Manners and Mental Health

It is difficult to admit that I visited McDonald’s at midnight this past week, mostly because I am a long way from my teens and aware that the product quality may not be the best choice for my physical wellness. Nutritional value aside, I did not expect to experience such disdain for people, human disconnection and absolute dishonour at this giant retailer’s hands?

There was a day when manners were expected by everyone, especially every staff member employed by the Golden Arches conglomerate McDonald’s.

At fifteen, I appreciated the opportunity to be employed by this company, making it possible to afford food and housing at a very difficult time in my life. I recall being offered the job, but only, as the manager said “if you cut your hair“. Yes, I had fairly long hair in the mid-seventies and that was not considered appropriate for working in the food service industry. We were also required to use manners for every request. The front staff would call out; “Six Macs please” (twelve or twenty-four if it was busy) and, as a grill person, I was required to respond; “Laying six Macs thank you“. This was required for Macs, Fries, Quarterpounders and even the Filet-O-Fish. You may get a caution or two but manners were an essential part of the McDonald’s staffing philosophy. Essential meaning do it or you do not work here!

McDonald’s strives to offer the same experience at every store in every country so I hope what happened to us is not spreading globally. Still today, their Canadian website offers McDonald’s staffing vision (see below) of top quality service which is a direct contradiction to our experience;

“Our People Vision”

“At McDonald’s® Canada our People Vision is for our people to feel valued and proud to work here. In fact we aim to be the best employer in every one of our Canadian communities.”          https://www.mcdonalds.com/ca/en-ca/careers/our-people.html

Manners Optional ? – Ask Macdonald’s

So what did we experience and was it as bad as we think it was? You be the judge. Just after midnight we had the idea to get a cone so we pulled into the drive through at Crossroads McDonald’s – Weston Road and 401. It took nearly ten minutes to approach the ordering sign alone. Either we really wanted a cone or the fact we had not way to exit influenced or patience? When we arrived to order a really upbeat and friendly automated voice greeted us followed by silence. We asked “Are you there” with another half minute of silence broken through by what sounded like a very depressed young lady’s voice… “Yes, what do you want”. The reverberation and distortion in the speaker system was also unusually high.

We placed our order which was not responded to with a thank you that is so commonly spoken in retail and fast food services. The woman did not even say the usual “please pull up to the next window”? Ok, maybe she is just having a bad day? We then waited for ten more minutes to get to the window to pay. What happened next was appalling. The young girl opened the window, went out of her way to not make eye contact, reached out her hand for our money, took the money, gave the change and closed the window without a single word spoken or any semblance of kindness or caring. The young girl later opened the service window and handed us our food, closing the window again without saying one word during the entire interaction… no please, no apology for a twenty-five minute drive through wait and no thank you at all.

Am I making a big deal over something small or is this discourteous approach to retail becoming all too commonplace? I have experienced this at a number of places over that past few years. Are employers resigned to not expect their staff to great people politely, to use common courtesy and to act happy about their decision to shop at their stores? Is it too much effort to train staff due to high turnover in low or minimum wage workplaces? I think NOT!

When I was struggling as a young teen, I was angry, upset, frustrated to be living on my own and quite comfortable with being rude to others fairly regularly. I was in an “I don’t care” mode almost daily. I had more “Stinkin Thinkin” about myself and others, than probably any other time in my life, but, when the manager said “cut your hair” and “you must use manners consistently” I had a decision to make – eat or keep being rude. Nine months of following the courteous and polite requirements at McDonald’s (circa 1973) taught me the importance of manners. I had to “fake it to make it” for manners to become a real part of my life.  Eric Erikson identified this stage of personality development as the identity crisis.  Successful completion of this stage involves the young person’s development of a clearer understanding of who they are, relative to others, their likes and dislikes and their place in the world.  Erikson postulated that a failure during this stage would inevitably lead to role confusion.  Role confusion is certainly one of the factors in life that contributes to anxious and depressed mood.

I sure hope the management and owner(s) at Crossroads McDonald’s behave better manners than those staff last Thursday night. I have my doubts though as I have come to learn that staff often mimic or follow the way they are treated. Perhaps this is why www.Hiringtowin is listed right on their sales slip. Right on their careers web link below, they state;

Careers | McDonalds Canada – McDonald’s https://www.mcdonalds.com/ca/en-ca/careers.html

“We believe the best people in the world work right here.”

