What is a panic attack? “A panic attack causes sudden, brief feelings of fear and strong physical reactions in response to ordinary, non threatening situations. When you’re having a panic attack, you may sweat a lot, have difficulty breathing and feel like your heart is racing. It may feel as if you’re having a heart attack.” - https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4451-panic-disorder Panic attacks occur suddenly and without warning, symptoms usually peak within 10 minutes after an attack starts and subside soon after. What are some common signs of a panic attack? Chest pain. Chills. Choking or smothering sensation. Difficulty breathing. Fear of losing control. Feeling like you’re going to die. Intense feeling of terror. Nausea. Intense stomach pain. Racing heart. Sweating. Tingling or numbness in fingers or toes. Trembling or shaking. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4451-panic-disorder Although the exact causes of panic attacks and panic disorder are unclear, the tendency to have panic attacks runs in families. What life situations can cause panic attacks? There does appear to be a connection with major life transitions and developing panic attacks. Some of the most common connections are: 1. Graduating from college and entering the workplace, 2. Getting married, 3. Having a baby, 4. Severe stress, 5. The death of a loved one, 6. Divorce, 7. Job loss. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/panic-attacks-and-panic-disorders.htm Techniques for managing panic attacks? Try diaphragmatic breathing; take a deep breath through your nose and count to 5, then slowly exhale through your mouth. In doing this type of breathing you can see your stomach rise at the end of each inhale. Breathing is under our conscious control and will begin to trigger relaxation in the body. You can even put your hand on your stomach to feel the rise and fall of your stomach. Repeat self- statements in your mind such as: “I know what is happening to my body; I need to begin breathing.” “I know what to do, I have experienced this before.” “This is the fight or flight response, there is nothing to fear.” Etc. Use some distraction techniques: Getting up and moving around; name three things you can see, two things you can feel and one thing you can hear. Counting back in three’s from 100. Putting together a puzzle or watching a movie to keep your mind occupied. Keep in mind that the symptoms you are experiencing are known as the fight or flight response. These symptoms represent your body preparing to go into self preservation mode in the event of danger. If you try one of the techniques above; your symptoms are most likely to peak after a couple of minutes and subside; this is because it takes time for the adrenaline to metabolize. If you are experiencing panic attacks, please speak to someone you trust. Seek the help of a trained professional such as a family doctor or therapist. With the right support, panic attacks can be more effectively managed and less impactful on your day-to-day life. This article is for tips and general [...]
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What is dissociation? Have you ever felt yourself “check out” and then have found yourself unfamiliar with your surroundings once you tune back into life? That feeling is known as dissociation. Dissociation is disruption or disconnection in a person's consciousness, sense of identity, or awareness. What causes dissociation? Most people will experience dissociation at some point in their lives. There are a variety of things that can cause you to dissociate; for example: 1. There is stress induced dissociation, 2. It can be induced by a traumatic event, 3. It can be a symptom of another mental illness such as anxiety. What are the symptoms of dissociation? - Forgetting about certain time periods, events and/or personal information Feeling disconnected from your body Feeling disconnected from the world around you Not having a sense of who you are Having multiple identities that you are aware of or not (this is more a symptom of DID) Feeling little/no physical pain. How long does dissociation last? These symptoms can appear for a short period of time after being triggered or last throughout the entire feeling of being triggered. This is known as an episode. Others can experience these symptoms for much longer or constantly which may indicate they have a dissociative disorder. If you, or someone you know is experiencing that kind of dissociation, please seek the help and expertise of a trained mental health professional or family doctor. What about dissociative identity disorder? Dissociative Identity Disorder is different to dissociation. DID is defined as someone who has two or more distinct identities. These “alters” are accompanied by changes in behaviour, memory and thinking. The following link will take you to the Mayo Clinic’s description of DID and the three major dissociative disorders. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dissociative-disorders/symptoms-causes/syc-20355215 The Mayo Clinic defines the symptoms as the following: “Signs and symptoms depend on the type of dissociative disorders you have, but may include: - Memory loss (amnesia) of certain time periods, events, people and personal information A sense of being detached from yourself and your emotions A perception of the people and things around you as distorted and unreal A blurred sense of identity Significant stress or problems in your relationships, work or other important areas of your life Inability to cope well with emotional or professional stress Mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors.” Here are some other statements about DID that would indicate the need for further investigation: I experience two or more distinct parts, each with their own sense of self The different parts have their own behaviours, moods, thoughts, memories, and way of understanding the world I lose my sense of identity—sometimes I don't recognize myself I feel disconnected, like I'm not real or everything around me isn't real Sometimes it feels like someone else is controlling my body I hear voices or notice sensations, thoughts, or feelings that don't seem to belong to me I often have significant gaps in [...]
