Teens and Career Paths: Why to Not Worry So Much

In my work as a registered mental health professional, I have counselled many teens who struggled with issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, interpersonal/family issues, and low self-esteem/self-worth. A subject that often comes up with these clients is the ‘need’ to figure out what career they will pursue, and/or how quickly they need to or ‘should’ make this decision. This can lead into thoughts of what would be required to get into a given field, the stress related to getting required grades for acceptance into the applicable college/university program, and stress linked to pressure from their teacher, guidance counsellor, friends, and/or their parents. Many teens feel pressure to know exactly what field they plan to enter, ASAP. Whether you’re a teen, teacher, or parent reading this, it’s important to know that it is not essential to know what one wants to do with their career until later high school years, despite popular opinion. For many people the realization doesn’t come until later into adulthood once they have had an opportunity to grow, learn and decide what best suits their personality and skill set. One recent concept that has been a subject of conversation in the news is that of ‘grade-inflation.’ ‘Grade-flation,’ similar to inflation in the economy, refers to the phenomenon of higher grades in the A- to A+ range being given to a larger number of students today when compared to high school students 5 to 10 years ago and beyond. It’s believed that this phenomenon has taken place for a number of reasons, including changes in the Ontario curriculum and ‘adjusting’ for any cognitive and brain development consequences COVID-19 lockdowns and accompanying, and inconsistent, online schooling may have caused. While I believe that students were, in fact, being graded ‘too hard’ in the past, grade-flation has resulted in negative consequences for teens, such as the need to consistently compare their academic performance to that of their peers, self criticism/self-shame (including shame and criticism from parents) when grades that were ‘expected,’ aren’t achieved, signalling that a student is struggling or not ‘working hard enough’… because if one doesn’t work hard enough, ‘how can they one day be accepted into a college or university program?’ is often the belief by teens and/or their parents. This can then lead to further focus on knowing what one wants to study in college/university and what career they will pursue, as young as the ages of 14 and 15 years old. Through my clinical work and expertise in working with teens, having an early focus on what one is going to do with their life is actually more harmful than beneficial. I realize that this may be surprising to some parents, in particular, because they want the best for their children and want them to have a healthy and successful future.  However, placing excessive and consistent focus on the aforementioned can actually be counterintuitive to a teen wanting to or having the desire and drive to develop and pursue [...]

Teens and Career Paths: Why to Not Worry So Much2023-09-14T17:50:18+00:00

Processing Emotions: Things You Can Do

Many people in therapy express that they feel disconnected from their own emotions or have difficulty processing the emotions that they are feeling. The breadth and depth of our human emotions add so much to our life stories and can also bring great suffering and pain. It is not uncommon for people to struggle with their emotions, particularly those that are powerful, such as joy, anger, and sadness. One of the things we have in common as human beings is our emotions, our feelings- are energy within ourselves that tell us what we need from ourselves and from others. They are our warning signs and our life enhancers. Emotions drive us to get what we need. When we ignore our emotions, we can become stuck, and even worse, we can become unwell. We may have learned during our lives to minimize, hide, change, or ignore our feelings.  We may have learned to put other’s feelings before our own, or we may have learned how to manage our feelings in healthy ways. How we understand and respond to emotions comes from many different sources, including our parents, family, culture, religion, school, work, relationships, media, and our life experiences, which is why we respond to emotions in unique and different ways. Acknowledge emotions. If you are wanting to do a better job of processing your emotions, the first step is to learn some of the language of emotions. Did you know there are approximately 150 words to describe emotions? The six primary emotions are anger, fear, joy, love, sadness, and surprise. Having the words to describe how we are feeling can help us and others to better understand our experiences and improve our relationships. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the “feelings wheel”, which is a nice visual depiction of many shades of the primary human emotions, as well as the meanings of the words, to help you better attune to your own feelings. Notice where you feel your different emotions in your body- is it your gut, your head, your shoulders? Emotions create energy that can be held in the body, especially if not released. Notice negative self-talk when it happens, and the emotion behind it. What is the need beneath the behaviour that you are condemning? Is there an unmet need that you are ignoring? Feelings, thoughts, and our behaviour are inextricably connected. Take some time to notice how your thoughts and feelings fuel your behaviour, and vice versa. Consider that your body and brain may be signalling to you that there is a situation that requires your attention. At times, it may be a “false alarm” such as in the case of recurring anxiety. Sometimes there is a physical need that is being signalled, that takes an emotional form, such as the need for rest, movement, and nutrition. Sometimes it may be an unmet emotional need, a part of you that has been hurt, needed love or acknowledgement, that is being signalled. Have [...]

