Have you ever heard someone say, “I just don’t have enough spoons to do this today”? Or, I just used my last ‘spoon’ and I don’t have any left to do anything else? The metaphor of the ‘spoons’ was first used by Christine Miserandino in her blogsite www.butyoudontlooksick.com. She used the example to try to explain to a friend what it was like living with the chronic illness of Lupus. The example as explained by Ms. Miserandino went like this. Each spoon represents the amount of energy that is required to complete a task. Many people have an infinite number of ‘spoons’ (or energy) to use at the beginning of each day. They wake up and have infinite energy to take on whatever comes up in the day. They have freedom to pursue any and all activities that come their way from the necessary tasks like getting up and having a shower, to going to work, to cooking dinner and cleaning up afterwards, to spending some quality time at the end of the day with spouse, children or friends. Because of the energy at their disposal, they also have the freedom to add in a quick fun shopping trip here, and a spontaneous fun walk or hike with their pet there. Those who experience chronic illness, whether that is chronic physical illness, chronic disability or mental health issues (like anxiety, depression or trauma), often have a finite number of spoons each day. With those spoons, they have to navigate all of the tasks of the day, planning things out carefully to ensure they can get through the day with the spoons they have at their disposal. As Ms. Miserandino puts it, just getting out of bed and brushing one’s hair and teeth, perhaps taking a shower can easily use up 2 or 3 spoons before one even gets to breakfast in the morning (never mind getting out the door). This leaves a limited number of spoons with which to navigate the rest of the activities of the day. When I first read about ‘spoons’, it struck me that this metaphorcould be a powerful ‘aha’ moment for anyone struggling with chronic illness or mental health issues of any sort. It is a way to understand and gain insight into the often confusing and frustrating situations that you deal with on a day to day basis. This metaphor can also help you to put into words your experience so that those around you can gain some insight into your reality. When life feels so overwhelming that just accomplishing the mundane yet necessary tasks (like just getting up in the morning) is difficult, people more often than not, are left with a variety of emotions and self-judgements that are heaped on top of everything else. For example, it is easy to be left feeling guilty for not being able to act or accomplish tasks that others around you (or that you) expect; sad, because it feels thatyou are missing [...]
Part of growing up is figuring out who we are and what our place is in the world. For children, and even adults, this can be a struggle. Our sense of self is based upon values, beliefs, interests, relationships, sexual orientation, and of course, our gender identity. For parents, if this gender identity exists outside of cisnormativity (the assumption that all folks’ sense of identity and gender aligns with their birth sex) it can lead to a host of emotions. Parents may experience: * Confusion, * Hurt, * Disbelief, * Sadness, * Anger, * Grief, * Shame, * Relief, * Happiness, * Concern. Many of these feelings stem from a concern about how their child will navigate the world and in turn how the world will respond to them. Whilst these feelings are all normal and valid, it is important to manage those feelings once your child has identified their gender to you. Connecting with a therapist to help you work through these feelings will allow you to better support your child. When it comes to supporting your child’s gender identity, there are three key things you can do. 1. Validate and be Supportive – If your child comes out to you as transgender or gender non-conforming, provide a safe space to listen and practice understanding. Learn from you child what that means to them. It is important to provide a clear message of support to your child that you are there for them and love them for who they are. Being supportive and validating includes using your child’s preferred name (this may be difficult if it is different than the name you have given them) and their preferred pronouns. It also includes creating safe and inclusive environments for your child in the home, with others, and in the community to the best of your ability. Finally, it is recognizing that your child is the expert in their identity, including their gender. Reducing their experience to “just a phase” will make your child feel rejected and unaccepted. 2. Educate yourself – Cisnormativity, transgender, gender non-conforming, gender variant… what do they mean? Educate yourself on the terminology and the experience of gender variant and gender non-conforming individuals. There are a lot of great organizations doing this work in the community and across the country which are referenced below. Ok2bme has a great resource outlining the definitions (see link at end of report). Research LGBTQ+ organizations. Join a parent support group or reach out to other families who have a child that may be gender non-conforming or gender variant. Finally, remember your child is the expert of their experience and is a wealth of knowledge as well. 3. Advocate for your child - Advocacy can take many forms. It may be ensuring your child’s school is a safe environment where their gender identity is taking into consideration (i.e. there are non-gendered bathrooms). It may be encouraging other family members to use your child’s preferred pronouns and name. Talk to your child about [...]
