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Prescription For Improved Mental Health:

  1. Help Others – 2 to 5 times a week or as often as you can, preferably do this anonymously
  2. Activity – 10 to 30 minutes of healthy activity each day to create positive energy and release those “happy hormones”… endorphins that trigger happy feelings
  3. Cook – 2 to 3 times a week or as often as you would like, especially for others as you can feel better by helping others be healthier too
  4. Clean – do up to 4 chores per week, i.e. dishes, vacuuming, purge items and give items away. This gives energy and helps keep a cleaner, healthier place to live
  5. Vocation – while still at school or working, keep searching for your dream full time job, upgrade your education, learn more to reach your goals
  6. Social – get together or connect with friends/family a couple of times per week. Constructing healthy relationships requires consistent work over time
  7. Self-Care – do a few things each week (if not daily) that you enjoy. Also engage in positive self-talk… coaching yourself as if encouraging a 5 or 6 year old you.

Over the coming month, apply these gradually, yet more and more consistently in your life. Track the results. You will likely be very surprised at how a few little adjustments in your routine, small shifts in behaviour, can have such a positive and profound impact on your mental health and quality of life.

Happy New Year !


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Online Consideration: A Developing Art

With the advance of online chat, social media presence and virtual relationships, there seems to be an increase in discussion about the pros and cons our virtual interaction has on health and upon our social lives in general.

Are we giving up too much, lagging in social skill development, to gain the appearance of anonymity, a level of apparent safety as we hide behind firewalls and masked IP addresses? What cost to social health and wellness exists from online interactions and virtual relations which are all too often void of facial expression, tones and clarity of emotional context… no… emoticons don’t quite cut it 🙂 ? 

Are we exposing too much, “wink wink”, while revealing too little. What impact on our integrity and honesty does this relatively newer technology actually have? Imagine developing a relationship with someone with the following qualities. How well do you think it would go? You be the judge…

Potential Online Presentation of Self  (vs. Face-to-Face) 

Less inhibited – less restricted, freer to speak up?

Talk more, more open and opinionated online?

Revealing parts of self perhaps more impulsively?

Less protective or more protected?

Speech & tone absent or limited?

Harmful… risk factor?

Confused privacy boundaries?

Less or more accountability?

Can possibly be creeped, harassed, bothered more easily?

Cut out or cut off quickly, even immediately?

Hectic, rushed and more or less emotionally charged?

Missing much expression via face and tone?

Of course, many of us have heard stories of relationships developing online and those who have met one another, at least initially, with success. Steps can be taken to safeguard online activity beginning with limiting children to an hour or so per day. Additional time can be rewarded for additional involvement in other socially rewarding activities. These may include playing with friends, completion of homework, household chores or various hobbies such as sports, music, art etc..

Additional screen time may also be given in return for extracurricular reading and writing, math or whatever skill you feel your child requires extra effort in.  The formula may be one to two, so for fifteen more minutes of piano or English homework your child gets thirty more minutes online time whether gaming or accessing social media. This approach is best viewed as a “win-win”.

Getting children and adults involved in activities “offline” seems to require effort and I feel somewhat hypocritical as I sit here writing this blog post… lol 🙂 . Suffice it to say that attention to healthy child and family development requires a regular review of our online involvement, presentation and the development of integrity even in, perhaps especially in our “virtual world”.


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Probably one of the most important interpersonal skills we have is listening. But, wait a minute, don’t most of us have ears so aren’t we listening all the time? Apparently not, according to the post below submitted by a frustrated and tired woman, wife and mother.

