This month I got into a new hobby, another creative outlet but this time it was jewelry making instead of ceramics. I made a few pieces that I got excited about and was secretly hoping that others would like what I made. I wanted to publicize my creations to see if anyone would be interested in buying them but I felt embarrassed and frozen when I thought about the possibility of getting no response at all. What if people don’t like my designs? What if I put myself out there and everything thinks that I am a complete amateur and crazy for trying to charge money for my creations?
These doubtful negative thoughts plague us all. They bruise our confidence and bring us down. I asked myself if I could handle the worst scenario - the lack of response and the feeling of embarrassment and rejection. Although these are not desired outcomes I realized that I could handle their reality and that long term I would probably forget about those negative feelings. I challenged myself to take that next step and put myself out there with realistic expectations. I did not expect to become an overnight success story making millions, but I did hope that I would get at least a few messages from people telling me they liked the pieces. What was most helpful for me was having balanced thinking instead of negative or overly positive thinking.
So I took the plunge and guess what happened? I got several messages from both friends and acquaintances saying that they liked my pieces. Even a few put in orders to buy them!
A few days later I put myself out there again, this time in front of strangers. I brought my jewelry creations to a boutique. Once again I surprised myself and got a few more sales.
Maybe I’m not quitting my day job as a therapist, but I do feel happy that I put myself out there and proud of the pieces that I have created and sold. The risk of failure and embarrassment was well worth the outcome.
Whether your big step is in dating, speaking up for yourself in a relationship, applying to a job that seems out of reach, or asking for a raise at work let us know on our social platforms if you have taken any risks and put yourself out there. If we never take risks we never find out what could have happened.
This week I felt tired and unmotivated to write my weekly Wellness Wednesday blog post. A lack of inspiration and writer’s block began to frustrate me as I realized that Wednesday is fast approaching. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing and still feel proud that I have kept up my weekly posts for over a year. However, sometimes my lack of ideas makes me wonder if anyone would really notice if I stopped writing. I figure that this is likely something many can relate to at one time or another. Our passions can easily become burdens and our commitments can become stressors when we have too much on our plates. It can lead to a feeling of disappointment when we do not live up to our high expectations. I recognize that part of being human is accepting our personal limits and asking ourselves what is truly important and realistic to attend to given our time and energy limitations.
We all juggle several responsibilities each day. Whether it be meal prepping, exercising, taking care of dependents, social commitments and of course the many tasks of school or work. It is often hard to know which item takes the cut when there are too many tasks to get to in a day.
What I find most helpful is allowing myself to be imperfect. For me this means not beating myself up when certain tasks take longer to get accomplished or giving myself compassion when I just have to say no to another commitment. Perhaps this means turning down a work opportunity, or giving in to a frozen meal instead of a fresh home cooked meal. All things considered the tasks that I chose to prioritize changes each day.
When saying "no" to new commitments, and being slower or imperfect are not available options asking for help can be our best option. Asking for and accepting help may not be your first inclination, but it may help to get the task completed on time. It does not make us appear weak, rather it demonstrates to others that we are self aware and responsible.
Here are 6 Tips When You are Feeling Unmotivated:
So today my self compassion leads me to write a shorter blog post than usual.
But hey, at least I wrote something!
Image used under Creative Commons license CLICK HERE for the source. Image: Motivation by "airpix" of aboblist. See side panel for further copyright information.
Today I want to discuss an app that I use frequently with my clients to practice skills that I teach in therapy. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy helps to teach individuals to challenge and change maladaptive thought patterns and learn to replace them with more balanced and adaptive thoughts. This skill takes practice and is best accompanied by a “thought record”, an integral tool to learning the skill of cognitive restructuring. A thought record is a tool that helps individuals to break down their experience into several components that allows them to see the impact of their thoughts on the resulting emotion and choices that they make in reaction to a situation. The columns in a thought record include: situation, emotion, automatic thought, cognitive distortions and the evidence surrounding the automatic thought, and a final column for the alternative thought that replaces the original thought.
Paper and pencil thought records are the traditional method of practicing this technique. For many individuals paper and pencil is effective but digital apps can be a helpful alternative for people who prefer the ease of typing and the accessibility of having the thought record structure on their phones.
The app called CBT Thought Diary, which is available for free on the Appstore to download to an iPhone, iPad or apple watch, smoothly helps the user to complete all necessary sections of a traditional thought record. This app allows the user to practice cognitive restructuring on a daily basis and all entries are maintained in a list in your app so that you can look back on your previous entries for later reflection.
Using this app with the guidance of a trained CBT therapist would be ideal and ensure that one is assisted in properly challenging and restructuring maladaptive automatic thoughts. However, this app can also be used for self help purposes. The current circumstances of our world has lead to an increase of need for psychological support and resources to help oneself. This app may be a helpful addition to an individuals mental health toolkit. Another feature that I appreciate about this app is that it provides that additional option to record a gratitude. So even if you find that you are not experiencing many negative or anxious thoughts and you want to continue the habit of reflection and cognitive awareness this app also provides a place to practice recognizing the good things that take place in our lives.
