Travelling to a foreign country can be rather exciting and stressful at the same time. You don’t know the customs, the people, the geographic area etc.. Even going to the USA from Canada, when you don’t travel much, can elevate stress levels. Thoughts that lean toward negativity, whether they are about airport check-in, customs and security, the type of plane, people or otherwise, can disrupt, worsen and even ruin a perfectly fine holiday away.

It is important to plan ahead, not just with practical things like packing, cars and sights to see, with who you are going to meet, but also planning how we are going to handle changes in plans, monkey wrenches and even attitudes about spending money.  Keeping positive, despite the normal unexpected challenges, is not an easy skill. We are, therefore, prudent to set some internal guidelines to keep our spirits up and to have a fun time. Discovering new ways to interpret the actions and motivations of others can help us stay in a positive frame of mind. Training our mind means shifting thoughts that fuel negative emotions and actions toward the intentional selection of  thoughts that fuel positive emotional and behavioural states.

Viewing all people as generally good, kind and caring can go a long way as can the thought; “I am to be polite, kind and courteous no matter the situation”. On our trip this past weekend, to Washington DC and the Baltimore area, we had plenty of opportunity to get flustered or “out-of-sorts” and that negative voice in the back of my head offered numerous reasons to do so.  Some of the situations that could easily have turned into awful experiences, based upon my potential handling of the moment, actually turned out quite well because I did not listen to my “stinkin thinkin” … for very long anyway.  “Take a few really deep breaths” was the message to myself as the girl at the check-in counter became… well let’s just say… a little disconcerting and a whole lot unfriendly!

For some time now, I have repeatedly discovered that being gracious begets a similar response. Being good, kind, understanding, patient etc. mostly leads to receiving similar responses from others. This may not be right at the moment, yet it seems to be a very consistent phenomenon provided we wait for it. In a hurried and rushed world we may often want results right away, expecting people to be nice immediately just because we have been. Is there a time limit or expiry date on goodness and graciousness? Can we ever really give too much of this.

Make any trip, experience or journey out of your comfort zone more positive by being mindful of your own thought selection. We can increasingly search for, reach for and develop more thoughts that portray a “goodness to gracious” view, thereby improving our journey along this road of life.

 

“I complained of a decline in vital energy; a weakened ability to enjoy the fulfillment of needs or of aesthetic desire. Even the most reasonable goals had become difficult or impossible to set, and when established, impossible to fulfill…I complained of sleep troubles, eating troubles. I found myself avoiding all but the most urgently necessary contact with other people. The ill feeling that, for some depressives, does not get much worse than a generalized unhappiness would in my case often degenerate into overwhelming self-loathing, climaxing in sudden, surprising relief, or thoughts or suicide,” (Mays, 1996, p. 64).

In Mays’ case, he did find some relief when prescribed Prozac; however this relief was only temporary.

This holiday season is upon us and some of us are listening to the 24-hour holiday playlists on the radio. Some of us have already decorated our homes to be in a constant reminder of the joy that this time brings. We anticipate the family visits and holiday traditions. With young children, we share stories of what this time was like when we were young. To some of us, the holiday season allows us to forget the difficulties we face day to day, and become grateful for the people in our lives; as well as the memories we get to share and create.

Unfortunately the joys, memories, and happiness is not experienced by all of us. Like Mays, people suffering from depression have an extremely difficult time participating in a festive spirit.

What is important to consider over the holidays is that individuals suffering from depression usually do not want to think and feel this way. The happiness and enjoyment seems unattainable.

Sharing time in such a joyous occasion comes easy when we are in the presence of those with the same joyful intentions. It can be difficult for families who have a member suffering from depression. Some families may feel guilty of feeling so happy around this time of year when they know that another member is suffering. Individuals with depression may withdraw from family traditions so that they do not “ruin” the holiday spirit.

There are ways for all family members to cope during the holiday season. Seeking support as a family increases cohesiveness, enhances your relationships and also provides insight into the impact that depression can have on the family. Call us today so you and your family can enjoy the New Year.

“New Dad… Nobody Asks Me What I Think?”

I spoke with a young girl today and we were discussing the excitement and anticipation of Christmas. It was approaching fast and this year appears to have gone by so quickly. This was not a counselling session; just a casual conversation with a young friend.

A lot happened in your life this year.

Yah! I guess.

What did you like the most?

Summer time and my birthday pool party.

What didn’t you like so much about this year?

[A lengthened silence prior to her response]

Like… I’m happy to see my mom happy, but I don’t like that she got engaged. I like it but I don’t. I like him, he’s nice. But I don’t know what this means for me. I hear all these plans being made and no one asks how I feel. I’m happy I get to decorate my own room when we move though. Do I have to call him ‘dad’? What about my dad? Now I have two dads?

