Last Wednesday I chose to take a hiatus out of respect for the anti-racism protests that arose around the world in response to the atrocities that took place in Minneapolis. Wellness Wednesday fully supports the equal treatment of all people, and is horrified by the acts of racism that continue to persist in our society.
Taking a pause on posting helped me reflect on how I consume social media, and how I, as a creator and consumer of media, can move forward in a healthy manner. This is a complicated topic. Consuming media about distressing topics leads to an obvious emotional strain. At the same time, as a privileged individual I recognize that feeling uncomfortable is an important part of what propels growth and change.
Simultaneously, in the wake of an already stressful few months in the world, I also recognize the utility of taking a pause, and mindfully navigating a more balanced approach to media consumption.
I recently listened to the Ted Talks podcast with author Elizabeth Gilbert who discussed the impact of language on our perspective and interpretation of a given experience.
This podcast helped me begin to think differently about the way we are perceiving our current situation, and perhaps our ability to see it in a more favourable light. For example, the word quarantine, a word which describes living circumstances that we are all currently experiencing helps to solidify the negative emotional experience of fear and isolation. Although this is certainly not a positive experience in our world, maintaining that perspective may exacerbate negative emotions and impact our ability to cope. Elizabeth asked the audience to imagine calling our current experience a “retreat” rather than quarantine and how this wording might help to open our minds to the potential for growth during this unique experience.
Another word choice that is discussed by Elizabeth Gilbert is focussing on developing “compassion” for the experience of others during this stressful time, rather than cultivating “empathy” which may be too taxing on our wellbeing during the current pandemic. She discussed how empathy is usually a good thing, but truly feeling the pain of others may be too much to ask of ourselves to give right now. Rather, having compassion for the pain of others maintains the appropriate and necessary boundaries that allow us to show care and concern while being aware of the amount of suffering we are already experiencing in ourselves.
Our words can also indicate our cognitive biases and distortions. Most of the time we do not even realize how our words articulate and reinforce errors in thinking that limit our view of a situation. One of the most common cognitive distortions that I see being used by my clients is black & white / all or nothing thinking. They say “I’ll never be able to find a job” or “I’m always awkward on dates”. Without realizing it, we let our word choices dictate our perspective and therefore our beliefs about ourselves, the future, and the world.
In respect for the current rallies in protest of racism, it is also important to acknowledge the language that we use intentionally or unintentionally that reinforces stereotypes, racism or hatred of any kind. Although it is explicit racism that makes the news and makes us shudder, implicit racism is perpetuated with our words, comments and questions, not realizing the implications and messages that they communicate.
In an effort to try and actively create a better experience for myself I am choosing to be more aware of the words that I am using and how they impact my mood, my perspective, and my treatment of others.
What have you noticed about the words you have been using lately? Connect with us on our social channels to let us know.
I recently I read about the concept of the “Healthy Mind Platter” created by Dr. Daniel Siegel and Dr. David Rock. This concept discusses the components of an integrated lifestyle as the product of a balance of time within seven different areas. The image of a “platter” in the Healthy Mind Platter is supposed to invoke similarity to the food groups from the Canada food guide that we should base our diets around.
As our time in quarantine has led to drastic changes in our schedules and priorities it may be an interesting opportunity to assess our pre-COVID, current, and ideal disbursement of time within these seven categories and ask ourselves if any changes are needed.
Here are each of the seven domains that Siegel and Rock present as important components to a healthy lifestyle:
This domain is filled with goal-oriented tasks that provide challenge and lead to the development of deep connections in the brain. This category is likely filled with professional, educational and achievement related tasks.
Playtime is something that perhaps has changed a lot since quarantine. This is time dedicated to exploring creative, fun and new activities. Siegel and Rock discuss this time as being important for the development of new connections in the brain. Whether it be painting, making puzzles or playing board games it is all play time.
By spending time socializing and connecting with those around us we activate and reinforce the relational circuitry in our brain. Calling or Zooming with loved ones are both included in Connecting Time.
Physical Time is any time where we engage our bodies in physical activity and exercise. Dancing, workouts, walks and runs are all part of this category.
Time In is the domain allocated for activities of self reflection, meditation and mindful awareness of our personal sensations and experience. In this category we are connecting to our internal selves.
Down Time is when we allow ourselves to relax and decompress. During this time we allow our brains to not focus on any specific tasks or goals. This is the time that we need to refuel ourselves after a long day and simply enjoy some TV on the couch.
Simply sleeping is necessary to consolidate learning and memory, recharge our bodies and rest. Many of us could likely benefit from more sleep.
