Growing up in a fast-paced society, we tend to forget how to slow down sometimes. When we are always on the go, we barely take time to stop and question our self- how am I feeling today? 

There may be times when we cater to our families, children, friends, employers and relatives to the point where we disconnect from ourselves while in the process of trying to connect with everyone else. When the world tends to stress us out to the point where we get the feeling of being lost even when in a room filled with people, that truly becomes the breaking point. Why are we feeling so alone even when we are surrounded by people we love and care for? 

This is the time when your body, mind and spirit is longing for you to take care of yourself. 

The concept of emotional self- regulation is highly important as it can enhance long term mental and physical well-being. According to American Psychological Association emotional regulation is the ability of an individual to modulate an emotion or set of emotions. Emotional regulation allows us to guide our responses to powerful feelings such as anger and anxiety.

There are many ways to maintaining your mental and physical well-being daily. As a single mother, I know how busy my day can get managing a two-years-old, while trying to finish my daily house chores, my work, volunteering, and working on various projects. I can sometimes overlook my own health by just focusing on my daughter and getting the daily tasks done. However, over time I realized that neglecting my own personal mental and physical well-being was taking a toll on my daughter as well. If I am always worked up and anxious about getting work done, I am not giving the full undivided attention that she needs or I need for myself. Therefore, by working on some of the emotional self-regulation techniques, I was able to get out of this feeling of haste and actually take a breather for myself. This helped me to realize the importance of enjoying even few minutes or an hour of quality time that I could spare just for me and my daughter. 

I know I’m not alone in this experience, so I’ve created a list of some things I do in between my busy day to check in with my inner-self and help to make my mind, body and spirit peaceful.

I am a firm believer of mindfulness meditation. I am not talking about becoming a full yogi or doing some difficult yoga poses to fill in the role. Sometimes, I just on my prayer mat and I breathe slowly, inhale and exhale. I use a humidifier with a scent of my liking that calms my emotions and eases stress.

In the morning, I take my time and enjoy making a cup of coffee. I think about all the blessing I do have in my life. I feel blissful for having a flavorful coffee in my favorite cups which I have collected when I was traveling abroad. Even Just thinking about the beautiful places I have visited; gives me a feeling of calm and relaxation, helping me get into a positive mood and mindset. 

I use a humidifier with a scent of my liking that calms my emotions and stress before going to sleep. Sometimes, I take the humidifier into my work space when I feel restless. Certain smells can help calm our anxious behavior. Lavender calms the mind and balances the body with its sweet floral aroma. Peppermint is stimulating and uplifting. Tea tree is fresh, clean and soothes cough symptoms. Grapefruit is zesty, fresh and boost mood. Rose Geranium promotes emotional well-being with a floral touch.

As with many parents, there are times I feel guilty about not spending enough quality time with my daughter. Therefore, I decided to split the hour into 30 minute sessions with her. I take her for a regular walk where I explore the outdoors with her. This gives me the fresh air that I need and lets her explore into the adventurous world. She becomes my little Curious George. The other half hour I play with her inside our home and let her pick any activity that she wants to do. This could be simply playing hide and seek, or pretend playing with kitchen play set.  My happiest time that truly makes me feel grounded is before going to bed I spend few minutes just giggling away and acting silly with her. Just watching her laugh and smile truly makes me forget about the difficult challenges we face throughout the day. It makes me feel that life should not be as fast pace and busy where we make it to be. 

Therefore, just doing simple things can change your mind and behavior pattern which leads you to focus on your inner self because if you chose to ignore your own self, how can you assure to provide peace and happiness upon others around you.

Always, check in with yourself, and ask- How am I feeling today? I hope this question is helpful for encouraging you to follow through with some things that will lead you to have a blissful mind, body and spirit. 

By Aisha Malik, BA, MACP (Candidate)

Hello readers! 

I can hardly believe I’m sitting down to write this blog post.  While writing a blog isn’t new to me, I’m thrilled to be contributing to Roots in Wellness – as a blogger and a student!  I’m the latest Masters in Counselling Psychology student to join the incredible Roots in Wellness team and I couldn’t be happier to be on board and ready to begin connecting with clients. 

