Photo credit: stockarch from morguefile.com

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.


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It almost goes without saying that media has a major impact on our perspective on many issues: mental illness, love and relationships, as well as body image, health and wealth. Here is one way in which the media can do some good for young girls and teenagers who are coming into their own bodies, adapting to hormone changes, and who are exposed to peer pressure.

The following link shares Lupita Nyongo’s acceptance speech at the Essence Magazine awards.

We are too often exposed to extremely thin waistlines, airbrushed faces, flawless skin, and long and flowing hair.  Little girls are growing up watching cosmetic commercials and teenagers are reading fashion magazines. As a result, their perception of beauty can become easily skewed by the media’s “acceptable” ideologies and portrayals of beauty.

This can, unfortunately, create inner turmoil in a preteen or teenager who does not resemble the bodies and faces seen on screen. Females, and even some males, may excessively strive to adjust their behaviours in hopes to eventually become the “beauties” they idolize in magazines and on television. These behaviours may include: restrictive eating, binge eating, vomiting, disordered eating, excessive dieting, manipulating medications (e.g. lower insulin dosing) and excessive exercising. These behaviours, when prolonged, have a severe impact on overall health (social, psychological and biological).

Fortunately, once in a while, we are able to hear celebrities comment on real beauty like Lupita did in her speech. However, is everyone listening to this message? Sometimes family support, well-intentioned comments and repeated requests just don’t seem to be enough. In fact, many common statements and approaches can actually, unintentionally, add to the problem. And it takes much effort and professional help to change disordered eating behaviours. Contact us today to get professional help!


Photo credit: jdurham from morguefile.com

Below is a well written testimony from one courageous person who decided to experiment with change, health and personal growth.

         What C.P.R. Means To Me

It has been almost a month since I quit smoking marijuana! I had been a daily user for about twelve years, with the occasional attempt to quit; the longest quitting period being about one year in 2005. I had attempted to quit a couple times in the last three years, but always relapsed after a couple of weeks. So, this time I decided to seek help.

Previous quitting attempts always consisted of going cold turkey and using willpower.  I could stick to it for a few weeks, but then would have a smoke with a friend and return to using every day. In 2005, I told myself that I could not have any weed in the house and would still allow myself to smoke socially if someone had it. This worked for almost a year until I had a stressful situation occur, and went back to smoking every day. Therefore, this time I wanted to quit and stay a non-smoker, but how?

I considered going to rehab, but did not want to leave my surroundings. So I googled “how to quit marijuana” and found a self-help program. It was an online program for $50 that included a manual, videos, audio sessions and a detox book. After previewing the material, I decided to go for it.  After I bought the program and began my reading, I was still smoking but that was okay.  The program talked about setting a quit date when I was ready. I watched the videos and listened to the audio sessions for about two weeks before I set my quit date.

Through the program, I discovered that willpower would not be enough to sustain a smoke free life.  I would need to re-focus my thoughts and the direction I wanted my life to go in.  This was very scary at first. But the more I read the manual and listened to the videos, the less scary it seemed.  I began to realize that all the benefits that I thought the weed was giving me were actually the opposite. That’s what the weed does to your mind. It made me think that I needed it for so many things in life. I thought it gave me more energy, made me a more creative person, made me better at sports, made me funnier, made sex better, made food taste better, reduced stress and anxiety and helped with depression.

So I thought, give it up and see what happens.  Will I feel better or worse? I made a quitting contract with myself that included a quit date and the reasons I want to quit. The program prepared me for the withdrawal period, which was toughest the first week and ended around the second week. Wow, I could really feel the difference without the weed. I had gotten so used to feeling good that it’s hard to remember how bad I was feeling on the weed.

I can tell you this though, my energy is way, way higher than ever before. I feel present, in the moment and just happier than I have in a long time. I dream again, and can remember most dreams, and they are very vivid. I have been keeping a dream journal as the program has instructed. Your dreams are a way for your subconscious to give you direction in life and writing them down as soon as you wake will give you the ability to figure out what they represent.

