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It’s Exam Time!

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With the end of the school year approaching, there is always excitement about summer vacation.  But with this, is the seemingly gigantic obstacle that needs to be overcome before the bliss of sunny days and freedom: exams.  Your teen may be experiencing some anxiety about this time of the year because of the cumulative projects and upcoming exams.  You may see more irritability or expressions of stress and frustration rise in their words and their behaviour. Just remember that it’s only temporary and once that final exam is completed, the excitement of summer will return!

During this time, I always try to remind myself when working with my teenage clients that it can be a very stressful time.  I try to incorporate strategies to help in managing test anxiety, whether or not they believe they experience it. So, I wanted to share a few main points that I find to be helpful with surviving exam time:

1. Studying requires breaks! Our brains can only retain a certain amount of information before it begins to shut down on its own.  Therefore, even though we are entering into our third hour of studying, the likelihood of remembering is quite low.  So take those breaks to give your poor brain a rest, please.

2. When we “blank out” during exams, it is usually not because we are unprepared.  It is usually because our anxiety is so high that it is interfering with our ability to remember.  If this is the case, it is important to enter the exam environment in a calmer state.  Right before the exam, put away the notes (you’re not going to learn anything new in the next few minutes) and focus on relaxation.  Sit and listen to your favourite song, sketch in your sketchbook that you haven’t used in a while, watch a television show.  Bring your anxiety down from a 10 to a 7. It will make a big difference.

3. Try to reframe your thoughts if they are negative.  If you think that you are going to fail, remind yourself of the good (or “okay”) marks you have received in this class so far this semester. Instead of focusing on what you still don’t understand, think of the things that you studied and know backwards and forwards.  If you think that it will be a long and grueling process, remind yourself that you will be on summer vacation in less than a week.  This time tomorrow, this class will be done and over!

4. Before you start writing anything down on your exam, read over all of the questions and take a deep and slow breath. Exhale all of the worries and remember all of the work that you have put forth to get there.

5. Get a good night’s sleep and eat something small before the exam.  Fatigue and exhaustion will make it very difficult to focus, formulate your thoughts, understand the questions, etc.

6. Once the exam is over, IT IS OVER. Don’t spend too much time thinking about the questions and whether or not you got this one right or that one wrong.  Leave it in the classroom and take the night off if you can by doing something enjoyable.

7. If you feel panicked or anxious before your exam, remind yourself that it’s normal to feel this way.  It may not mean that it is because you are going to fail. But it is definitely a reflection of your desire to do well, which means it is important to you.

Below is a link to a pdf file that has a lot of helpful strategies to prepare for exams and write them.  I give this to my clients all the time, even if they are not worried about their exams.

https://www.anxietybc.com/sites/default/files/Test_Anxiety_Booklet.pdf

Good luck to all and I hope this post was helpful to you!!

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Talking to your Child or Teen about Tragedy

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Wishing that our children can be free of tragedy and sadness (Photo Credit: Teresa Sumerfield Photography)

It seems like more and more frequently, we find ourselves bombarded with media coverage about tragedies that occur randomly and unexpected.  School shootings.  Bus accidents.  Innocent children and youth dying. Acts of violence towards strangers.  Sometimes, watching the local news can be more terrifying than the movies and television shows we “responsibly” use our parental blocks to shield our children from the horrors of computer animation and gratuitous gore and bloodshed.

It is not surprising, then, that our young ones are becoming increasingly anxious about arbitrary and general and unspecific situations.  We may wonder why our sons and daughters are worried about practically everything and we may try to comfort them by telling them that they have nothing to worry about.  However, in my work with children and youth, although this interaction is, at best, full of positive intentions to support and help, it is often viewed as minimizing and insincere.  It can also send the message that these feelings are not okay or “normal”.

