Tag Archive for: psychologist regina

A-D/HD and Self Compassion

A-D/HD and Self Compassion

People with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (A-D/HD or ADHD) are more likely to have experiences where they felt a lack of support or criticism. Such experiences can result in internalized shame and negative core beliefs.

This can be especially true for people who are diagnosed later in life.

Treating yourself with kindness and giving yourself the space to not only make mistakes, but also to be your own unique neurodivergent self, can change how you navigate your life.

It can support letting go of perfectionist expectations, bringing self-acceptance and resilience.

Kristen Neff, a pioneer in the study of the benefits of Self Compassion, found that individuals with higher levels of self- compassion reported less self-critical talk and had a lower risk of anxiety and depression than those who have lowers levels (Neff, Rude & Kirkpatrick, 2007).

Neff has formulated 3 core elements in the practice of Self Compassion:

Self-Kindness

Understanding that imperfection, failure, and other challenges are a natural part of living: being kind towards yourself and accepting limitations.

Common Humanity

Recognizing that we’re not the only people suffering or making mistakes – all people do.

Mindfulness

Acknowledging and observing your negative emotions rather than suppressing or identifying with them. Remembering that you are not your feelings.

Lea Seigen Shinraku (founder of the San Francisco Centre for Creative Self-Compassion) states that mindfulness “can help regulate challenging emotions by focussing our attention on our physical sensations or some other experience in our environment. And learning to self-soothe can also help people with ADHD cope with challenging emotions.”

Shinraku shares that “the simplest self-compassion exercise is to put a hand or two on your heart and take three breaths. This self-soothing practice stimulates the release of oxytocin and helps our nervous system calm down.” (Maria Romanszkas. “ADHD and the Power of Self Compassion.” 8/May/2023, adhdonline.org)

When you are aware that you are experiencing negative self -talk, place your hand on your heart, take 3 breaths and practice replacing criticism with more self -affirming statements.

Think about what you would say to a friend who was having those same self-critical thoughts and be your own friend.

Living with ADHD can bring challenges. It’s important to have a balanced perspective and know where you are challenged, while remembering to be realistic and kind.

It also important to recognize that ADHD can also bring strengths or what I like to call superpowers. Remember where you are a rock star and shine!

 

Written by: Lorna Brothen, Registered Social Worker and Clinical Counsellor with Wildflowers

 

References:

Maria Romanszkas. “ADHD and the Power of Self Compassion.” 8/May/2023, adhdonline.org

https://self-compassion.org

Self Compassion – The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself

Kristin Neff Ph.D.

Learning to be Flexible

     Learning to be Flexible 

When my turn rolls around for writing the blog, I inevitably face writers block.  What do people want to read about?  What would be helpful?  One of my colleagues suggested that I write about something that I spend a lot of time focusing on with clients, so I have opted to go in that direction this time.

One topic I spend time discussing with clients is the concept of “flexibility.”  Flexibility is not “anything goes” but it is being willing to manage, handle, and accept those things that happen in our lives that we have no control over as well the ability to handle not necessarily getting what we want, with grace and acceptance.  Demonstrating flexibility does not mean that we have to “like” all those changes, or doing activities with others that are not our favourite things to do, or being happy about the behaviours of others that are annoying to us.  Flexibility means “accepting”, not necessarily “liking” and these are two very different feelings.

One can accept that we have to take turns without actually liking taking turns.  I can tolerate politely sit through a movie, even if that particular genre is not my thing, because it’s a friend’s turn to choose an activity.  There is the possibility that going to the Reptile Expo with me was not really the way my friend would choose to spend an afternoon (even though I can’t imagine not loving this activity :)).  Taking turns is one of the hidden rules of friendship and one way to authentically utilize social thinking.