Processing Emotions: Things You Can Do2023-09-12T19:09:29+00:00

Advice for Parents About Transitioning Your Child To University or College

Recognize that this is a big transition, and it is normal to have mixed feelings about the upcoming changes, such as joy and sadness. Part of the developmental task of early adulthood is to establish autonomy, to establish oneself as an independent person, and to fine tune a sense of identity. It is common and healthy for young adults to leave home for school, work or travelling. Although a natural part of the process of becoming independent, the change of leaving home can bring many mixed feelings for parents and their children. It is normal to feel a mixture of joy and loss, excitement and anxiety as your child prepares to leave. Embrace the journey and allow yourself to experience your feelings, while ensuring that your child is the focus of the transition. Maintain open communication and dialogue. Set up a schedule for staying in touch. Having open conversations about the upcoming challenges, opportunities, and tasks ahead will allow space for you and your child to explore the things that they are excited about, may need help with, or cause anxiety. Rather than lecturing, be supportive, positive, and encouraging. Allow your child to lead the conversations and keep their thoughts and feelings in the centre. Talk about a way to stay connected, (i.e., calls, text, Facetime) and what frequency feels comfortable for both of you. Every child is different, so keep in mind that every child’s journey is unique, as is yours. Promote skills of independence and problem solving. Remember the goal is autonomy, and it is a journey, not an event. Your parenting over the years has promoted your child’s development in many different skill areas. Leaving home and moving towards independence requires new skills but also builds on skills you have taught them, and they have learned. As you prepare for the transition, engage in conversations that focus on building skills of problem solving and independence. For example, talk about what to expect once they move, and what things they will be responsible for, including financial realities, and day to day tasks such as preparing food and doing laundry. Ask your child if there are things or tasks that they want to learn that you can help with. Talk about how to solve problems and the resources available where they will be living to help in different situations, especially if they are living far away from you. Take steps to reduce stress because change causes stress for individuals and families. It is common for people to experience increased stress during times of great change, even when the changes are positive. Provide support and reassurance to your child, and to other family members who may be struggling. Take time to look after yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. Take time to reflect on the joys of your relationship with your child, what you are grateful for, what you look forward to, and what you feel sad about as your child leaves home for the first [...]

Advice for Parents About Transitioning Your Child To University or College2023-08-10T20:29:34+00:00

Advice for Students: How To Make A Successful Transition Into University or College

Recognize that this is a big transition, and it is normal to have mixed feelings about the upcoming changes, such as joy and sadness. It’s common to have many different feelings about leaving home for the first time. The newfound freedom is exciting. At the same time, you may be feeling anxious, sad, intimidated, or any other mixture of feelings as you start something new. All these feelings can be part of change and going through a transition. It is also common to feel homesick and have moments where you feel lonely. Staying connected to home can help with the adjustment. Taking time to make new social connections with others is an important part of adjusting to being away at school. Talking about how you feel with people you trust can be helpful, and you may also find that others are experiencing similar emotions. This is a big life event, and it makes sense that you have a lot of feelings about it. Maintain open communication and dialogue. Set up a schedule for staying in touch. Although you are moving toward independence, staying in open communication with your support system and knowing when to ask for their help is an important part of your continued success in school and life. Having a positive social network and having parent support are known to be factors in helping students to be successful at school. Communicating with professors and other people at the school will also become your responsibility. Setting up a regular time to connect with your parents that works for you and for them will help with keeping you in regular contact and having access to their support. Develop skills of independence and problem solving. Remember the goal is autonomy, and it is a journey, not an event. You have learned many things to get to where you are, and you should be proud of your accomplishments. This next new phase will require you to continue learning new skills and solving problems. Take some time to think about what you need to learn and what things you need to work on as you move toward independence. Maybe it’s managing money, or cooking skills that you are interested in. Take some time to think about what skills you want to learn and improve, and what your approach is to solving problems when they show up. Who are the people you can call if you need help? Take steps to reduce stress, because change causes stress for individuals. Even when changes are welcomed and positive, people can experience stress. Pay attention to how stress is affecting your body and mind and make efforts to take care of yourself through a balanced lifestyle. Besides taking care of your body, and focusing on your studies, it is also important to schedule time for fun, relaxation, and friends. Sometimes when people are under a lot of stress, they use more substances such as alcohol. Keeping your stress level manageable and having [...]

