We have all heard that before, but what does that mean? Why
are they so hard? Should they be? Must
they be? You know the old saying “the
best things in life are free”, but ‘free’ doesn’t always mean easy! Some of the
hardest things in life take the most care and effort, and consequently, bear
the sweetest fruit.
So, the story goes: once upon at time, we grew up, built relationships,
fell in and out of love, made mistakes, made them again (and sometimes again),
picked ourselves up, and kept going. That is a far cry from fairy tales we grew
up with about some enchanted forest, magic spells, and white horses that bring
us to our ‘happily ever after’. The truth is, real relationships don’t work
like that, and we tend to learn that the hard way because nobody writes stories
about never-ending compromise, flexibility, and more patience and understanding
than sometimes feels humanly possible. Doesn’t exactly make for a great bedtime
story, right?! But the reality of love is that those are often the very
qualities it takes to make things work – not glass slippers and fairy
godmothers! The fact is, there are many great and wonderful things about love
and relationships, and there also challenging and difficult aspects too. Commitment,
trust, understanding, partnership, communication, sacrifice, and intimacy come
with both concerted effort and great rewards.
As we build a relationship with another person, we
contribute to the dynamic with parts of ourselves. In the beginning of a new
relationship, we tend to choose the best parts to put forth. Perhaps as we
become more comfortable with another person and build trust and security, we
begin to share the less desirable parts and dissonance can arise within the
relationship. We may ask ourselves, “Who is this person?”, “Why didn’t I see this
before?”, “What happened to us?”, or “How did we get here?”.
It is important to remember that each person in a
relationship is a WHOLE person, not their partner’s ‘other half’, and that we
contribute what we have to offer (or not) to the relationship between us.
So many times, we make the cardinal mistake of believing we
can change another person. The truth is, we can’t force a person to change, and
ultimately, we have no right! We are only in control of ourselves, and the
contribution we make to our relationship with that other person – not the other
person themselves! Perhaps better questions to be asking if we can to make
changes are: “What am I bringing to this dynamic?”, “How have I changed over
time?”, or “What could I do to make things better?”. It is a basic human need to be heard and
understood. There are many therapeutic approaches to couple and family
counselling that aim to deal with the hurt, anger, resentment, defensiveness,
and boundary and communication issues, that come along with managing
relationships. The Gottman Method and Emotion-focused therapy are two of the
most well-known and aim to get to the core of the emotions involved in loving
relationships. Many of the issues that lay deep in the heart of problem
relationships are hidden and masked by symptoms like arguments, nagging, lies,
betrayal, blame, manipulation, lack of intimacy, hurtful words, and
Healing the relationship between couples and families in
therapy takes effort and commitment from all parties, and starts with getting
to know each person, both as an individual and as a member of a partnership.
Therapy offers no magic spells or potions, but tools for understanding and helping
a person putting forth the best they can to make things work. The journey
through therapy isn’t always easy but, like relationships, it takes hard work and
has the potential for great rewards. It all starts with aiming for everyone to simply
be heard and, more importantly, understood.
If you feel your relationship may benefit from counselling, you can contact me here.
On May 11th last year, we officially launched Roots in Wellness! We are so thrilled to be celebrating this special milestone.
At the time we started Roots in Wellness, Jennifer and I were both working at other jobs and uncertainty was front and centre. Our dream was to create a practice where we could integrate services for both mental and physical health, using Jennifer and I’s unique sets of skills and education. In reality, we had no idea how launching a business would go, how long it would take to build a caseload, or where this little business would end up in a year!
One year later, we reflect on what it has looked like so far.
Getting to Know the Community
When we first started, we prioritized building our caseloads and becoming acquainted with the community around us. Although I was born and raised in Hamilton, my entire therapy career up until that point was centered in Burlington and the GTA. This meant starting from the ground-up to build a professional network and gain a better understanding of the resources around us so that we could better help our own clients.
We visited doctors’ offices, local businesses, and met with other local practitioners. Through these conversations, we’ve increased awareness for mental health, discovered further resources in our community to help foster wellbeing, and met some new friends in the process!
Taking the Leap
On July 27th, 2018 I left my full-time job to pursue working at Roots in Wellness full time. I strongly believe that leaving one’s salaried, full-time employment for entrepreneurship is one of the scariest, challenging, and EXCITING leaps that one can take. My hat goes off to anyone who has experienced it before!
It was strange at first having whole days to focus on the business, as I was so used to multi-tasking day and night when I was at my previous job. I found it to be freeing but also sort of intimidating that I had all of this time to work with and delegate when I would do what. I slowly figured out what worked best for me, scheduling working hours for seeing clients, doing administrative work, professional development, and networking time.
Finding a Balance
One of the things I found most important for me early on (and to this day!) was to separate home time and work time. I have a separate cell phone for work, and since I started the business I’ve been in the habit of turning off my work phone at the end of the day and keeping it off on evenings and weekends. Spending quality time with family, friends, and myself has always been something I’ve valued, and I feel that having this separation is essential to making sure I am the best person I can be both in my personal life and as a therapist.