Being flexible does not mean that we are masking our “true” selves. We hear and read a lot about “masking.”  Masking is about hiding the characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  All too often I hear people say that they do not want to mask, but instead of saying I want to be free to show that I have ASD, they use not masking as a reason for being selfish, rude or inflexible.  Masking does not really need to enter into the discussion of whether or not we can be flexible.  Learning to be flexible does not mean that we are covering our neurodivergency.  Encouraging authentic flexibility, even if it is learned later in life, is not hiding who we really are.

There are many ways to demonstrate flexibility.  This is not a complete list, but for example: we can recognize that some things are outside of our control, change our plan and accept the change; we can compromise (take turns, or do win/win types of compromises were we each get some of what we want and combine that); we can wait; we can ask instead of demand or tell (and be alright with the answer); and we can think about situations in terms of “not yet.”   If you need to flick your fingers, wear your fuzziest socks so you can squeeze your toes or wear no socks at all, to make being flexible easier, go for it!!!

Flexibility is not ease for some of us.  The good news is, that regardless of our age, it can be developed.  Sadly, flexibility is not always (for some less often than for others) easy.  If you are like me, and have to work at it, know that you are not alone.

 

Blog Post by: Tara Garratt, Registered Psychologist with Wildflowers

Emotions and Super-Feelers

Emotions and Super-Feelers

What if I were to tell you that 5 to 10% of people experience their emotions and feelings more intensely than others and that while this may pose a challenge in terms of learning how to manage these emotions, it can also be a strength; a super-power skill – if you will. A few years ago, I attended a training for a therapeutic modality called Emotionally Focused Family Therapy (EFFT) facilitated by Dr. Adelle Lafrance. At this training, Dr. Lafrance posed the question, who in this room would consider themselves to be a super-feeler – of the approximately 120 nutritionists, social workers and psychologists in attendance, 120 put up their hands. This 100% ratio lent into my already existing perspective that many individuals in caring professions have high levels of empathy and compassion.

In addition to experiencing their own emotions more intensely, many super-feelers have high levels of empathy for others and tend to pay attention to the feelings and emotional states of those around them. In some cases, experiencing emotions more acutely is biologically based, similarly to how some individuals may have natural athletic qualities or seem to demonstrate a strong natural ability to solve problems and equations. While in other cases, experiences of adversity, challenge or even trauma may contribute to individuals experiencing their own emotions and the emotions of others more intensely. Additionally, the brains of children and adolescents are not fully developed, contributing to a more intense experience of being a super feeler for these young people. Ideally, over time and with the support of adults around them these young people will learn how to understand and process their emotions and emotional experiences and learn how to regulate their own emotional states. Effectively, turning their natural “sensitivity” into an asset and even a way of being within the world.

Many caregivers who choose to access counselling for their children do so, due to their children’s intense experience of emotions – ranging from anger, anxiety, worry, overwhelm, etc. and while the below the information is beneficial for super feelers, it is helpful for all children.

Ways to support your Super-Feeler Child:

  1. Emotional Regulation

Emotional regulation – an ambiguous phrase – but what does it actually mean? Dr. Stuart Shanker refers to emotional regulated as “The three R’s of Emotional Regulation” a threefold process in which a caregiver first recognizes the emotional state of their child, assists to reduce both the physical and emotional state of the child and then works to restore the child to a place of equilibrium. This can also be referred to as co-regulation and it is important to note that children, especially those that are younger (infants to early elementary) require regular and consistent co-regulation prior to them being able to consistently self-regulate their own emotional states. Depending on the age and developmental stage of the child, the parents’ role in the process may differ, for example the process of recognizing, reducing and restoring the emotional state of an infant would be different than that of an older child. (Shaker, 2017)

The pattern of recognition, reduction and restoration also works in reflective and pre-emptive capacities. For example, when the child is calm and can talk about their stressors – asking what these stressors feel like in their bodies, accompanying emotions, preventative strategies and effective ways to reduce the stress response can all be part of the process. The hope and goal is that a young person can eventually learn to do this effectively for themselves and will possess (and in many ways continue to develop) these tools while moving into adulthood.