Everyone has a story.  And if you’re reading this, chances are you might want to share yours.  To be seen and heard, to be found and healed.  I want to empower clients with their unique strength and courage to live an authentic life where they aren’t surviving – they’re thriving.  And while the vision of a fulfilled life is different for everyone, my goal is to guide and support you to explore your life and awaken you to grow through what you’ve gone through. 

Especially recently, I’ve heard from more and more people about how they are experiencing increased anxiety.  The current state of the world gives reason enough to bring a flood of intense feelings.  I want to help people who are experiencing anxiety, stress, trauma and depression.  If you’ve been feeling angry, sad, anxious, lost, stressed, reactive, unmotivated or don’t find joy in the things you once loved, know that you aren’t alone.  In a fast-paced world that has created a burnout culture, the question likely isn’t “are you feeling stressed or anxious?”  Rather, “how stressed and anxious are you feeling?”  I’m here if the time is right to put yourself first, stop living on autopilot, examine what will bring about meaningful change and take the steps you need to live a fulfilling life. 

I encourage others to give a voice to their stories because I believe every story should be heard – and because I’ve experienced the healing power of expressing my own story.  Although I have enjoyed a decade-long career in corporate communications, it was a life-changing event in 2013 that gave me the courage to pursue a profession in the mental health field – a dream that had long been on my mind.  My health history provides me with a unique, intimate perspective into the trauma associated with a cancer diagnosis.  I was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer in my late twenties and it’s that experience that called me to follow my heart and my passion for connecting with women affected by cancer.  Whether it be the pain of surgeries, fear of cancer treatments, the effects of a diagnosis in every facet of your life, or dating post-cancer, my hope is that you, too, can embrace life after cancer. 

I’m a guest blogger for the incredible non-profit organization, Rethink Breast Cancer.  To read a bit about my story, read my latest blog – An Unexpected Love Story – at this link: https://rethinkbreastcancer.com/an-unexpected-love-story/

Using a customized approach, I provide clients with a safe space and guide them through reaching their goals.  I believe that the therapeutic relationship should be rooted in trust, compassion and empathy.  My main therapeutic approaches are customized for each client and include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), mindfulness techniques and narrative therapy.  I offer online therapy from Hamilton, Ontario through an online video counselling platform. I am under the supervision of Kayleen Edwards, Registered Psychotherapist at Roots in Wellness.  

Healing is possible.  I would be honoured to take that journey with you and work together to explore your life, establish goals and bring about change that matters to you.  Using the premise of accepting instead avoiding, and being mindful of your thoughts and feelings, you will experience the joy of living as your most authentic self.  From unlearning unhelpful patterns to embracing self-compassion, I’ll support you in finding out who you truly are and the courage to embrace it.

Contact:

cassandra@rootsinwellness.ca

For many, going back to college or university every September can be a scary process. We worry about getting good enough grades, fitting in, making friends, balancing work and school, and so much more! Life for students is a stressful one, and we are hoping we can give you some tips before the school year starts to help you cope this semester.

When I was in school, I always found it difficult to balance school and work. No one is on the same schedule, and you’re supposed to be having the time of your life, while somehow also getting good grades and building your future. This can seem like an impossibility.

The social aspect of going to school can be difficult enough on its own, but for those individuals who are members of the LGBTQ+ community, this can be extra scary. Worrying about prejudice, coming out, being outed by others, and not fitting in are real concerns that can often weigh us down.

So, how can you make sure you stay sane, functional, and happy this semester? The answer isn’t a simple one, but these tips might help!

Emphasize balance

This sounds like a no-brainer, but it easily slips away when we’re overwhelmed. Whether you’re in school or in the working world, we tend to live for the weekend, our vacations, reading week, or the summer. While it’s great to have things to look forward to, this can often lead to a cycle of overdoing it, relaxing, then getting right back to negative or destructive habits.

Think about it: when you’re in school, you have classes, school work, friends, and work. In the summer, likely your schedule is a little more consistent and there’s less pressure to perform without school work looming over you. It’s easier during the summer to work in self-care activities and time with friends. During school, it might be easier to just cram in all work and no play (and we all know how that turns out!)