What I’ve Learned
If I could go back and give myself advice in those first six months of private practice, I would tell myself to try and become comfortable with being more uncomfortable! Soooo many aspects of private practice were uncomfortable, from the up’s and down’s of busier versus quieter weeks, writing blogs, not knowing what type of content to post on social media, and being “on my own” in terms of all clinical decision-making and administration. I think there was a part of me that expected I “should” have just had a full-caseload private practice at the end of the second month, and be confident in everything I was doing – while that couldn’t have been further from the truth!
I believe that accepting your own vulnerability is an essential part of chasing any dream. We have no way of knowing with complete certainty whether it will all work out, and this fear can feel immobilizing. Part of what has helped keep me moving forward has been to accept that I don’t have all the answers, and I can’t predict the future. I do my best to take things one day at a time, and focus on doing what I can to further my dream while also knowing that part of it isn’t up to me. You can put a pile of work into your dream, but it still takes time, patience, and maybe a little bit of fate to make it happen!
You all may have noticed that I am not as active on social media or with Roots in Wellness in general. What many of you may not know is that I actually have a full-time job in the business field that keeps me busy much of the time. But, I couldn’t bear to not have therapy as a part of my life, and Kayleen and I make a great team.
Kayleen has said it well – creating a business is hard but it will make you strong and it’s something you can feel amazing about. I am so unbelievably proud of where Roots in Wellness is, and how Kayleen has managed to grow her caseload so quickly.
I am not from Hamilton, but the opportunity to serve this wonderful city, in particular the LGBT+ community, has been an honour, and I wouldn’t want to practice anywhere else. I am so excited for what the future holds for Kayleen and I, Roots in Wellness, and our community. I am lucky to have a business partner who understands me (good or bad!) and works with me to get things done and help this business grow. I look forward to showing all of you what the two of us can do, and continue to offer community resources for those in need. Thank you!
I have felt so lucky to have the support of family, friends, and my “biz bestie” – Jennifer, the other half of Roots in Wellness – throughout this process. Having the support and encouragement of others who care is so essential to keeping your spirits up, doubts in check, and momentum moving forward. I am so grateful for all the phone calls, messages, and lunches shared with my biz bestie. Her never-ending love and patience with all of my questions and fears will never cease to amaze me, and I feel so lucky to have shared this experience with her.
I don’t think it’s always easy to get into business with a close friend, but if anything the past year has only made our friendship stronger. I truly believe that people enter our lives for a reason, and I am so glad that she is a part of mine.
We are proud of what we’ve accomplished in the first year of Roots in Wellness, and are so excited for all of the things that are to come! In the coming year, we will be expanding our services to include Walk and Talk Therapy, more Yoga Therapy group programs and workshops, and Nutritional and Fitness consulting thanks to Jennifer’s new Nutrition and Personal Training Certifications!
We feel so privileged to do the work that we do, and to have met all of the wonderful people we have in the process. From other therapists, healthcare professionals, and all of our amazing clients – we are grateful for each and every one of you and the new things you teach us each daily.
We hope this post has been helpful in learning a little bit more about us and our story. If you take away anything from our story, let it be this: following your dreams is one of the most scary and also one of the most incredible things you will ever experience.
There is no guidebook, no set path – just limitless potential to do what feels meaningful to you. If you are waiting on a sign to act on your dreams, this is it! You have the power to make your dreams happen, and there are so many amazing people in our community to help you along the way. Please do not hesitate to reach out if there are things we can do to help you along your path.
Being body-positive is so important to ensure that we are
caring for ourselves, but what happens when it goes too far?
If someone is severely underweight or severely overweight,
but happy with their bodies, is that okay? What if they have underlying health
problems as a result of their weight?
This problem often arises because we don’t always have a
good picture of what it means to be a healthy weight, and the idea of what our
bodies are supposed to look like can be extremely distorted. While measures
such as BMI can be helpful in determining a healthy weight range for someone of
a given age and height, the reality is that everyone’s body is different, and
certain weights may not be realistic for some people compared to others.
So what does all of this mean? The crux of it is that while
we want to be body positive and love ourselves regardless of what’s on the
outside, we also have to be realistic, and we want to strive for healthy
That leads to the next question… what does it truly mean to be “healthy”? While this
may seem like a complicated question, it’s actually quite simple.
In order to be healthy, it is recommended that you eat a
variety of different foods (balancing macro and micronutrient intake), and
exercise regularly. There is a lot of misinformation about health and nutrition
out there, so I want to take some time to dispel some of these myths.
Myth: I have to eat a low carbohydrate diet in order to
reach or maintain a normal weight
This is a very common myth that many people believe. With
diets like Atkins and the Keto diet, there has been a lot of talk about low
carbohydrate diets being the only way (or best way) to lose weight and be
While this is certainly an option for many people and many
are successful using this method, it’s not recommended by most professionals.