Teaching emotional regulation does not have to be complicated and in some ways can be worked right into the day-to-day routines of families. Two easy examples are:

  • Working in discussions around emotions while watching television and reading children’s books can be an easy way to discuss and normalize emotions that fit into many family’s regular routines.
  • Engaging in activities that will slowly stretch children’s abilities and then praising their efforts and validating their emotional experience can support their ability to work through difficult situations, while recognizing their own internal experience and resilience.
  1. Learn about the purpose of emotions.

Emotions are not inherently good or bad although a common perception of emotions is that positive emotions are considered “good”, while negative emotions are considered “bad”. All emotions – both positive and negative are a form of communication, described as “fundamental adaptive signals that provide individuals with information about themselves and the world” (Lafrance et al., 2020, p. 32). Normalizing emotional experiences as that of communication takes away the stigma around emotions and provides a more accurate and balanced perspective of their purpose and function.

  1. Learn how to validate emotions.

There are many strategies for caregivers on how to validate the emotional experiences of their children. One of my favorites comes from the above noted Emotionally Focused Family Therapy (EFFT). The approach taught by this model emphasizes using the word because – instead of but and uses three separate validations which deepen in their content as the validation unfolds. This model endorses the validation of feelings, emotional states, experiences or elements of the situation.

For example:

  1. “I understand that you are feeling left-out because ___________, because ____________, because ____________”.

“I understand that you are feeling left-out because you were not invited to the sleepover, because you regularly feel left out by these friends and because you wonder if there is a reason they are leaving you out”.

  1. I understand that you do not want to get out of bed today because________, because_________, and because __________.

“I understand that you do not want to get out of bed today because you are feeling sad/low and because sometimes it feels easier to take a break from the hard stuff and because you wonder if it’s worth it”.

The thing about the EFFT style of validation is that it does not shy away from validating the hard stuff, the deep emotions that are related to pain, suffering and sadness. This form of validation can be life change and dynamic changing– but it can also feel hard, different and even vulnerable. At times it can feel like speaking the “unspoken” out loud. Sometimes if we can speak to the deep and intense feelings that people are experiencing, we gain understanding and reinforce deep emotional connection. The formation of deep connections creates feelings of safety and security from which people can grow. Through these connections we can act preventatively, understand a fuller picture of what our loved one is experiencing and do our best to support their emotional regulation development. While this model is used to validate intense emotions, it is a highly adaptable tool that can be used to validate all forms of emotional experience – from day to day worry to feelings of happiness and joy.

Another amazing thing about the EFFT model is that they offer a ton of really great resources on their website: For Caregivers | mhfoundations-efft (mentalhealthfoundations.ca)

  1. Do your own work.

It is important to note that validation of emotions does not mean that you as a caregiver are agreeing with the choices or actions of your child. Agreeing and validating are two different things. In fact, the actions or decisions of your child may bring up your own difficult emotional experience or increased stress response. This is a common caregiving experience – I would not be surprised to hear that most caregivers can think back to a time when their child’s actions caused them to feel embarrassed, worried, or even in some cases to enter into the “what ifs”. At times, the actions of our children may feel uncomfortable due to our personal and/or family values, goals and even our hopes and dreams for the lives of our children. For instance, if our child engages in name-calling or even bullying – does this mean that they are going to grow up not caring about others? Or if your child appears to have low motivation for an important task or school assignment – does that mean that they will go on to be unsuccessful adults? One example of doing our own work may be becoming aware of these thoughts and what they trigger for us as a caregiver and as an individual. And if applicable, are these triggers impacting our ability to connect with our child, co-regulate our child or support the growth and development of our child?

Our own understanding and perceptions around emotions may be other areas to consider when working on ourselves as caregivers. Considering what the understanding and expectations were around emotions when we were children and how has this may have impacted us? For example, was it considered weak or inappropriate to express “big emotions” as a child and if so, what did we do to manage these emotions? Are these strategies still impacting us and if so, in what ways?

