Living with your partner, roommate or family members can be challenging on a normal day, but for many of us we have been cooped up with them, and only them, for several weeks now. The sudden change in our day-to-day environment might be perceived as added quality time for some, but it may also trigger frustration, spark arguments and feel suffocating for others.
It is important to remind ourselves that it is ok to feel like we need a break from “quality time” and that it does not mean we do not love our housemates. Quarantine has come with stress of the world and anxiety about our health, so it is only natural for that to make us emotionally fragile in our relationships with loved ones when feeling like we have no escape.
In times like these, it is important to speak openly with our cohabitors about creating new boundaries and guidelines for personal space. Having these conversations early and explicitly may feel awkward or confrontational, but it may be worth it in the name of peace in the home. Problem solving together as housemates may look like designating specific areas of the living space to be private vs. communal, or certain hours of the day to have allocated time to ourselves. This time can be spent practicing self care (e.g., going for a walk or taking some time to read) that may recharge your patience with that loved one.
The important thing is that you discuss these needs for increased personal space with an honest but empathic tone that can lead to an open dialogue with your roommate where you can problem solve together. By ensuring that you have these discussions with compassion, you may be able to prevent added tension from brewing in the small living space.
On the other end of the spectrum, many romantic relationships have recently had the added challenge of being separated during these times of quarantine. This may be due to their profession as a healthcare provider with the increased health risks or recent travel. Many may be feeling like they are now in a “long distance” relationship that they never signed up for.
Being separated for multiple weeks from an intimate partner may change the dynamic and the way you are able to relate to each other. Perhaps as a couple you used to be very physically affectionate. Now phone calls and video calls add pressure to communicate intimacy, a very different expectation from your relationship norms. These times may invoke added expectations from a loved one to make the other person feel extra comforted and considered when distance does not allow for the love language of quality time. In these situations, it can become frustrating when one person expects the other partner to send flowers or an amazon delivery gift to make the other person feel cared for when in the past they had never had to think in this creative mode.
I suggest being extra sensitive to the needs of your partner, communicate with clarity what you need and ask what they need at this time, and try your best to make a small gesture to show that you care, even if it is simply sending a cute e-card to show them that you are thinking of them.
What creative solutions have you found for these problems?
Let us know on our social posts today!
It has been over a week of social distancing for most of us. With the added closures of restaurants, bars, gyms and coffee shops across our city, we are seeing nearly all aspects of our normal social routine grind to a halt. For many of us, we now find ourselves in a period of complete social isolation. Being cooped up in your home by yourself or with a loved one can quickly begin to feel frustrating, lonely, or, at best, boring.
Last week I provided 10 activities that you can take part in at home to keep yourself busy. Today, I want to focus on the importance of getting yourself back into a routine. Without routine, our days can feel aimless and drawn out. We feel most comfortable when we know what to expect. During a time when we do not have our usual workplace and childcare schedules, our body is likely craving a new sense of routine to guide us through the next few months.
So now that you have tried different activities to keep you occupied, let us focus on essential habits that make us feel good each day and use these as the anchors in our new routine. Even though we may not have much to accomplish, it can feel productive to start the day by continuing to participate in your daily hygiene routines. Simply making your bed, taking a shower, practicing good skincare, and getting dressed in something clean (and not pajamas) can help lift our spirits. I then suggest a 5 minute meditation, to reset for the next moment and provide a moment of calm and clarity. Following meditation, one can make breakfast and then write a daily to-do list. The act of making a list gives you an opportunity to set intentions and goals for the day. Sure, your list might not be long, but you can still be productive if you give yourself those few minutes to reflect and identify priorities to tackle. You are also providing yourself the opportunity for a sense of accomplishment, which can be lacking in times such as these. Anchoring your day with these routines may help stimulate creativity, productivity and prevent an endless Netflix binge that can make time feel like it is standing still.
This is also an opportunity to appreciate the added time that we now have, which, for many, is a very stark contrast to our previous busy on-the-go lifestyle. Perhaps this is your opportunity to focus on improving your sleep, starting that daily gratitude journaling practice, or now take the time to cook healthy meals.
