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What is Agoraphobia?

What is Agoraphobia? Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder that is symptomatic of fearing or avoiding places and situations. Individuals who live with Agoraphobia often feel trapped, helpless and embarrassed about their experience. What types of places/situations does someone with Agoraphobia avoid? Some examples of places or situations that an individual may avoid include: Open spaces such as parks, Enclosed spaces such as elevators, public transportation, Crowds Being alone outside of ones’ home. The individual will fear the situation because they “think” having to leave the situation will be embarrassing while distressed, as opposed to worrying about not being able to leave the situation. The fear of not being able to escape causes the person to avoid certain situations since anxiety and panic attacks are common. If you are avoiding at least two of the above scenarios, you may be experiencing Agoraphobia. What characterizes Agoraphobia as an issue? Where agoraphobia becomes an issue is that the avoided situation is irrational and impedes on the individual’s life. This type of avoidance will often extend to multiple situations until the person is avoiding almost everything in their life. How do we treat Agoraphobia? Individuals with lived experiences of Agoraphobia need to know that recovery and feeling safe outside of their home is possible. Some forms of treatment include: Exposure therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) Desensitization Medications may be prescribed to control panic attacks, helping the individual to trust that they will not panic while exploring experiences of distress. **Please note only a medical doctor can recommend or prescribe medication for mental health conditions. To learn more about the types of mental health providers, download our free report here:   If you or someone you know is experiencing Agoraphobia, you can talk to a friend or provide support to the person by listening and helping and encouraging them to seek professional support. Resources https://www.anxietycanada.com/disorders/agoraphobia/ https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/agoraphobia/symptoms-causes/ https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/conditions/agoraphobia

What is Agoraphobia?2024-02-29T16:44:28+00:00

What is Health Anxiety and How Can it Be Managed?

We all experience anxiety at some point and most have a general idea of what anxiety is, what causes it, and basic ways to address it. Anxiety becomes problematic when it begins to intrude in one’s life in terms of their daily functioning. This includes a person’s ability to function socially, at home, within their place of work, with friends, in public spaces. People who experience problematic anxiety can often experience anxiety in several different ways, including in general (referred to as generalized anxiety), social anxiety/social phobia, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and agoraphobia (fear of leaving one’s living space). A lesser-known anxiety issue many people experience is recognized by mental health practitioners as health anxiety. Health anxiety was once referred to by many as ‘hypochondria’ (hypochondriasis) which involved extreme worry about, and fear of, being or getting seriously ill. Health anxiety is a more recognized and appropriate term now as it refers to more specific aspects and characteristics of those who have such significant and intrusive fears/worries concerning their health. One of the most significant aspects of anxiety is that of experiencing a perceived threat. Often with this perceived threat causing distress and impaired ability to function. For example, someone may feel anxiety when driving down a dark back road in the middle of the night because they fear that something bad could happen (even though it’s unlikely). Because the person believes the potential for danger is not only real, but significant, anxiety is the result. Health anxiety refers to when one believes that there is a threat to their health which in turn, triggers anxiety that considerably impacts their daily life, social functioning, and several other areas which includes intrusive symptoms, thoughts, and behaviours. Common health concerns experienced by those with health anxiety include: Having/getting a cancer diagnosis, multiple sclerosis, heart issues, stomach disorders, spinal and joint diseases/disorders, and/or Alzheimer’s etc. Those with health anxiety can also worry in the same way about not just themselves, but loved ones as well. When Health Anxiety Becomes a Serious Issue It’s important to be clear that most people experience milder forms of health anxiety when experiencing such things as waiting for medical test results, when a new lump or sore is noticed on their body, or a new sensation is felt (Ex, slight pains, numbness, tingling, muscle twitching, etc.). It is when such worries become so challenging and intrusive that they are: Causing significant distress and impacting one’s ability to live a healthy, enjoyable, daily lifestyle. Magnified in one’s mind to the point that the beliefs and worries are out of proportion to the actual likelihood of one having a serious medical issue. Repetitive web searches for confirmatory information of the believed disease, disorder, medical issue, etc., which I refer to as ‘Dr. Google.’ Persistent to this point of completing excessive ‘checking’ behaviours (of the believed symptoms), reassurance seeking from family, friends, and medical professionals or avoiding medical professionals and health information. *These behaviours are [...]