References:

Lafrance, A., Henderson, K. A., & Mayman, S. (2020). Emotion-Focused Family Therapy A Transdiagnostic Model For Caregiver-Focused Interventions. American Psychological Association

Shanker, S., Dr. (2017). Self-Reg How to Help Your Child (And You) Break the Stress Cycle and Successfully Engage with Life.

 

Blog Post by: Andrea Rhodes-Reilly, Registered Social Worker

I Like Bricks

I Like Bricks.

I like bricks. Bricks are solid, firm. I like the dark red kind, like you find on old houses. Smooth on the outside, no falsely applied ridges or perfect edges like new ones. They make me think of foundations and walls. Solidity, a past period of time, something to get hold of and hold on to. I built a lovely brick patio some little distance from my house, not far, as my yard is not big. When completed, it seemed to be floating out in the centre of the garden all by itself, not really join or connected to anything…a solid mass in a sea of green; beautiful in its symmetry but lonely somehow. So off to find more bricks, and a curvy little pathway found it way from my porch to the patio. I sat on the steps and my eyes followed the walk, saw the joining of the patio to my home, and I felt better. How like old bricks are our lives, seemingly solid and firm, smooth on the outside, but soft and crumbly within. The colour of dried blood and broken clay pots, faded on the outside from the wind and sun and rain, but still the fresh dark wound colour of the original on the inside.

We build our foundation and walls brick by brick, layer by layer, using a mortar mix of our own creation. One part memory, one part denial, one part tears, two parts love and curiosity, and a last part “I must go on”. Our walls grow, one piece at a time, as we collect experiences of joy and sorrow. We may toss those building bricks aside, not enough time, or no need in the moment. But eventually, they get used up as we fortify ourselves against perceived harms and indiscretions.

Become a mason, but choose to build a path instead of a wall. Recycle that life built slowly through the years and lay down a walkway to a new base. Where your footsteps fall will be a little chipped, a bit cracked to expose the ingredients, broken open displaying your weres and should haves and didn’ts. That new path will carry your weight and support you in a new way of living, linked with the past, but moving out and away to your new tomorrow. Taker down the walls one brick at a time if need be, and construct a path. And be on your way.

Blog Post by: Cynthia Scratch, Registered Psychologist

How Resilience Helps Us Bounce Back from Parenting Stress

How Resilience Helps Us Bounce Back from Parenting Stress

Becoming a parent is a life-altering experience, filled with highs and lows and everything in between. The wonderful memories created with your children are endless, such as bedtime snuggles, dance recitals, home runs, and so much shared love. On the other hand, there are the challenges such as sleepless nights, toddler meltdowns, financial strain, frequent guilt, and a lack of free time.

The duality of parenthood is what makes it both a beautiful and highly stressful experience. When my twin daughters were born, I had an image of the father I wanted to be and I tried so hard to be that for them. Unfortunately, I was unprepared for the hurt and self-judgement I experienced when that didn’t come as easily as I thought it should. This left me feeling angry, stressed, guilty, and exhausted.

For many parents, the ups and downs of the many stages of parenthood and their unique joys and jostles leaves parents struggling with chronic stress. This stress can leave them at risk of increased depression, anger, anxiety, mood disturbances, suicidal ideation, and decreased feelings of confidence and hope. In the face of stress, it can be easy to forget about your own needs, but this is vital to being able to care for those who count on us. Building resilience is about dedicating time to yourself so you can recharge and become the best parent you can be.

Resilience helps us to shift our perspective on the world and our problems so we can bounce back from stress. Carole Pemberton defines it as our “capacity to remain flexible in our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors when faced by life disruption, or extended periods of pressure, so that we emerge from difficulty stronger, wiser, and more able”.

As parents, we try to meet the needs of our children the best we can, and building our resilience allows us to do this in a way that includes us in the process. Dr. Dan Tomasulo says there are three components to building resilience: (1) gratitude, (2) acts of kindness, and (3) meditation. When we incorporate these into our lives it can allow us to embrace a perspective that sees past the stress and find hope, joy, and happiness.