Couples Counselling When is the right time and why should we seek the help of a couple’s counsellor? Many people ask when is the “right” time to seek counselling as a couple. There are many possible answers to this question, but often couples seek the help of a therapist when the issues have really taken root in their relationship. Often by the time both parties agree to start counselling the couple is dealing with a huge breakdown in communication, changing sense of connection, conflict and in some cases, infidelity. These are all things that could be managed with the help of a licenced mental health professional. The best suggestion that can be given, would be to seek help long before you think you need to. Most couples will admit that there were small issues that came up over the course of their relationship that “snowballed” over time and created much bigger problems within the relationship. Counselling could have supported exploring and possibly identifying these smaller issues and given the couple tools and techniques to deal with conflict when it arose. What are some things people seek couples counselling for? Communication problems Intimacy/Sexual problems (including infidelity) Financial concerns/disagreements Major life changes (newly married, starting a family, moving to a new area for work) Disagreements over parenting. Feeling less connected as a couple What if my partner doesn’t want to go for couples counselling? This is definitely an issue that comes up during couples counselling. One person may feel like they won’t be heard or understood or it may shock them that you are springing this on them. The best suggestion we can give you for this situation is: Discuss the possibility of couples counselling before committing to or booking anything. Talk to your partner about what you hope to get out of couples counselling and ask what they would like to work on. If your partner won’t agree to it, you can still have individual therapy which would be helpful as you navigate the difficulties within your relationship. The hesitant partner may see you grow in therapy and make positive changes and it may make them more open to the counselling process. Final Thoughts: When looking for a couple’s therapist, do your research! Make sure the therapist is a licenced mental health professional with experience working with couples. Ask for a free consultation. Many therapists will offer free consultations so that you both have an opportunity to discuss the issues you are experiencing and find out if the counsellor is a good fit for your unique relationship. The consultation will also help the couple decide if they both feel heard,understood and respected by the therapist. Make sure you both have set some attainable and measurable goals for the relationship (even if those goals are different.) At Brant Mental Health Solutions, Registered Social Worker Sharon Walker, works with couples and families. She has over 30 years experience in the mental health field and as a social worker it is her goal [...]
EMDR stands for ‘Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing’. It is an approach that was developed by Francine Shapiro in the late 1980’s initially to treat individuals who had experienced various types of trauma. At this point in time it is considered to be the ‘gold standard’ of effective trauma treatment and has been widely researched particularly for those who experience PTSD. The focus ultimately is to help individuals to begin reprocessing the traumas they have experienced so the traumatic memories can be stored differently (and more effectively) in our brains. When you think about PTSD, often the image of a soldier returning from combat comes to mind who relives traumas experienced in combat as if they are present in the moment. Sometimes a sound, like the backfiring of an engine, brings to mind the sound of gunfire and takes the soldier right back to the traumatic moment where it is relived again and again. While this is a popular image when considering PTSD, trauma comes in many different forms and it is important to remember it is unique to the individual. One person may experience a traumatic event but be able to move through it and process it adequately so that it does not continue to intrude in any way on his or her daily life. Another person might experience the same event and find himself or herself stuck in that moment and unable to move beyond it. The reasons for this are many but often have to do with earlier experiences in our lives that have shaped how we respond to a traumatic experience. When this happens sometimes individuals get ‘stuck’ in the event and in the emotional part of our brain where time is absent and experiences are recorded in images, emotions and sensations. When the memories remain unprocessed, they are incomplete and can be retriggered/brought to mind again by a sound, a touch, a sensation, even a colour or smell, which somehow causes us to re-experience the trauma in the present moment. Reprocessing involves taking those memories from the part of the brain that has stored them incompletely without a coherent sense of time to the part of the brain that is verbal and can re-organize the trauma story in a way that understands it has a beginning, middle, and most importantly, an end. With this, the trauma can ultimately be understood as a past event and can be filed in the rational, logical part of the brain. The memory doesn’t disappear; the triggers just lose much of their emotional power. EMDR is being used to address many types of trauma-based issues. Along with PTSD, EMDR may be helpful in providing relief for ‘small t’ traumas that underlie different conditions ranging from depression to anxiety and developmental traumas. At Brant Mental Health Solutions, we are now able to offer the S.A.F.E. approach to EMDR therapy which focuses on a Somatic and Attachment Focussed EMDR. Although it employs bilateral stimulation (rapid eye movement or tapping), EMDR is [...]