What is Health Anxiety and How Can it Be Managed?2024-02-08T17:37:52+00:00

Anger Management Tips

To manage anger, we first have to understand it. Anger is a powerful, complex emotion that is sometimes a mask of something else. In therapeutic language, we talk about anger being expressed as a “secondary emotion”, meaning that the beginnings of the feelings of anger came from primary emotions that triggered anger.  Examples of negative primary emotions are sadness, fear, hurt, shame, and guilt. If we aren’t aware of the emotions beneath our anger, and anger is then the secondary emotion, we are more likely to be reactive, and be misguided in how we understand our own feelings. In turn, our anger can result in hurtful or harmful actions. When anger is a primary emotion, it can help inform action, and help us to avoid danger. An example would be asserting a boundary with someone who has caused us harm. Anger can be signal that something is wrong and needs our attention. Anger serves a purpose and works to protect our vulnerability. We want to pay attention to our feelings of anger because they help us to better understand ourselves and others. Ignoring the impact of anger can be damaging to ourselves as well as our relationships. Research has shown that withholding anger leads to an increased risk of disease in the body. Anger is an emotion that brings energy to the body and activates our limbic system. There are physiological responses to the emotion of anger that intensifies our thoughts and our emotional reaction. Being aware of how anger shows up in our mind and our body is an important first step to identifying your own triggers of anger and patterns of behaviour. How we manage anger is also informed by what we learned growing up. For example, some people learn to repress anger as they learned it is not acceptable to express those feelings in the family. For others, anger may have been explosive and lead to conflicts and violence. Our own individual temperament is a factor as well, with some of us being more assertive, and others being more passive. Dealing with our negative feelings and impulses is part of being human, and we all have the responsibility of learning to manage them, regardless of the source of those feelings. Managing anger is a skill that we can learn. Steps to Managing Anger 1. Be aware of your goals and values. For example, if what is important to you is to have a kind and loving relationship with your spouse or child, or to model for your family a healthier way of managing anger than what you saw growing up- ask yourself if your behaviour will get you closer to what you want. If not, perhaps your behaviour needs to change. Keep track of when you get angry. Learn about yourself and what makes you vulnerable. Be aware of your triggers and learn from these experiences. Practice breathing. When you notice, you are starting to feel irritable, breathe in for five, hold [...]

Anger Management Tips2024-01-29T14:24:22+00:00

Managing A Breakup

Getting over a breakup is like the grieving process, there will be a wide range of emotions and experiences over time which are unique to each person as they adjust to the loss. Your process will be reflective of the length, depth and influence of the relationship in your life, as well as other factors, such as how the relationship ended and whether you share children. Whether it was expected or not, the process of a breakup, separation or divorce can bring about complex and often conflicting emotions. The following ideas are offered to help support your healing journey. Accept your feelings as they are and know too that they will pass. When feeling overwhelmed, take time to breathe, take things more slowly and be patient with yourself. Use helpful self talk with self compassion, e.g. acknowledge that this is hard, and you are doing your best. Expect that there will be moments that are difficult and use helpful self talk to remind yourself that you can survive hard things. Cry when you need to. Express your feelings. Remind yourself that eventually, the intensity will subside. Take time to process your feelings. Shock, sadness, guilt, anger, fear, and regret are common emotions for people, all emotions that can be difficult to manage. In addition to your feelings about the breakup, you may also be reminded of previous losses in your life or unresolved trauma. Give yourself time to adjust to your new circumstances and work through your feelings. Give yourself permission to not make big changes in your life or decisions until things feel more settled. Have reasonable expectations of yourself. Recognize that things may have to be adjusted or accommodated to help support you in your new situation. Ask for help when you need it from people in your life, including family, friends and in the workplace. Seek professional input about things that are outside of your experience or expertise (e.g. legal, financial, real estate). Engage in holistic self care. Consider all areas of self care, physical, mental, psychological, and spiritual. Grief is hard work, so you need to look after yourself. Do your very best to make your well being your top priority. Eat well, sleep 7-8 hours a night and engage in regular physical activity. Keep your brain active. Make time for fun, socializing, relaxation and play during the week. Spend time in nature. Take time to self reflect. Be curious about what there is to learn by being vulnerable and looking at what is under your feelings and reactions to the breakup. What can you learn about yourself from what has happened? What could you do differently in the future? What is something you need to take responsibility for? By reflecting on your own growth and development you shift the energy from blaming others or yourself, to focusing on what you can learn from this and what you can control moving forward. Seek support from others while maintaining boundaries. Most people [...]

Managing A Breakup2024-01-19T15:45:04+00:00

Do You Have Work Life Balance?

