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.
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:
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.
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.
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.