After learning about these seven different categories I thought about which domains I spend most of my time in. This led to the realization that I need to spend more of my day participating in Time In activities. I hypothesize that many of us participate in more Down Time rather than Time In activities, or simply lump these two categories together in our brains. However, Time In is active reflection and awareness whereas Down Time is passive relaxation. Perhaps if I spent more of my day in Time In activities I would feel more refuelled than if I had spent that time watching Netflix.
You do not need to spend your time equally in each of these domains, it is obvious that most of us spend more of our day in Focus Time than in Play Time. But each domain has value. What is important rather is that we chose our time spent in each domain with thought and intention so that it is aligned with our values and goals.
Where do you spend most of your time? Are there any of the seven categories that you feel you should be giving more attention to?
Let us know in the comments below or on our social platforms.
If you would like to read more about the Healthy Mind Platter CLICK HERE.
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The current pandemic is something that no one asked for or chose. Naturally, it feels easy to lament about the freedoms that we have lost and the negative impact of isolation on our wellbeing. And that is fair, we have lost a lot, and these frustrations and feelings of grief are valid. But today I am choosing to focus on any positive aspects taken from this challenging experience, be it lessons, insights or gratitudes.
Here are five things that I have gained from quarantine:
What have you gained from quarantine? Are there any lessons that you have learned or gratitudes that you no longer take for granted? Let us know on our Wellness Wednesday Twitter and Instagram platforms or in the comments below.
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Psychologist Christine Padesky, author of Mind Over Mood, has posted a new Youtube video on her channel that discusses activity scheduling and its relevance now for all individuals, not just those with clinical depression. Activity scheduling is a practice of behavioural activation, originating from cognitive behavioural therapy, that helps to re-engage individuals with pleasurable activities. The premise behind this technique being that re-engagement with previously enjoyed activities may help to stop the repeating a depressive cycle of depressed mood, lethargy and staying in bed.
In this video Dr. Padesky discusses three categories of activities to consider planning into your quarantine routine, either in specific time slots or more generally into a to-do list.
A reminder that Dr. Padesky highlighted in the video is the importance of preparing for obstacles and barriers that may hinder one’s ability to follow through with the activities that you plan for yourself. Not only is this an essential component of successful activity scheduling but also the key to success in all habit creation and goal attainment. Neglecting to take some time to consider potential roadblocks in advance may lead to being surprised by obstacles and giving up later on.
If you would like to watch Dr. Padesky’s youtube video check it out at:
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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.
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Sleep is not easy for everyone. In quarantine, sleep can also become more stressful. With more time on our hands and less busyness in our day, one would think that sleep would become less of an issue. However, for many that has not been the case.
Our bodies rely on cues from our environment (levels of light exposure) to produce melatonin so that your body is told that it is time to get tired. With less time spent outdoors and less movement in our day, many of us do not expend the energy we need or notice the changes in light that help give us the drive for sleep.
Anxiety and depression can also disrupt sleep, which is additionally relevant during these stressful times. It is only natural to have worries that start to creep into our pillow time and disrupt our ability to fall asleep.
Another thing that makes sleep more challenging is our more flexible attitude towards bedtimes and wake times during quarantine. We tell ourselves that we can watch another Netflix episode and sleep in, as there may be no urgency the next morning. While that may be fine for our personal schedule, it is not so helpful to our body’s natural rhythms. This leads to physiological confusion that can greatly alter our natural bed and wake times. In the realm of sleep, consistency is key. So if going to bed late and waking up late is something you want to indulge in, fine, but make sure you are able to maintain that pattern consistently or your sleep will suffer.
At times where we all want to stay healthy and keep our immune system strong, it is more important now than ever before to get a good night sleep. For those of you who could use some help with your sleep please continue reading.
10 Tips to Improve your Quarantine Sleep
If you would like to learn more about sleep in quarantine check out the Ted Talks Daily podcast “why sleep matters now more than ever” by Matt Walker.
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In one way or another, our lives have changed over the last month. Lately, I have been speaking to many who have had to alter their plans, deadlines and expectations for life events. There is also a sense of loss for many. That may be the loss of a loved one who has passed due to COVID19, the loss of a job, or the loss of business income you have worked hard for. For many, it may be a more unique experience of grief, a loss of an expected life milestone or opportunity as a result of our changing world. Expecting parents have had to alter their birth plans. Students have had to change their summer plans. Engaged couples have had to move their wedding dates, previously awaited surgeries have been postponed, and convocating students at all levels will not have the graduation ceremony they have waited years for. Even those who have not lost anything tangible are still adapting to the immense loss of day to day freedoms. Whether your loss is big or small, that loss may feel very real to you and that can feel deeply saddening and frustrating.
