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)

As therapists, we recently find ourselves in our own real-life experiments, hearing echoes of the things we have been asking our clients to do for themselves, and now more than ever, we need to make sure we are also walking the talk.  We are into week four of social distancing (really physical distancing), and in complying with government recommendations, most therapists (and all four of us) are offering online or teletherapy, in place of in-person sessions. Teletherapy is emerging as the new normal (perhaps long overdue).

In light of this, we’d like to address some recent trends we’ve noticed might impede our mental wellness during this COVID-19 containment period, and provide our practical guidance.

Our top five tips and trends include:

  1. Privacy: Finding creative spaces for privacy, for online therapy and for when you simply need space.
  2. Structure: The importance of creating structure for yourself during uncertain times.
  3. Responsibility: Helping your non-compliant loved ones accept the importance of self-isolation, and check in on healthy boundaries.
  4. Flexibility: How to ‘roll with the punches’ by increasing cognitive flexibility.
  5. Regulation: Recognizing how fear and other emotions show up in our behaviour and what we can do to help ourselves deal and heal.

1.  Finding Privacy

Privacy for therapy

When you imagine ‘therapy’, chances are you envision a cozy, quiet, office with a live therapist. A private space, where you could safely talk about whatever experience you need to unpack, or whomever, you needed to talk about.

In week three of sheltering at home, hanging out non-stop with our family members, therapy may feel like a more urgent need, but more difficult to achieve.  Online therapy might take a bit more preparation, but don’t let the initial challenge of looking for private space get in the way of getting the support you need. Some ideas for finding privacy are:

  • Talk to your family about taking a call and needing privacy.
  • Pick a quiet room (even a closet, or the bathroom will do!).
  • Carpeting can help buffer noise.
  • Put a noise machine or radio on outside of the room, or download a white noise audio file on another device.
  • Put a towel or pillow at the base of your door.
  • Wear earbuds or headphones, so your therapist’s voice is for your ears only.
  • If there’s a specific sensitive subject, you can create ‘code words’ to use with your therapist.
  • Go in your car, park at a park, or in a spot with publicly accessible wi-fi (your therapist should be providing the secure platform to access).
  • Looking for free wi-fi? If your own driveway doesn’t work, try the parking lots of your local coffee shop, fast food restaurant, Rogers or Bell store, or other public wi-fi spot (we find generally, Starbucks works best).
  • Don’t be afraid to ask your therapist about your specific needs or concerns – we’re learning new tips and tricks every day as well to help meet your needs. As an essential service we can also explore an option for face-to-face sessions if extremely necessary.

I just need alone time!

Some of us are just looking for privacy for ourselves, especially if you already worked from home and were used to a quiet house, are an introvert, or are just simply losing your marbles (which is totally understandable). Try:

  • Setting pre-specified “quiet time” in closed rooms (see section below on Creating Structure),
  • Take a bath (lock the door!),
  • Sit on balcony, or get going on some yard work,
  • Go for a walk/run,
  • Talk to each other about the overall noise in the house at different times of day.

2.  Creating Structure

During uncertain times, when there isn’t a great deal of order externally, we can create structure internally, at home, which can help buffer the stress caused by uncertainty.  Some of us have this skill from our jobs, and the rest of us suddenly have to create it.  Here are some strategies for creating structure:

Focus on your values

Keeping your values in mind as you navigate your new normal is something we’re all figuring out how to do. Your values are things that light you up, when you feel you are being true to yourself.  If you align with those five to ten values regularly (like connection, family, patience, creativity, loyalty), you’ll feel less stuck. We need to give ourselves permission to create our own daily structure based on our individual values.

Some ways to do this include:

  1. Look at what sort of activities you’d be doing normally, and identify which of your values line up:
    1. Sports: exercise, fitness, social
    2. Visiting: family, friends, relationships
    3. Writing: creativity, art, alone time
  2. Once you have a list of things you value, see if you can come up with new ‘physically distanced’ ways of fulfilling these values:
    1. Sports: going for a run or walk outside; doing a home workout video (with friends on video chat).
    2. Visiting: video chatting with friends and family daily; going for a physically distant walk with a friend.
    3. Writing: find quiet time and place each day for yourself to write; find inspiration in what’s going on around you.
  3. Structure your day in a way that incorporates all of these things that are important to you. Write out a daily schedule, with specific time blocks for all of the activities that keep you feeling healthy.