Continue reading “Talking to your Child or Teen about Tragedy”

The Stress of Being a Caregiver

Before I became a Social Worker, I wanted to be a teacher.  And before I wanted to be a teacher, I vaguely remember wanting to be a banker or a cashier.  When I was 12 years old, my father, who was a financial controller for a business firm, suffered a brain injury, called encephalitis, which was a swelling in the brain.  He lost his ability to speak and express himself in coherent words.  He lost his ability to recall how to do basic functions of self-care.  I watched my mother transition from a secondary provider to the primary provider, as well as, a caregiver.  I observed her stress levels increase and her physical health deteriorate because of it.  My father never really recovered.  I think we, as a family, just learned to adjust to the new language he spoke and the reminders that he needed on an everyday basis.  We observed him become progressively more irritable and frustrated because of his inability to communicate his thoughts effectively.  My mother’s hypertension and angina were often affected with the added stress that my father’s sudden change in presentation and needs brought to the family.

Continue reading “The Stress of Being a Caregiver”

Exciting News and Services!

I am very excited to announce that I am now able to provide direct billing for clients who are covered for Registered Social Workers with GreenShield Canada and SSQ Financial Group!  For more information, please feel free to contact me.

 

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Supervision Services & Consultation

I am also excited to begin providing supervision services and consultation for Registered Social Workers.  Services will be available via telephone, video consult, or in person in Orangeville or Georgetown.

Contact me for more information!

Self-Compassion: The Power of Loving Ourselves

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It is officially the “day of love” – it’s Valentine’s Day.  For some, this is a very important time to spend with loved ones and celebrate our relationships and connections.  For others, this can be a difficult day, especially if we feel disconnected or alone.  I am a firm believer that Valentine’s day is simply just a day, and that if we value our relationships with others, whether romantic, familial or platonic, we should celebrate this everyday.  But one relationship we tend to forget most is the relationship that we have with ourselves.

 
Continue reading “Self-Compassion: The Power of Loving Ourselves”

Review: “Not Alone: A film about teen suicide and depression”

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I found this documentary on Netflix randomly but found it profoundly inspiring.  Here is the back story: This documentary is lead by Jacqueline Monetta, who initially shares her story about the tragic and unexpected loss of her best friend to suicide.  She shares that she engaged in her own self-reflection.  She described, in her own experiences, the stages of grief: denial, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance.  And she began her journey to give other youth who have struggled with depression, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts a voice to share their stories of pain and resiliency.  The documentary captures Jacqueline interviewing survivors of past suicidality and depression, who share their diverse stories of loss, trauma, guilt, self-hatred and shame.  She also focuses on ways that these beautiful individuals found their strength and their hope.

Continue reading “Review: “Not Alone: A film about teen suicide and depression””

Making ME a Priority: Letting Go of the “Shoulds” and “Musts”

“When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life.”

Jean Shinoda Bolen

As we approach the end of the holiday season and the beginning of a brand new year, some of us challenge ourselves by reflecting on all the things we want to change about our lives.  It could be our physical health (“I want to be healthier, more physically fit, and have more energy”) or our emotional well-being (“I want to be happier, calm and relaxed”).  We view January 1st as a baseline to which we can compare ourselves on December 31st.  If you are anything like me, I tend to set goals for myself that I “know” I have the time and energy to complete.  I find myself “should”-ing and “must”-ing about all of the things that I truly believe in that moment are achievable.  And then life happens.  And all of my “shoulds” and “musts” become precipitators for feelings of guilt, shame, anger, and frustration.

This year, I am going to try something very different.  My goal is to make myself a priority.  This is far beyond the “Year of Me” that I have tried to start for several years, where I set goals for myself to achieve that focus on different aspects of my life.  Making myself a priority simply means that I will try my best to give myself equal attention as the other aspects and responsibilities of my life.  This means that the relaxation and self-care time that I hope to “fit into” my life will now be scheduled.  I will let go of the “shoulds” and “musts”.