Have you used this app before? Let us know your thoughts and reviews of this app on our social platforms.
For a link to download this free app CLICK HERE.
As we all seem to be spending a lot of time with the same people, tension is bound to brew. For some it is simpler to just be easy going and put ones own needs aside in order to avoid confrontation. For others, not feeling respected or heard brings out a more aggressive tone to communicate ones needs with urgency and attention. The down side to both of these communication styles are that putting others first, never prioritizes your own needs, and being aggressive often does not lead to respectful and healthy relationships. Rather, we aim to be assertive so that we can communicate our needs and self advocate while also being able to listen to the perspectives and needs of others. But the boundaries between passive, assertive, and aggressive communication styles are often blurred together.
The esteemed couples therapist Esther Perel stated in one of her Youtube videos that assertiveness communicates confidence whereas aggressiveness is defensive. She also noted that assertiveness is a dialogue whereas aggressiveness is a debate.
If we think about these different styles of communication and how they are present in our lives it is clear that our communication styles can impact our professional, social, romantic, and familial relationships. No matter what context we are in our communication has an impact, and the demeanour and tone communicates much more than the literal meaning of our words. It may be helpful to think of times when we tend to be more passive, and environments that bring out our aggressive communication style. The assertive communication style is ideal because it allows both parties of the conversation to express their needs and heard and facilitates collaboration rather than competition.
The last few months I have been working on creating more awareness in my own use of communication in order to create more intentionality. Where some people find it is their natural tendency to not be assertive enough, others struggle to maintain assertiveness without crossing into aggressive territory. There are moments where each of these styles of communication are necessary and appropriate, but more often the middle ground of assertiveness may be most productive.
How do you find a healthy balance in your communication styles?
Let us know on our Instagram account which style of communication you tend to find yourself in.
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Image: Talk by Matus Laslofi. See side panel for further copyright information.
Five months have passed since all of our lives changed. At this point all of us have had to make at least one sacrifice, one compromise or experienced one challenge due to the pandemic. Whether it was the financial burdens of losing a job, reduced income to a business, increased childcare responsibilities, the loss of a milestone event, or a reduction of socializing and physical intimacy in our relationships the current Pandemic has affected us all. But these times have also brought on reflection and a forced change that has for many of us led to new perspectives and personal growth.
One of my favourite authors that I have come across is Victor Frankl, who wrote Man’s Search for Meaning. I read this book years ago and have never forgotten it or the effect that it had on me as graduate student training to become a psychotherapist. Frankl, a holocaust survivor, neurologist and psychiatrist, describes his experience in death camps of Eastern Europe and how making meaning of the horrific experience allowed him to survive when others in the same circumstances did not. The other half of the novel guides us through how his experience as a survivor of the Holocaust led him to create Logotherapy, a form of existential psychotherapy that is based on helping individuals to cultivate meaning from their struggles in order to cultivate resilience.
Some of my favourite quotes from Man’s Search for Meaning are:
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
Although our current situation is not remotely close to the hardships of surviving the death camps of the Holocaust, our challenges and hardships are real and have brought personal struggle to many of us in significant ways. If we can start to look for areas of personal growth, changes in perspectives, or begin to see meaning in our struggle than perhaps we can all begin to cultivate our own resilience.
Let us know how you have made meaning of the hardships of the current circumstances on our social platforms.
For those who are interested in reading Man’s Search for Meaning here is a link to access the book from the Toronto Public Library:
Or buy the book on Amazon:
The past few months have been stressful and filled with unexpected circumstances. Many of us have been pushed to our limits in relationships, caregiving, at work, or just coping with our own mental health. We are all doing the best we can, and sometimes reminding ourselves of these circumstantial parameters can alleviate some of the critical judgment and social comparison that leaves us feeling like we are not enough. At times like these it seems crucial to practice self compassion with intentionality and sincerity. However, often we just say “I am going to be more self-compassionate to myself”. But for many of us we do not know how to go about actually practicing that.
One of the experts in the field of practicing mindful self compassion is Dr. Kristin Neff, Associate Professor Human Development and Culture, Educational Psychology Department, at the University of Texas. On her website Dr. Neff defines self compassion as including three different element:
1) Self-kindness vs. Self-judgment
2) Common Humanity vs. Isolation
3) Mindfulness vs. Over Identification
On her website Dr. Neff also provides eight examples of self compassion exercises that you can practice at home. She also provides ten guided meditations that you can listen to for free, to help you start a personal meditation practice through the lens of loving kindness and self compassion.
If you feel like you need some extra self love today, feel free to try a meditation or self compassion exercise from Dr. Neff. It may be a helpful start to a lifelong journey of learning to care for yourself and be your own best friend.
More information about Dr. Neff, her understanding of self compassion guided meditations and self compassion exercises can be found HERE.
How do you practice self compassion in your life? Let us know on our social platforms.
Summer is here, and because of COVID19 there are few places to go to. You may not be on summer vacation anywhere tropical, but it might be the perfect opportunity to get to that stack of books you have been keeping beside your bed. I recently finished the book “In this Moment” by Kirk Strosahl Phd and Patricia Robinson Phd, published in 2015.
