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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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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.

 


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Let Others Help You Untie / Lose the Addiction

Does it feel like every day there is a bulletin on the latest celebrity who has admitted himself or herself into rehab? The unfortunate passing of Phillip Seymour Hoffman was due to a heroin addiction. The death of Glee celebrity, Cory Monteith, was also from a drug overdose.

Some may perceive these celebrities as having amazing lives; they make a lot of money; they own multiple cars and homes. It appears that they have all the opportunities to have amazing lives and relationships.

If celebrities, people who seem to have so much, struggle to overcome addiction, how can the common-folk do it? On the radio, one doctor commented that there is no cure to an addiction. That’s all that was on the broadcast. There were no other comments to possibly instill a grain of hope in the listener’s mind.

So what about the so-called “addicts” who are not celebrities?  What about the people who mortgage homes to pay for rehabilitation programs. What about those who have such a hard time believing they are worth the effort?  What about those courageous people who, admittedly with help, have overcome addictive patterns of behaviour,  persevere,  improve their relationships and have been able to co-create happier lives? These are the stories and truths we need to hear more about.

Technically, many might agree with the doctor’s negative, “to-the-point” comment… “There is no cure to addiction”. It is absolutely possible,  however, to have suffered from an addiction, overcome it with hard and consistent effort and to develop a happier life. YES!

If, as the doctor says “there is no cure”… then maybe it is not an illness. Perhaps it may, at least in some instances, be better viewed as an inappropriate coping strategy or poor stress response. In still other situations, it may be seen as learned behaviour that can be unlearned?  With an accurate assessment, it is possible to determine the factors contributing, the level of risk as well as the strengths and resources available to effectively overcome addiction. This is the kind of news we should hear about. The opportunities and success stories are not heard enough.

If you’d like to tell your success story… please submit it to our email (jeff@jeffpacker.com) with your clearly stated permission to post it anonymously on this blog.

Thanks

             Photo by Alan Light

An invitation to the Oscars is quite the accomplishment, let alone what it would mean to be asked to present an award or be nominated for one. The big moment for celebrities and fans is that terrifying red carpet walk that leads to the venue’s entrance. The cameras, the eyes, the cheering for attention…all prepared for accidents, falls, and dreadful attire.

The best and worst dressed list is sometimes more important than those who actually win an award for their performances and artwork. What message is this providing to younger generations? There is an unrealistic idealism that celebrities have the most amazing lifestyles and that happiness is determined by the price of jewellery worn and the number of high-end cars in the garage.

Then we pay tribute to those who have passed away, whether to natural causes, accidents, heart attacks, or cancers, as well as those who take their own lives. Mental health issues plague celebrities just as much if not more than the general population.  Imagine if the relationship and personal struggles experienced by celebrities were showcased to increase awareness about mental health and the wealth of solutions available to resolve them.

If anything, famous celebrities with mental health issues are usually “pushed under the carpet”, “thrown under the bus” and/or exploited by tabloids. Sometimes the fame and fortune, and what it took to get, is difficult to cope with. Great difficulty faces them in finding work and being recognized, while somehow still providing for themselves and other family members too. They also experience great pressure wanting to make parents proud, maybe because they sacrificed so much on the dream they had or maybe because they didn’t.

Take out the words show business and fame and wealth and we can actually identify with these LIFE STRUGGLES. When struggles become overbearing and we are encouraged to keep quiet about them, mental health concerns are likely to develop. Many of us can understand the heartache of romantic break-ups, poor choices, substance abuse, addictions and career failures. Can we imagine what this might look like if we saw it broadcasted on the news?!!!

Mental health is not something to stay quiet about or to try to push under a rug. We all have struggles and difficulties in life. To manage and cope with these challenges, it is important to speak up about them. Awareness is the first step toward actions that can help you create a better quality of life. Contacting our professional registered counsellors is the second step… help is available.

 

 


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Many families will come to counselling as a sign of support to help a loved one through a difficult time (e.g. addiction, cooperative parenting, disordered eating, anxiety, depression, OCD, etc.). Sometimes families will provide financial support for a treatment program while others may attend sessions to improve overall teamwork. Still, other family members will change habits in the household to reduce the chance of addictive behaviours reoccurring.

How much family support is too much or not enough? This question is difficult to answer. As parents, we want to help our children (even if they are adults) to the best of our ability. However, sometimes this means we may be doing too much for them. Doing too much can often prevent individual growth and development. Parents may also want to take responsibility for the child/adult’s behaviour.

This is where family therapy helps, drawing upon family systems research and practice. It helps families clarify when to take responsibility or ownership and when not to, how to set clear boundaries and opportunities for change. Families can also establish new roles and expectations along with accountability measures for noncompliance and strategies for encouraging and increasing the behaviours desired.

Insufficient family support can be very debilitating for a person with mental health concerns and, thus, for the family as a whole. Strained and inconsistent communication is very common when there have been hurt feelings and years of promises broken.  As the support of loved ones grows thin, the person with mental health concerns can become even more distant and make even more harmful decisions. Balancing relationships within the family and keeping supportive connections while in treatment is a very important topic to discuss with a professional counsellor.

