, and what it’s capable of. Want to get stronger and be able to life your body weight? Great! Go for it. With some training, time, and effort, you can do that.

Instead of having goals that focus on how you look or the number on the scale, try for some goals related to your physical abilities, such as being able to walk or run a certain distance, lift a certain amount of weight, or be more flexible. For example, I’ve recently shifted my fitness goals from looking at the number on the scale, to working on my cardiovascular fitness, and I’m currently training to do a 10km run in August.

Reframe your Self-Talk

This is probably the hardest one. We are often so hard on ourselves, especially when it comes to our personal appearance, and we constantly put ourselves down. So how can you change that? Well, when we truly believe the negative things that we say about ourselves, it can be difficult.

The more that we put ourselves down, the less positive we feel, and the less likely we are to make changes to our routines in order to improve on our habits. Picture this: you’re on Instagram late at night, and see a model who you feel is more fit than you. You resolve to diet so you can be more like her. The next day someone brings donuts into the office, and you have one. You feel terrible after and criticize yourself for not being successful for even one day of the diet. You view the rest of the day as a write-off, because what’s the point anyways? Then that night you’re on Instagram again and the cycle continues. The worse we feel, the more we restrict, the more we restrict, the less realistic it is and the more likely we are to fail. The more that we fail, the more discouraged we get, etc. We have to be able to break this cycle, and it starts with our self-talk.

Think about how you talk to yourself when you look at your body. Would you talk to a friend in the same way? I’m guessing the answer to that is no. Why not? Is it because you don’t want to hurt their feelings? Because you think they’re wonderful regardless of how they look? Take some time to think about some of these things, and see if you can apply them to your own self talk.

Another tip that can be helpful is to repeat positive affirmations to yourself. Think about some of the things that you like about yourself; these can be general or specific. Repeat these things to yourself each day, and even more general things, such as “I am beautiful/handsome”.

Even if you don’t fully believe these things right away, they can be a powerful tool for giving yourself confidence.

Try out some of these tips to see if you can improve your relationship with your body, and if you can be kinder to yourself. It may take some time for these changes to take effect, but it may help to take some importance off of your appearance and instead put it on your abilities, values, and personality traits.

It’s great to be positive about your body. But what if you’re so positive about your body that you end up inadvertently reinforcing unhealthy habits? This can happen as well, and will be the topic of the next blog in this series. Stay tuned in April for its release!

References

Ghoussoub, M. (2017, February 20). Women with higher internet use report increased body dissatisfaction, study finds. Retrieved from CBC: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/women-with-higher-internet-use-report-increased-body-dissatisfaction-study-finds-1.3991513

National Initiative for Eating Disorders. (2017). Canadian Reearch on Eating Disorders. Toronto: NIED.

Jennifer Thomson

RP, MACP, CPT

Therapy dogs are becoming more commonplace in universities, hospitals, retirement homes, and more recently, airports. Personal therapy dogs have also widely been used with individuals who experience anxiety, depression, PTSD, and physical health concerns such as blindness, autism, and diabetes, to name a few.

According to Psychology Today, bonding with dogs is said to have benefits such as reducing stress levels, decreasing perceived loneliness, and increased overall life satisfaction.

Similarly, a study by McConnell et al. (2011) found that pet owners had improved self-esteem, were more physically fit, less lonely, more extraverted, and less fearful than people who did not have pets. It seems clear in the research that having a pet significantly improves overall wellbeing, including both physical and mental health. But what does this look like in real life?

 

When we adopted our dog Callie, the impact on my life was almost immediately noticeable. These are the major differences I noticed:

 

I’m more active.

We generally walk Callie twice a day, every day for 15-30 minutes each time. Prior to having a dog, I definitely did not walk regularly or spend as much time outdoors. This is especially true in the winter and when it’s raining – times when I never would have gone for a walk on my own before having a dog.IMG_0762.JPG

I’ve noticed now that if I don’t get our walks in, I feel it! I feel more fatigued overall, and sometimes I notice feeling more anxious. It’s funny to me how I wouldn’t think of missing Callie’s walks, but that before having her it didn’t cross my mind to make walking a regular part of my daily routine.

 

I’m more social with neighbours.

Prior to having a dog, it was pretty rare (if at all!) that we saw neighbours or stopped to talk to them on the street. After having the dog, we have definitely noticed increased social interaction with our neighbours. I now know the names of some neighbours (and their dogs!) whom I wouldn’t have known if we didn’t have a dog.

