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.

IMG_8719

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.

IMG_8718

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

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.

pexels-photo-533446

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.

 

bed-bedroom-cute-545016

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

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.

pexels-photo-1524105

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

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

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

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

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

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

Give YourselfPermission to be Imperfect

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

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

Which brings me to my next point:

Look at the BigPicture

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

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

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

Have RealisticExpectations of Yourself

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

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

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

Let Yourself FeelNegative and Positive Emotions

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

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

Embrace Your Flawsand Your Strengths

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

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

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

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

What Would You Tell aFriend?

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

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

Jennifer Thomson

Registered Psychotherapist

RP, MACP