While we may not be able to do anything about the timelines of our lives, what we can do is try to sneak in some regularity and balance. Even if your schedule is all over the place, try to keep some things consistent, such as the time you wake up in the morning, or having a routine every day (even if it’s done at different times during the day). Something like getting in a 20-minute workout or talking to your BFF on the phone every day.

While this can seem like even more work in the beginning, it will pay off in the end. Later on, we will give you some tips on how you can balance out your days and weeks in a way that will work for you.

Surround yourself with positive people

This is so so so important for every stage of your life – not just as a student. We don’t have control over everyone we interact with, and sometimes we have to deal with family members and peers that don’t make us feel so great. This makes it so important to ensure you have a good group that you can go to when you need to.

Make a point to schedule time with family or friends that lift you up. Those people who you feel you can be your authentic self with, without judgement. People you have fun with, who love you and care about your well-being.

If you’re not sure you have many of these people in your life, I know it can be daunting to put yourself out there to find them. Being a student comes with anxiety over fitting in, but there’s also a huge opportunity to make new friends. Most schools have clubs for different interests and even identities, including gay-straight alliances, dungeons and dragons clubs, and clubs specific to your major.

While it can provoke some of your anxiety to put yourself out there and meet new people, it’s impossible to make strong connections if we don’t. Remember that your anxiety is temporary and that you can get through it!

Find safe places

This relates to my last point – clubs and groups within your school can provide great safe places for you to be yourself and express who you are or what your interests might be. Aside from these places, however, it’s important to have other places we can go to feel safe and secure.

These types of places can be as simple as your dorm room, or your room at home if you’re living at home while going to school. Maybe you find a park, library, or café near campus that you can go to sit and think or work on school work.

Take some time to explore your environment and see what speaks to you. You may be surprised at what you find! When I was in school, I found a café that was a little bit further from other spots and was often less busy, and it became my go-to. I’d go and have some tea and a bite to eat, put my headphones in, and get some work done.

Take care of yourself

Another no-brainer, I know! But again, something we often lose sight of. How do you take care of yourself when you’re so busy with assignments and trying to make money that you feel like you can’t even breathe?? It’s in the little things. Those things that we normally just do without thinking, that we completely neglect when we’re stressed.

Did you eat today? When was the last time you drank water? When did you last take deep, purposeful breaths? Have you been outside recently?

Sometimes these small things make the biggest difference. Take an extra 10 minutes in the morning to make a lunch with some healthy snacks to make sure you eat throughout the day. Carry a water bottle around with you to stay hydrated. Go for a 5-minute walk between classes. Check in with friends and family, and check in with yourself to see what you need.

Mindfulness can be a really helpful tool for when we don’t have time for bubble baths and manicures!

Plan, plan, plan

I’m sure that planning something else, or having to do more thinking, is the last thing that you want to do right now. However, scheduling your activities – even your leisure activities- can be extremely helpful. We’re much more likely to engage in an activity if we actually commit to it and write it down. So we can often accomplish each of the items above by implementing some planning.

Balance can be achieved by writing out your schedule (or looking at it on a computer) and planning leisure, exercise, and social activities in a way that makes sense. For example, if you want to work out 4 times per week, and Tuesdays you have school and work for almost 13 hours of the day – that’s probably not a day you want to schedule your workout for. Instead, maybe you commit to ensuring that you eat properly and spend some time alone on Tuesdays so you can rest and recuperate.

Writing things out might help you decide which commitments you want to take on as well. If you have a few clubs in mind that you want to join, maybe you balance it out by only joining the ones that aren’t going to be at times that will extend your day by an unreasonable amount. Similarly, you may choose to skip out on a social engagement if it means too much running around. It’s okay to say no! To others, and to yourself at times.

We know how tough it is to be a student – we were there at one time and had our struggles as well. We know that you can get through it, as we did! You’ve got this! Keep your head up, be confident in yourself, and keep moving forward.

Jennifer Thomson

RP, MACP, CPT, FNS

The summertime is when many of us take vacations from work – whether it’s a staycation, camping, or somewhere exotic. Sometimes, it is the case that even after a vacation, you still feel stressed, fatigued, down, or unmotivated. You may begin to ask yourself – am I burnt out? Is burnout even possible following a vacation?