It’s that time of year again – the time of year where we sit down to create our list of New Year’s Resolutions. There are the ever-popular resolutions like; Going to the gym/starting up again Cutting out coffee/sugar/fast food/alcohol etc Committing to saving more and spending less. Whatever resolutions you are planning, it will likely be something you are adding to an already bust life. In the past have you been able to stick with these goals? If so, that is great, and you are in the minority! But, for the rest of us who have abandoned our goals, it is time to ask ourselves why. A Forbes article written in February of 2020 explains that, “every year more than 50% of people make New Year’s Resolutions to lose weight, quit smoking, workout, save money, get a promotion, get a raise and more. Any yet, virtually every study tells us that about 80% of New Year’s Resolutions will get abandoned around this month (February).” That seems like an astonishing number of people who gave up on their goals so quickly. Why is that? One would think in this day and age of self-help books, coaches and motivational speakers, free habit tracker worksheets and a cast online community of supporters that many more people would achieve the goals they set for themselves. So why do we let our goals slip away? I think one of the main reasons we fail is because many of us are not attaching an emotion to our goals. Often, we create goals because we think we need to or because we are feeling pressure to do so. When we do this, we haven’t put the thought or steps in place on HOW we plan to achieve that goal. When creating a new goal, I have found that when I come up with a WHY, I am more likely to stick to it. Example One – “I want to work out 4-5 times a week because it makes me feel good, because I value my health, and because I don’t want to be a burden to my children or other loves ones as I age.” Example Two – “I want to get that promotion at work because I want to prove to myself that I can take this role on, I want to be more financially stable and feel appreciated in my workplace.” Creating a WHY allows you to tie an emotion to your goal. Feeling the WHY deeply is the motivation that could be needed to help you sustain those goals you set for yourself in the New Year (and throughout the year). Another way to make your goals sustainable is to put systems in place to allow you to stay focused on your goal. The goal you set is the direction you want to head, the systems that you will put into place will determine your progress towards that goal. Tips to creating long-lasting [...]
Most of us have heard the term ‘winter blues’ and associate it with winter arriving and having a sense of feeling ‘low’ or ‘down’ until our clocks once again ‘spring forward’ and the sunny warmer weather approaches. While the majority of us experience a level of the ‘winter blues’ at some point or another during the winter months, many of us experience this at a more intense and consistent level which can result in what clinical psychologists and psychiatrists consider a form of depressive disorder called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is defined as a major depressive disorder that persists during the same season, typically winter, for at least two years consecutively (Psychology Today, 2019). Approximately 2 to 3 percent of Canadians will experience SAD in their lifetime and about 15 percent of Canadians will experience a milder form of SAD in which more mild depressive symptoms are experienced, but a person is still able to go about their daily life (CMHA, 2013). What is Thought to Cause SAD and What are the Symptoms? Causes Though many mental health professionals believe those who experience SAD may have already experienced significant depressive episodes during their life, other factors may be at play. These factors could include experiencing other mental health issues (such as generalized anxiety, for example) and genetics and their role in mental health overall. Researchers also believe that sunlight plays a crucial role in not only our mood, but physical health and sleep hygiene as well. The reduced exposure to sunlight those who live in northern climates, like Southern Ontario, during the winter months, it is believed, results in lower production of vitamin D within the body. Researchers believe that vitamin D plays a significant role in the functionality of the neurotransmitter serotonin, a brain and gut chemical that effects mood and the development, and maintenance of, depressive symptoms (Psychology Today, 2019). Symptoms Persistent tiredness, whether or not one has had a ‘full-nights sleep’ Difficulty falling and/or staying asleep Tiredness that significantly affects one’s ability to carry out daily tasks like work, school, errands, etc. A ‘more than usual’ craving form carbohydrates and simple sugars like sweets, breads, pop, etc. Body weight gain Feelings of sadness, despair, hopelessness, low self-worth and/or guilt Persistent irritability Avoidance of social activities and hobbies/activities one used to enjoy High stress and feeling of being ‘tense’ often A loss of sexual desire and low urge for intimacy/physical touch What Can You Do? Whether you believe you are experiencing significant SAD, moderate SAD, or even the ‘winter blues,’ it is always a great first step to speak with your primary care doctor. This is an important first step as it allows your doctor to consider and eliminate any other health issues that may be causing your symptoms, such as thyroid issues, forms of anemia, and other mental health issues, for example. An effective tool that does not involve medical intervention is ‘Light Therapy’ (also referred to as a ‘SAD Light’ or ‘Happy Light’). What this [...]