 

I live more in the moment.

Anyone who has a dog knows that dogs are exceptionally good at stopping to smell… well, just about anything. Having a dog has been an excellent reminder to stop and appreciate the little things. When I’m walking Callie, I like to leave my phone at home so I can be totally present with her, noticing all of the sights, smells, and sounds during that time.

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I’m happier overall.

When you come home from a long, difficult day and there’s someone running at the door to meet you, dancing around because they’re so excited you’re home – it’s pretty difficult not to be happy! Callie’s presence adds excitement and joy to our home, even on days that are more difficult.

 

Although there are many benefits to having a dog, having a dog isn’t for everyone and it’s not a decision that should be made lightly. It’s always a good idea to factor in time and money available for caring for a pet, and understanding that it is a big commitment.

If you do decide having a pet is right for you, I strongly recommend adopting over shopping! There are so many wonderful pets that are waiting at shelters or rescues for their forever homes.

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Below are some links to organizations local to Hamilton that may be worth looking into:

Hamilton/Burlington SPCA:          https://hbspca.com/

Brant County SPCA:                       https://www.brantcountyspca.com/

Ugly Mutts:                                       http://www.uglymuttsdogrescue.com/

Lady Bird Animal Sanctuary:         https://www.ladybirdanimalsanctuary.com/

 

By Kayleen Edwards, MA ,RP

 

Sources:

McConnell, A.R., Brown, C.M., Shoda, T.M., Stayton, L.E., & Martin, C.E. (2011). Friends With Benefits: On the Positive Consequences of Pet Ownership. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101(6).

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/toronto/article-torontos-pearson-airport-enlists-the-help-of-therapy-dogs-to-help/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/canine-corner/200906/health-and-psychological-benefits-bonding-pet-dog

Having a strong support network is crucial for our mental health.

As humans we are social creatures and it can be difficult, if not impossible, to get through life without some other humans by our side cheering us on. But what happens when the humans that are supposed be by our side aren’t?

We can sometimes feel like our friends aren’t being supportive, and if we’ve been friends with them for a long time, recognizing this can be even more difficult.

‘Toxic’ relationships are named as such because they are negative and can permeate every part of our lives. When we have someone who is constantly negative or putting us down, those negative feelings don’t stop once the person is no longer in our presence; we take those thoughts and feelings with us, and sometimes we start to feel like they’re true.

Don’t get me wrong; friends shouldn’t just constantly be praising you either (that would be sort of weird); we also need an element of honesty and, frankly, someone to call us out on our BS sometimes. These close friendships, which we will likely have only a few of, consist of a level of respect that allows you to have a conversation about something you’re doing wrong, while also lifting you up and supporting you.

So how can you make sure you have a great support network, and that you can be a great support for others? Here are some true signs of a great friendship:

1.You feel good about yourself when you’re around them

We often meet our first friends in school, and a lot of time spent with them is engaging in leisure activities, so it makes sense that you’d feel good when you’re with your friends. But even more than that, your friends should make you feel good about yourself as a person. If you have a friend who is constantly putting you down, pointing out your faults, or telling you that you’re not good enough, they may not be acting as supportive as they could be. No one is perfect, but if you have someone around you who constantly talks about your downfalls and never praises you or brings up how great you are, they may need to go. Another red flag here is when someone is constantly gossiping about others and seems to have nothing positive to say about anyone else.

2. They support you in your goals and aspirations

Picture this: you’ve never been athletic in your life, always been a book worm and don’t have a lot of experience with exercise. But you go to a soccer match one day and decide that you’d love to try it, so you excitedly message your best friend about how you’ve signed up for house league soccer. She replies with “LOL, good luck with that”, and says nothing more. How do you feel?

I’m guessing not great. You’ve decided to do something for yourself and get healthy and be active, and you’re excited about it, and you feel like your friend just deflated you like a balloon. You try to talk to them more about it and they just shrug it off, insisting you’ll never stick to it so why bother. You start to think about that, and wonder if it’s true. You’ve tried things in the past that have failed, so maybe she’s right.

This type of friend can quickly become a ‘toxic’ friend, because the act of them putting you down can easily permeate your own mind and lead to lowered self-esteem. Likely, the next time you see them, you’re not going to be excited to see them, and you may even believe that they think less of you, upsetting the balance in the friendship. A good friend should support you, even if it’s something difficult. A response such as “Wow that’s exciting! Good for you! If you need extra motivation, I’m here to help”, would have been much more supportive and uplifting.