Be Kind to Yourself

You don’t have to follow the same routine as before. If it makes sense to sleep in an extra hour and it’s not going to negatively affect your day, then sleep in that hour. Allow yourself the time and space to adjust to this new life.

Try Something New

There are lots of changes to absorb, so it makes sense we’re going to also change. The restaurants are closed but you can still have a date night with your partner – you’re going to have to be creative. Try new routines, an activity you’ve never done before (like online therapy!), or do more of something you often don’t have time for. Get out of your comfort zone; after all, we’re all a little uncomfortable right now, aren’t we?

Get on the Same Page

Family meetings might be awkward and new, but they can be crucial at a time like this, where everyone is stuck in the house together, or shared family arrangements are thrown out of whack. Pick a night every week to have a family meeting – get everyone in the house involved. On paper you can chart the week with school, work, dinners, chores, and time for video games and quality family time. If you’ve never done it before, know it will feel awkward and you will receive ALL the eye rolls and “do I have to’s?”.

At the end of the week review it, look at what worked/what didn’t work and re-adjust for the week ahead.

Organize Yourself

For those of us who really value structure, or get carried away doing either not enough work, or too much, making sure you’re organized is important. Make use of to-do lists, alarms and reminders to help you structure your day. Put things in your calendar you wouldn’t normally put in (like standing up, or changing the laundry, looking into your partner’s eyes).  Most importantly, make sure you have balance and boundaries by setting specific working hours, self-care time, and family time. Take breaks during the day as well, even if you have to schedule them.

3.   Pandemic-level Responsibility (feeling over-responsible)

Feeling over-responsible for other people who are not your dependent children can be very tough. With all the stories in the news about which generation is tougher to manage during this pandemic, we had to wonder:  are some of us over-responsible adult children especially triggered right now?

While this experience can affect any generation, in psychology, we sometimes refer to the emotional state of being a ‘parentified child.’  Parentification describes a role reversal, where a child is obliged to act more like the parent should be (but isn’t) to their own parent or sibling. It can happen for various reasons, including parent physical or mental illness, parental alienation in divorce, enmeshed relationships, porous boundaries with parents for example.

Whatever the reasons, the child grows into an adult who feels generally over-responsible for caretaking of their now older or elderly parents, adult siblings and perhaps other people in their life.  This constant boundary crossing into other adults’ lives tends to cause problems for us in the long run.

How do we regulate our anxiety when we don’t have full control over what our parents and other loved ones do?  How can we exercise compassion and understand what we AND they’re going through?

  • Some of our loved ones may be afraid and their coping strategy to reduce their anxiety, rather than to face that this is real, is to downplay the crisis.
  • Acknowledging their fear response by helping them talk about what’s going on, rather than telling them what to do, may be helpful.
    • Recommend things you can do together virtually like facetime, can help.
    • Recommend a new hobby that doesn’t expose them to risk.
  • Most people don’t want to be told what to do, which can be distressing for the over responsible adult child, but we need to manage our own levels of distress first.
  • If we can be compassionate, patient (to an extent), and provide the right information, we have a better chance of getting through to our loved ones
  • Before you lock your stubborn friend or mother in a basement, remember to BREATHE (see Regulation below)!
  • If you’ve been trying to talk to them and your approach isn’t working, switch it up. Appeal to your loved one’s values. If they’re more worried about others than themselves, speak to that.
  • Remind them of their responsibility to help protect the health of others, including other loved ones, the elderly, and children, you need their help.
  • Hold your boundaries. Our parents often still think of us as children (so what if we act like children sometimes?), and this can translate to them not respecting our adult boundaries. It’s not their job to remember our boundaries folks, it’s our job to remind them.