Two days after quitting, I dreamt that I was giving a friend C.P.R. but I did not recognize this friend. I went to my therapist a few days later and was discussing the dream as I was having trouble deciphering the meaning.  He suggested that maybe I was giving C.P.R. to myself; that in a way, I was saving myself from my addiction. He asked me to use C.P.R. as an acronym for quitting weed. I thought about this for a short while and decided it means Clear, Present and Responsive. Since quitting weed, this is how I am focusing on living my life, and that is what C.P.R. now means to me.

Who Knew?

Are you expecting your first child? At first you can’t wait to share the news with your family and loved ones. You get to hear such sweet and sincere congratulations and best wishes. Then a couple of weeks pass by and the advice starts creeping in from all avenues.

It’s so nice that people want to share their self-proclaimed words of wisdom with you but when do you get to press a pause button? When do you get to say that you already know that you can’t have sushi?

Daily articles begin to fill your inbox about pregnancy, flu shots or the latest report on a child possibly killed due to a vaccination. Sometimes you just want to scream, “Can I have my child first!”

Amidst the barrage of uninvited advice, we may dare to share some of our thoughts about how we will be raising our child (e.g. cloth diapers, not using formula, and planning a natural childbirth). Instead of words of encouragement, we often receive looks or comments that obviously imply we probably won’t be, shouldn’t be or certainly wouldn’t be carrying these ideas out.

Your body is changing, hormones may be racing, and you can’t get away from friendly advice or simple reminders. The best option is not to hide that you are having a baby (although it may seem tempting), but instead take care of yourself. Find, improve and develop coping strategies to relax and ease your mind, eat healthy, and do yoga!

Think positive thoughts, breathe deeply and remember, you are about to be part of a miracle… child birth.

CBT-  Breakthrough to Reduce Anxiety

Anne’s presenting problem was preoccupation and fear that she had breast cancer. Five days a week, she would spend up to 80 per cent of her day thinking about the possibility that she might have cancer or that she had the symptoms of cancer in her breasts. On the other two days, she would have fleeting ideas that she might have cancer, but was able to dismiss them and continue with her normal activities. She sought reassurance from her husband at least ten times a day and visited her general practitioner, again for reassurance at least once a fortnight. She was unable to look at herself in the mirror as these evoked images of herself with cancer (Grant, Townend, Mills, & Cockx, 2008, p. 182).

Although Anne’s assessment and evaluations do not detect cancer-related symptoms (Grant, et al., 2008), the worry of possibly one day being diagnosed is all she seems to need to live with fear. The anticipation of a diagnosis of a life-threatening health concern can be overwhelming and consume much of our daily thoughts, feelings and routines.

Like Anne, we can have reoccurring thoughts that foster feelings of anxiety, anger, worry, fear, doubt, sadness, and depression. Experiencing these feelings each day may also create excessive and harmful behaviours. In Anne’s case, she avoided all forms of appropriate self-examinations for months at a time, however every three to four months, she would become so overwhelmed with her thoughts of having cancer that she would spend several hours examining her breasts (Grant, et al.). As a result, she would experience tenderness which she interpreted as a sign of cancer.

The cycle of stinkin’ thinkin’, where our overwhelming thoughts create excessive feelings that lead to harmful behaviours can be exhausting. It may have us feeling hopeless, living a life we do not want or enjoy and disrupting relationships with others.

Professional help can help you find the solutions to break this cycle so it will not continue to be debilitating. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy provides tools like cognitive or thought shifting, behavioural strategies and a safe professional place to identify the factors contributing to concerning behaviours. It has been proven to be helpful for re-balancing emotions.

If you are finding thinking cycles and the emotional upheaval unmanageable, call us today!

STOP! And Think About It

Pop culture social media has shown to have a great impact on our lives. With the holidays approaching and a new year to celebrate, much of the media flooding may be on fitness: looking your best this holiday season and setting weight loss resolutions for the new year.