It is important to recognize the things we are still doing and not dismiss them because they are small or easy. By scheduling portions of your day to tackle items on your to-do list, you will feel like your days are still fulfilling.
Here is a sample of a to-do list I created for myself during this social distancing time when I am less busy than usual. I positioned my to-do list items into time slots to help ensure that I keep my day productive and only permit lazy TV watching for the evenings.
8:00 am: Make bed; Hygiene routines; 5 minute morning meditation
9:00 am: Upload Wellness Wednesday; Check emails
10:00 am: Breakfast
11:00 am: Write Wellness Wednesday Post for next week
12:00 pm: Yoga on Instagram live with Saana Yoga
1:00 pm: Lunch; Prepare for clients
2:00 pm: Online Client
4:00 pm: Online Client
5:00 pm: Read 2 chapters in my book
6:00 pm: Swiffer the floors; Laundry
6:30 pm: Prepare and eat dinner
8:00 pm: Netflix
I would love to hear on our social channels what routines you are putting in place.
COVID19 is all over the news, and, for many of us, it is all we can think about. It makes sense, our lives have now been altered to protect ourselves and those around us from contracting the illness. However, the illness is not the only thing that is contagious and destructive, it is the fear that it incites.
During fearful times, we have to focus on self care and our own mental health. If we let our fear and anxiety about the virus overwhelm us completely it may lead to a break-down in our self-care and ultimately lead us to have a weaker immune system. We often see this effect around school exams, when those late season colds sneak up on us.
If we are unable to go outside and take part in our usual stress management practices we might need to get creative.
Some self care ideas to keep you occupied and while still keeping you safe:
While we undoubtedly go into therapy with the goal of feeling better, it is true that one can sometimes feel a bit worse after an emotional session. As unfortunate as that sounds, it is normal to sometimes feel upset or drained when revisiting tough emotional experiences or uncovering difficult insights and truths that have not been so obvious to us in the past.
Often we approach emotions in a pathological way, by chasing good emotions and ignoring or avoiding the bad. We grow, change, and move forward in our lives by experiencing a full range of emotions and using that experience to shape our future intentions. While we might feel like we went into therapy just to feel better, many of us have also tried a bit of consumer therapy by spending money on a chocolate bar or a new dress. While you may have felt better in that exact moment, did it really lead to any long term gains?
In reality, we go to therapy to build a stronger and more resilient relationship with ourselves, work through difficult experiences, and gain insight into the complexities of our choices. These gifts often only come with the recognition that we are not perfect and that negative emotions deserve to be felt. Those emotions give us important information and act as an emotional compass. Talking about difficult experiences may feel worse in the moment, but that experience also blossoms awareness of those elements of our lives and our experience that we pathologically avoid. These moments of discomfort, especially supported by a therapist we trust, can empower us in the future and slowly lessen the impact and the emotional charge that lay behind these traumatic narratives. If we do not bring these narratives forward we lose the opportunity to rewrite their endings.
What have you been avoiding thinking or talking about lately?
Whether you are in high school, college or university, you are likely starting to think about the end of the school year, which means it is getting closer to exam time. No matter what year or grade you are in, exams bring stress. It can feel overwhelming to try and balance finding time to finish those last assignments, essays, readings and small homework tasks with the bigger goal of starting to study for finals. Add to that trying to maintain a personal life and attending to self care, cleaning, and personal responsibilities that all take up valuable time.
If managing all of these demands are starting to cause stress, these tips will come in handy:
Organization & Time Management:
Perfectionism & Self Imposed Pressure:
Positive Self Talk:
Practice Self Care:
If exams are a ways away, why not try to implement a few of these strategies from the very start? If things are already busy and you are already moving towards your peak stress level, take a step back and give one of these approaches a try. You might just find it helps.