I am a middle-aged married woman whose adult son lives with us. Do you find that when you come home, everyone is waiting for you at the door (including the cats) wanting your attention or something from you right away and you don’t even get through the door? Why is it that I get so irritated by the habits of others around me? When I am feeling overwhelmed or stressed, these habits can drive me crazy!!! No matter how often I say to my husband or son, “Please pick up after yourselves” or “Don’t tell me how to drive”, these annoying habits always occur and make us have arguments. In our day to day lives, we are so busy just trying to keep a clean house and worrying about what to have for supper again. Most of us work out of the home at one, sometimes two jobs. Life can get overwhelming and when you are dealing with difficult people, it can sometimes be stressful to the point of wanting to run away. This is how I feel sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family but I have a tendency to want to run away to recharge. I need some “Me” time.

Above is an excellent example of a few common problems or challenges in families.

First, her complaint is loud and clear yet those living in the home don’t appear to hear or a least respond to it. This may be due to poor communication practice in the home. Turning a complaint (what we don’t want) into a request (what we do want) is an amazing difference in communication and a “game-changer” in others’ ability to meet our needs. Rather than complaining and telling others what to do, perhaps this woman can clarify her expectations of others, by calmly making clear requests, and then await an acknowledgement that she has been heard.

Second, on their part, those not following through with chores or tasks are likely listening and not hearing. This is a common dilemma in families. Truly hearing requires an action that confirms receipt of the information “picking up after yourselves”, versus listening and then failing to respond.  It is critical, in healthy communication, to both acknowledge and validate the speaker or the person making the request. What better way is there to do this than by actually doing what is asked, either right then or fairly soon afterward. This is LOVE.

It is far too easy to say “I Love You” thinking it is only an emotion. Love is a verb as well! It takes real strength and fortitude to follow through with behavioural requests from our loved ones: to set aside our desires, our plans and our wants in order to satisfy and please our loved ones.

Finally, “me time” is important to recharge and renew, however, it is a serious problem if it is used to “run away” from a bad situation. After all, isn’t that precisely what people say about drinking, drugs and affairs; that it was to escape the negative reality of their day-to-day lives.  Rather than running, we are much better off sticking around to resolve our issues, negotiate new patterns, roles and communication strategies and, then, heading out for some truly relaxing “me time”.

If all this sounds too difficult to accomplish on your own, there are professional and confidential counsellors (books as well) to assist you and your loved ones to listen better, negotiate more effectively and to resolve the challenges you are facing.  Contact one of our registered therapists for your confidential consultation today.

 
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Change Starts With Our Attitude

As this video depicts, domestic violence does happen to anyone –men and women, children and seniors. The “automatic” or “socialized” response we have, given the gender of the “victim” and “perpetrator”, needs serious revision. When we see or hear about domestic violence, we may either over or underreact, either one being potentially hurtful to both the person whose rights are being violated and to the person behaving in a violent manner. In fact, our thinking about and approach to domestic violence can perpetuate violence itself when we inadvertently convey narrow and misguided perspectives about this important social issue to our loved ones, our children, friends and colleagues.

Physical violence is the intentional use of force against a person without that person’s consent. *** It includes, yet is not limited to, hitting, slapping, spitting on, pinching, punching, hair pulling, kicking, cutting, pushing, shoving as well as sexually aggressive acts.

All sexual contact without consent is a crime!

Psychological abuse (also known as emotional abuse) is often overlooked. Although this form of abuse is not considered a criminal act, it can be as destructive as and, at times, even more destructive than physical abuse. Behaviours associated with emotional abuse may include: yelling, name-calling, shaming, blaming, intimidation, isolation, lude and rude comments, withholding the necessities of life and other hurtful and controlling behaviours.

The initial step to ending an abusive relationship is acknowledging that it exists. Sometimes this is very difficult to do, especially for those who have been suffering in this kind of relationship for so long. The following examples can help clarify;

It is still considered family violence when . . .

▪    The incidents of violence seem minor when compared to those you have read about, seen on television or heard other women talk about. There isn’t a “better” or “worse” form of physical violence; you can be severely injured as a result of being pushed, for example.

▪    The incidents of physical abuse have only occurred one or two times in the relationship. Studies indicate that if your spouse/partner has injured you once, it is likely it will continue and even get worse.