Advice for Students: How To Make A Successful Transition Into University or College2023-08-10T20:21:17+00:00

How does culture impact men’s mental health?

As someone who comes from an Arabic background, I have witnessed culturally and socially the general fear that men have of expressing their emotions. Culturally, the expression of emotions was something associated with women only. Many men who felt comfortable enough to show or share their emotions were considered weak, therefore making men feel that they needed to present as “macho” in order to survive and avoid any potential for being labelled in that way. It is apparent in many cultures that this stigma plays a key role in setting a standard for masculinity. This has led to an expectation that men, in particular, are not to express emotions nor be attune to their emotions. What does this cultural norm regarding masculinity lead to? 1. These cultural norms can lead to men striving to be tough in physical or mental aspects, which studies have shown is linked to an avoidance of depressive symptoms and creates further barriers to men seeking out help for their mental health. (Sileo & Kershaw, 2020). 2. Given this culture of avoidance, men become fearful of their emotions and repress instead, potentially creating greater mental health concerns. In my experience working with clients from my own culture, I have seen that the idea of being “macho”, in many cases, holds them back from engaging in the therapeutic process given the general fear around even showing the slightest of emotions. Many from my culture believe that showing emotion leads to the label of being mentally ill, which is an entirely different stigma altogether. I hope through my work as a Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) to break down some of these stigmas and create a space that is welcoming and judgement free for people from all different backgrounds to open up and seek the support that they need and to unpack some of the cultural expectations they may have grown up with. I am able to provide services to those 14+ and can provide sessions in English or Arabic. If you are interested in learning more about my approach to therapy and my previous professional experiences, feel free to contact Brant Mental Health Solutions at 519.302.2300 or email reception@brantmentalhealth.com to book a free 15 minute consultation. By Shiwan Ibrahim, Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying)

How does culture impact men’s mental health?2023-06-23T17:08:44+00:00

What is CBT and DBT?

Your Content Goes Here If you have ever spoken with a medical or mental health professional about your mental health, you have likely heard CBT or DBT mentioned as modalities that professionals use in supporting their clients. But what is CBT and DBT and how are these utilized in the mental health field? In this blog, I will break down the basics about these two types of therapy techniques. It is important to remember that this is just a basic guide with general information, it is always recommended that you to reach out to a trained professional to discus your unique situation and come up with a plan that is specific to you.   Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) This is a form of talk therapy that revolves around understanding how our thoughts impact our emotions. CBT interventions focus on how we can try to change the way we think to deliver a more positive emotion. CBT looks at thoughts as either Adaptive (positive thoughts) or Maladaptive (negative thoughts), and through thought reframing (Cognitive restructuring) the therapist can help the client re-work the thought to help provide a different emotion (positive emotion). CBT helps client unpack their thoughts, feelings, and behaviour through the lens of the Cognitive model. The cognitive model structures what impacts us in 4 categories though itself, the behaviour, the emotion, and physical reaction. CBT also looks at our core values, how we see ourselves, the world, and how that impacts our inner self dialogue. CBT intervention is often short-term, but it is based on how well clients can learn the skills and apply them in their own life without the assistance of the therapist. CBT intervention needs constant practice and is demanding to see progress and effectiveness. CBT requires clients to be cognisant and rational. CBT therapy tends to take 6-20 sessions. Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) Dialectical Behavioural Therapy, although it sounds different, is technically under CBT but takes a different approach to its model. Originally it was a form of therapy that was intended to aid, and is still used, with clients diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. DBT helps clients change their behavioural patterns, rather than reframing thoughts. DBT’s approach includes techniques around how to manage emotional regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness as well as teaching mindfulness techniques. DBT skills attempt to teach ways to understand and regulate our emotions. For more information about CBT/DBT and how the therapists at Brant Mental Health Solutions can support clients, feel free to contact us at 519.302.2300 or email reception@brantmentalhealth.com to set up a free consultation with any one on our team.

What is CBT and DBT?2023-06-23T15:44:06+00:00

What is Parental Burnout?