4.  Flexibility, but the brain kind

Cognitive flexibility refers to our brain’s ability to switch from one train of thought, or way of thinking, to another, in order to adapt to a new situation. An analogy often used is switching between TV channels.  If you are set on only one channel, you can get stuck there, and miss experiencing all that is offered on the other channels. Cognitive inflexibility is something parents might experience with a child who struggles to transition from one activity to the next, or with someone who doesn’t like curveballs being thrown into their days that mess up their schedules or to-do lists.

Perhaps no collective experience like this pandemic has demanded new levels of cognitive flexibility from all of us. We are being required to bend and flex in ways we never knew were possible – whether we like it or not.  It’s possible some of us might be struggling more than others, especially if you are in touch with your extroversion, have had a hard time with change in the past (we all do, some more than the average cat), already deal with having a neurodiverse brain in a neurotypical world, or have had a highly structured job or office environment.

Acceptance and Commitment

We have some tips to ease into cognitive flexibility, adapted from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a version of CBT, focusing on accepting your emotions, and moving forward with your life.

A mental shift of acceptance of your fear: first we must understand our fear!

This may seem counterintuitive, as fear can be perceived as negative. Fear or anxiety comes with unpleasant physical symptoms, and sometimes also a steady stream of ‘what ifs’ and ‘shoulds’. Typically, when faced with something causing these feelings, we try to avoid it.

We can see feelings of fear and scarcity demonstrated in the grocery aisles: carts full of toilet paper, Lysol wipes and hand sanitizer. We are scared. We want to get rid of the yucky feeling, so we do what is efficient in the moment. Spoiler alert: Buying copious amounts of TP is not the long-term solution to feeling better – this is our way of trying to avoid – or get rid of – these feelings of anxiety in the moment.

The fear we feel about COVID-19 is real. While the feeling of fear and anxiety are unpleasant, some level of anxiety is normal and it’s what allows us to continue to be safe, self-isolate, and reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

This is unchartered territory for you – and almost everyone – as we are learning to live through a global pandemic. It’s understandable you may have a heightened sense of worry and you may ‘freak out’ at times – that’s okay!

Remember in those moments that cognitive flexibility is a key factor to learn to live within a new normal. You can do the following to help you accept and feel your emotions, ground yourself, and move forward:

Accept

Practicing radical acceptance helps us understand that our emotions are normal, and accept that they’re going to be there no matter how much we try to avoid (and that, like everything, this too, shall pass).

  1. Remind yourself what you’re feeling is normal, and it’s okay to feel this way.
  2. Reality is as it is (the facts about the present are the facts, even if you don’t like them).
  3. There are limitations on the future for everyone (but only realistic limitations need to be accepted).
  4. Everything has a cause (including events and situations causing pain and suffering).
  5. Life can be worth living, even with painful events in it

Feel the emotion

Acknowledging and tending to our feelings, even the difficult ones, is what we need to ease the emotional pain.

  1. Name the emotion (if we can name it, we can tame it).
  2. Acknowledge all emotions are okay, they emote for a reason. If we pay attention to them, we can recognize the clues to help us figure out what we need (usually not more toilet paper).
  3. Talking about your emotions with people who can hold them with empathy and support (if you don’t feel like you have access within your limited connections right now, reach out for professional support, online of course).
  4. Recognizing we are not alone in our suffering, and being as kind to ourselves as we are to our friends and loved ones, is important. Noticing our shared common humanity is a step towards being more compassionate to ourselves.

5. Regulation

When we speak about self-regulation, we teach that ‘story follows state’ – that is, our body’s signs of stress (heart rate, dry mouth, nervous stomach, jumbled thoughts) inform the story our brain creates about how safe or unsafe we are.  Our society is living in fear right now.  Some of the behaviours discussed (TP hoarding) – include avoidance, denial and numbing (to deal with our unpleasant physiological agitation).  Sometimes distraction is okay – it takes away the emotional strain or pain in the moment. But feelings resurface when we push them down repeatedly.  If we stay disconnected and don’t share our fears with others, our fears also come with consequences adding an extra layer of shame.