“Hope involves planning, motivation, and determination.” Dr. Valerie Maholmes It is human nature to want to grow, to change, and to expand our life experiences. Hope is our desire for a positive outcome, something that will make life better. For many of us hope motivates and encourages us to press forward in the most challenging of circumstances. Fear can be what stops us in our tracks; Hope is what provides us the courage to take the necessary steps forward. How do we nurture and embrace hope when life appears to be hopeless? Despair has been described as the complete absence of hope. When we have lost hope, we tend to give up under the immense weight of our current circumstances, asking ourselves, “What is the point?” Hope is what counters this feeling of helplessness; It provides the motivation to dig a little deeper and to intentionally search for a solution to our problems. Hope is essential to our mental and emotional health and is one of the most powerful contributors to our survival. It is something we should intentionally incorporate into our daily routine. How can we accomplish this? It is important to set a goal. It is difficult to have hope around anything unless you know what the desired outcome looks like. Change begins with an awareness we want something to be different. Being specific allows us to engage our imagination, it allows us to dream, and that is where hope feels most at home. Hope is a belief everything will work out. It allows us to find calm in the roughest waters. Our minds can only hold onto one thought at a time and as humans we get to choose our thoughts. Intentionally focusing on a positive outcome can help us to feel better in the moment. Are you able to see a vision bigger than yourself? Are you able to take a step back, move away from the details, and expand the vision you see? When we are able to shift our focus from ourselves, to include others, it automatically seems more powerful and more attainable. It is always easier to wish good on others. Along the same lines of including others in our vision, volunteering can be inspiring not only to ourselves, but to those who are receiving our support. With our actions we are providing hope to others. Hope comes from a belief, or faith, the current situation will change. Dreams have a much greater chance of succeeding when we share them with others. When we share our vision with others, our faith expands as we receive support from the most unexpected places. We all tap into inspiration differently and each of us must do the same for hope. Where does hope speak to you directly? Is it the lyrics of a song? Reading or watching a biography? Between the covers of a book or a magazine? Is it a speaker, a workshop, or a course? Engagement with the word around us can be [...]