I believe, if McDonald’s management had not expected me to be polite during my middle teens I would not have been just like the staff I had the displeasure of meeting the other day. Sadly, I may likely have never realized the value of being polite, the impact that using manners has on how I feel and, possibly, I may have never grown to expect this from our children, colleagues and staff?

Being nice to one another is one major way we can improve our mental health. Research shows that being kind, altruistic and using of polite, personal gestures helps both the receiver and the sender feel happier and more satisfaction.

Manners matter McDonald’s and every other retailer out there. When you insist upon this you help staff and customers feel better. Please change your training expectations accordingly to foster improved overall wellness.

 

 

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Delivers Relief

A substantial evidence base supports the efficacy of problem-specific cognitive-behavioral interventions for a variety of childhood and adolescent anxiety and depressive disorders. Unlike other psychotherapeutic techniques that have been applied to these disorders, CBT is consistent with a perspective that values empirically supported problem-focused treatments. CBT presents a logical theoretical framework to guide practitioners through assessment of specific problem domains, the delivery of problem-specific treatment interventions, and well specified outcomes to monitor treatment progress. However, CBT is not simplistic. Helping children, adolescents, and parents make rapid and difficult behaviour change over short time intervals [three to six months] requires considerable expertise and training.

“Cognitive-Behavioral Psychotherapy for Anxiety and Depressive Disorders in Children and Adolescents: An Evidence-Based Medicine Review”                  SCOTT N. COMPTON, PH.D., JOHN S. MARCH, M.D., M.P.H., DAVID BRENT, M.D., ANNE MARIE ALBANO, PH.D., V. ROBIN WEERSING, PH.D., AND JOHN CURRY, PH.D.                                                                                                                        J. AM. ACAD. CHILD ADOLESC. PSYCHIATRY, 43:8, AUGUST 2004

For more information about anxiety and depression visit the Anxiety and Depression Association of America ADAA website

www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety

To find out more about our professional counselling and support services in Durham Region or to schedule an initial assessment  Contact us today!

One Young Woman’s Journey Toward Change

There was a time in my life when I was feeling stuck and needed something new. I hated my job, I felt unfulfilled and completely unmotivated to do anything. Then I went to a fundraiser and met a yoga teacher who was promoting her studio and her energy and happiness was palpable! Now let me clarify, at this time I tolerated working out and I had tried yoga before and I sincerely disliked it! I thought for sure I would never try this again. However without thinking too much, I jumped in a class and tried it. My life transformed and I have found myself yet again.

Sometimes we need some transformation in our lives, we need to change to grow and feel again. When life feels the same everyday with no hope of growth, it can feel awful and terrifying! There were three things that this practise of yoga offered me that helped me in my transformation: physical activity, self-awareness and community. We know from several studies that physical activity (and yes this is a very physical practise of yoga!) can prevent physical diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, obesity and osteoporosis (Warburton, Nichol & Bredin, 2006). However physical exercise and yoga in particular can also help with mental health issues related to self-esteem, mental fatigue, feelings of depression and anxiety (Taspinari, Bas Aslan, Agbuga and Taspinar, 2014). Not only was I now working out to improve my physical and mental health, but now because it was an exercise I connected with and enjoyed, it really helped me in a more meaningful way.

Opportunities for self-awareness are also built into this practise and in this studio. There are so many opportunities to learn about yourself and what you want! Besides the amazing self-awareness workshops available, the practise itself is meditative and helps you look at how you think, behave and feel in your life. With the yoga teachers’ kind words, accepting nature and words of wisdom they transform your practise from a work out to a chance for transformation.

And let’s talk about those people some more! The community of people within this studio are loving, funny, supportive, accepting and were a huge part of my ability to have the courage to transform my life. I took me a year but I was able to find my purpose again and find the courage and strength within me to transform my life. I had settled for a job that I was not happy in, felt no fulfillment in and was not in line with what I always wanted to do with my life. I have always wanted to counsel and support other people and with the support of this practise, studio and family I quit my full time job, went back to school and now have plans for my future that I’m excited about!

So in what areas of your life are you feeling stuck, lost or hopeless? How is this impacting your mental health, physical health, relationships and feelings about your future? What action will you take to take back your life and transform it? Yoga is just one method of transformation. It has worked for me and many others. The great part is that there are many other methods and journeys to transformation and growth.