In these moments, it can feel like we have lost all sense of control in our lives and our life plans. It is true that we do not have control over COVID19, nor how long it lasts and disrupts our lives, but focussing on one’s lack of control can be unsettling. What is most helpful is to pick apart the smaller components of these large circumstances and life plans in order to seek the elements where we do have some control. Recognizing the small elements of control that we do have, and accepting the components that we do not have control over, can help us feel grounded during these turbulent times. It is also important that we recognize our losses and the losses of those around us without comparison so that we all feel validated in our personal experience. It is natural to take all of these new timelines and start to worry about how to plan accordingly for these next steps. Plan for the future, but know that your plans will change. Essentially, have a plan but hold it lightly. When these new plans feel frustrating to accept, try and see if there is an alternative way to perceive this new situation by reframing it in a more positive way.
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This weekend I watched the Netflix documentary entitled Minimalism, which dives into the lives of individuals who have taken the bold move of stepping away from the “consumerist culture” that many of us are influenced by. Although I am not likely to get rid of all of my belongings or stop shopping, I did feel inspired to examine the clutter in my life.
This documentary touches on two types of clutter, the physical and the mental. For me, these two realms are very much connected, as a cluttered physical environment can lead to feeling overwhelmed, anxious and stressed. Conversely, a chaotic mental state can start to impact our functioning and control over our physical space.
Even without the extreme examples of individuals who abandon all nonessential belongings, there is something to be said for living a life of less, and appreciating what we have rather than the constant pursuit for more to fill a sense of unsatiated happiness. However, there is also the idea that having a clean physical environment is not enough, and that we need to learn to declutter our minds. This can be fostered through meditation and learning to not hold tightly onto all thoughts, especially ones that are not helpful. By mindfully choosing the thoughts we would like to hold onto, we can learn to keep our mental space more clear and ready to take on our day.
During a time in the world when our lives and jobs have been simplified in some ways and limited in others, this concept of minimalism and finding gratitude for what we have seems even more relevant. Thus, it might be a good time to take the old saying “spring cleaning” and apply it in a new way. This might mean appreciating the quiet and slower pace of our new routines, or appreciating the quality time that we have with those we live with. You can start with the physical or you can begin with the mental arena, all that matters is that you start somewhere and see how it impacts you.
Whether we like it or not appreciating minimalism may be a key theme in making it through these quarantined times with meaning.
COVID19 has disrupted our lives for the past month. At this point we are oscillating between acceptance of this new normal and struggling to adapt to a potentially depressing at home lifestyle. Today I wanted to discuss how caring and supporting others during this time can increase the emotional burden we are currently carrying around. Compassion fatigue can be understood as feelings of “burnout” as a result of supporting others who are experiencing great stressors. Compassion fatigue is highest when we are emotionally invested and greatly empathize with the stressors of those we support. The more you care about others, the more their pain becomes your pain. This can become exhausting and starts to take a great toll on our own mental health.
This may be due to caring for people in our lives who may be “frontliners” or simply have loved ones who are struggling with this new lifestyle. COVID19 and related social isolation has left many of us to feeling pressured to “check in” on friends and family more often than in the past. Taking the time to call our grandparents, parents, siblings, and friends takes time and energy. Being the support system to loved ones can be challenging at the best of times, but with the added fact that many of these people may be living alone, have a history of anxiety, or are experiencing financial strain may lead to conversations being more melancholic and feel like more of a chore.
Those of us who work in helping professions (on the front lines or working from home) might feel the additional pressure to “support everyone around me”. Feeling like you are usually the resilient one can just add pressure to be “feeling ok” at these times, because we do not want to make it worse for those around us and those who depend on us for support.
It can feel especially overwhelming when we tell ourselves that others have it “worse than we do”. Comparing our personal experience with the experiences of others can be invalidating. Still having a job, not being on the front lines, living with loved ones, or not having clinical anxiety does not mean that our experience with stress is not real or important.
So what do we do about all of this?
We need to validate ourselves and recognize that it is ok to be feeling multiple emotions at once. If we do not give ourselves permission to “not be ok” we just push ourselves deeper into isolation. We need to be open and communicative with our loved ones when being their emotional support is overwhelming our ability to support ourselves. Being aware of our limits and boundaries are important in any healthy relationship, but it becomes even more critical when we are feeling fragile and burnt out. Respecting your personal limits might mean checking in with our grandparents/sisters/friends/parents only once a week instead of once a day without added guilt for that decision. Alternatively, it might mean calling different people who make us feel better. It may also mean being honest with others when we are not ok and allowing the conversation to turn towards letting others support us. Speaking our own truths can feel liberating.
Supporting ourselves and It may also mean allowing ourselves more self care time or indulgences. An Uber Eats meal and a bubble bath might not take away your anxiety, but it may bring you some comfort at a time when you could use some.
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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!
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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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