Many people have heard about gratitude journals; however, I often hear clients talk about being frustrated with them. They take time each night and write down a list of things they are grateful for, and while this is a great start, many people can struggle to see benefits. Learning to be truly grateful can be a very effective way for parents to build resilience, but it needs to go beyond the act of listing things in a journal.

To be truly grateful means creating a sense of thankfulness, appreciation, and wonder for life. When we think about our struggles, we go into great detail about the pain, the loss, or the guilt. The hurt becomes tangible. We need to treat our gratitude with the same intensity and purpose as we do our hurt.

A very popular and proven exercise that I have found helpful with parents is creating a gratitude letter. The task is simple; select someone that you feel grateful for (e.g., your partner; a parent; a friend) and write them a letter of appreciation. You can even go as far as delivering the letter or reading it aloud to them. Here is a video showing how it can be done: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHv6vTKD6lg.

Engaging in acts of kindness is another way for parents to build resilience through the social connection that it can create. Has the person in front of you at the drive thru ever bought your coffee? It can create such a sense of surprise, joy, and thankfulness. You will probably feel inspired to do something nice for someone else that day, thus creating more connection and happiness for everyone involved. Here is a video showing it in action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4ALRY5LyBM.

The last core component of resiliency is meditation. The type of meditation I often find the most helpful for stressed parents is mindfulness. Mindfulness is about being present and “in the moment”. It’s about being 100% there and engaged in your experience, and not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Mindfulness is not about pretending that everything is okay or about dismissing challenges; it is about focusing nonjudgmentally on the moment so you can be present in your own life. Mindfulness-based interventions have been used successfully in helping treat issues such as anxiety, depression, and stress. Here is one mindfulness meditation that parents can try: https://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/loving_kindness_meditation

When parents take the time to build their resilience, it helps them to see past the daily stress of parenthood and be more present for those they love. Through gratitude, acts of kindness, and meditation/mindfulness, parents can work towards becoming the parent they always hoped to be.

References:

Benson, P., & Karlof, K. (2009). Anger, stress proliferation, and depressed mood among parents of children with ASD: A longitudinal replication. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 39(2), 350-362. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-008-0632-0

Helgeson, V., Becker, D., Escobar, O., & Siminerio, L. (2012). Families with children with diabetes: implications of parent stress for parent and child health. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 37(4), 467-478. https://doi.org/10.1093/jpepsy/jrs110

Mikolajczak, M., Brianda, M., Avalosse, H., & Roskam, I. (2018). Consequences of parental burnout: Its specific effect on child neglect and violence. Child Abuse & Neglect, 80, 134-145. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2018.03.025

Pemberton, C. (2015). Resilience: A Practical Guide for Coaches. New York, NY: Open University Press

Tomasulo, D. (2020). Learned Hopefulness: The Power of Positivity to Overcome Depression. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

Blog Post by: Cody MacSorley, MSW RSW, Clinical Counsellor

Caught You Doing Something Great!

Caught You Doing Something Great!

It is probably safe to say that most parents would like to increase their children’s positive behaviour.

Sometimes as parents there can feel like an overwhelming amount of things to work on with our children. Whether that be manners, prosocial skills, academic skills, independent skills, or just that overall pressure and desire to raise decent human beings.

Given the lofty task at hand, it can feel necessary to program ourselves to notice and address these concerns. Before we know it, it might feel as if alarm bells are constantly going off on all the behaviours that need addressing.

There is no doubt that addressing these things are important and part of our parental duties, and in the midst of all the correcting and teaching, I offer a suggestion. If you want to increase positive behaviours in your children, start noticing what is going well.  If your behaviour radar seems set to detect just the negative behaviours, try flipping the switch, even just a bit to start detecting the things already going well! Notice the positive behaviours already happening and acknowledge them, praise them, and high five about them. It won’t solve all your problems, but it may start to shift things and the increased confidence and positivity may be the building blocks for the next skills.