▪    The physical assaults stopped when you became passive and gave up your right to express yourself as you desire, to move about freely and see others, and to make decisions. It is not a victory if you have to give up your rights as a person and a partner in exchange for not being assaulted!

▪    There has not been any physical violence. Many women are emotionally and verbally assaulted. This can be equally as frightening and is often more confusing to try to understand making it difficult to reach out for support and find resolutions.

Source: Adapted from Breaking the Silence: a Handbook for Victims of Violence in Nebraska (helpguide.org)

A professional counsellor can provide a safe environment for you to identify the severity of abuse and/or violence in your relationship, assess whether you require other supports to develop a safety plan and explore steps to help you move into a safe and secure living situation. Counselling sessions also provide you with the time to consider how to adjust and move forward, how to cope with stress and change and how to create healthier and more satisfying intimate relationships.

Counselling provides you with the hope that you can overcome the impact of domestic violence and abuse. You can learn more about yourself and regain your confidence. You can find the support to help you rebuild your life and enhance your well-being. Call us today!

*** For more information on family violence, please follow the Government of Canada link at:

http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/cj-jp/fv-vf/about-apropos.html

 

Meta-Communication and Assertive Communication Skills


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The following post is submitted by a young man in his mid-twenties. He describes meta-communication and assertive communication skills and how he has applied these to turn around his poor communication learned from very violent, abusive and negative childhood experiences.


Meta-communication is communicating about how we are communicating: how a message or information is delivered, and is meant to be interpreted. It is based on the idea that the same message accompanied by various verbal and non-verbal deliveries can make a message mean something totally different, including its opposite, as in irony. For example, two people may discuss certain body language such as rolling the eyes, frowning or a shrugging of the shoulders to determine what message is being conveyed.

Assertive Communication uses both verbal and non-verbal communication to respect the boundaries of yourself and others. It is the quality of being self-assured and confident without being aggressive. Examples of this include people who are able to maintain long-term comfortable relationships with other people and and are able to effectively express thoughts and feelings.

I was raised in a family where violence was present unnecessarily. It seriously got in the way of me learning proper assertive communication skills.

It was difficult to grow up having a father figure because of how my father was to my family. I was never taught proper social skills or had any examples provided to me. Because of how my father was, I knew everything about him was negative and I did not want to be like him at all… one bit.

In a way, it is hard to describe but I became a better man because of how my father acted. I learned how to treat others with respect and how to properly communicate. It is good to know that I have seen what the negative outcome will be without proper communication skills and to learn from that bad example.

Recently, my mother and I have been beginning to communicate better. I am now expressing more of my true thoughts to her by opening up, by using a more friendly approach to topics that usually would cause stress between the both of us. We are both using more positive expression and more positive body language.

Less nagging has been occurring leading to more different approaches to conversations that we ever really had before.”

I hope you are as inspired as I am in this young man’s story of pain and recovery, of his striving to overcome horrible experiences and learn more caring, loving and effective communication. Just because we may have grown up in families where violence and abuse existed doesn’t mean we must repeat this behavior. We can, with reading and good guidance, confront our way of interacting with others, learn new ways of communicating and develop meaningful, satisfying, long-term, loving relationships with others.

 


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ANTS: Our Thoughts or Not ?

The following contribution is from a middle-aged woman who suffered severe child abuse, sexual abuse, containment and physical violence as well as the early demise of her mother. Father’s subsequent downturn to alcoholism and grandparents scornful childcare assistance appear to have contributed, along with multiple sexual predators, to her ultimately suffering from complex post-traumatic stress “reaction” and dissociative identity symptoms. Despite the severe stress and strain on her psyche, she manages to strive to improve for her family and to attempt to regain her sanity. Her interpretation of how her brain works follows:

“I used to think that the four lobes of my brain just worked separately. Decisions made came from whatever lobe was healthiest at that moment. Like the wire connecting them together had a break in it. Over the years, I have tried to get control over which lobe would work but realized I don’t get to decide.