There are a few reasons for this, especially that it’s likely not a sustainable
diet. As time passes, people are more likely to gain the weight back later on
once they stop eating low-carb, as is the case for many diets that include dietary
or food restrictions (Insel, Ross, McMahon, & Bernstein, 2013).
diets may be ineffective because of how our bodies work. Carbohydrates are
actually quite useful! Our bodies use carbohydrates for fuel and many internal
processes, including digestion and absorption of important vitamins and
Not only do most health professionals not recommend a low-carbohydrate diet, but the golden standard
ratio of macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat), suggest that the
majority of your calories should come from carbohydrates (Insel, Ross, McMahon, & Bernstein, 2013).
If you want to lose weight, or maintain a healthy weight, the best way to do so is to eat a mix of carbohydrates, protein, and fats from a variety of different sources. If you want to lose weight, decreasing your overall intake of food is the best way to lose weight and stay healthy. MyPlate is a great resource to help you pick meals and foods that balance essential nutrients for our bodies. Stay tuned for part 3 of this blog series for more tips on how to lose or gain weight, depending on your goals.
Myth: I have to take up running or other high-intensity
exercise to be healthy
General recommendations for adults and exercise is 30
minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per day. This doesn’t mean you have to
go out and get a gym membership – there are many different things that you can
do to stay active! Some of these include:
Walking at a moderate to brisk pace
Working a job that requires physical labour,
such as housekeeper, mechanic, or factory worker
Cutting the grass, and many other household
Getting enough exercise is important to ensure that our
bodies are strong. Moderate exercise helps us maintain bone, joint, and muscle
strength, flexibility, cardiovascular health, and increases endorphins that
make us feel good!
Not only that, but studies have shown that getting 30 minutes
of exercise per day can help reduce your risk of health problems, including
stroke, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, depression,
anxiety, and even many types of cancer (Mayo Clinic, 2018).
Myth: I have to be within a certain weight range to be
It’s true that BMI (body mass index) is a common method of
determining whether or not someone is in a healthy weight category based on
their height an age. While many healthcare professionals use this as a baseline
to determine if someone is over or underweight, it is important to note that it
is not a tried and true method to determine someone’s overall health.
In reality, there are many factors that contribute to
someone’s weight, including genetics, body-fat percentage, and bone structure.
Consider this: Tom Brady, the quarterback for the New England Patriots, is 6’4”
tall and weights approximately 225lbs. Based on BMI, he is overweight. However,
Tom Brady is an elite athlete who has 6 Superbowl rings; we would be
hard-pressed to suggest that he is unhealthy. The former running back for the Los
Angeles Rams, CJ Anderson, is considered obese by BMI standards, and he played
against Tom Brady in the Super Bowl last year!
Of course, most of us are not Tom Brady or CJ Anderson, and
are not elite athletes. However, what this illustrates is that BMI is not always
the best way to determine whether or not someone is healthy.
Instead of using BMI, try setting some goals for yourself
based on the performance of your body, what you’d like your body to be able to
do, or goals you have for your future.
Myth: I can’t have treats or eat the food I like if I want
to be healthy
I think this myth scares a lot of people because honestly,
food is SO GOOD and the thought of having to restrict or cut out certain types
of foods can be upsetting. But I have good news! You don’t have to cut anything
completely out of your diet in order to be healthy!
As I mentioned before, being healthy is all about getting a
variety of nutrients from a range of different foods. Health is all about balance.
Do you have to cut out McDonald’s from your life and give up those sweet, sweet
chicken nuggets? No! Should you eat chicken nuggets every day? Also no.
Have a sweet tooth? Eat some chocolate. Just don’t each
excessive amounts of chocolate every day. If you’re trying to lose weight, a
big part of the difficulty can be training your body to eat smaller portions. In
addition to portion control, it can be beneficial to get a better balance of different
types of food in your diets, such as fruit, vegetables, protein found in meats
or meat alternatives, and whole grains.
Myth: I have to be skinny and look like models and actors
in order to be considered healthy
The media fills us with images of thin women and muscular
men, suggesting that that’s how ‘normal’ or healthy people look. But this isn’t
always the case, and the goals and ideals for one person may vary drastically
from another person’s.
Consider the body image differences between an NFL linebacker
and an acrobat. Both are arguably fit and healthy, but the physique goals for
the NFL linebacker are likely going to be very different from that of the
acrobat. The linebacker may be focused more on size and strength, whereas the
acrobat might be focused on strength and flexibility, and not gaining size.
Again, health is about what you do, not necessarily about how you look. Think about what you want from your body, and what you want it to do. Is that in line with how you envision yourself looking? As always, you should consult with your doctor before making any food or exercise changes.
In our next edition of this blog series, we will explore how you can work to focus more on health and your personal goals, and less on how you look in the mirror.
Insel, P., Ross, D., McMahon, K., & Bernstein, M.
(2013). Nutrition (5th ed.). Jones & Bartlett Learning, LLC.
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.
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. I’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-office 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.
To sum it up, Walk and Talk Therapy is a great way to address your overall wellness both mentally and physically.
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
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
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
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 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.
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.”
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.”
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.