There are so many things that can help people cope and regain a sense of themselves again – reading helpful books, counseling, reconnecting with friends and family, meditation or joining community groups. However, as I have always envisioned being a counselor and am now furthering my education to become a registered psychotherapist, I really believe and value the immense support and growth a therapist can help people find. A person’s struggles and journeys do not need to be handled alone. Talking with an empathetic, supportive and non-judgemental counsellor can truly change a person’s life and provide a means to transformation.

I encourage you to find your method of transformation today.  Contact us today!

 

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“Have a Snickers” as a decision maker?

There are often times when we make rash or quick decisions and when we look back on them we say, “Why did I do that?”or “Why did I eat that?”
Sometimes its because we’re bored, other times its because we are looking to fill a void or find a purpose. Life seems to be out of control sometimes and there is little we can do to influence world events but we can manage parts of our own life with a few tools.
There have been many times in my own life that I’d wished I had something to help me avoid my impulsive decisions that sometimes have had long lasting effects.

Often these regrets or poor choices can be avoided or managed better when we learn to  HALT. As we unpack the acronym HALT its easier to see how to effectively use this rather simple tool.

HALT stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired

Usually when we make poor choices or decisions its because of one of these four triggers. It seems simplistic but there is some real wisdom in this small word HALT. By taking the time to figure out the reason we’re about to do something, we can usually avoid poorer choices.

Not every situation can be remedied by these four triggers but they are a great place to start. Taking the time to stop and think about these things before acting is an expansion of the “Count to 10” model. Using an acronym like HALT helps us to take a few seconds and try to identify the triggers for our behaviours.

Sometimes the slogan “Have a Snickers” (and many other ads too) actually works to get us to act and, at times, act quickly without thinking. Food is a great motivator and a great reward sometimes.  The Snicker bar slogan appeals to the fact that energy and nutrients in our system need to be replenished so our brains function properly.

Simply asking ourselves to use HALT as a checklist is an excellent tool. Ask yourself “Am I hungry (yes/no), angry (yes/no), lonely (yes/no), tired (yes/no)?”

If ‘hungry’ maybe something to eat or a simple glass of water can do wonders, ‘angry’ maybe stepping away from the situation to get a fuller perspective, ‘lonely’ maybe call a friend or help a neighbour, ‘tired’ maybe go to bed earlier or have a rest/nap.

Rather than being reactive, using new tools and existing ones, we can become more proactive at handling the inevitable challenges of life.  Consider how you may adapt this strategy for other challenging areas in your life? Play around with this acronym a little? Or, you may use the STOP one… Stop, (breathe) Think, Observe then Proceed?

Adding HALT to our ’emotional toolbox’ can better prepare us for a world that is unpredictable everyday.

Now you have read this… it is in your “tool box” or “on your hard drive”  🙂

For more assistance contact one of our counsellors today!

 

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What Really Does Addiction Mean Anyway?

Addictions impact so many people, upsetting lives and hurting loved ones. Worrying about ourselves and/or others being hooked on work, alcohol, money, drugs, sex, porn, food, cigarettes etc. is a widespread problem. Our focus unfortunately,  often becomes narrowly placed upon that “thing” that seems to be consuming so much of our attention, pulling our attention away from solutions and other important areas of life. As this narrow focus becomes increasingly magnified to a seemingly overwhelming level, negative thoughts increase as well; “This is just too far gone”, “I am awful”, “I’ll never stop THIS!”, “Why even try to stop?”

I think we are out of focus.  Our attention becomes on what not to do or on stopping something rather than on what to do and on action that can improve our situation.  I’m not entirely convinced one’s so-called ‘addiction’ is the real problem. Consider all the things in life we are not free to do because we’re spending so much of our effort, time and money on the addictive behaviour. What is being missed, unattended to and let go?  Now that seems, at least to me, to be the real tragedy; being a slave to a substance, a behaviour and even a way of thinking, not free to really enjoy life to the fullest.

Short changing our health and wellness, missing out on recreational, intellectual, spiritual and social growth options, failing to have time for those we love (e.g. children, spouses, family and friends) and severely limiting development of meaningful and satisfying relationships in favour of that one special ‘addiction’ is the real tragedy. 

What is yours? What robs you of a very important part of your life?