Research shows that giving attention to behaviours, whether those are positive or negative behaviours will increase the likelihood of that behaviour occurring again. Catching and acknowledging those positive behaviours really does make a difference!

Lots could be said about the art of praise but being specific and genuine is a great place to start.

So today as you go about all the things that come along with parenting, try and catch your kids doing well, and let them know! Who knows, you may be surprised to find there are more great things happening than you thought!

Blog Post by: Janelle Janzen BSW RSW, Clinical Counsellor

Surviving Cancer: A Physical, Mental and Emotional Wellness Balancing Act

Surviving Cancer: A Physical, Mental and Emotional Wellness Balancing Act

As a cancer survivor, I am among those that can recall with clarity the moment they heard the words, “you have cancer”. Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be one of the most stressful and difficult times for an individual.  Everyone copes with their cancer diagnosis differently and it is a completely individualized process.

This time can be very overwhelming as you shift into a new space of trying to make sense of what this means for you and can bring increased stress, worry, fear and anxiety.

The good news is that for many people, they can and do move into the phase of remission. What isn’t talked about as often is how to take care of yourself and your mental health when you shift from the role of cancer patient to cancer survivor.

Here are some tips that I feel can help you though this time.

  1. It’s okay if you need some time and space to process things. Do things that you enjoy and that bring you peace, calmness and grounding to prioritize wellness for your physical AND mental health Give yourself permission to rest.
  2. There is no set time frame for how long it takes to process your diagnosis and survivorship. You will find a lot of “firsts” in this space in your life combined with some grief and relief, among a variety of other parallel feelings. It’s okay that all of those feelings live in one space.
  3. Survivor’s guilt can be a part of surviving cancer. You may think about others with cancer who had a different journey and feel guilty or wonder why you survived. This can be a normal part of surviving this diagnosis when others have not. We will take a minute here to remember those people and send our care and sympathy to individuals and families who have lost loved ones.
  4. Health anxiety may be something you experience. You may feel worried about your health and more attuned to your physical health baseline and subtle changes related to health. This is normal and it makes sense for what you have experienced. Give yourself some kindness as you take this all in.
  5. It’s just as important to attune to your mental wellness in this time too. There are tons of resources available for you. Books are a good place to start. One of the books that helped me feel seen and understood is “The Human Side of Cancer” by Jimmie Holland and Sheldon Lewis.
  6. Create a support system around you. Friends, family, counsellors and healthcare providers can be a key part of your overall wellness balancing act.
  7. Find a support group with other cancer survivors in your community. It is really important to have a space to talk about your experiences with others who understand what you have been through. The cancer journey can be lonely but there are groups out there to help with similar experiences.
  8. Seek some counselling or support with mental wellness from a professional. Having a space to talk openly, process and connect is a huge part of the holistic healing process in the cancer journey.
  9. Think about marking your remission date with a special gesture that nurtures your cancer survivor journey. This can be big or small. It’s up to you.

This year marks my fourth year in remission as a cancer survivor. I understand the journey that a cancer diagnosis can make in your life but I have also experienced strength present itself in ways I didn’t know I was capable of.

In conclusion, just know that this strength is inside you too. If you need someone to talk or help you pull that strength out, we are here waiting for you at Wildflowers Therapy.

Take care.

Written by Nancy Masuda BSW RSW, Clinical Counsellor

Reference:

Holland, J. C., & Lewis, S. (2001). The human side of cancer: Living with hope, coping with uncertainty. HarperCollins Publishers.

New Year, New You?

New Year, New You?

It is likely that many of us have set New Year’s Resolutions, or at least have thought about it. As is typical in January, our mindset shifts to thinking of a fresh start, goals, or changes we can make for the new year. Although some happily engage in setting a resolution, others may think of a resolution as exhibiting pressure, anticipating failure, or being met with resistance to change. Below are some alternatives to the traditional New Year’s Resolution.

