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.
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.
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.
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.
Image used under Creative Commons license. CLICK HERE for the source.
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.
Image used under Creative Commons license. CLICK HERE for the source.
Getting through quarantine has truly felt like a journey. Some day's it feels easy and relaxing and other days it can feel truly overwhelming. The emotional journey is bound to continue throughout the remainder of this unique time but overall I have found that there are a few things that have helped push me through the challenges and help me maintain wellbeing. Here are my five tips to getting through quarantine.
What has helped you get through quarantine?
Let us know in the comments below or on our social media channels.
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.
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.