Did you know the term addiction came from the slave trade? Years ago, while working on a paper for the Canadian government, I discovered a book called “Drugs, Morality And The Law” (1994 by Steven Luper-Foy, Curtis Brown). The authors uncovered that the initial use of the term addicted was used when a slave was sold to a master. The slave was said to be addicted to or ‘tied to’ their master. Instantly,  I postulated that just as slaves have been freed, we too could find a way to become free from whatever addictive behaviour that is holding us back. I thought, maybe a little too simplistically, if we can be tied to something we could also be untied.

This is a completely different and more positive way of considering addiction than I grew up with. Many of us learned and were indoctrinated with the view that “once you’re addicted it is very, very difficult to quit”.  Not true!  There are many strategies and approaches that help people uncover the thinking and events that contribute to the development of their particular addiction. These include expanding awareness, realigning goals with core values and teaching new ways to override those thoughts and behaviours so that a healthier and more satisfying life can be enjoyed.

Just as ending slavery began with a shift in the consciousness, untying ourselves from addictions requires a process of cognitive uncovering, thought shifting and persistence. For some, a little coaching can help speed up the process and maintain success. If you’d like assistance becoming untied from an addictive behaviour in order to achieve a more fulfilling life, contact one of our counsellors today!

 

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Much of the work I do as a counsellor is based on one of the core premises of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy [CBT], that how we “talk” to ourselves has a significant impact on how we feel and how we behave. My experience, and the experience of many of the people I work with, is that while this concept “makes sense”, it can be challenging to actually apply it in the moment. This is a reflection about how running has provided me with the perfect platform to develop my ability to engage in adaptive or positive self-talk. It has also provided me with a good metaphor for understanding some of the subtleties of engaging in more adaptive self-talk which I hope will help you the reader better understand these subtleties as well.

BUT I AM ACTUALLY TIRED ?

At several points during any run, I am aware that I feel “tired” and feel a little tug to just stop. Of course, this makes total sense, given that I am demanding more energy from my body than I do during my other day-to-day activities. I am also likely feeling the tug to stop because I am depleting more energy and doing so rapidly. So, the feeling or sensation of fatigue is real. If I focus on only the ‘Truth’ of the statement, “I feel tired”, I may conclude that “Yes I am tired and therefore I should stop”. However, if I take a “True, but…” approach, I may be able to make an adaptive choice that allows me to meet “higher goals” like being healthier, rather than making a reactive choice that feels better in the moment but one that limits my growth, potentially leading to feelings of regret or shame. A few examples of the type of ‘True, but….’ statements I usually make include:

“Yes, I’m tired, but I always manage to break through that wall.

Maybe I’ll adjust my pace myself a bit and focus on the music in my headphones instead of my energy level right now.

I’m out here now so I might as well stick with it”.

When I engage in this type of self-talk, I am not only much more likely to follow through on my higher goals and finish the run, but I also ‘feel’ better because I have shifted my mental focus. This use of “True, but…” statements is an example of the type of adaptive self-talk that running has allowed me to develop.

MORE THAN ‘TURN THAT FROWN UPSIDE DOWN’

I think this small example addresses one of the common misconceptions about Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy, which is that it simply requires us to “think positive!!!”, using self-talk equivalent to “turn that frown upside down”. However, the CBT approach to challenging and changing self-talk is much more subtle than this. Rather than requiring people to ignore the event in their life which is causing them discomfort, CBT challenges us to talk to ourselves about that event in a way that acknowledges that we are uncomfortable, but places that discomfort in a context which makes us less likely to emotionally respond to it in a reactive way. Coming back to the example of running, I can acknowledge that I am a little tired in my self-talk – and indeed it may be important to do so in order to make a subtle adjustment like slowing my pace slightly. Trying to “turn that frown upside down” by ignoring the fact that I am tired might prevent me from making an important adjustment. More importantly, in focusing on how I don’t want to feel (“I’m not tired…I’m not tired…I’m not tired”), I am ironically keeping my attention on my “tiredness”, rather than shifting my focus to something else – my music in this example. Thus, I try to engage in self-talk that briefly acknowledges my discomfort, but also reminds me of reasons and strategies for not reacting to that discomfort.





