3. You can be yourself around them

Personally, for me, this one is extremely important. If you feel like you have to put a mask on every time you’re with your friends, then you may have to ask yourself if they’re friends with you, or someone you’re pretending to be. This is especially true if, when you try to be yourself, your friends make fun of you, put you down, or seem uninterested. We want to have authentic and true friends that we can relax with and be ourselves around, not people that we have to hide from who make us feel ashamed of who we are.

4. They’re honest with you

No one is perfect, and relationships aren’t perfect. They take effort and compromise and sometimes we get hurt by the people we love and care about. We can’t know what everyone wants all the time, so it’s important in relationships that we express what it is that we need and want, and when we’re not getting it.

A good friend will let you know when you’re being a jerk to them – or someone else, and help you correct it without being rude or mean. Being able to call you out when you’re being unreasonable is an important trait to have, and it takes both sides to make this happen. We have to be approachable and open to criticism (not taking it personally), and our friends have to be willing and able to be in a bit of an uncomfortable situation. At the end of the day, it leaves everyone in a better spot if we can be honest about how we feel. Which brings me to my next point…

5. They argue with you – nicely

Similar to number four is arguing. If you think about your closest relationships and think to yourself “oh my friend and I never argue or disagree”, you may want to look a little deeper there. As I mentioned, relationships can be difficult and no two people are going to agree on everything – that’s okay! A true sign of friendship is being able to argue or disagree about something, and to work it out together without the friendship dissolving. So when you’ve accidentally hurt a friend’s feelings and they bring it up to you, you may not agree with what they have to say. The important thing is to be honest and talk it out, because it’s likely going to boil down to a misunderstanding.

If you’re reading these and thinking that maybe your friends really aren’t great friends after all, don’t worry. If someone doesn’t fit this list, it doesn’t mean the relationship is doomed.

Sometimes you just need to have a discussion about your expectations and theirs, and work to improve things over time. If not, it may be time to move on and look for new, more fulfilling relationships. It can seem scary but over time our needs can change and that’s okay. You deserve to have a good support network.

I would also encourage you to do some self-reflection when you read this list and see if you’re doing everything you can do to be a good friend. We can all benefit from making some changes and improving how we interact with people, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Having a great group of friends and surrounding yourself with support and positivity can make a world of difference in your life.

Jennifer Thomson

RP, MACP, CPT

P.S. Happy birthday to my best friend, Ali!

With Valentine’s Day approaching, there is a lot of buzz in the air about love. We buy gifts and make plans with our loved ones to show them how much we love them and that we care. But what about ourselves? How often do you do something for yourself to show that you care?

I’m not talking about the typical acts of self-care (we’ve already covered those, here and here). What I’m talking about is your internal dialogue; that little voice that either tells you that you’re awesome or tells you that you suck. Society is hard on us growing up, always expecting us to be the best; get the best grades, get a high-paying job, etc. As we grow older and begin to develop our own ideas about ourselves, we often begin to adopt these feelings.

It’s wonderful to have drive and to want to improveourselves, we need that in order to have purpose in life. But oftentimes itgoes too far and we have unrealistic expectations of ourselves, whichinevitably leads to failure. When we experience this failure, it can be sounbelievably detrimental to our emotional wellbeing that we lose all sense ofourselves, our self-worth, and our self-esteem. This can in turn lead to adownward spiral of feeling anxious and depressed.

So how do we stop this cycle? Well, it’s not easy. Most ofus have spent our whole lives believing that we need to be perfect and gaugingour self-worth on our accomplishments in life rather than our character orintegrity as people.

This is a complicated issue, but I’ve broken down some tipsthat you can use to help be your own Valentine this February and give yourselfsome love.

Give YourselfPermission to be Imperfect

Everyone knows that logically, none of us are perfect. Weall make mistakes. But social media and the expectations that others put on us(and we put on ourselves) can cause us to lose sight of that. We only see whatother people want us to see; typically, the positive things in their lives, andtheir successes but not their failures.

When we stop comparing ourselves to those around us, we giveourselves permission to be imperfect. It’s okay to make mistakes; in fact, somewould argue that it’s necessary in order to grow and improve in life! Youcannot improve or learn if you don’t fall down or fail sometimes. So the nexttime that you make a mistake or recognize that you should/could have donesomething better, give yourself permission to make that mistake, learn from it,and move on.