Many of us parents have been there. We are rushing to get our child(ren) off to school, we get to the school and our child has a big, emotional outburst and refuses to go into their classroom. This is more common in younger children whilst they are still adapting to being away from the safety and comfort of their home and their primary caregiver, and many children will grow out of this as they settle into the school routine and become more familiar with their new surroundings and teacher/classmates. But for some children, school refusal is something that is more of an ongoing issue and can be a sign of an underlying anxiety disorder. School refusal can affect children of all ages, from kindergarten right through to highschool. Obviously the signs and symptoms will differ depending on the age. Your teenager is less likely to have a big emotional outburst, but may show some of the following signs: Complete refusal to attend, Attending, but leaving early, Starting late, Having a tantrum when they arrive at school, Attending, but experiencing a high degree of distress. What causes school refusal? There are many things that can contribute to school refusal, some of those reasons can include: An underlying anxiety/depressive disorder, The child might be experiencing bullying at school, They may be involved in conflict at school with teachers, or other students, They may be experiencing issues at home that make them feel worried to leave, They could have acute stress/PTSD as a result of something that happened at school, They may struggle at school and have academic issues or issues with their teacher. It is important to note that children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) have a higher rate of experiencing school refusal. What are some symptoms of school refusal? This will vary from child to child and will, again, vary with different age groups. Some symptoms include: Stomach distress (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach aches etc.) Headaches Fatigue Crying Tantrums It is good to also have your child checked out by their family doctor if they are experiencing any of these physical symptoms, to rule out any potential health concerns. How to help with school refusal: Many parents are unsure whether or not they should be “punishing” or “disciplining” their child when they experience school refusal, this will not work. School refusal is not something that can be disciplined out of a child, it is a form of anxiety that requires treatment. One of the most effective forms of “treatment” is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT should be provided by a registered mental health professional who has received training in this modality. CBT teaches the client to confront and change negative thoughts/behaviours. Something that has worked in our family is normalizing anxiety. We all have open conversations about anxiety as a human experience. When anxiety is appropriately managed it can alert us to danger, or help us perform in a situation. We discuss the parameters of anxiety and when it moves from [...]
Many people may not think of career and mental health as being closely tied, but in fact, many of the clients I see on a weekly basis report that their current career, future career, and/or a career they have thought about working towards, is causing them much stress, self doubt, fear and anxiety. While career counsellors and clinical counsellors that provide therapy and services focused on treating mental health issues are not often considered fields that relate or ‘blend’ together often, some practitioners, like myself, view the goals of these professions as one in the same – assist clients in successfully navigating life’s obstacles and provide them with the tools necessary to reach their goals, whether it be with their career, mental health, or both. Just as most mental health experts in the world have come to view issues such as anxiety and depression as being highly related, the issues that can stem from or relate to career and career development are often highly related to or correlated with struggles with one’s mental health. As many of my clients know, or have come to realize, I like to use a lot of examples during counselling sessions to provide context to the issues they are currently struggling with. I have recently been seeing many teenage and younger adult clients who are feeling much pressure within themselves to ‘figure out what they want to go to school for and do with their life.’ And while many of us think of career development and stressors related to this process as an issue facing youth, this issue is something that people, as I have seen proven in my office time and time again, from ages 15 to 50 face often in today’s world. Many reasons exist as to why this continues to be a stressful and challenging aspect of one’s life up until the age of 50 and these include: 1) How We Interact with and Function Within Todays’ Job Market… I was once told by a professor in an undergraduate Organizational Leadership course that those in my generation (millennials) and younger will have, on average, anywhere between 3 to 5 ‘careers’ in our lifetime. They also stated that the ‘older generations’ often had/will have only 1-2 (on average) ‘careers’ in their lifetime. When I explain this to my clients, many of them are very surprised by these numbers and ask me why this is the case. There are many reasons why, but some include: Stability and Security:After the ‘market crash’ in 2008, people began to search for jobs that provided more stability in order to gain more financial security. Those from ‘older generations’ often misunderstand and become frustrated with those who now seem to ‘hop from one job to the next,’ but the reality is, we live in a different financial environment and ‘work world’ than many past generations did. Due to the competitive nature of many professional fields, generations like millennials have had to gain more post secondary education, experience and [...]