Your Content Goes Here I was 19 when I had my first child, and 29 when I had my last. I felt as overwhelmed with being a parent as a married 29 year old as I did as a single mother in my late teens/early 20’s. Parenting is arguably one of the most challenging roles we will ever take on, and there is very little that can actually prepare us for the realities of it. Whilst having children is a wonderful experience, it does come with a lot of responsibility. Add in the fact that now in most families, both parents have to work outside of the home to provide, finances are stretched thin and we are often caring for other family members, or running our kids around to sports and activities, it can be easy to find ourselves “burning out”. In this blog we hope to give you some basic information about parental burnout, the symptoms and some tips for managing this. What is parental burnout? “Burnout, a syndrome characterized by “emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and a decrease in self-fulfillment,” is a result of chronic exposure to emotionally draining environments (Rionda, I. S., et al., International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Vol. 18, No. 9, 2021).” At its core, it is an intense feeling of being mentally and physically exhausted. It’s important to note that these feelings can come and go at particularly difficult times in your life, but if you are feeling this way on a day-to-day basis, you should consider seeking help. Who does parental burnout affect? As a society we often go straight to thinking that parental burnout predominantly affects working mothers or single parents, but fathers, stay at home moms, foster parents and other caregivers are also at risk of experiencing this. In any family unit, the caregiver(s) can find themselves overwhelmed at juggling work, family and taking care of the home and can find themselves unable to take care of themselves and feeling that their needs are not being met and the pressure of being a “good parent” is just too much. As common as parental burnout is becoming, it is worth noting that parents with pre-existing mental health concerns or parents raising a child with mental, physical or developmental problems are at higher risk of experiencing this. What are the symptoms of parental burnout? Some of the signs of parental burnout can include: *Physical and mental exhaustion as mentioned above, * Using short term energy relieving behaviours (STERBs) to cope such as food, alcohol, drugs, shopping etc. * Finding yourself being more short tempered with your family * Seeing increased conflict within your family unit * Wanting to get away from your children and needing more and more distance from them * Feeling depressed, or anxious or panicked * Feeling isolated and alone in your parenting * Needing to sleep a lot, or not sleeping enough * Having physical symptoms like headaches, stomach aches, joint and muscle aches that aren’t explained by a physical condition * Finding it hard to make decisions (also known as decision fatigue) * Feeling like you are failing as a parent * Lacking in motivation, or being overly productive [...]

What is Parental Burnout?2023-06-05T16:51:26+00:00

Get The Facts
About Self Harm

Your Content Goes Here What is it? Self harming behaviour, also known as Non-Suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI) is the deliberate inflicting of pain and damage to one’s body, through cutting, scratching, burning, or other forms of hurting oneself.  It also includes internal or emotionally harmful behaviours, such as consuming a toxic amount of substance or deliberately having unsafe sex. Why do people do it? Self harm, or NSSI, is a way that people seek relief from strong, painful feelings, such as anger, anxiety, sadness or frustration. While in the moment it can bring relief, the behaviour tends to lead to an increase in feelings of shame and guilt, and it is potentially dangerous to the body. It is believed that at the root of the behaviour there may be early childhood trauma, it can also be part of a mental health condition, including depression, anxiety, or borderline personality. Whilst self harming behaviours are most common among adolescents and young adults, younger children and older adults also engage in this behaviour. What to do? It is important to understand that engaging in self harming behaviour is communication that the person is in pain; they are struggling and need support. Here are some tips if you are supporting someone who is self harming: Show compassion to someone who is engaging in self harming behaviour; recognize that this is their attempt to cope with strong and painful feelings. Be non-judgemental- judging is not helpful, people who self harm are likely already experiencing feelings of shame and guilt and may have tried to keep the behaviour secret. Be available to talk and stay open, listen, and help identify supports, including counselling, medical, and social supports like friends and family. Encourage the person to seek professional help and go with them to their appointment if they are anxious How to Stop myself from Self Harming? Identify the triggers that lead to the desire to self harm, and where possible avoid the triggers. Name the feelings that show up with the urges, and learn ways to self-soothe when you are experiencing painful feelings. Changing your feelings state can be achieved through finding outlets for emotional energy: identify what helps you release negative energy (e.g.: crying, breathing, exercising, yelling, dancing, laughing, cleaning) and what helps bring you calm (hugs, bath, writing thoughts, listening to a favourite playlist, texting a friend, reading). Learn to let go. Identify what you can and can’t control, and consciously let go of what you can’t control. Wait it out- give it 20 minutes before engaging in the behaviour. if you give it time, as with any urge, it will pass. Feelings are like waves, they come and go, and thoughts are not facts, just thoughts. Seek connection- reaching out to someone you care about can be a way to distract you from engaging in self harming behaviour and helping you change your feeling state at the same time. Seek therapy to learn new ways to manage [...]