For example, one of the goals that I have made for the last three years (at least) is to begin reading for leisure again.  I happily go to the bookstore and pick out two or three books that I have always wanted to read and then I go home, put them by my bedside and wait until nighttime.  Then, I go about the rest of my day.  I cook dinner, eat dinner, attempt to clean up, and relax in front of the television and catch up on the shows that I have previously recorded (or Netflix…there is almost always time to watch Netflix it seems).  By the time I get to my bed, I look at the books as I yawn deeply and my eyes sting of fatigue.  If I can get a paragraph or two in, I am asleep before I can turn the page.  I tell myself that I will do it tomorrow…if I have the time.  And then the next day, the same things happen.  Until a few months pass and I have still not read the first chapter.  Insert “shoulds” and “musts” and feelings of guilt and shame.  So, if I follow the idea of making myself a priority, I will schedule reading time into my schedule and follow through with it, just as I would do with scheduled meal times and work hours.  I will go to my bed earlier.  Even if it is for half an hour, it is now a personal appointment.

In my personal and professional lives, I have learned that there are often times when the things that we hold dearest to us are the ones that we often set aside when we believe that there are things that we “should” or “must” do instead.  Spending quality time with our family members often occurs when we have time at the end of the day after running all of our errands and completing all of our chores. And just like the situation with my lonely books at my bedside, we often run out of time and cannot fit it in, promising ourselves that there will be more time tomorrow.  Letting go of the “shoulds” and “musts” is reminding ourselves that the dishes can be done after the kids go to sleep.  They will still be dirty at 9:30 p.m.  Or giving ourselves permission to sit and drink our cup of tea until it’s completely finished.  It only takes ten to fifteen minutes.  The countless cups of half full tea that turned cold because I was trying to multi-task and completely forgot about it is unbelievable!

It seems like an easy enough goal, right?  To schedule time to spend with my family and do things for fun? The actions are not difficult.  What I may struggle with most will be reminding myself of my “shoulds” and “musts”.  Challenging these negative thought patterns (a.k.a. Thinking Traps) by asking myself, “Do I really have to do this now or can it wait a few minutes or hour?“, will take practice.  But I am up for the challenge.  Besides, taking care of ourselves reminds us of our self-worth and value.  It’s time for all of us to remind ourselves of this.  So, read that chapter you have been meaning to read. Go out for coffee and catch up with friends whom you have not seen in a while. Watch your favourite television show with your partner.  Play with your kids.  Make them all personal appointments that you cannot cancel. Let go of your “shoulds” and “musts” and focus on your “wants” and on yourself.

Embracing the Powerful Mind Newsletter – January 2018

The newest issue of Embracing the Powerful Mind Newsletter is out and it focuses on New Year’s resolutions and online counselling.  It also includes exciting information about my extended office hours.

Happy Reading!!

Embracing the Powerful Mind Newsletter January 2018

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Now Booking for January 2018!!

christmas-lights.jpgThe new year is approaching and it can be characterized by the development of goals to increase happiness, success, and physical and emotional connections. It is a time when we make plans to address our physical health, “bad habits”, and financial decision-making.  However, for some reason, we often neglect the idea of addressing our emotional well-being as well.

It is important to remember that our physical and mental health are interconnected and are equally important to take care of.

I am currently scheduling in-person and online appointments for January 2018.  This is a great time to take care of ourselves, both body and mind.  I have also extended office hours that will hopefully accommodate your schedule.  Please see below the appointment times and locations that are now available beginning on Tuesday, January 9, 2018:

Orangeville office 

Wednesdays 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Saturdays – various times available – Please contact me for more information

Contact me at: 519-217-5013 (phone or text)

Brampton/Georgetown 

Tuesdays and Thursdays: 9:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Contact me at: 437-772-1010 (phone or text)

Online Video Counselling (Location: Your own home through Inkblot Therapy)

Monday, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays: 8:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.

 

For all services, you can also email me at cindynashcounselling@gmail.com or use the Contact Form by clicking here.  If these times don’t work for you, contact me anyways and we may be able to find another time that suits you better!

It’s time to take care of you.  You deserve it.