  • Guide/Nudge Words — Acts as a mind-set or intention for the year. For example, “explore,” or “connect.”
  • Personal Mantra – Using one, two, or three values that are important to you and you want to focus on living by. Examples include happiness, generosity, and strength.
  • Vision Board – Used to visualize success and what you want or hope to achieve.

Looking for other ideas to help support you in the new year? Check out the article below:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/changepower/202301/6-unusual-alternatives-to-traditional-new-years-resolutions

 

Blog Post by Clinical Counsellor, Ashley Carlson

 

Self-Care During the Holiday Season

Self -Care During the Holiday Season

For many people the Holiday Season is a time characterized by feelings of joy, love, peace, and happiness. A time when many excitedly look forward to the opportunity to be with their closest family, friends, and loved ones to reminisce about the year gone by. What about those who find themselves feeling less than “holly-jolly” though.  While the Holiday Season can be the most “wonderful time of the year” for many, for some it’s the polar opposite, with the season bringing about an exacerbation of difficult feelings including worry, stress, isolation, and depression. The truth is not everyone looks forward to the holidays as much as the Hallmark Channel might have you believe.

A recent study carried out by the Canadian Mental Health Association (2022), found that approximately 52% of Canadians report having greater feelings of depression, anxiousness, and isolation during the holidays compared to any other time of year. Knowing this, the question now is, how can you protect yourself and your mental health this Holiday Season?

When it comes to the Holidays, often our high expectations to top last year’s festivities, combined with the overwhelmingly higher emotional labour, and not to mention physical labour, that goes into making said festivities a reality such as cleaning house, decorating, shopping, gifting wrapping, budgeting, cooking, organizing, hosting and so on, it’s no wonder so many of us find ourselves feeling down and out before Christmas Eve rolls around.

The pressure to create the “perfect holiday” and the fear of missing out or being excluded from seasonal traditions can quickly leave you feeling empty at a time when you’re expected to feel full (i.e., full of love, full of joy, full of thanks, full of food etc.). This is why it’s important to set yourself up with reasonable expectations and to remember the following:

  • Cast aside the Grinchy judgments of others – you are not forced to celebrate the holidays, let alone in the way popular media suggests you do.
  • If you’re feeling trapped or restrained by tradition, then make a change! For some this might mean saying “no” and turning down invitations to social gatherings, and for others this might mean setting boundaries such as agreeing to go out for dinner but not staying for dessert.
  • If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the holiday hustle, then delegate and ask those around you for help. It’s not your job alone to make the holidays.
  • Give yourself a break and do something special for yourself – this could be cooking yourself your favourite food, going out to a movie of your choice, or even just taking a little time to sit quietly and read. Whatever you choose to do, just make sure that you’re doing it for yourself.
  • Remember that even if you accept an invitation but find yourself feeling overwhelmed or overstimulated while you’re out, it’s okay to take a little time – find a quiet space to take a little time to chill, call a friend to decompress, or take a short walk.
  • If you’re not having a good time, you are allowed to leave – regardless of what social convention might dictate, you do not have to stay if you don’t want to. Organize your own transportation so you have the option to stay as long or as little as you want.
  • Do what you love and make the holidays work for you – think about the things that you love and enjoy about the holidays and what things you dislike or even hate. Now do the things you actually enjoy! Don’t let tradition, yours or someone else’s, dictate how you celebrate.
  • Remember to stay on budget – build yourself a budgeting template to help keep track of your spending so you don’t break the bank.
  • Stay mindful of over-indulging – while it might feel good in the moment or help you alleviate some holiday stress, remember that your actions have consequences as future you might not be as happy about past you indulging.
  • While gifts are nice, know that you don’t need to buy people things to show them you care – acts of kindness such as lending a helping hand in the kitchen, offering to run errands for a friend, or just spending quality time with a loved are worth more than anything money can buy.
  • Validate what you’re feeling and know that it’s okay to not be okay.

