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.
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.
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!
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
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
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
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. Unfortunately, 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. A 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.
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.
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
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
I’ve never run before but I’d
like to run a marathon some day
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
I need to be more healthy so
that I can lose weight and not be so fat – I hate my body
I’d love to lose some weight
and start moving more so that I can nurture my body and really use it to its
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
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!
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.