ACT also informs helpful ways we can stay regulated.

Ground Yourself

In times of heightened emotions, it can be difficult not to panic. Grounding can help us get back in touch with the here and now, and focus on what we need in the moment.

  1. Use your senses to really focus on where you are in the moment. Focus on your surroundings, what you’re feeling in your body, take a few deep breaths, and remember that you are safe in this moment.
  2. Get out in nature and really experience your surroundings (what do you see, smell, hear, feel?).

Move Forward

Once we feel calmer, we can keep moving forward. Shift your focus to the controllables, and engage in activities that are in line with your values.

  1. Ask yourself if you’re doing everything you can to help reduce risk for yourself and others?
  2. Engage in a pleasurable activity. Share a positive or informative post on social media to help spread happiness, kindness and facts; offer to help a neighbour or loved one; practice self-care by doing something for you.

Finally, remember that this will pass, and like all of the other difficult times in your life you will get through this!

Even being able to consider some of these strategies helps to build the muscle of cognitive flexibility, which is what builds our capacity for resilience and allows us to ‘roll with the punches’. Be patient with yourself, and remember any type of change takes time.

While not everyone experiences this, one trend we have noticed in particular across our practices (which spans the province), in particular increasing is comparative suffering.

Comparative Suffering

Increasingly, fear shows up in our behaviour in minimizing our own suffering by pointing out the “more important” suffering of others. ‘Rank ordering’ our suffering is yet another attempt at dismissing our own painful emotions.

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly brought this out in many of us. It sounds like this:

“I can’t be afraid for my children who are simply missing school, there are children in the world who don’t have adequate food or positive home lives”

 OR

“Why should I be tired and irritated after a long day of work, there are people who are out of jobs”

OR

“I shouldn’t be worried that I can’t go to my graduation, there are people who have had to cancel weddings”

This tactic of reducing emotional pain doesn’t make our unpleasant feelings go away, it adds another layer to it.  Now in addition to the difficult feelings – like fear and sadness, we also experience the feeling of shame: “I’m bad because I’m feeling sad when other people have it worse than me.”

  • Recognizing the importance of empathy for OURSELVES is helpful.  Feelings of empathy are not finite, there is enough to go around.
  • Letting go of shame allows us to more fully look outside of ourselves, which allows us to have a deeper sense of empathy for others.
  • The clearest way to give support and empathy to others is to attend to your own feelings.

Shame grows when we don’t express how we feel. When we can share our feelings with others, especially feelings of shame, and it is received with empathy, shame cannot survive, and we are free to connect with others in a healthy and supportive way.

Our Closing Thoughts

Noticing our emotional and physiological state are the first steps toward getting a handle on our emotional states. Are you getting easily irritated by the silly things your partner does, like the way he/she chews his food? Or eats her banana? Or having a shorter fuse when you see your children haven’t emptied the dishwasher?  Noticing this behaviour in ourselves is the first step to easing the emotions underneath our behaviours. We start our own regulation by first noticing, second regulating our physiological response and finally following the steps involved in tending to our emotions (see Feel the Emotion above).

It’s a strange time and we’re all going through it together. How we come together to manage both ourselves, AND support our families might require strategies from us that we haven’t used before.  While we all learn new things, figure out our new normal, know support is here for you. No one is meant to go through a pandemic (emotionally) alone, despite ‘social distancing.’ We’re mammals and humans aren’t wired to struggle alone. Reach out for help, go easy on yourself and your loved ones, and reach out for support, sooner rather than later.

Written in collaboration by Peer Supervision Group, OAMHP Members Mindy Bilotta, RP,Christina Crowe, RP, Christina Janiga, RP Jennifer Thomson, RP, otherwise known as The Kind Heart Therapists (and on a rowdier day, The Kind Heart Cult).

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

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

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

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

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

NO!

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

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

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

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

So what can we do about it?

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

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

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

For example, you may write facts such as:

-I have the required education and experience for this job

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

-I received a positive review at my last performance evaluation

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Kayleen Edwards, MA, RP

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

Calling all of my fellow millennial, hard-working professionals; those of you who have worked so hard to get to where you are today, and overcome great obstacles in the process. Those of you who are dreamers, doers, and have a million and one different ideas in the works. Do you ever find yourself stuck?