When I was completing my master’s degree at age 25 I did much of my own coursework online. My first thought after my first month of classes was – “I’m not sure how well I would have been able to handle this kind of learning in my first few years of university.” When I attended Wilfrid Laurier University to complete my bachelor’s degree, it was a requirement that every student must take one online course. I took this course in my third year and it happened to be one of the hardest courses I had ever taken, Biopsychology. When I received the syllabus and textbook for the course, my anxiety and self-doubt immediately began to build. Thoughts of – “What do I do when I don’t understand something? Will the professor be there to answer questions? Do I even know anyone else taking the course that I can maybe meet up with to study? What if I have tech/computer issues? I was terrible at biology in high school, so how am I going to pass this course, let alone online?” Etc. Many factors come into play in terms of being able to successfully and confidently take and complete online courses in college or university, including: Differing learning styles, technology/computer capabilities and possible issues, communication with school administration and professors, completing group work and presentations via video, writing exams using ‘digital proctor’ technology, among several other factors. All of these potential issues and roadblocks can, very understandably, lead to increased stress, anxiety, procrastination, frustration, low mood, focus and energy. But what can we do when this is the case? How can we ‘get back on track,’ feel better and stay confident in our ability to be successful in the world of online learning during COVID-19? Demand Help and Guidance Remember, YOU pay tuition for not only a quality education, but to be provided the appropriate tools, assistance and guidance to be successful in completing your studies. A number of my clients who are currently in college or university have voiced to me their frustration regarding such things as course disorganization, feeling stressed and/or scared to ask professors questions about course materials, their ability to complete assignments with tight deadlines, other assignment difficulties and/or upcoming tests and exams. Not only have I found that a number of students aren’t aware of the resources available to help them be successful during this school year in particular, but I’ve also found many students are experiencing significant stress, anxiety, apprehension and even a sense of dread in seeking help or guidance. Many of us have run into several situations, since the start of COVID-19, in which we had to wait much longer than usual for questions to be answered, issues to be resolved, and solutions to be provided (E.g. long lineups, being stuck on hold on the phone or waiting several days or weeks for emails to be answered). Such situations have not only tested our patience, but have led to a sense of [...]
When children are feeling anxious and overwhelmed, it is important to help them manage those feelings before they become too big or are held in to the point where the child “explodes.” Calm down kits are a great way to help with these big feelings and it is something that the child can create for themselves, or have their parent or caregiver join in. Anything can be incorporated. The goal is to engage the child’s senses (touch, sight, auditory, taste, smell) to soothe or distract them when they are feeling low level frustrated, angry, sad or any big feeling. Things to get: A box or storage container they like or that they can decorate themselves (to put the items in) Stress ball (you can make these with balloons and experiment with different textures. If the child likes the feeling of slime etc, then something like hair gel could be close to that texture, but you can also use things like flour, rice, sand.) Balls - squishy or spiky Colouring items (sketch book, adult colouring books, printed mandelas/colouring pages from the internet, pencil crayons or markers) Puzzles or brain teasers Clay or play dough Pictures or mementos of people and places that make them happy Fidget toys You can include items that have the child’s favourite scents (essential oils, cards sprayed with it, if they have a favourite scent.) Favourite foods that can be stored in the box, in moderation an example of this would be hard or gummy candies. Craft items they enjoy Books Journal Let them have fun with this activity and be guided by the things they enjoy. If you have any questions about this activity, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org This information was provided by Registered Social Worker, Brianna Kerr. Brianna has over ten years of experience working with children and youth in a variety of settings. Her areas of practice have included domestic violence, trauma, and anxiety. She works with children between the ages of 4 and 18 years old at Brant Mental Health Solutions.
What are Intrusive thoughts? Every day we have thousands of thoughts that come and leave our minds. For the most part, these thoughts leave you with no uncomfortable feelings. However, sometimes people experience thoughts that last longer and leave them feeling disturbed. These thoughts might include behaviours that the person finds horrifying or unacceptable, and yet you are still thinking about them. These are called intrusive thoughts. What you need to know is that these thoughts are just thoughts, they are not fact. While you may feel anxiety when experiencing them, they are simply thoughts. It is important to recognize that you have no desire to act on them. Intrusive thoughts are not harmful when you look at them in this way. If you are experiencing intrusive thoughts and your daily life is challenging because of them, reach out to a therapist or other health care provider. You don’t have to stay stuck in the discomfort of these thoughts.