The Mother Wound I do not have a strong relationship with my mom. If anything I feel like the parent in our relationship more often than not. I often look at my friends' relationships with their mothers and get jealous. My relationship with my mom wasn’t always this way. We always had our ups and downs, as most mothers and daughters do, but over the last decade it has turned into resentment and barrier filled. The last year I have become more aware of myself and of my actions as a mother. Sometimes, I did not like the person I was towards my step-son. I was not handling situations well. I would sometimes yell, then we would both end up crying. It was awful and unpleasant for everyone. I did not want to be like this so I started to work on myself. I read self-help books, listened to podcasts, and followed women who inspired me. Along this journey I came across Bethany Webster. She is the author of Discovering the Inner Mother. Webster also has a Master’s degree in Psychology. What is the “Mother Wound”? The Mother Wound can be described as, “the pain rooted in our relationship with our mothers that is passed down from generation to generation in patriarchal cultures and has a profound effect on our lives,” (Webster, Bethany. https://www.bethanywebster.com/about-the-mother-wound/). Becoming more aware of myself and how I was acting towards my step-son, I began to see how some of my actions were similar to the actions and choices of my mother during my childhood. I hated coming to that realization. However, this really opened my eyes to the relationship between my mother and her mother and the similarities; their relationship was very bitter, angry, and cold. There was no sign of real love and support, no warmth, or guidance. I do not blame my mother for her actions - knowing what I know now, it was all she knew. She was doing the best she could with what she was given. I really want to change that dynamic with my mother before it is too late. My life is mine to live and create how I chose. I do not have to go down the same road as previous generations of my family, I can be that change. Here are some tips to identify and heal The Mother Wound Some signs that the Mother Wound is manifesting in your life: Not being our full selves because we don’t want to threaten others, Having a high tolerance for poor treatment from others, Emotional care-taking or exhibiting codependent behaviours, Feeling competitive with other women, Self-sabotage when we’re close to breakthroughs, Conditions such as eating disorders, depression, and addiction, Being too rigid and dominating, Perfectionism, feeling like we have to control everything to be OK. It could also come up in your life as different forms of pain: Shame: a vague sense there is something wrong with us, Comparison: not [...]
Often we don’t start learning about affirmations until we are an adult. By this point, we usually have built up a lot of negative beliefs about ourselves and struggle with negative self talk. It would make sense and be more impactful to learn these good habits as younger people. Learning this skill as a child may take less practice making it a useful tool in managing childhood mental health problems. What is an affirmation? An affirmation is a specific phrase or statement that you say towards yourself to encourage positive self talk, improve motivation or uplift self-esteem. The purpose is to affirm one’s self and incorporate that affirmation into your belief system. When an affirmation is repeated enough and enters your belief system, that affirmation will be brought to memory when a belief is challenged. An example for a child might be “I am wonderful the way I am.” When that belief is challenged by a classmate or sibling who tells them they are “weird” etc, the affirmation will eventually be remembered and the child will think, “I am not weird. I am wonderful the way I am.” Where are affirmations practiced? Anywhere! It is encouraged to repeat them multiple times in a row. This can be done in bed before going to sleep, in front of a mirror while getting ready for the day etc. Wherever and whenever it can fit into your life and schedule. When so many children experience bullying, it is important for us to teach children to take control of their belief system at a young age. Self confidence is their best defence against negative comments. Here are some positive affirmation cards we created for you to use with your children. We hope you find them helpful. **Please note, this does not replace seeking the help of a trained mental health professional.
