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

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

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 

2019 is finally here, and if you’re anything like me, you have a long list of New Year’s resolutions!

Every year I start off by writing down what I want to achieve. Once I fine-tune them, I put the list somewhere where I will frequently see it, usually in a journal or day planner. Having the list somewhere visible allows me to keep them in mind throughout the year. Where will you put your list so that it is easy to see, everyday?

 

Setting Smart Goals

I start off the process by jotting down my intentions. This year I am planning to prioritize self-care while I finish my Bachelor of Social Work degree. Last semester, my self-care (regular exercise and healthy eating) took a back seat to my schoolwork. This approach didn’t work for me. and I became tired and run down – I definitely wasn’t performing at my best. I have realized that prioritizing self-care will be very important moving forward, as I won’t have a break leading into my final semester in the spring. Keeping a healthy focus by setting some clear goals around fitness and diet will help me cope with the heavy workload and high expectations.

After I write down my intentions, my next step is to turn them into SMART goals. By using a Specific, Meaningful, Adaptive, Realistic and Time-framed approach, I ensure my goals are clear and achievable. For more information on creating SMART goals, check out this SMART goals worksheet. After I have created my specific goals, I will prioritize which are the most important to start with. In the past, I have found that trying to work on too many goals at once can be pretty overwhelming and can end up making me feel less motivated in the long term. My more recent approach has been to start small. Focusing on just one of my goals at the start has allowed me to be more successful.

This year I will be starting off by focusing on scheduling more time for self-care. For me, this means going to the gym regularly, cooking healthy meals, meditating, and getting enough sleep. If I were to start working on all my goals today, I would easily become overwhelmed and would probably end up giving up on all my New Years resolutions! I find that an all-or-nothing mindset doesn’t work well for me. It’s much easier for me to start small and add more when I know I can handle it. So, my first SMART goal is that I will book myself into a minimum of three one-hour classes each week at my local gym so I can run, ride the exercise bike, row, and connect with my friends, which will help keep my stress under control.

 

Strengths

In addition to developing SMART goals, I believe one of the best tools you can use to accomplish your New Year’s resolutions is yourself. When you think about it, you know yourself the best! You know what has worked for you in the past, and you can probably even name things that haven’t worked. This can actually be a great starting point. If you already know what doesn’t work, you can start to come up with new creative solutions that will work.

 

Uncover Your Strengths

I ask myself these questions when I am trying to figure out how I can use my own strengths to achieve my goals. How would you respond to these same questions?

  1. Reflect on your past accomplishments. How did you achieve these goals?
  2. What was easy? What was harder to do?
  3. How did overcoming past challenges make you stronger?
  4. What skills and resources did you use to overcome the challenges and help accomplish your goals?
  5. What would your friends and/or family members say are your best qualities?

Reflecting on your strengths and your past successes can be really helpful when working towards your future goals.

 

Motivation

Maintaining motivation has always been tricky for me when it comes to my New Year’s resolutions. One year can be a long time to stay motivated. Understanding that motivation can be difficult is helpful! Here is what I have learned along the way:

The most important thing is that everyone is motivated in different ways. For example, one of my past resolutions had been to go to the gym at least 4 times a week. I am a person who is typically more externally motivated. In other words, I realize that I need external pressures to hold myself accountable. So, in order to achieve this goal, I ended up joining a group fitness class. That way I couldn’t just show up to the gym, run on the treadmill for 10 minutes and then pack it in without doing much to really enhance my overall fitness. I have made connections in the group class, can participate in group activities and challenges, and we can cheer each other on. I must also book my classes ahead of time to ensure I get a spot. And I am unable to cancel my classes (within eight hours) without an additional charge. All of these steps encourage me to plan ahead, show up, and work towards my fitness goals.

 

Visualization 

Visualization is also a good technique that can help you to picture your path to success. Take time to think about how you will approach a goal, the steps you will need to complete, and then imagine yourself achieving the goal. Imagine how it will feel, what success looks like, and how good that success will be!

 

Be Kind to Yourself

After listing my goals, I try to be mindful of two things: “Be kind to yourself” and “Take care of yourself”. Above all else, these are the two most important intentions for me and they take priority over everything else. Realistically I know I am going to make mistakes. I am going to get off track, and I am probably going to struggle. I have learned to accept that this is okay. In fact, it’s more than okay! Being kind and forgiving to myself throughout the process will only set me up to be even more successful.

 

By Chris Henderson

Chris is currently studying Social Work and will graduate with his Bachelor of Social Work in June 2019.   He previously earned a BA in Criminology and a Diploma in Police Foundations, where he developed a keen interest in social welfare and human behaviour.   Chris is passionate about exploring ways to enhance physical and emotional health, and empowering people to be the best that they can be! 

Losing someone we love is likely the hardest thing that any of us will ever do in our lives. Grief is such a strong and painful emotion, and it can be scary to think about. The loss of a loved one can turn our lives upside down and change our entire perspective on life. Societies often have rituals, such as funerals, to help individuals come together in times of grief and sadness, and these rituals can be so meaningful and important to our healing process.

If you’re grieving the loss of someone, I encourage you to read this post. Grief can be difficult and isolating, and there are often many mixed emotions. This post is meant to help you move through these thoughts and feelings in a way that is non-judgmental and allows you to heal.

