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

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!

Another week, another snow and ice storm. Cue the frustrated and tired sighs!

Although it’s an expectation that our Canadian winters are a little up and down (to say the least), the weather can still have a major impact on how we’re feeling.

Being cooped up inside all day means that we are generally less active and have less exposure to sunlight, fresh air, and other people. This can leave us feeling tired, lonely, and having an overall sense of sadness. You may notice that it’s difficult to get out of bed in the mornings, or to gather motivation for activities that you normally do. Sometimes everything can feel like a chore, from getting out of bed in the morning, making meals, or attending social obligations.

It’s safe to say that many of us don’t feel like we’re at the top of our game during the winter months.

pexels-photo-713070Although there’s not a whole lot we can do to influence the weather, we can definitely influence how it affects us.

The following are some tips I’ve gathered that I’ve found helpful to keep my mood and energy levels in check over the winter months.

 

Exercise regularly.

In the summer, many of us are naturally more active with walking, running, swimming, outdoors sports, and outdoor household chores such as gardening or mowing the lawn. In the winter months, we tend to do fewer activities and spend more time indoors. This may mean that we are lacking endorphins that our bodies create when we exercise, leaving us feeling less-than-stellar.

Find an exercise routine that works for you and your schedule. You can check out our blog post about Staying Active in the Winter for more tips and ideas on how to stay active in the winter months.pexels-photo-373984

 

Use a therapy lamp.

We experience a LOT less sunlight in winter months as compared to summer months. This can leave us lacking in vitamins such as Vitamin D, which may be contributors to low mood.

Therapy lamps mimic the same type of light that the sun emits in the morning, helping us to feel re-energized and happier overall. It’s recommended to sit in front of a blue light for approximately 20-30 minutes per day for optimal benefit.

CR-Health-Inlinehero-Bright-Light-12-15These lamps can be purchased at many retailers including Costco or Amazon, such as this one: https://www.amazon.ca/Verilux-VT10WW1-HappyLight-Liberty-Compact/dp/B00K08ZDBI

 

Try supplements.

Similar to blue light lamps, supplements can be another great way to substitute important vitamins we may be missing during the winter months. Vitamin D drops are a common supplement to take during the winter months. However, it is always best to speak to your doctor about which supplements are best for you and your individual needs.

 

Make time for friends and social activities.

When the weather is at its worst, many of us opt to stay indoors in “hibernation mode” to avoid the cold and snow. Sometimes it feels good to hibernate, but if we isolate ourselves for too long it can lead to feelings of loneliness, sadness, and decreased motivation.

Instead, plan activities with friends such as coffee dates, fitness classes, or a paint night. If you’re looking for more inspiration, Groupon or Meetups can be helpful for finding fun and local activities in Hamilton.

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Get a check up.

At times we may be feeling down as a result of vitamin or hormone levels being out of whack. It’s never a bad idea to arrange a check up with your family doctor and to have blood work done in order to see if anything is off.

 

Hopefully you find these ideas helpful in coping with the winter blues.

We know how difficult this time can be, and you’re not alone in how you feel. If you feel you could benefit from talking to a therapist, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

On the bright side – Spring is only 27 days away!

By Kayleen Edwards, MA, RP

Have you ever felt like you’re a fraud – at work, parenting, or in life in general – and that it’s just a matter of time before it’s discovered that you’re incompetent?

Me too. There’s a name for this not-so-pleasant feeling: imposter syndrome.

I remember hearing about the term imposter syndrome for the first time in an undergraduate psychology class. In that lecture, we were taught that imposter syndrome is when an individual doubts their accomplishments, feeling thpexels-photo-1464531.jpegat they’re a fraud and that it’s only a matter of time before they’re discovered. At the time, I remember thinking how I could relate, but how it made sense because I was still only in undergrad with many things still to learn. Although we were told this feeling could persist throughout one’s life, I figured I would reach a point where I had it “figured out” and would no longer experience this.

Fast forward to around nine years later, sitting in my office of a business I built with my business partner from the bottom-up, in a career I love, and wondering – did I fool everyone to get to this point? Is it just a matter of time before I’m discovered, and everyone realizes I’m not good enough?

Although the feeling ebbs and flows, imposter syndrome is a reality that almost all of us will experience at times throughout our lives. Does it mean we’re incompetent and should give up our career paths, our dreams, and goals?

NO!

Imposter syndrome is not a pathological medical or psychological condition, despite what the “syndrome” in the name may suggest. Imposter syndrome is so much more common than one may think!

The prevalence of imposter syndrome is downplayed because we don’t tend to talk to others about feeling this way. It can feel embarrassing or uncomfortable to talk about it, as many of us feel like we’re the only ones who experience it. This can be further compounded by fear that others will judge us if they know how we really feel.

Social media can make matters even worse, when we scroll through our feed and see how the people we’re following “have it together” while we don’t. pexels-photo-533446.jpegThe truth is, most people only post the positive parts of their lives on social media, meaning that we end up comparing our inner negative feelings to how others present on the outside, without really knowing how that other person is feeling on the inside.

This sets us up for always feeling inadequate, since we can never truly know what’s going on in the inner world of the person behind the “perfect” social media posts.

So what can we do about it?

The number one thing we can do to combat imposter syndrome is to talk about it. The more we talk about it, the more we realize that we aren’t alone and that many others share the same fears, doubts, and self-judgments that we have. Talking about it also gives us the opportunity to get feedback from others about ourselves. If you’re feeling like a fraud and talk to a friend who reminds you of your accomplishments and all it took to get to where you are, you are more likely to re-think the fraud story you’ve been telling yourself. This ends up taking power away from the fraud story, and empowering you to know that you are competent.

Another strategy for coping with imposter syndrome can be to monitor your thoughts and do a self-validation activity with them.

For example, if you’re having the thought that you aren’t qualified to be doing your job, write down the thought exactly how it plays out in your head. It might look like “I’m fooling everyone to think I’m qualified for this. Someone is going to find out and I’m going to be fired and I don’t know what I’ll do then”. After writing this thought, think about and write down only the facts from this situation.

For example, you may write facts such as:

-I have the required education and experience for this job

-The interviewers chose me out of other candidates for this role

-I received a positive review at my last performance evaluation

-My boss emailed me a compliment last week about my performance

Next, it may be helpful to try and write the thought from the perspective of a close friend or loved one. For example, “It’s okay to feel like you aren’t good enough sometimes, but it doesn’t mean that the thoughts are true”, or “I know you’re a great employee – you work so hard”. In these statements we are validating the thought while also reminding ourselves that we don’t have to buy into it.

If you feel that you don’t have anyone to talk to about it, or that you’ve tried these strategies and you still feel the same way, it may be helpful to talk to a therapist about it. A qualified therapist can help you navigate thoughts of self-doubt and empower you to feel like you are in control, versus feeling like the thoughts control you.

Underneath imposter syndrome is a values system, meaning that there is something truly important to us about the areas we fear failure in.

They say, “We hurt where we care”, and this rings so true in the case of imposter syndrome.

We’re afraid of not being good enough because we truly value and care about being a good employee, parent, friend, or just person in general. What a wonderful thing it is to be so passionate about something, that we care this much about succeeding.

By Kayleen Edwards, MA, RP