Which brings me to my next point:

Look at the BigPicture

We often get really upset with ourselves when we make mistakes.We can’t believe that we forgot to do this thing, or didn’t get a good enoughgrade, and we’re mad at ourselves for it. But what does that get us? If youfail an exam and get angry at yourself and beat yourself up, that’s probablynot going to give you the confidence to do well next time.

In addition from accepting our mistakes and learning fromthem, we also have to put things into perspective and really see the bigpicture. So you fail an exam, and your mind automatically goes into panic mode,thinking you’ll never amount to anything. But think about it: is one exam goingto make you flunk out of school? Probably not.

Even if it does, does that mean you can never get a job? No;perhaps not in your desired field, or you may have to return to school. Doesthat mean you’re going to be homeless? Again, doubtful. You can likely get ajob somewhere and support yourself, or get some help from friends and family.Mistakes feel like failure and they make us question our worth, but we are notdefined by any one, two, or even three events in our lives. We are defined byour character and our ability to grow, learn, and bounce back from adversity.

Have RealisticExpectations of Yourself

Having said that, we also have to have realisticexpectations of ourselves. Sure, on the surface it may seem like a given thatyou expect yourself to pass your exams. But what if you were battling somefamily, financial, or personal issues at the time? What if you had a millionthings on your plate and couldn’t concentrate to study?

We don’t want to make excuses for negative behavior, but wedo need to be realistic. We can’t take on the whole world and come outunscathed (not even the Avengers could do that; spoiler alert).

So the next time you’re beating yourself up because youdidn’t work out after coming home from a 12-hour shift, making and eatingdinner, helping your kids with their homework, and spending time with yourfamily – remind yourself that you can’t do it all. No one can, and THAT’S OKAY!You can work out tomorrow. The world will not end (and you won’t get fat)because you missed one workout.

Let Yourself FeelNegative and Positive Emotions

While it’s all fine and dandy for me to suggest that yougive yourself a break, inevitably those negative emotions are going to pop up.‘I’m not good enough’, ‘I’m a failure’, ‘I never do anything right’, ‘I’llnever amount to anything’ – sound familiar? If so, you’re certainly not alone.We all have these thoughts that pop up once in a while, and that will probablynever change. Without some of these thoughts, it may make it difficult for usto grow. But what we can do is decrease their impact on us by not allowing themto take control of us.

The next time you’re feeling down because you made amistake, let yourself feel that disappointment. It’s okay. It doesn’t mean thatyou ARE a disappointment, it just means that this event was disappointing toyou, and next time you want to do better. Rather than trying to get rid ofthese feelings, embrace them and learn from them.

Embrace Your Flawsand Your Strengths

Not only are we not all perfect, but we all possessdifferent skills and strengths. As they say, it takes all kinds to make theworld turn.

We often see certain thoughts, feelings and skills andnegative or positive. Happiness, excitement, empathy, and selflessness areoften seen as positive. Sadness, anxiety, grief, feeling down, and selfishnessare often seen as negative. But can you think of any instances in which theopposite is true?

What about someone who is so selfless that they don’t takecare of themselves? We likely wouldn’t see this as positive. What about someonewho is feeling down because they haven’t slept well and they’re tired andoverwhelmed? While this may not feel good, I doubt most of us would blame theother person for feeling down.

The point is, emotions, thoughts, feelings, and even skillsdo not have to be positive or negative, each one has their place in society andin life, and we need all of them to make the world turn. Even things like anxietyand worry can be extremely beneficial in some circumstances, like the worrierwho always checks traffic before they leave the house to ensure they don’t runinto a backed-up highway (and they never do).

What Would You Tell aFriend?

Sometimes when negative events come up, or we make a mistake, we get so caught up in all of our negative feelings that it can be difficult to put things in perspective in the moment. One of my favourite techniques to use in these instances is flipping the situation and imagining that a friend was in your shoes and telling you what you’re telling yourself.  What would you say or how would you respond to a friend in the same situation? Would you tell them the same things you tell yourself? I’m guessing not. We’re often extremely hard on ourselves and much more kind to others. It can be helpful to write some things down to give you better perspective, and Self-Compassion.org has some wonderful writing prompts to help you do so.

This Valentine’s Day, treat yourself to some internal love and self-compassion, and be your own Valentine for once!

Jennifer Thomson

Registered Psychotherapist

RP, MACP