As the weather gets warmer and the days get longer and brighter, my excitement to extend our therapy services to the great outdoors continues to grow. In May 2019, I am proud to announce our Walk and Talk therapy sessions will begin!

When we created Roots in Wellness, our vision was to have a therapy practice where we would promote not only mental health, but physical and spiritual health as well. It is so important to us to look at this holistic picture of health. As such, we want to ensure that we are doing our best to encourage clients to view their own wellbeing holistically, and for us to have programs that facilitate this. This vision led to us developing and facilitating more holistic services such as our Mindful Yoga Therapy Group and Walk and Talk Therapy.

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So Why Walk and Talk?

I have always loved spending time outdoors on the trails, and have noticed for myself the incredible healing powers of nature. For me, walking the Main Loop of the Bruce Trail here in Hamilton is a meditative experience. Main LoopI’ve walked the trail more times than I can count and the trail is so familiar, but the sight of its streams, mossy rocks, and the Hermitage never get old. Given the healing benefits walking these trails has had for me, it seems natural for me to want to share this experience with my clients.

Walk and Talk therapy provides a unique opportunity to combine the healing forces of nature, physical activity, and psychotherapy all into one. From CNN, to Glamour, and the American Psychological Association, Walk and Talk therapy is becoming more widespread and its benefits for both physical and mental health are becoming more well-known.

Besides its physical benefits, Walk and Talk Therapy can also enhance the therapeutic process by allowing for a less-intimidating side-by-side interaction versus the normal face-to-face interaction that takes place in the therapy office. Walking in this position can sometimes help clients feel more comfortable, allowing for deeper sharing and an increased sense of connection with their therapist.

Walk and Talk Therapy also provides a fantastic setting to practice mindfulness and gratitude, given the beautiful and serene natural landscapes around us.Nature can be a great catalyst for creativity, allowing clients to view things from a different perspective and helping to facilitate inner growth.  

 

What About Confidentiality?

It is understandable that confidentiality is a concern for us and the clients we serve.

In Walk and Talk therapy, it is true that others may overhear the conversation as they walk by or we may see someone either of us knows on the trail.

Prior to beginning Walk and Talk Therapy, we will take time in-offIMG_1119.jpgice to review a consent form specially tailored to these confidentiality issues and discuss your comfort level with various options. We may agree to limit our conversation when in earshot of another person, and we will make an agreement as to how we will handle the potential situation of running into someone you may know. We may also discuss whether there are certain issues you prefer not to discuss at Walk and Talk therapy, instead opting to discuss those during in-office sessions. My goal is to make you feel comfortable so that you may get the most out of your therapy session, whether in-office or in the forest!

Who is Walk and Talk Therapy For?

Walk and Talk Therapy is for anyone who loves being outside and enjoys being physically active. It is for those who love to try new things, and who feel comforted in the presence of nature.

Walk and Talk Therapy is especially helpful for those who may feel restless during therapy sessions, or who do their best thinking when they’re on the move!

There is no one issue that necessitates or prevents you from participating in Walk and Talk Therapy – it is up to you which therapy method you feel most comfortable with! The beautiful thing is, Walk and Talk Therapy can start or stop at any time – it’s up to you to decide when and how many sessions you’d like to have versus in-office.

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To sum it up, Walk and Talk Therapy is a great way to address your overall wellness both mentally and physically.

To find out more information, check out our Walk and Talk Therapy page on our website at: https://rootsinwellness.ca/services/therapy/walk-and-talk-therapy/ 

I look forward to meeting you on the trails!

Kayleen Edwards, MA, RP

 

Sources:

https://www.apa.org/monitor/2013/09/natural-fit

https://www.cnn.com/2017/04/05/health/sw-walk-and-talk-therapy/index.html

https://www.glamour.com/story/why-walk-and-talk-therapy-works

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



In these first few weeks of adjusting to the new daylight savings time, we may notice our sleep schedules are affected. Having one less hour can definitely throw off our bedtime routines, leaving us feeling tired and foggy throughout the day.

To help get you back on track, I’ve compiled some of my favourite strategies for ensuring that your nighttime routine leaves you feeling rested and refreshed the next day!

 

Go to bed at the same time each day, and wake up at the same time every day.