First it is important to understand that you don’t have to be diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to have experienced trauma. Trauma, explained simply, is when one has an experience that overwhelms their brain to a point where they struggle to cope, both in the moment and after the traumatic experience. Everyone’s ability to cope is different in varying circumstances. Our brains can often acknowledge, process, and recover when difficult events happen. However, in times when someone experiences an event that is extremely distressing, or chronically distressing, our normal coping does not suffice. We then create new ways of coping that may offer some sense of safety and protection for us in the moment, but as time goes on these coping tools are no longer helpful. Types of trauma Single Event In the Past Some examples of this would be: A car accident Sexual or physical abuse Serious injury from an animal attack Mugging Single Event Recently These would include the same things from the list above, but this would have been a recent event. Chronic/Reoccurring Event This type of trauma would be something that happened multiple times over an extended period of time. Some examples would be: - Domestic violence - Dating violence - War or political violence - Bullying This could also be something that first responders/medical professionals experience in their field. Relational Trauma If you grew up in a family where you never felt like you were good enough and/or never felt worthy, this can lead to something called relational trauma. Our interpersonal relationships, now and in the past, can be related to our thought patterns, emotions, and behaviours. This can lead the person who experienced this kind of trauma to feel bad about themselves in everyday relationships. Symptoms of Trauma Whilst this list is in no way exhaustive, these are some of the most commonly experienced symptoms of trauma. -Depression -Anxiety -Feeling helpless -Feeling unhappy/different than you used to feel -Flashbacks (reoccurring pictures/thoughts that are upsetting from the event) -Bad dreams/Nightmares -Experiencing physical reactions when reminded by the trauma event (ex. siren, photo, door slamming). -Becoming easily angered How can therapy help those who have experienced trauma? The goal of therapy is for the client to learn tools to cope. It also gives the client a better understanding of how their current coping is trying to protect them. It also gives them an opportunity to challenge any negative thoughts they may have about themselves and most importantly to process what happened. For some, sharing their story in a safe place with guidance can relieve the effects, others may need more support. This is important to talk to a therapist about. Final thoughts about trauma If you feel you have experienced trauma, even if people have told you it isn’t significant, it is important to seek the help of a trained mental health professional. Left untreated, trauma and our response to trauma, will get worse over time. We need to process the experience under the guidance [...]
Are you or someone you know grieving? This article is to help you understand how to help yourself heal during the holiday season, or how to support someone you know who is grieving over the holidays. First, it is important to know that the experience of grief and mourning is different for everyone. No two people will experience the same loss in the same way. For some people, the grief they experience feels unbearable. Holidays can heighten this feeling. I hope the information that is provided in this article will be a supportive aid as this holiday season approaches. This year will be particularly challenging for those grieving as we navigate a global pandemic. It is important to also acknowledge the grief we are experiencing due to the pandemic. There are many different types of grief, here are some of the things people may be grieving this year: Personal health Food and economic security Future dreams Physical safety/stability Sense of personal freedom Physical/in person connection Death of a loved one It is also important to understand the difference between ambiguous grief and anticipatory grief. Ambiguous grief: a loss without closure, or an understanding of why/what happened. The loss may not be acknowledged by others. This can include losses that don’t involve a human being. Anticipatory grief: grief that occurs before an actual loss (such as anticipating the death of a sick friend.) An individual may be feeling grief after moving to a new city and not being able to connect with friends or family, they may also feel grief after losing a pet, or after being diagnosed with a critical illness, and this list can go on. Therefore, if you feel like you are grieving something other than a loved one, the information in this article can still be helpful. In a typical holiday season, there is often pressure on grieving individuals (either internally, or from others) to put aside their sadness and hurt and be full of joy and thanksgiving. However, memories of the loved one resurface during events where the loved one would have been. What does grief look like? Common initial feelings of grief: Shock, denial, disbelief, numbness Common feelings and experiences: Anger, guilt, regret, blame, sadness, depression, panic, fear, worry, relief, confusion, doubt, questioning one’s faith, changes in sleep. This list does not cover all the emotions and experiences one may have when grieving. Thinking that you do not want to go one with life is normal, but thinking about suicide is not. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, seek help immediately by going to your hospital’s emergency room, or talk to a therapist, doctor, or crisis support line. St. Leonard’s 24 Hour Mental Health Crisis Line: 519-759-7188 or toll free: 1-866-811-7188 Are you grieving? Here are some reminders during this upcoming holiday. Love does not end with death. Our society wants you to join in the holiday spirit, but it may not feel that easy for you. Remember to be compassionate with yourself as [...]