Work/Life Balance and 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’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job, 3. Reduced professional efficacy. We know that burnout is more likely when there is a lack of work/life balance. This happens to more and more people, especially as many now have to take on multiple jobs to create additional streams of income in order to support themselves, their families and to provide the necessities of life (housing, food etc). Rising cost of living only makes finding work/life balance more challenging. What can I do about burnout? Be aware of how work is creeping into your home life and if you are struggling to carve out time away from the demands of work. Below we have compiled a list of questions to help determine whether you are struggling to find a work/life balance. This quiz is not meant to replace the advice of a medical professional, but rather as a guiding tool to help bring further understanding and awareness. 1. I regularly spend time weekly making time for things I enjoy doing. Yes/No 2. The majority of the week I feel overwhelmed and overcommitted. Yes/No 3. I frequently feel anxious or upset because of what is happening with my place of employment. Yes/No 4. I often find myself reaching for my phone to check notifications even when it is my scheduled day off. Yes/No 5. I never use all my vacation days. Yes/No 6. I often miss out on important family events and gatherings. Yes/No 7. I find I do not have enough time to spend with my loved ones. Yes/No 8. Usually, I work throughout my entire lunch break. Yes/No 9. I frequently think about work when I am not working. Yes/No 10.My family is often upset with me about how much time I spend at work. Yes/No 11. I don’t find I have time to eat properly, exercise, or participate in hobbies I previously enjoyed Yes/No If you find yourself answering yes to one or many of the questions above, it might be time for you to do some reflection, and examine your work life balance. How do I move forward? Start small with the areas where you have control and look for ways you could change how you are spending your time, especially where you notice things are out of balance. Ask yourself if you can be more organized to maximize time for things both at work and at home. Ask for help with certain [...]

Do You Have Work Life Balance?2023-12-28T19:49:06+00:00

All About Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition, hallmarked by widespread pain for greater than six months, combined with possible combination of cognitive dysfunction, IBS or other gastrointestinal involvement, and fatigue or sleep disturbances. It is no surprise after hearing that list of symptoms that many patients dealing with this condition are also dealing with feelings of stress, deterioration of mental and physical health, and feelings of social isolation. The cause of fibromyalgia is not fully understood, but the main aspect is nervous system sensitization(5). Simply put, this means that a history of injury, physical trauma, or a fear of these events have put the body into high alert for these to occur again. Since pain is the body’s way of telling the brain about danger, this phenomenon is presumably the body’s way of saying: “Hey, you don’t seem to be getting the message that we’re in danger here, so let me scream louder.” An attempt to be helpful that does not end up being very helpful. There is a high degree of stress and frustration for fibromyalgia patients, due in part to the difficulty in getting a diagnosis and the lack of evidence on treatment paths. Because fibromyalgia is a diagnosis of exclusion, with no diagnostic tests available, it can take a long time to receive a diagnosis. In addition, there are no standards of practice to guide practitioners and patients often react differently to treatments, which makes implementing standards of practice difficult. Personally, I believe that with more research and understanding, we will find that fibromyalgia is a category of conditions, rather than a single diagnosis, however it will likely be a long time before this theory is proven, or disproven, by science. What we currently know about fibromyalgia is that there is a strong correlation with mental health conditions. This is likely due to events prior to developing fibromyalgia symptoms, since there is often a history of traumatizing injury and/or abuse in people with fibromyalgia, as well as events after developing fibromyalgia symptoms, since fibromyalgia is one of the most debilitating chronic pain conditions(2) and fibromyalgia patients are often type A go-getters(1), the combination of which is very difficult to deal with. Goal setting for treatment is, of course, done by the patients, but from a practitioner perspective, the two main goals are to improve pain symptoms and improve sleep quality, and doing so by soothing the dysregulated nervous system. My personal favourite way of doing this is through mindfulness-based training(4), however cognitive behavioural therapy(3) and certain antidepressant medications(3) are both well researched in this area. As with most chronic conditions, a multidisciplinary approach is best to help deal with fibromyalgia. As a Naturopath, my treatment plans for fibromyalgia often include mindfulness, exercise, correcting nutritional deficiencies and eliminating food triggers, working on sleep hygiene, and adaptogenic herbs that are known to improve the body’s ability to tolerate stress. Galvez-Sánchez, C.M., Duschek, S., & Reyes del Paso, G.A. (2019). Psychological impact of fibromyalgia: Current perspectives. Psychology Research and [...]