Everyone experiences stress in one form or another in their lives. Stress can occur when there are too many pressures to deal with. Some examples of pressures we experience: Raising a child, School work, Financial issues, Work related issues, Looking after an ill family member and more. (Canadian Psychological Association, 2021). Stress can occur from a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged stress. Your brain and body can only handle feeling overworked and overwhelmed for so long (CPA, 2021). How can counselling help with stress? Counselling can offer guidance by; Helping you identify causes, Exploring possible coping strategies, Navigating any life challenges contributing to your stress. It's important to know how to manage the stress in your life. Learning ways to best cope with stress through short-term and long-term interventions helps build long lasting resilience (CPA, 2021). What types of stress are there? There are various types of stress including; 1. Routine stress related to the pressures of school, work, family, and other daily responsibilities. 2. Stress that is brought about by a sudden negative change, such as losing a job, going through a divorce, or coping with an illness (National Institute for Mental Health, 2021). 3. Traumatic stress can be experienced during an event such as a major accident, war, assault, or natural disaster where people may be in danger of being seriously hurt or killed. People who experience traumatic stress may have very distressing temporary emotional and physical symptoms, but most recover naturally soon after. Some may require a little help with post traumatic stress (NIMH, 2021). Is all stress bad? No, not all stress is bad. Stress brought on by a response to danger signals the “fight or flight response” which is a built in survival mechanism in our bodies. In non-life-threatening situations, stress can motivate people. For example, when they need to take a test or interview for a new job stress can provide motivation and optimal performance (NIMH, 2021). But, long term stress can have a negative impact on your health. With chronic stress, those same lifesaving reactions in the body can disturb the immune, digestive, cardiovascular, sleep, and reproductive systems (NIMH, 2021). Some people may experience mainly digestive symptoms, while others may have headaches, sleeplessness, sadness, anger, or irritability (NIMH, 2021). Continued strain on your body from stress may contribute to serious health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other illnesses, including mental disorders such as depression and anxiety. What about “burnout?” Burnout is something we hear a lot in our culture today. The term “burned out” refers to workplace stress. In 2019, the World Health Organization identified burnout as an “occupational phenomenon” – something due to the conditions of work (CPA, 2021). The term burnout is used to describe a group of signs and symptoms that consistently occur together and are caused by chronic workplace stress. The three dimensions of burnout 1. Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, 2. Increased mental distance from [...]
One of the hardest and most lonely experiences of my life was when I suffered a miscarriage at around the 12th week of my third pregnancy. Having already given birth to two healthy, amazing children, I felt an extreme amount of guilt around my feelings of grief. I felt like I didn’t deserve to grieve, especially when so many women suffer multiple miscarriages and are unable to carry a child to full term. Just the day before I had been to an ultrasound and seen the heartbeat, my husband and I were excited to add a third child to our family and we had shared with family and friends that we were expecting. We had even thought about names in our excitement. I never expected my pregnancy to end so abruptly. Given that so many wait to share the news until after they reach the 12 week point, there are countless women who go through losses privately, no one even knowing that they were pregnant to begin with. Whilst I was going through my miscarriage, I felt awful. Physically and mentally it was such a struggle to get out of bed in the mornings, to go out in public feeling this intense loss. It happened right before Halloween and it took every ounce of strength to take my kids out trick or treating, smiling at the other families in the community and making small talk when I was still losing my baby. I blamed myself for the loss. Did I over exert myself? Was I not taking proper care of myself during the pregnancy? Did I miss warning signs? I had never spoken with any of my friends or family about pregnancy loss, so I didn’t know what to think or feel. My husband found it hard to show his feelings of grief, I knew he was shocked and trying to process his own feelings, but that he also felt he needed to take care of me causing him to stuff his feelings down in an attempt to be strong for me. Honestly, in that moment, I wanted to sit and cry together, I wasn’t looking to him to hold it all together. We did come through the experience stronger, but I wish he had felt that he also had a right to openly grieve the loss of our child. It was only when I felt I had to share what had happened with some close friends and family members did I realize how common this is. The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Ontario (SOGC) estimates 15-20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, although this number is likely closer to 1 in 4 pregnancies. Hearing from friends who had suffered through multiple miscarriages made me sad that we don’t openly talk about this. I would have wanted to be there for them when they went through that, rather than finding out years later. For something that happens in 1 in 4 pregnancies, we also don’t seem to have a health [...]