I have tried so many different attempts at control: changing my diet, adding different vitamins, punishment and rewarding the lobes that seemed to work best. Giving control to others who thought they could fix it for me using whatever methods they thought would work… (drugging, restraining, electrocuting, depriving, thought control, etc.). This has proved impossible so far.

Now I don’t think my four lobes work separately. I feel like my brain has turned into a giant anthill, each ant having its own job to do. Sometimes they seem to work together but sometimes they seem to eat each other and fight. It feels like a war inside the hill.

Sometimes, I think the poisonous ants are the big ones that overpower the small ones. The small ones have to fight and stay on alert at all times for the big ones. They have to follow the poisonous ants and do what they say, if they are not strong enough to fight. Other times, they get too tired and surrender themselves to the poisonous ants and get killed if they step out of line and do not follow. Sometimes, the small ants can win. It takes teamwork by many different small ants but they CAN choose their own job to do. It just takes more than one.

I can sometimes feel them in my skin and head. It makes me itchy. It makes me wonder if they are getting along or struggling. Sometimes, I see ants all over my bed or couch or wall…wherever I’m sitting. I think it’s the BIG ANTS making me see them and feel them, reminding me they are in control.

Sometimes, the small ants can be tricky and be poisonous too but you don’t know it at the time. You can’t assume anything with ants of any size. They switch jobs without notice. They fight without reason.

I don’t like ants. I enjoy spraying ant killer into their tiny hills. I like to put them out of their misery. I can’t imagine them being happy. God would likely disapprove, as he created such creatures but they can really torture you if they were to live inside your head. They have such a nasty sting for such a small bug.”


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A psychological term, from cognitive-behavioural theory, uses the acronym ANTS to refer to our “automatic negative thoughts” It almost seems as though the author of the words above has a hypersensitivity to her negative thinking processes. It would be nice, I suppose, if it were much easier to get rid of our ANTS or “Stinkin Thinkin” than it is. Help is available to reduce our ANTS.

Therapy is designed to help people uncover ANTS and find new ways to think that promote improved mental health. For help recovering from abuse, resolving relationship concerns or to improve your view of yourself, contact one of our registered therapists for your confidential consultation today.

 

Faces-nevit

Why Do I Feel So Worthless?

Breaking up from a romance or going through separation and divorce knocks us down emotionally. These tough times can even increase negative self-talk, lowering our self-esteem. We invested so much of ourselves that when the relationship ends, we can feel a sense of loss of identity and a tarnished self-concept.

“I feel so worthless I can’t even get out of bed this morning. I know of no reason for doing anything today. I just want to be little and stay in bed until I can find a reason why I should get up. No one will even miss me, so what’s the use of getting up,” (Fisher & Alberti, 2000).

Sometimes, we can have the best support systems, loving family and friends who are there for us, yet still have a difficult time believing in ourselves and maintaining a positive self view. When we are having difficulty connecting with our identity, seeing our worth and having confidence in our absolute amazingness, it may be a good time to reach out for confidential and professional counselling. A few “coaching” sessions with a counsellor you connect with can help a lot and quite quickly too. A counselling environment helps decipher thoughts that have been generated from past experiences. Whether it be our upbringing, relationships with our parents and friends and our history of love relationships, all experiences significantly influence our self-perception. The key is to consider which thoughts seem to dominate negative self-perceptions, “catch them” so to speak and then intentionally shift or reframe thoughts into more positive ones. This approach improves our emotional state and behaviours also improve with practice. Counselling helps us objectively examine the inner most regions of our thinking, exploring the way we perceive ourselves and the core values we have as human beings. In a trusting therapeutic relationship, we can safely identify “Stinkin Thinkin”, those negative and incorrect perceptions that drag us down. We can re-establish how we want to think and feel about ourselves and develop the steps required to gain a healthier perspective. To improve your self-perception, contact us today…because YOU ARE WORTH IT!

 
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