YES!

Burnout is characterized by symptoms such as low motivation, stress, feelings of anxiety or depression, fatigue, and an overall loss of interest in work or other activities. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently categorized burnout as an “occupational phenomenon”, further recognizing how widespread this problem has become.

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So how did I become burnt out?

Burnout occurs when an individual experiences chronic stress, usually from the workplace, that has not been well managed.

Someone who experiences burnout is usually someone who works long hours, does not take many breaks, eats lunch at their desk while still working, and has troubles disconnecting from work even after getting home. This may look like checking work email or voicemails during personal time, or finding yourself thinking about work while a loved one is talking to you. Does any of this sound familiar?

The good news is, burnout is reversible and you do not have to live this way! The first step in working to heal burnout is recognizing that it’s present – so you’re already one step closer to doing something different!

If you’ve identified burnout as a problem for you, it may be helpful to try out a few of these tips to help get your burnout back in check.

  1. Take your breaks.

Believe it or not, we get breaks at work for a reason! Even short breaks at work can be extremely effective in giving your brain some downtime and feeling refreshed.

Make optimal use of your breaks by taking them at a place that isn’t your desk or your workstation. Go to the break room, take a walk outside around the building, or visit a surrounding park or café to get a change in scenery.

While on your break, do something that is truly pleasurable to you such as walking, reading a book, meditating, or a hobby. Make sure that you also give yourself time for the necessities, such as eating lunch or a snack and staying hydrated.

2. Turn off the phone.

It can be so tempting to check your phone during a break or even after work for work emails, text messages, or voicemails. adult-annoyed-bar-105472Unfortunately, when we are constantly checking our phone, we aren’t allowing our brains time to just rest and relax which can increase our chances of feeling burnt out even more. If you have a work phone, turn it off during your breaks and when you get home from work. This allows you time to truly unwind, and be more present with your personal life.

3. Separate work time and personal time.

As I mentioned in my last point, turning off your work phone while at home can be a great way to separate work time and personal time.

Other ways to separate work time and personal time may include adding a transition ritual to your routine between the time you leave work and arrive home. child-couple-cyclist-1128318A transition ritual may look like changing out of work clothes and into more comfortable leisure clothes, completing a mindfulness practice, or stopping for a workout at the gym between work and home. These types of rituals can be a great signal to yourself that the workday is over and that the time ahead is for your own personal enjoyment.

 

4. Reconnect with what’s important.

There are many reasons why we work so hard at our place of employment. Some of the obvious ones may be that we want to please our employer, that we want to earn a promotion, or be somebody that others at work can count on.

However, work isn’t the only thing we have going on in our lives! Many of us have friends, families, hobbies, communities, sports, and spirituality that is important to us as well. If you are feeling burnt out, it can be invaluable to reconnect with these other values, recognizing that although work is an important thing in many of our lives- it is not the only thing.

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In sum, if you are feeling burnt out you are not alone. Almost all of us experience points in our lives where we feel overwhelmed and stressed about work. I hope that these tips are helpful in finding ways to help cope with burnout, so that you can get back to living the life that’s important to you!

If you feel you are still struggling, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me to find out how individual counselling may be helpful for you. I can be reached by email at Kayleen@rootsinwellness.ca or by phone at 289-689-7194.

Kayleen Edwards, MA, RP

Sources:

World Health Organization (WHO): https://www.who.int/mental_health/evidence/burn-out/en/

 

How to Focus More on Health, Wellness & Happiness, and Less on How you Look in the Mirror

Well, here we are – the final installment of Overcoming Negative Body Image. So far, we’ve discussed:

  • Negative body image
  • How to stop being so hard on yourself
  • Appreciating your body
  • Re-framing self-talk
  • Myths and facts about healthy eating

Now that we’ve talked about some of the psychological aspects of body image, I want to talk about what we can do from a physical standpoint in order to move towards being healthy. Of course, working on how you view your body is important, as is working on your food intake, but what about exercise?

How do we move towards our goals of being healthy without going overboard or being unsuccessful? What if we get too obsessive about it? What if we set our goals too high and we fail?