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ADAPTIVE SELF-TALK

An example of how to apply this in day to day life may be helpful at this point. Since CBT is commonly used for addressing anxiety, depression or anger – I will choose an example which could potentially trigger feelings of anxiety, depression or anger in many people. Imagine you apply for a job within your place of work and you do not get that job. How you talk to yourself about his event will have a significant effect on how you feel and then behave. For instance, if you say to yourself the following statements;

“It figures – I’m not really that smart or talented. I didn’t get that job and I probably won’t get any job I apply for…..”, you are of course likely to feel depressed/sad – and possibly even anxious about your future. If you say to yourself, “I can’t believe they hired ____ instead of me! I totally deserved that job and it is so unfair that ______ got it!”,

These types of self-talk, from a cognitive-behavioural perspective, are ‘maladaptive’ because they fuel negative emotions and they really limit strategies for moving forward.

So, a self-talk along the lines of, “I’m really disappointed that I didn’t get the job. Whether I like it or not, I didn’t get it and I can’t change that, but I might be able to learn something from it I wonder if I can contact somebody to see if there’s anything I could have done differently to get the job? ”. This, ‘True, but…” approach acknowledges the discomfort of not getting the job, yet does not get “stuck” in the discomfort and instead moves on to strategies for moving forward. This thinking style can greatly improve employment opportunities.

To summarize, it is important to acknowledge that changing our self-talk is just one strategy among many which we can use to change how we feel and behave. Certainly, CBT is about more than self-talk and CBT is not the magic cure to all of our problems. Coming back to running, engaging in adaptive self-talk will not make up for lack of training, poor diet and health choices nor will it allow me to suddenly run a marathon tomorrow when I have never run further than 10 kilometers. However, learning how to engage in adaptive self-talk can be a very powerful tool to combine with other strategies in the worthwhile pursuit of feeling and behaving healthier.

To further explore CBT strategies for feeling and behaving better, contact one of our registered therapists for your confidential consultation today.


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Our bodies are incredibly complex machines and part of this beautiful sophistication is the way they communicate with us. When we are acting or thinking in ways which are harmful to our body/mind/soul, we often consciously or unconsciously deny or ignore this reality for a multitude of possible reasons. However, if we continue to deny or ignore the current or potential consequences of our harmful thoughts and actions, these amazing machines called our bodies often do their best to let us know that we are heading down an ill-advised path and that we would be wise to take action.

What language does the body speak?

It is a universal dialect called pain and discomfort. No matter where in the world you live, or what your ‘mother tongue’ is, you understand the language of pain and discomfort. Headaches, stomach cramps, stiff neck, sore back, fatigue, frequent colds and infections, rashes and nervous tics are but a few of the most common ways our bodies let us know that something is wrong. However, because we have a long history in the Western world of separating the mind and the body, we often jump to the conclusion that our physical pain and discomfort must have a physical cause.

Now of course, this can often be the case, but for many people who suffer from the list of ailments listed above, a battery of standard medical tests often come up empty-handed. This is because many physical symptoms are the result of psychological distress. Many jump to the conclusion that this means that such ailments are ‘all in your head’ and as such do not actually exist. On the contrary, physical symptoms with a psychological cause are very real – they are simply the language our body is using to let us know that something psychological needs to be addressed.

There is thus, no physical cause which can be treated or cured, but rather it is a psychological – or even spiritual – problem which needs to be addressed. The ‘impress your family and friends’ word for the body’s ability to communicate psychological distress through physical pain and discomfort is called somatization.

In his 1996 book about Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis, Richard Harris points out that many of Freud’s early patients sought his help as a medical doctor and it was, in part, his interest in the very common phenomenon of physical symptoms with psychological causes which led him to develop psychoanalysis. In the present day, most diagnostic tools which are used to determine if a person is suffering from a mental health issue will include ‘frequent pain or discomfort with no known cause’ as one of the potential symptoms of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and several other conditions.

Turning your ‘crisis’ into an ‘opportunity’

So, while pain and discomfort can make it very challenging to live life to the fullest, it is the ability of pain and discomfort to capture our attention that makes it such an effective messenger that change is needed. If you are struggling with persistent physical issues, by all means, talk to your family physician or another health professional. However, if the standard medical tests come up empty, you may want to explore the psychological roots of your physical problems.

Chronic stress, unresolved shame/guilt, feeling hopeless and living a life that is not consistent with your deeper values are but a few of the psychological challenges which can manifest as physical issues or make pre-existing pain or discomfort feel even worse. As uncomfortable and frustrating as unresolved pain and discomfort can be, it may be an opportunity in disguise – an opportunity to explore, and perhaps even resolve, some deeper issues which are trying to get your attention.

To explore the psychological connections that may be underpinning your physical ailments contact one of our registered therapists for your confidential consultation today.