This quick read informs the reader of a mindfulness approach to managing stressors. What I enjoyed most about this book was that it is was not focussed on developing a meditation practice, rather, it was focussed on bringing mindfulness skills in our every day lives. This book focuses on five facets of mindfulness and dedicates chapters to teaching skills in each of these five domains. The five facets of mindfulness discussed by Strosahl and Robinson include: 1) Observe, 2) Describe, 3) Detach, 4) Love yourself , and 5) Act Mindfully.
I enjoyed reading this book because it helped to break down the illusive concept of mindfulness into tangible steps and concrete exercises that can be practiced to target each of these five skill domains. I appreciated that this book was not just theoretical but included components of the The Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire Short Form (Baer et al. 2008; Baer 2003). This tool helps to assess areas of strength and deficit before starting to develop the skills included in the book. After reading each chapter and practicing the exercises you can reassess yourself within the particular domains and recognize your areas of growth. Each chapter also included a section dedicated to explaining the particular mindfulness facet from a neuroscience perspective, helping the reader to explore what area of the brain is in charge of that skill.
My favourite quotes from In This Moment:
“We've been taught to reject the growth-producing aspects of daily stress and instead focus our energy on finding ways to eliminate or control our symptoms of stress. Instead of seeing those important symptoms as signals that life might be out of balance in some important way, we try to kill the messenger” (pp. 17).
“The only medicine we know of that can cure the problem of living life on autopilot is to live life deliberately, according to what matters to you...listen to your stress, accept that it’s there, and adopt a deliberate, mindful approach that will help you transcend it…. If you aren’t willing to have stress, then stress will have you… the mere fact that you have daily stress means there are things in your life that you care about. If nothing mattered to you, you wouldn’t have any stress at all” (pp. 18).
If you have given this book a read already let us know what you think on our social platforms.
If you have any books that you would like Wellness Wednesday to review please send your recommendations to our instagram page.
COVID19 has given many of us the opportunity or the mental push to focus on starting new habits. Whether they are health related, creativity oriented or professionally directed these habits are only helpful if they are maintained long term. I did some reading about habit maintenance, and I learned about five different techniques that help to maintain new habits.
What other techniques do you find helpful? Let us know on our social platforms.
Image used under Creative Commons license. CLICK HERE for the source. Image: "Arms, smartphone and weight on the floor" by Nenad Stojkovic. See side panel for further copyright information.
We check our phone hundreds of times a day, but how often do we check in with ourselves? Something that I have written about several times before in previous blog posts is the concept of “checking in with yourself” to assess your feelings, state of wellness, and your current needs. But what I have not spoken about is how we actually do that. Sometimes in psychology we talk about things without clarity on how to start these emotional practices. Today I want to discuss what it really means to “check in” with yourself.
Step 1. Pause: Slow down, and take a deep breath. We cannot check in if we are still in a state of flow moving through our day. Taking the time and space to step back is necessary in order to be able to take in and assess our personal state of wellbeing.
Step 2. Reflect & Assess: Here we take an inventory of our current state in all formats: emotionally, cognitively, and physiologically. For many of us we are better at noticing some of these domains than we are at noticing others.
Step 3. Turn inwards and get curious about what is happening internally: Here we can ask ourselves what needs are not being met at this time. Specifically, what do you need more or less of? What do you need from yourself vs. what needs do you have for others at this time? What do we need to refuel of ourselves vs. what can we give or expect from others?
Checking in with oneself can be really helpful in giving us the opportunity to reflect and bring awareness to imbalances in our current state of wellness. But awareness is often not enough if it is not communicated with the people we live with. We often forget that our moods can appear invisible to others. After checking in with oneself it can be helpful to check in with your partner/family members about our current state of wellbeing and our needs from them as support systems.
Similar to the structure above, checking in with a partner may involve:
1) notifying them of our current state of mental health
e.g., “I’m feeling drained of energy today”
2) Notifying the partner what they can do to best support your needs
e.g., “It would be really appreciated if you could give me some space at this time, as I need the rest of the afternoon to practice self care”.
3) The partner repeats step 1 & 2 to communicate their current state of wellbeing and needs from you.
Have you been checking in with yourself and your partner lately?
What have you found are helpful components to a check in?
Let us know on our Wellness Wednesday social platforms.
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Quarantine has led us all to convert our daily life to virtual life. I know I don’t only speak for myself when I say that screen time now takes up a large portion of my day. Whether it’s Zoom work meetings, virtual dating, online shopping, FaceTiming loved ones, watching the news on cable TV, YouTube workout videos, or Netflix at night we are all spending more time online.
These screens are necessary because they allow us to continue connecting, working, exercising, and relaxing. Most importantly these virtual platforms enable us to maintain a sense of normalcy. Despite all of these benefits I simultaneously feel like I am experiencing a digital overload. Instead of fighting against technology I decided that I am going to make technology work for me and start to be more aware and intentional about how I use it.
Here are four changes that I have made to how I use my phone:
What have you been noticing about your screen time usage lately?
Have you been participating in any quarantine activities that are screen free?
Let us know on our Wellness Wednesday social platforms.
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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.
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