These questions can be daunting, and I think we’ve all experienced some form of this. When I first started running to help supplement my weightless efforts and improve my cardio fitness, I went too hard too fast and injured myself, which meant I had to take some time off. This was terrifying to me because I was so afraid of gaining the weight back. But I just kept in mind what my goals were, and really put my energy into focusing on my nutrition. Once I was healthy, I went back to running and gradually increased what I was doing instead of doing too much too fast.  

There have been a few things I’ve learned along the way (some the hard way!) that I think might be helpful:

Reframe Your Goals

Sometimes the goals that we set for ourselves can be unrealistic or be difficult to quantify or attain. We may want to be ‘skinnier’ or ‘curvier’, or want to have the body we had in high school. These types of goals are difficult to quantify or measure as we go, and it’s hard to tell when we’ve reached those goals.

While it’s okay to have a general goal of wanting to lose or gain weight, reframing your goals to be more in line with what your values are might be more effective. For example, if you want to be able to go hiking with your friends without getting winded, perhaps a walking program would be a good start, and the goal could be more focused on your performance in terms of walking or hiking.

If you’re thinking right now that you’d like to be healthier in general, think about what that really means for you. Do you want to eat more veggies? Move around more?

Focusing more on increasing these behaviours can help us move towards specific goals that are less focused on how we look or the number on the scale. In turn, we may be less likely to be critical of ourselves if we’re less focused on our appearance.

Set SMART Goals

You may have learned about SMART goals in school, but if you haven’t, it’s just a way to think about our goals that breaks them down and makes them a little more specific. SMART goals are:

  • Specific: the goal is not vague (I want to run 2km)
  • Measurable: you can measure your progress (I can use a GPS watch to measure my distance)
  • Attainable: within the confounds of what you can do; not unrealistic (I can run 2km in 3 months)
  • Relevant: it’s something that’s important to you (I want to run to play soccer again)
  • Time-based: it’s not open-ended (I want to run 2km by September 1st)

The difference between a SMART goals and a ‘regular’ goal may be the difference between success and failure. It’s important that we are clear with ourselves about our expectations, and that we set goals that are realistic.

Consider the difference between these two statements:

  1. I’ve never run before but I’d like to run a marathon some day
  2. I’ve never run before, so I’m going to start training to run a 5km race next year

The first one almost sounds like a dream; something you’d daydream about while sitting on your couch. The second one sounds actionable. It’s something you can realistically see in your future. The best part about these types of goals is that you can break them down even further!

Running a 5km race by next year may seem really daunting if you haven’t run before. But if you break that down over the next 52 weeks and map out a plan to gradually increase your running distance, you can focus on each week as it comes. The ultimate goal doesn’t change; you’re just helping to set yourself up for success.

Make changes because you love your body, not because you hate it

This is a big one. We often talk about how much we dislike our bodies and wish we could change them. But why not make changes because we love our bodies instead? That doesn’t mean you have to love every inch of your body, but maybe you can work on appreciating your body, and reminding yourself of the importance of self-love.

Start running because you’d love to see the amazing things your body can do. Eat more veggies because you know your body deserves to be nurtured. Cut down on snacking on junk because you know that healthier snacks make you feel good, and you deserve that!

Again, consider the difference between these statements:

  1. I need to be more healthy so that I can lose weight and not be so fat – I hate my body
  2. I’d love to lose some weight and start moving more so that I can nurture my body and really use it to its full potential

The first sounds discouraging and intimidating. Everything about it is negative. You need to do it, instead of you’d love to do it. The second one sounds almost exciting. Imagine what you can do and how your body might feel if you can make these changes? Sounds better than self-depreciation, if you ask me!

If you had to choose one of the above to say to a friend or family member, which would you choose? Likely you’d choose the second one to try and encourage them and help them move forward with compassion and love. It’s important that we treat ourselves with the same level of love and compassion.

It doesn’t have to be about beating ourselves up. If we can start to reframe our goals and reframe the reasons that we do things, we give ourselves so much power to make meaningful changes in our lives.

It takes some time and it’s important that we be patient with ourselves. But if you keep working on it, you can make some meaningful changes in your life and start moving towards your values – and loving yourself even more!

Jennifer Thomson

RP, MACP, CPT, FNS