While most people traditionally think of therapy as involving two comfortable chairs in a fairly cozy office, psychotherapy has been offered many different ways for decades (e.g. phone therapy and even therapy by email). Over the last few years, we have seen an increased interest in video based therapy. Using software similar to Facetime or Skype, online therapy or internet based counselling is an alternative method of traditional therapy that enables one the opportunity to meet with a mental health care provider even if you are far away or when your time is limited and you want to sneak in a session during a break from your daily demands.
While video based therapies also open up the opportunity to see professionals from a larger geographic region, it is important to recognize that much of the work provided over this medium must be provided by an individual registered provincially to work in Ontario. This means that you are generally restricted to Ontario-based psychotherapists and psychologists. This can also mean that moving out of the province may make it difficult for your local therapist to service you from afar. This restriction is not in place in all regions, so you should certainly discuss with your treatment provider whether this is an option for you.
I am often asked if I think the same level of connection can be cultivated in an online session versus an in person one. I would say that video based sessions are essentially 90% the same. Whenever possible, I prefer to have at least one in person session with a client before offering to switch to online support. This allows us some time to get to know each other and build a strong rapport with all of the context of in person. Perhaps there is something special about sharing the space with your therapist or having increased presence to allow the conversation to deepen. However, for many people the alternative of online support is more feasible and therefore more helpful than getting no support at all. Differences between online and in-person care may vary from person to person, and some might even find that they are more easily able to open when discussing concerns from the comfort of their own space. For individuals that struggle to get out of the house due to mobility issues, phobias, transportation barriers, or child/elederly care responsibilities this alternative avenue for support may be essential.
Because this form of support is becoming more commonly available at clinics across the world, it is now easier to continue therapeutic relationships despite life changes instead of having to start over with someone new. This online opportunity also opens up many avenues for individuals in rural communities to access qualified support that may not be available close by or may be limited by a local clinician’s areas of expertise. Furthermore, clinics are starting to offer online structured module based psychotherapy where clients complete educational pre-recorded videos and readings, complete homework and are monitored by a therapist. These might be more suited towards individuals who are not as comfortable opening up, looking for something structured and have limited financial funds to pursue long term options.
While video therapy may not be for everyone, it has become an increasingly available and research-supported method of intervention. If you find getting to session a challenge, why not consider talking to your support team about including some video based work.
While deciding to engage in therapy can feel like a big decision, it is not the only challenge one may face prior to sitting down in the therapist’s office. A common question we hear from clients is a lack of direction when “shopping” for a therapist or therapeutic approach that is the right fit for both themselves and their area of concern.
While it may sometimes feel overwhelming, seeking a better understanding of what approach will be the best fit for you does not have to be especially difficult.
Seeking Treatments that are Evidence Based
Accessing an evidence-based approach to psychotherapy means that the techniques being applied in treatment are supported through research and have been found effective in reducing symptoms for people with a particular type of concern. There may be a variety of different options available that meet your needs, but not every “validated” approach will be the right fit for you or your particular area of difficulty.
Not all domains of therapy are easy to study in controlled research trials, meaning that not all therapy orientations receive the “evidenced based” seal of approval. Styles of therapy that are not evidenced based are not necessarily ineffective, but a practice modality that is at least informed by this research is ideal.
You will generally find that many therapists use an eclectic approach to treatment, meaning they borrow strategies from a variety of different therapeutic modalities and incorporate them into your care in an individualized manner. This is very common because it allows the therapist to choose a combination of techniques that seem right for you, rather than trying to fit you to a specific mold. What is most important is that the therapist is trained in each of these different approaches.
What if the fit doesn’t feel right?
As a client, you have every right to change your mind with regards to your consent to treatment and can stop treatment/therapy at any time. Consent should be an ongoing and collaborative process. Perhaps you try out a therapist and agree to a treatment plan, but later find that things are not moving the way you would like. It is certainly within your right to discontinue care at any time and transition to a new treatment provider, though you may also find you benefit greatly from communicating your concerns with your therapist and seeing if they use that feedback to further shape the collaborative process to meet your needs. Lastly, it is important to give it more than just a session or two before you assess fit. Keep in mind that the therapist only has the information you have provided to get things started and sometimes we need a few sessions to obtain a fuller understanding of your needs. So, give it a chance, but also recognize if your needs are not being met and consider moving on if that seems to be a hurdle you cannot cross.