We’ve all heard of the stages of grief before, but we believe that everyone has their own unique process, and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. The most important thing to remember is that you are allowed to feel everything you are feeling. Acceptance of what we are feeling is key any time we have any strong emotion, positive or negative. In other words, it is important to allow yourself to feel however you feel, without trying to restrict or minimize what you’re feeling. This tends to be fairly easy early on in the grief process, as we are expected to be sad or angry in response to the passing of a loved one. Later on, however, when others have seemingly moved on and you’re still in the depths of your despair, it can be more difficult to be accepting of how you are feeling.

It is important to remember during these times that you are not alone, and it is okay for you to grieve for as long as you need to. Allow yourself to feel whatever it is that comes up. Perhaps do some mindfulness to really notice what thoughts and feelings are showing up. Often, when someone close to us passes, there are more complex emotions than just sadness; emotions that we don’t always talk about as a society. There may be anger, frustration, regret, hatred, or other emotions that you may think to yourself that you should not be feeling. We are here to tell you that these are perfectly normal feelings to have. The more that you try to make them go away or ignore them, the more persistent they will be. Instead of trying to get rid of these feelings, try holding them lightly. See if you can allow them to be there, and acknowledge that they can’t harm you. They are simply thoughts and feelings, and although they may hurt, you are in control of how they affect you. Hold them gently, and if you have difficulty doing so, it may be helpful to practice one of the following techniques to help you process these thoughts and emotions so that you may be able to hold them more lightly in the future.

1.    Write Down how you feel

Writing can be an extremely powerful action. While we don’t necessarily understand why, writing down how we are feeling and what we are thinking can help us sit with these thoughts and feelings more easily. It’s almost as if we are holding in all of this pent up emotion, and writing it down allows us to release it, and let go in a sense. This doesn’t mean that the thoughts and feelings are going to go away entirely, but that you may be able to better understand them, and begin to move forward.

You can start by writing down what you’re feeling in that moment, and just let your words flow. It may not be in full sentences, but rather specific words. You can try writing on lined paper, or you can use blank paper and colours and write things out the way that feels right. Notice how it feels when you write down those words. Notice what you feel in your body, and how it feels before you write it out versus after. See if you can do this without judgement of your feelings – recognizing that it’s okay to have any thoughts or feelings about the situation. Our thoughts and feelings will ebb and flow like waves in the ocean, and this is all part of the process.

2.    Write a Letter

While general writing can be extremely helpful, sometimes we feel as though we have unfinished business with someone who has passed, or we have things we wish we could have said to them. Writing a letter addressed to the person who has passed can be a really powerful exercise. You have an opportunity to say what you need to say, or what you’d like to say, in any way you want. You can address the person directly, and let them know how you feel about them, how their passing has affected you, maybe how they made you mad, or what you’ll miss about them.

Once you’ve finished your letter, you can save it somewhere, or let it go. Letting it go may be something like crumpling it up and throwing it out, burning it, burying it, or whatever feels right to you.

3.    Honour their Memory

This one is a little bit more vague, because it depends on the individual. This can be different based on the person who has passed and the person who is in mourning. Perhaps the traditional ritual of our society isn’t something that has helped you grieve and move forward, and there’s something else that you need to do. This is likely why celebrations of life have become so popular, because people often prefer to celebrate the life of the individual in a way they would have preferred.

If your loved one really loved animals, perhaps you may volunteer at an animal shelter in their honour, or donate some treats or toys. Maybe you go to their favourite restaurant and order their favourite food with some of their closest friends. Or maybe you plant a garden or a tree in their memory. You can choose to do whatever feels right for you, and whatever makes you feel closer to that person.

4.    Spend time with Loved Ones

Another advantage to celebrations of life is that it allows individuals to speak more freely and talk about the individual in candid ways. Spending time with others who loved this person and being able to reminisce about good times you all had can be extremely healing. While we expect sadness following the passing of a loved one, we often forget about how many positive memories we have with that person. When we spend time with others, it allows us to create a dialogue of positivity around celebrating the individual’s life while also allowing you to mourn their passing. Laughing about funny things that happened, remembering how sweet they were, and just talking about them in a positive light can help you move forward in realizing that this person had an impact in your life, and nothing can ever take that away.

5.    Be Patient with Yourself

This is probably the most important part. Everyone’s grief process is different, and you cannot rush your feelings. Furthermore, just because someone seems ‘okay’ on the outside, doesn’t mean they’re not hurting on the inside. You may decide to return to work and go back to a ‘normal’ life, and that’s okay. You may also feel really sad and cry often, and that’s okay too. Likely, you will have good days and bad days, and having a good day doesn’t mean you didn’t love that person – it just means you’re moving forward. Life is a rollercoaster of emotions, and we have to ride them out even when we’re grieving. So not only should you practice being patient with yourself and your emotions, but also compassionate. It’s okay to be happy sometimes, or angry, or sad.

All in all, every single person experiences and expresses grief differently. We don’t need to fully understand it, but we do need to practice being compassionate towards the process for others, as well as our own process.

Remember, there are people who love and care about you, and you do not need to go through this process alone. It is important to reach out to others during this time, whether that be family members, friends, coworkers, or a therapist. Grief is an extremely difficult and transformative life process, but also a sign of incredible love and devotion. As Thomas Campbell said, “To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die”.

 

By Jennifer Thomson and Kayleen Edwards