The high-achieving professionals “stuck” is one of the most frustrating “stuck’s” there is. Here’s how it usually goes. You have an idea in the works, and you have a pretty good notion of what you need to do to put it into action. You are excited, passionate, and then – two weeks go by and you notice you still haven’t done it. You feel frustrated with yourself for not acting on that new resume, professional Instagram account, or business idea. You take a break from the frustration by scrolling through Instagram, checking your Facebook, or watching one too many episodes of Ru Paul’s Drag Race on Netflix. After a few hours you notice you spent more time than you wanted to “taking a break”, and get frustrated with yourself that you could have spent the time writing a blog post, finishing an assignment, polishing up your resume, or researching your idea. Now you’re pissed at yourself. The more pissed you get, the more you scroll, and the more you scroll, the more pissed you get as you see “how much more successful” than you everyone on Instagram is. You ponder to yourself how they “have it together” and you feel left behind, on your couch with a half-eaten bag of Lay’s. Sound familiar?

It does to me – been there, done that. Sometimes still there, and still do that! So what can we do about it?

The following are some simple strategies to help you move from Netflix & Chips to productivity master.

 

ACCOUNTABILITY

Accountability is huge for getting unstuck. It can come in many forms, ranging from telling someone you know about your plans, setting reminders in your phone, or using a planner to schedule activities.

One of my favourite ways to stay accountable is using a good ole-fashioned paper planner and gel pens so I can colour-coordinate events, appointments, and to-do’s. There is evidence that writing things down can help with memory retention, and increase commitment to that activity.

Doing it in a way that’s colour-coordinated helps to keep things on track, organized, and has the added bonus of being visually appealing to look at. When choosing a planner, it can be helpful to consider things like page layout, size, and dividers. Find something that makes you feel excited, as the more you like it, the more likely you are to use it.

 

FOCUS ON VALUES

When creating a plan, it’s essential that you focus on your values. Is this thing you’re planning actually important to you, or is it a “should” that you heard from someone else?

To notice if it’s actually important to you, make a list of your goals and beside each one answer the question: Why is this important to me?

Does it connect to a value of bringing you closer to the career you’d like? Is it fuelled by a desire to have closer relationships? Can you notice if it’s connected to your love of arts, or nature?

If the answer is “because _______ told me I should”, this is probably not a value and you may want to reconsider this goal.

 

PRESENT-MOMENT AWARENESS

Staying present (in other words, mindful awareness) can help us to stay on-task and to notice when we are doing things that are not part of our values system.

This may include a formal mindfulness practice (check out our page on mindfulness apps to get you started), or informal mindfulness of stopping to take count of whether we felt like we acted on our vales or not.

When we are stuck in a cycle, we may not notice right away that we are in the cycle. It’s helpful to check in with yourself by noticing how you are feeling and whether that is driving your behaviour versus the things that are important to you. In other words, “Am I scrolling through social media because it’s helping me get closer to my goal of x, or am I doing it because I feel crappy?”. When we notice and label a behaviour as feelings-based, it gives us the opportunity to change it and try something new.

 

SELF-COMPASSION

Be kind to yourself. Although Netflix & chips may not be a part of your values system, there may be days where that is a part of self-care. Netflix & chips isn’t always a negative thing, but if we find it’s become part of a routine we may want to use these strategies to work on it.

 

It’s important that we treat ourselves with kindness and respect, no matter where we are in this process.

 

In other words, if we beat ourselves up for our Netflix & Chips moments, it feels belittling instead of motivating. It is more helpful to use compassion and understanding, in the same way we would if a friend was telling us about their struggle. Saying to yourself “I am allowed to have an ‘off’ day” or “I am worthy even if I’m frustrated today” or “I have faith in you – you’ve got this!” can help boost our self-esteem and normalize the fact that we all have our moments and that’s okay.

 

Kayleen Edwards, MA, RP