All About Fibromyalgia2023-12-04T16:19:44+00:00

Sobriety and the holidays

Being in recovery requires daily work and is not something anyone takes lightly. But the upcoming holiday season can make sobriety all the more challenging for a number of reasons. In this blog we will discuss why this time of year is more challenging, the stages of relapse and techniques for dealing with urges. What is it about the holiday season that makes sobriety more challenging? There are many reasons that those struggling with addiction find the holidays a particularly stressful time. Some of those reasons include: Financial stressors: Many of us feel an added financial pressure during the holidays. Buying gifts, attending get togethers and socializing more can cause stress that can potentially trigger a relapse. Social Pressure: Whilst it is great to be invited to social gatherings, this can be triggering for those dealing with alcohol or substance abuse issues as many gatherings seem to centre around alcohol. If someone has not shared with their co-workers or friends about their struggles with addiction it can be uncomfortable to be offered a drink in a social situation and even more uncomfortable to feel the need to explain why you won’t be partaking. Family Dysfunction: Many people who struggle with addiction issues have experienced family dysfunction or trauma. Society places a pressure on us to enjoy “the most wonderful time of the year” with friends and family, but if those people are triggering for the person experiencing addiction issues, this can be detrimental to their recovery and can trigger a relapse. The stages of relapse: It is easy to think of relapse as the event, however, relapse is a process and can begin weeks or months before the physical relapse takes place. There are three stages of relapse: Emotional relapse: According to Staying Sober: A Guide For Relapse Prevention, this stage involves the following signs/symptoms; - Anxiety - Intolerance - Anger - Defensiveness - Mood Swings - Isolation - Not asking for help - Not going to meetings - Poor eating habits - Poor sleep habits In this stage you aren’t necessarily even thinking about a physical relapse, but the restlessness, irritability and discontentment is setting someone up for a potential relapse. Mental Relapse: According to Staying Sober: A Guide For Relapse Prevention, this stage involves the following signs/symptoms; - Thinking about people, places and things you used with - Glamorizing past addictions - Lying - Hanging out with old friends you used with - Fantasizing about using - Thinking about relapsing - Planning your relapse around other people’s schedules This can begin with idle thoughts, but can progress quickly. Physical Relapse: Without intervention and support at the earlier stages, physical relapse can occur. When dealing with addictions, or supporting someone with addictions issues, it is important to focus our efforts on the earlier two stages. The early warning signs should not be ignored if relapse is to be prevented. Techniques for dealing with urges: Take care of yourself: This might sound insignificant at first [...]

Sobriety and the holidays2023-11-30T16:45:07+00:00

Tips For Couples During The Holidays

Tips for Couples During the Holidays This time of year brings joy and happiness for many, but it can also be a time of high stress, challenging conversations and conflicts. Whether you are a new couple or have been together for many years, having a plan for how you will deal with holidays and managing the expectations that go with it, will go a long way to helping keep your relationship at the center of your decision making. The following are some things to consider as we move into the holiday season. Have conversations. Open and honest conversations about what the holiday season means to both of you, your lived experiences with your family of origin, the traditions that are important to you as well as the challenges that come up for you this time of year are all important to talk about. Seek to understand your partner’s point of view and make time for these conversations. Be open minded. Strive for compromise. Coming up with a game plan that works for both of you and communicating that plan to other family members will help prevent last minute decision making and stress. Although it may not be perfect, focus on what you would like the holidays to be for you as a couple, and for your family. Consider what traditions are most important and what ones you are wiling to let go of, in the spirit of compromising. Communicate your decisions as a couple and be a united front. Set goals for gift giving. Look at your finances together and set limits that fit for you as a family at this point in time. Perhaps you have some things coming up in the new year that you are saving for. Think about how you can be creative with gift giving, including homemade gifts and family gifts vs. giving to every individual. Leave time for planning so that you are not shopping at the last minute, which can lead to overspending. Work together on a plan and communicate your plan to extended family, so that expectations are established ahead of time. Share the “To Do” List. There are lots of things involved in preparing for holidays, such as shopping, decorating, and food preparation. Share the responsibilities and make that part of the experience of the season, spending time together and making new memories. Consider new ways of doing things that might make things easier for both of you. Lean on each other. Often getting together with family members during holidays brings to light some of the family dynamics that might be triggering for you or your partner. Lean on each other and support your partner if there are challenges to face, or boundaries that need to be set with family members. Consider having strategies for calming yourself or your partner if things feel overwhelming during get togethers. For example, you may need to take breaks during get togethers, such as going for a walk, if things [...]