There are many ways in which a family can support one another through the difficult times. Start with this LISTEN acronym:

L: Learn to hear each other out more, increasing understanding and Love for one another.

I:  Inspire one another by having Integrity with your word and authenticity in your actions.

S: Solution-oriented state of mind helps focus on positive steps forward, finding solutions.

T: Treat others with respect, Teach caringly, Talk calmly and with Teamwork language.

E: Establish family goals together, Empower action and Encourage achievement.

N: Never give up on each other.

“Mark was 38 and after earning his M.B.A., he joined the marketing division of a large conglomerate. He worked his way up the corporate ladder. His talent and long working hours was rewarded by his promotion to lead his division.

The promotion left him with mixed feelings. Soon after the promotion, during his routine check up, Mark was informed his blood pressure had rocketed to the borderline hypertension range (around 150 over 100). He was given an ambulatory monitor which provided 20 blood pressure readings per day.

The first day of monitoring, Mark had a staff meeting to lead. As he was preparing, the monitor recorded his reading which was 195 over 140. The following day, Mark resigned from his managerial role and returned to a less stressful position” (Davidson, Neale, Blankstein, & Flett, 2002).

At some points of our lives, we can all relate to Mark’s story. We set goals for ourselves, aim high, and take the necessary steps to achieve BIG goals. This hard work and dedication can take a toll on our lives, our bodies, and our well-being. How many times have we ignored the subtle signs of stress that our bodies bear? We sometimes feel the need to push ourselves beyond our limits, often to the point of exhaustion, because we believe this is what it takes or means to become successful.

Even Mark, early on, ignored his inner voice, his real self. Those “mixed feelings” were his body’s way of trying to fight his stinkin’ thinkin’; providing some sort of sign for him to sit and wait and consider all aspects that this promotion can bring to his life (healthy and unhealthy). In business, this may be referred to as a “cost-benefit analysis”

For Mark, and for most of us, we often wait for our body to give us a sounding alarm that a change needs to happen. This occurs although our inner voice/spirit has been with us all along.

At Jeff Packer MSW & Associates, we help people uncover or rediscover their inner voice/spirit and more effectively use their emotional guidance system. This helps those we work with gain the strength and confidence to trust themselves even more.

Seeking counselling for work-related stress helps develop healthier balancing of personal and career goals. Contact us today!

Managing Type 1 Diabetes is Complex!

People who have type 1 diabetes spend significant energy and time considering food, eating and energy expenditure (note: type 1  is totally different than type 2 diabetes). Paying close attention to carbohydrate intake helps more effectively determine how much insulin to take.

In addition, people with insulin-dependent diabetes check blood sugar levels regularly (between 4 and 8 times per day minimum = 1400 to 1600 X per year), and account for many other variables in order to accurately calculate the amount of insulin to be injected.

Insulin works to pick up glucose (sugar) from the blood and carry this throughout the body, providing energy to the cells. Higher blood sugar levels can lead to urinating frequently, flushing important nutrients, contributing to weight loss.  This means a person with Type 1, who does not get enough insulin will drop weight, be able to eat extra food without gaining weight or a combination of the two; eat more and even lose weight. 

Diabulimia – a rare eating disorder

The term refers to people with type 1 diabetes managing weight and body image issues through missed or reduced dosing of insulin. Research indicates prevalence rates close to 30% of people with type 1 diabetes. This disorder impacts both genders and all ages, however, there are increased prevalence rates among adolescents and females as is true with most eating disorders.

Informally named diabulimia, this disordered eating behaviour (DEB) can be quite harmful and disruptive to the daily functioning for people managing type 1 diabetes.  While this behaviour may involve intentional insulin omission, this may not always be the case. Science has more recently helped us think of the stomach is like a second brain. We also know the body and mind can develop habits that are not necessarily driven by conscious thought.

Given this knowledge, it is very important to refrain from blame in efforts to help those with this highly addictive behavioural pattern. Imagine if you could eat all kinds of food, much more than your friends, and through missing insulin not gain any weight? No purging, excessive exercise, laxative use or other behaviours required.

It is very important to watch for the following symptoms of diabulimia

  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Increased appetite, even binging behaviours
  • High blood glucose levels (HBA1c often higher than 10)
  • Lower energy levels
  • Lower sodium levels
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty concentrating (increased work or school challenges)
  • Severely imbalanced ketones
  • Increased mood swings (agitation, grumpy)

 

  • images-1If these sound familiar for you, or someone you know, it is important to seek professional help from specialized, multi-disciplinary diabetes teams which include, nurses, dietitians, doctors, social workers and others. A team approach works best for any eating disordered recovery.

Working together, the person with type 1 diabetes can develop healthier management techniques, eating patterns and mental health strategies to improve health. Including other family members can also increase the healthcare team and speed up recovery from this difficult and rare disordered eating behaviour.

For more information contact us today !