Sometimes parents attend to their own needs for love and companionship without having open communication with their children. This is especially true when parents determine their children are too young to have these types of conversations. Although we may attempt to keep our children’s best interests top of mind, when selecting and bringing a companion into their lives, it is still important to talk with our children, explore their feelings and concerns along with their positives.

When significant events happen in our lives, the strength of a co-parenting relationship can allow for the entire family to understand and celebrate special times. When the entire family takes part in open conversations, we foster improved understanding of each others’ view points, strengthen our connection as a family, and make adjusting to new members go more smoothly. In other words, we prevent frustrations and potential problems in advance.

Merging families sucessfully and enhancing co-parenting is best done with coaching from professional counsellors.  After twenty years of working with families, experience helps families cope with and adjust to difficult life changes. At Jeff Packer MSW & Associates, areas of support include the following:

  • Helping couples cope with separation/divorce, grieving and adjustment issues
  • Family structure assessment and re-establishing effective roles and rules
  • Establish a co-parenting communication plan and strategy
  • Identify goals for raising children in the most healthy and appropriate manner
  • Create safe and healthy boundaries between co-parents
  • Develop positive relationships with co-parents’ romantic partners
  • Improve communication skills; specifically, conflict resolution and problem-solving
  • Assist with crucial conversations in a non-blaming and accepting environment

Call us today to improve post-separation adjustment and co-parenting relationships. Why? Because you and your children are worth it!

“To make the right choices in life, you have to get in touch with your soul. To do this, you need to experience solitude, which most people are afraid of because in the silence you hear truth and know the solutions,” (Deepak Chopra).

It isn’t necessarily the fear of being alone bothering us.  It may be we fear self-reflection, examining our mind and the potentiality of discovering answers or solutions stemming from the past? An unexamined self can contribute to stagnation; continuing to do the same things over and over again, yet hoping for a different outcome.

To keep this hope alive, we might fan the faith in our external environment and the people in it to change our circumstances for us. Maybe they will “see the light”, they will start to value our relationships with them, treat us better, and then our lives will be more meaningful and fulfilling.

Want a meaningful and more fulfilling life? Are you watching this holiday season go by, ensuring everyone around you is taken care of — everyone except yourself? The people around us are not primarily responsible for determining fulfillment in our lives. The choices we make every day, every hour and even every second can either distract from or add to our satisfaction and to that of the people around us.

Our lives may be “busyed” up  so long we are unclear how to refocus.  We may want help to discover the steps required to move forward.

Sometimes we do not have the space to experience solitude, as Deepak Chopra suggests. Ready to get help? Want to improve your journey? When considering change, counselling can help you identify obstacles blocking progress and help generate specific strategies to improve yourself and, subsequently, your relationships.

For some, the space of solitude might be found in counselling; the opportunity to intentionally examine yourself more fully, to explore the dynamic patterns in your relationships and to learn ways to develop healthier ones.

We hope that you do take time for yourself, as well as friends and family, over this Christmas holiday season. It may just be the best gift you’ll ever give and receive.

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!

Food Issues May Increase Over Holidays

Presents are great, laughter with family and friends is nice, but some of us believe that the real enjoyment of the holidays is the abundance of food. Special meals and traditional dishes are prepared this time of year. Some of us are very mindful of healthy eating now, so that we may fully indulge in the sometimes not-so-healthy meals we will have over the holidays.

As our aunts, mothers, and grandmothers gather in the kitchen, (men in some families too) and create what can only be described as magical aromas, it is sometimes difficult to keep in mind that members of our family require dietary support. Not only can some of us have severe food allergies (e.g. gluten, nuts, dairy), but some of us also require a lot more TLC (tender, loving care) during the holidays. Disordered eating issues can also be worse during the holidays and family get togethers.

“As she reached puberty, her thin frame began to fill out, raising concerns about the effects of her weight gain on her performance as a gymnast. She began to restrict her intake of food, but found that after several days of semi-starvation she would lose control and go on an eating binge. This pattern of dieting and binging lasted for several months, during which her fear of becoming fat seemed to increase. At age 13, she hit on the ‘solution’ of self-induced vomiting. She quickly fell into a pattern of episodes of alternating binging and vomiting three or four times per week,” (Davidson, Neale, Blankstein, & Flett, 2002).

Coping with disordered eating can be quite difficult over the holiday season.  Those suffering may feel like family members will be paying particular attention to them because they are the ones with “the problem.”  Uneasiness with meal times and menu planning is quite often present, making certain topics and particular foods become “off the table”. It may just be helpful to reduce tension by developing a “peace treaty” for the holidays, withdrawing stress raising topics and foods from the holiday menu because they are known triggers to unhealthy eating behaviours.

Over the Christmas holidays, we wish your family all the best as you cope with thoughts and situations that can easily hinder a fun-filled and relaxing holiday experience.

Should you want assistance with family relationship improvements and to recover from disordered eating patterns,  schedule your appointment for 2014 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!