Tips For Couples During The Holidays2023-11-22T20:09:58+00:00

Resilience Is a Skill

Too often, we allow our young men to wander into life. We watch as they fight or flounder as they experience some of the darker chapters that we will all inevitably face. Resilience is a skill we can practice to prepare ourselves for interactions with trauma. To properly consider how we might develop ourselves to be more resilient, it’s important to define what we mean by that. Typically, resiliency is seen as the ability to withstand trauma. I think that’s a great place to start, but there’s more to it. It’s the ability to stand against that which provokes us to harm and continue our work despite the threat.   The example I use most is about a castle and the barbarians that crest over the horizon. Imagine you’re a king of some far-off land. As you survey your territory, you come upon a clan of barbarians out along the ridges. They’re coming. There’s nothing you can do to stop them from arriving. But, you have time. You can build and prepare. The US Army has a system for that - it's called 'The Big 4 Tools of Mental Resilience'. These tools include goal setting, mental rehearsal, tactical breathing and positive self talk. A great way to introduce those ideas - the 'Big 4' - is to participate in something difficult by choice. Martial arts, long distance endurance exercises like ruck marching and weightlifting encourage the type of mindset that men need to face and fight back against the waves of barbarians that will meet us at the gate. --- 3 Things Men Worry About Am I strong enough? Sometimes, we're looked at for support. That might take shape as being the muscle behind moving a couch or having people look at us for stoicism in a moment of emotional duress. No matter how hard we train, we can't be ready for everything at all times. It's okay to recognize that we too need respite and rest. Who can I tell? An epidemic of loneliness has carved into our men and boys. This virus infects our belief systems, our trust and maybe worst of all, the faith we have in ourselves. This powerful tonic lies to us - it tells us that we're alone in our struggle and that seeking support is weak. Learning how to ask for help is a life-saving skill. Am I running out of time? We are encouraged to be in 'work mode'. That pressure assumes we will lose sleep, put off relationships and negate a healthy lifestyle in pursuit of a goal. Anything less tries to suggest we're not maintaining the right mindset. Creating balance is something that has to be learned and refined - it's not something we can always muster without a little instruction. This information was provided by Social Service Worker, Bill Dungey. For more information about how Bill can support you, call us at 519.302.2300 or email reception@brantmentalhealth.com and set up a free consultation.

Resilience Is a Skill2023-09-21T20:30:39+00:00

Emotional Eating: What You Need To Know

What is it? Emotional eating is eating based on feelings, not biology. In other words, emotional eating is in response to emotions and feelings rather than hunger or physiological needs. Sometimes we may eat for comfort, and if there is no guilt or negative feelings associated with this, it is not an issue. It is when we are using food to help distract, avoid, or numb ourselves as a way to not deal with feelings that we need to be concerned, or when after eating, we have intense feelings of shame or guilt. If you recognize that you might be an emotional eater, you are not alone. If you eat when experiencing difficult emotions, it is a signal that you have feelings to deal with. Food won’t fix any of these feelings, even if it may bring comfort for the short term, distract you or numb you for awhile. Eventually, you will have to deal with the source of your emotions. Additionally, when we are upset, our digestive system is not at optimal performance, so it is not the best time to eat, either. Food represents many things to us. In every culture, food has meaning. Food can represent tradition, comfort, nurturing and love. Food can also have negative feelings associated with it, such as guilt, or shame or thinking foods are “good” or “bad”. Being aware of what food means to you and giving yourself self compassion around eating and food is important. It allows you to truly enjoy the pleasures of food, while also learning to separate your emotional needs from your physical needs, so that you are not trying to satisfy one with the other. While feeling guilty about what we have eaten is not helpful, trying to manage anger through eating is not helpful either. Emotional Triggers Emotions can be triggers, so knowing what situations may trigger emotional eating is important. Procrastination, frustration, disappointment, boredom, loneliness, anxiety, stress, depression, and anger are some of the things that can trigger emotional eating. It’s important that we find ways to comfort and nurture ourselves without relying on food to do it for us. Being kind to ourselves-self compassion- is critical in this process. Self Talk: Paying attention to our self talk when we are struggling with emotions is one way to ensure kindness toward ourselves. When you are having a rough time, what are you saying to yourself? Are you thinking in black and white terms or looking for the grey? Pay attention to the unhelpful thoughts and beliefs that show up and challenge them with rational thoughts and evidence. Ask yourself these questions: Am I having repetitive and intense feelings? (This is an indicator that you need to challenge these thoughts, as they are becoming stuck.) What am I thinking that is leading me to feel this way? What am I saying to myself? What is true about this belief? What is false? Is there a more rational and reasonable way to [...]

Emotional Eating: What You Need To Know2023-09-21T15:30:13+00:00