 

If despite your best efforts to get into the holiday spirit you still find yourself struggling with feelings of anxiousness, sadness, or if your negative feelings are getting in the way of your day to day life, reach out for mental health support:

Phone: 211 or Text: 211

  • If you’re in immediate danger or need urgent medical support, call 9-1-1

Resources:

Canadian Mental Health Association. (2022, December 5). Five ways to protect your mental health this holiday season. https://cmha.ca/news/five-ways-to-protect-your-mental-health-this-holiday/

Government of Canada. (n.d.). Mental health support: Get help. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/mental-health-services/mental-health-get-help.html?utm_campaign=hc-sc-mental-health-23-24&utm_medium=sem&utm_source=ggl&utm_content=ad-text-en&utm_term=mental%20health&adv=2324-471650&id_campaign=20569209009&id_source=153075713959&id_content=674818189115&gclid=Cj0KCQiA7OqrBhD9ARIsAK3UXh1Og5ZyVU14TPi-oQi1K3BU2KguRjbT15VY6cMCd5BgHww2V7ooAnEaAqEsEALw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds

 

Blog Post by Provisional Psychologist, Casie Chang

 

Holding Two Truths

Holding Two Truths

The concept of dialectical thinking, or how opposites can co-exist, is a helpful way to think about many issues. Dialects are the philosophical basis of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). The idea here is that two seemingly conflicting ideas or concepts are true at the same time.  Some examples of dialectical thinking include:  I am doing my best and I can try harder, I am capable and I need support, I feel angry and I can be respectful, I disagree with you and I understand and respect you, I hate what you did and I still love you, I don’t want to do this and I am going to do it anyway, I want to change and I am afraid of change.

What often keeps people stuck is getting pulled into polarized thinking:  wrong vs. right, fair vs. unfair, easy vs. difficult. These dichotomous ways of thinking can be helpful and efficient in some areas of life but when applied to our inner experiences, or in relationships, their ridged adherence keeps us “spinning our wheels”. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) gives us the tool of replacing the word “but” with “and” helping to move us forward out of the trap of polarized thinking. Whenever you use “but” see if you can change it to “and”. For example, “I would like to go to the party, but I am anxious” how about “I would like to go to the party and I am anxious”. ACT and DBT both provide skills to normalize and handle painful emotions so that your life becomes less about controlling internal experiences and more about living a rich life, full of meaning and with the whole range of human experiences.

This concept of two things being true can also be very helpful in parenting. Most parents struggle with wanting to help their children feel comfortable and happy and wanting them to be independent, responsible, and respectful. Using the idea of dialects teaches children how to hold two truths. If a child is experiencing an unpleasant emotion, we can help them name it “it seems like you are feeling sad/angry/worried right now, that makes sense. I would feel that way too if my brother took my candy/someone pushed me/I was going to a birthday party where I didn’t know a lot of people. After validating the feeling, we then can use the idea to two things being true- You feel sad your brother took your candy and you can’t hit him because that breaks our anger rules. What could you do instead? Using the word “but” is almost always invalidating. It’s sort of like saying its okay to feel that way but really it isn’t. – “You feel sad your brother took your candy, but you can’t hit him because that breaks our anger rules”. Although changing “but” to “and” is a subtle shift it makes a difference and starts to teach children that emotions and thoughts are not the problem, the problem is what we do when they show up. Parents can apply dialectical thinking to themselves to help gain balance:  I love you and I do not like what you did, I want to help you and for you to gain independence, this is difficult and I think you can do it, I want to have fun and have rules and boundaries. As a parent we can give ourselves permission to hold two truths: I can mess up and repair, I can regret things I have said and do better in the future.

So, you don’t have to choose a single truth, most issues are more complex than that. Imagine the difference this would make in our relationships and in politics! Instead of fighting on our side we could agree- this part is true and valid for you, and this is true and valid for me, how can we work together to find a workable compromise.

References

Kennedy, B. (2022). Good Inside: A guide to becoming the parent you want to be. New York, NY Harpers Collins Publishers.

Lineham, M (2015). DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets. New York, NY. The Guilford Press.

 

Blog Post by Registered Psychologist, Alison Campbell