Often, the demands we face at work go well beyond getting things off our task and to-do list. These demands can begin to weigh on us and consequently add a lot of stress to your plate. Stressors can come from may relate to management of the workplace, one’s workload, or difficulties with co-workers or employees. Consider the example of a team member or leader becoming aware of imbalances in how a peer or employee is pulling their weight at the office. Your first instinct likely will not be to have the person fired, but you will undoubtedly recognize that the employee needs some feedback in order to recognize that a change is needed. This is a pretty common experience, one that is even more complicated if you work with friends or family members and do not want to ruin the relationship by being critical.
We can all probably relate to the discomfort of having these sorts of difficult conversations. You may even see the similarities to situations that are not professional related. Maybe you notice that one sibling is not helping out as much with care of your aging parents. Indeed, we all experience some sort of conflict in our lives where productivity and responsibility conflict with our relationships.
Before initiating a difficult conversation, it is important to start with a period of honest reflection, with the intention of widening your perspective to alternative explanations for the experience. Next, we must move towards an open and collaborative dialogue where both sides can have an opportunity to feel heard.
Managing a conversation where there is a need to be assertive while simultaneously attempting to minimize conflict is difficult. There are some guidelines, however, that can certainly help navigate these sorts of difficult conversations:
Have you ever had a situation where these tips might have come in handy?
While work generally is not a day full of fun and games, it should also not be an environment that completely drains you of your emotional resources. When the balance is off, assess, discuss, and act. It is quite likely that you are not the only one feeling the imbalance and we may find their are allies all around us looking to get things back on track.
Anyone can get stuck. We face problems, we know they are there, but we feel at a loss on how to move forward. Sometimes the best path forward is to have a structured way to consider and tackle the concerns we are experiencing in our lives. Marsha Linehan, the creator of Dialectical Behavior Therapy, discusses four options that can be applied to any challenging problem. These four options provide a good path to clear one’s mind and help clarify a direction when one feels utterly stuck in a difficult situation.
So the next time you feel stuck and upset ask yourself what it would look like to employ each of these four options and then decide which option will be most satisfying for you and the desired result. You may not be able to solve the problem, but you might be able to avoid staying miserable.
For many things in life, the timing of an event can be critical. When to text your date from Tuesday, but are trying to play hard to get with, now that is critical timing. But when it comes to seeking help for mental health concerns, timing tends to align more with the saying “better late than never”. For many of us, making that first appointment takes a lot of courage, and we still are not certain what we expect will come out of it. For those individuals, therapy is usually about planting the seeds for readiness for change. One might worry what the consequences of attending therapy will be, but generally, other than the financial cost of receiving private mental health support, getting support from a registered and qualified professional usually does not hold any notable risks. Therefore, the earlier you seek support the easier it is to learn ways to help prevent things from getting worse, support yourself better, cope better, or see yourself and your problems in a new light.
As long as you have a goal in mind and are open to making changes, therapy can be extremely helpful not just for those who have severe mental illness, but also those who desire to grow emotionally.
Positive psychology is a branch of psychology that focuses on the application of psychology for self improvement, rather than the resolution of illness. Therefore, its emphasis is on health promotion and focussing on what is going well rather than on pathology. As the stigma associated with therapy continues to shrink, seeking counselling/therapy services for the purpose of goal attainment and wellness rather than treatment of clinical psychopathology is growing. Seeking a regulated therapist is more like finding a “coach” who is trained to help guide you toward your goals.
Jessica is a member of the clinical wellness and learning support team at FLEX Psychology. Jessica started Wellness Wednesday out of a desire to provide further opportunities for her clients to extend their wellness journey to all avenues of their life. You can learn more about Jessica by clicking here or by learning more about her and the clinical team at FLEX Psychology by clicking here.