Get The Facts
About Self Harm
2023-05-01T13:10:36+00:00

Children and Loss

As children, we learn how to navigate life by what we hear, observe, and experience. What is the cost of sharing misinformation with our children? Could there be a better way? Up to the age of nine we have little interest in cognitively understanding what we experience. Nor do we have the skills, or abilities, to process many of life’s significant events. Our well-meaning parents, grandparents, teachers, and guardians pass on what they have absorbed during their childhood.  We then teach our children how to navigate life’s experiences; blindly following what we were taught. One of the myths we have acquired over time: children are resilient. We believe children do not experience life’s challenges the emotional way an adult would. We believe they have the capacity to bounce back quickly. Our current situation is demonstrating another perspective - children are struggling. As adults, we process stress based upon what we know. Many of us were taught to self-isolate, be strong for others, stay busy, or wait for time to take away our pain. As children we were encouraged to replace our loss with food, games, toys, and animals. We were taught to bury our pain and distract ourselves from the emotions we didn’t want to face.  These are the same coping skills we are unintentionally passing onto our children. Today, we must do things differently. When it comes to identifying and processing emotional pain, we have to do better. We must provide our children with a different role model than pretending we are all okay. How do we do this? We go first. We show our children we are not okay. We tell them how we are feeling.  We provide them an example of how to express their emotions and show them it is okay to talk about loss. We create a safe place. We become a heart with ears, open to listening to how our child is feeling without trying to make things better, judge or fix.  We allow them a safe place to express how they are feeling. Refrain from telling them you know how they feel. A child will have their own feelings, separate from our own.  We may remember how it felt when we experienced a loss. However, what our children are experiencing today, we can not truly comprehend. We cannot fully understand because we have not experienced this type of significant change in what was familiar. Avoid replacing the loss. Do not buy them toys, give them extended time on their devices, or food to comfort their unhappiness. Be there for them. Be present. Teach them how to be honest with their emotions. Helping them to identify, and label, how they are feeling is one of the most powerful ways of defusing the emotion. Be available organically. The best discussions take place in the car, at bedtime, spontaneously. Be available when your child is ready to share.  Avoid forcing a discussion. My father-in-law used to say parenting was the only job we did without [...]

Children and Loss2023-05-03T13:33:02+00:00

The Impact of Domestic Violence on Children

  What is domestic violence? Domestic violence, or family violence, occurs when adults in a household engage in physical violence, name calling, put downs, yelling, or threats among other abusive and controlling behaviours. This usually occurs in a cyclical pattern where the family experiences tension building, an abusive incident, and then usually some sort of honeymoon phase characterized by apologies and promised changed behaviour. What happens to children who have witnessed domestic violence? Children and youth who witness and experience domestic violence may have many conflicting feelings as well as behavioural and social impacts. They may feel: Scared, Anxious, Ongoing worry for the safety of one parent, Angry, Depressed, Confused, For some children and youth, these feelings may lead to aggressive behaviour in the home and/or at school. For example, I can recall working with a young child who intentionally acted out at school so he could be sent home to be with Mom because he was worried about her safety. For others, they will try to be the “perfect” child by excelling at school and being super helpful at home. Both examples can be in response to the child’s/youth’s feelings and the need to have some control in their life but also as safety measures of sorts to either keep the calm in the home or to direct the attention onto themselves and off the other parent. What other things can domestic violence impact? Domestic violence can also impact a child’s eating, sleeping, relationship formation and maintenance, and their ability to trust others. Does it affect babies? Or just older kids? Even babies are not immune to the effects of domestic violence. When a parent picks up their child or infant they can pick up on our energy which informs them if this is a safe, loving environment or if they need to be on guard. Domestic violence can even interrupt a baby’s attachment to their caregivers as a result. How do we support children and youth who have experienced domestic violence? First, it is helpful to note that children can thrive by having a secure attachment to positive adults in their life. Children and youth also need to know that the domestic violence that has happened in their home is not their fault, and they are not responsible for anyone’s behaviours but their own. Parents need to be mindful of what is age-appropriate information for a child to know. Safety plans are important to work through with children if the family plans to stay together while seeking support for abusive behaviour and healing from what has happened. These pieces can be done through therapy for children and youth, as well as parent coaching for how to talk to children/youth about abuse that has happened. In addition to therapy through Brant Mental Health Solutions, below are some helpful resources: The Refrigerator Door  - a practical handbook for survivors of domestic and family violence in Brant and Brant County https://novavita.org/the-refrigerator-door/   Nova Vita Domestic Violence Prevention Services – emergency shelter, [...]

The Impact of Domestic Violence on Children2023-02-22T19:17:25+00:00