Constantly-changing bedtimes and wake up times can cause us to experience jet-lag type symptoms, leaving us feeling groggy and tired during the day. As hard as it may be, try to set an alarm at the same time every day, even if you don’t have to get up that early.

 

Avoid your phone and bright lights from electronics while you’re in bed.

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There has been substantial research which suggests that blue light exposure emitted from electronics such as phones or computers negatively impacts the quality of our sleep at night and how alert we feel the following morning (Chang et al., 2015).To limit blue light exposure, try and make an “electronics-free” bedroom rule, leaving your devices elsewhere during the night. If you use your device for an alarm, consider placing it out of arm’s reach or purchasing an old-fashioned alarm clock instead.

 

Avoid all caffeine for 3-6 hours before bedtime.

aromatic-close-cup-1417945 (1).jpgIt’s no secret that caffeine is a stimulant, and having caffeine too close to bed can keep you up at night. Caffeine takes approximately 6 hours to be fully processed through your body, so it is ideal to try and avoid caffeine a few hours before bed.

This includes tea, coffee, pop, and chocolate! Instead, opt for non-caffeinated, herbal teas such as camomile.

 

Make sure your room is dark and quiet.

Melatonin, a sleep hormone that also serves as an immunity booster, is produced when we are in darkness. To encourage the production of melatonin, try and eliminate all light from your room by using blackout curtains, closing the door if there is a light in the hallway, or removing/placing masking tape over any small power lights from electronics (e.g. on a TV). It may also be helpful to try wearing a sleep mask, which has the dual purpose of blocking light and inducing feelings of relaxation by adding gentle pressure to your face.

 

Hide the clock display.

I found this one to be the biggest game-changer for my sleep! Staring at the clock during the night counting down all of the minutes we aren’t sleeping adds to our overall anxiety and in turn, makes us significantly less likely to fall asleep. alarm-alarm-clock-analogue-280257Not only that, but studies have shown that how much or how little we sleep doesn’t matter so much as how much we think we slept. Draganich and Erdal (2014) found that how much participants thought they slept either hindered or improved their performance on cognitive tasks. In other words – what we don’t know about our sleep may not hurt us!

 

Exercise regularly, but not too close to bedtime.

Research has pointed at the connection between physical activity during the day and improved quality of sleep. A study by Sherrill et al. (1998) demonstrated the strong connection between physical activity and improved quality of sleep in participants who experienced sleep disorders. city-exercise-fashion-373984 (1)Physical activity is good for us in so many ways, and sleep is just yet another reason of why we need to incorporate physical activity into our routine! Try to aim for 20-30 minutes of physical activity per day for optimal benefit. However, try and make sure that this exercise occurs at least three hours before bed time, as exercise can be stimulating and make it difficult to sleep!

 

If needed, write down to-do’s before bedtime in a room that’s not your bedroom.

If you find that you’re a list person who tends to think of things they need to do, or buy, or say, in bed – chances are it’s going to make things quite difficult to sleep! Instead, write down lists of these things before bed, or write your thoughts in a journal. It’s important to do this in a place outside of your bedroom, so that your bedroom doesn’t become associated with all of these to-do’s and potentially difficult thoughts or feelings. After writing your lists or thoughts, leave the list in a room that is not your bedroom and return to your bedroom to sleep.

 

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We hope these tips will be helpful for you in encouraging a good night’s sleep! Like any new habit, making changes takes time so it is always best to try and implement one or two of these changes at a time instead of trying to change them all at once. Attacking these habits slowly but surely ensures that they will become a long-lasting and natural part of your routine. Be patient with yourself, and give yourself credit for implementing these healthy habits.

By Kayleen Edwards, RP, MA

 

References

Chang, A., Aeschbach, D., Duffy, J., & Czeisler, C. (2015). Evening use of light-emitting eReaders negatively affects sleep, circadian timing, and next-morning alertness. PNAS, 112(4): 1232-1237.

 

Draganich, C., & Erdal, K. (2014). Placebo sleep affects cognitive functioning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition. 40(3), 857-864.
Sherrill, D., Kotchou, K., & Quan, S. (1998). Association of physical activity and sleep disorders. Arch Intern Med. 158(17): 1894-1898

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