Growing up, do you remember what your mom used to say about looking good? “You need to have a nice shape and always look your best so you can find a great man!” or perhaps you have heard these ones: “Stand up straight” and “Men like women who wear skirts and dresses!” Social media and pop culture (paired with life teachings from mom) can have a strong influence on girls’ perceptions. As a result, our thinking patterns and behavioural choices around exercise and “fitness” may over cater to these pre-programmed “ideals” of what our society accepts and, at times, demands (e.g. slim figures, fashion-forward dressing, and money-hungry jobs equates to a successful life).

Crash exercising is often about as unsuccessful as crash dieting. It only provides temporary results. It may create a dangerous shock to the body and increase risk of injury. It can also provide detrimental effects when we’ve followed a strict workout regime, only to see our efforts have not produced the results we wanted for our bodies.

The moment we decide that we want to workout just to look good, we are setting ourselves up for failure. We will be so focused on the inch here and the pound there, that we neglect attending to the additional benefits of regular physical activity. We also tend to focus so much on a timeline (i.e., a weight loss to be achieved by a specific time period). Especially with physical goals, we all too often aim to “lose” something rather than generating a positive approach… “aiming to gain” (e.g. health, energy, stamina).  A negative emphasis creates stress and worry ensuring our “number-associated” results will not be up to par or “good enough”.

So why workout? If it’s not to look good, what’s the point? This mentality can all too frequently, especially for females, fuel thoughts and feelings of comparisons to others, self-judgment, hyper-criticism and scrutiny. Being in a state of constant comparison with others, with “fitter” body shapes and “better” physical attractiveness, eats away at our sense of satisfaction, happiness, self-worth and joy.

When we shift our thoughts from looking good to feeling good, the additional benefits of exercising and an active lifestyle will start to kick in. Feeling good about ourselves and our fitness accomplishments boost our moods and influences us to engage in additional positive behaviours. This feel-good-do-good phenomenon benefits not only our lives, but the people around us as well: loved ones, families, coworkers and friends.

Counselling sessions with a professional, registered therapist can help begin this cognitive shifting process; a renewing of the mind if you will, an intentional reorganizing of our thoughts, like files in folders, so that we get the results and emotional energy we’re seeking. Get support today to achieve your healthier lifestyle goals. To book your start up session for the New Year… call us today!

Heads are leaning on heads. Bodies are squished together in small seats. Eyes are closed and heads are nodding forward. When eyes are open, we see angry faces and hear people in pissed off moods… and it’s only 7am. What is the rest of our day going to look like?

There’s no doubt about it, we live in a world of hustle. Some of us work 8-12 hour days and still have to “work” on daily family tasks when we get home. When our heads hit the pillow and we finally attain a moment of silence, we begin to process all that needs to be done for the day to come). We ask ourselves; “Where did this day go?”

So I have to ask: “Is the hustle and bustle of our lives really worth it?” We are begging for a vacation because we need that escape. We are looking for new jobs and opportunities to make our lives better (or easier). We are asking ourselves; “Does life have to be this hard?”

Stressful events and life’s hiccups are inevitable; however, how we perceive and cope with these experiences make a world of difference. Balance is an essential component to consider when we make decisions in our lives. Of course, once we make these decisions (e.g. to work here or there, to commute or not, etc.), it is important to “own them”, take responsibility for the results of our decisions and be accountable for our actions.

To attain a balanced lifestyle, we must shift our thoughts from stress and worry, to positivity and action. Staying positive is difficult to do on our own; however, building a strong connection to our higher power and with friends and family can provide us with the support we need. Action may sound tiring; however, staying active prevents doubt, builds confidence, distracts us from stressful thoughts and releases endorphins or what we like to call the “happy hormones”.

Solution-focused counselling can help us train our mind into being more positive and action focused. This form of brief-therapy is future focused, goal-directed, and centers on solutions rather than problems. To attain your goals without having to feel burdened or stressed each morning, call us today!