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Changes to Counselling Services in Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic

It was a very difficult decision for me to make; however, effectively immediately, I will be discontinuing in-person sessions until further notice. I have to do my part to practice social responsibility and distancing. But I understand that this is a very sensitive time with heightened anxiety.

Therefore, I am in the process of finding the best way to provide virtual services to my clients, either by video or telephone calls or live chats for a reduced cost. I know that this is the not the most ideal way to provide services and some of my clients may not be comfortable with this method of communication; however, due to the current social climate, I feel that I am making the most responsible decision I can make at this time.

More details to come before I return to the office next week…

Pandemic Panic: The importance of exercising social responsibility and compassion during the Covid-19 Outbreak

Global Pandemic. Social Distancing. Panic Buying. State of Emergency.

It seems like every time we turn on the television or visit social media and internet sites, we are bombarded with terms like these and daily statistics of cases and fatalities all over the world. How do we not panic, right? There are no subtleties to these terms – intentionally, of course – in order to illustrate the seriousness of the world’s current health crisis. But is it enough?

People still have to work, especially those in essential services (Thank Goodness for Them). There are elderly and other vulnerable people who need to be checked up on. Kids are out of school but still have the same amount of energy that they are not able to expend.

It’s times like this that I have to remind myself that I only have control over what I choose to do for myself and my family during this difficult time. It’s very easy to get angry with “those people” who appear to be disregarding the multitudes of warnings given by the authorities, hoarding essentials that take away from people who have little or nothing, and considering strong urges to self-isolate as gentle suggestions. But how is judging other people’s behaviours helping our own mental health, other than adding unnecessary stress to an already stressful situation? There will always be someone who is going to do things differently from what we would do.

All we can do is make personal choices to be socially responsible. I agree that socially distancing is not the absolute solution but it’s something that we can do to reduce the spread of the virus. I know this poses a challenge to people who have jobs they have to go to and kids that they have to entertain, but we all have to make sacrifices in order to protect the greater population. You know, the greater population that have the right to use all of the same resources that are available to us – the hospitals that are overcrowded, the grocery stores that are meant to feed everyone and not just a select few, and the freedom to walk down the streets and buildings without fearing the breath of the person standing or walking next to us.

This is not about living in fear or rebelling against the universe by not being allowing ourselves to be held hostage. This is about trying to end a pandemic that can ultimately touch you, your family, your loved ones, and your community at some point in the near future. Stay home if you are sick. Work from home if you can. Isolate or quarantine if you have been out of the country. Wash your hands. Share the supplies with those who also need them. Talk to your kids about covid-19 in a realistic and productive way that does not instill fear or anxiety. Take care of the elderly and immuno-compromised. Screw our conspiracy theories and political views. It doesn’t matter anymore. Don’t worry about the actions of others and exercise your own power and choice. Lead by example and know that you did the right thing during a time of crisis.

Tell people with words and actions that you care about them by doing your part. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that at any given day or hour, our lives and liberties can significantly change. Tables can be turned in an instant. And I don’t know about you, but I would want to be able to trust in others that they would care about me and family and all of our futures.

Exercising Technological Self-Care: The importance of setting online boundaries

Having two young boys of my own, I have acknowledged that we now live in a technologically-dependent society: everywhere we go, we can access information and create social networks through our electronic devices – cellphones, tablets, laptops, computers, etc. The idea of being in an area with no WIFI can be devastating to some and losing our mobile devices can be as stressful as losing our wallets, cameras, calendars, and any other vital possession that we may own to keep in touch with the modern world.

On International Women’s Day, I was honoured to be asked to co-facilitate a workshop on communication, with a focus on technological boundaries and navigating through difficult conversations. So, I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to share this information for my latest blog entry.

Continue reading “Exercising Technological Self-Care: The importance of setting online boundaries”

Valentine’s Day: The Day to Celebrate LOVE for everyone

Photo Credit: Teresa Sumerfield Photography (http://www.teresa-sumerfield.com)

It’s February 14th…which means the romantic comedies and love songs have been playing on repeat for the past few weeks on television and radio, the jewellery commercials have been in full force to remind you of the “perfect” gift of diamonds, and the stores are littered with all shades of pink and red. It’s Valentine’s Day. For some, this day can be exciting and romantic. For others, this day can bring about feelings of loneliness and sadness. And for others, this day is just Thursday.

Continue reading “Valentine’s Day: The Day to Celebrate LOVE for everyone”

Bell Let’s Talk Day is Tomorrow!

January 30, 2019 is Bell Let’s Talk Day!! If you don’t know what this initiative is, make sure to visit their website at: https://letstalk.bell.ca/en/bell-lets-talk-day

From: https://letstalk.bell.ca/en/bell-lets-talk-day

As a therapist and counsellor, I hear it often: “I don’t know if I need counselling. I’m not crazy”. Language is a powerful thing. And the first thing I try to do is NORMALIZE. I remind them that our mental health is the same as our physical health: just as we all have vital organs that keep us alive, we all have emotions that naturally respond to the environment or situation surrounding us. When we have aches and pains, we sometimes postpone our visits to the doctor or forget to take our medication. We may skip our daily jog or indulge in a double burger with bacon and cheese. And, sometimes, we have difficulties managing our emotions or taking care of ourselves mentally by engaging in regular self-care or seeking professional help.

Our emotions are vital to our existence and all serve an important function – even the unpleasant ones. They tell us that we either like or dislike what is going around us, they tell us to take extra caution if we feel that we are at risk of being physically, socially, or emotionally harmed. When we try to deny our emotions or minimize them, we introduce another emotion – GUILT. And this feeling can make whatever we are experiencing seem a million times worse.

Continue reading “Bell Let’s Talk Day is Tomorrow!”

My 3 Principles of Stress Reduction: Putting my words into Practice

Organization isn’t about perfection. It is about efficiency, reducing stress & clutter, and saving time & money, & improving your overall quality of life.

Christina Scalise
Some call it ‘organized chaos’…

There are many constants that I like to emphasize during my counselling sessions. Some are based on theory, some on personal or professional experience. Regardless of the presenting issue, I have three principles of stress reduction that I like to encourage all of my clients to embrace:

Continue reading “My 3 Principles of Stress Reduction: Putting my words into Practice”

And Just Like That, We Say Goodbye to 2018!

Another year has come and gone, most likely with some highs and lows. It can be very easy for us to “filter” and direct our focus on our most difficult times, but recalling the steps forward, regardless of whether they are significant strides or tiny steps, is always helpful in maintaining hope for the year to come.  And so, here is my Year in Review: the Good, the Not-So-Good and the Hopeful.

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Continue reading “And Just Like That, We Say Goodbye to 2018!”

We Want Your Stories! A Callout for Narratives about Experiences with Loved Ones with Dementia & Alzheimer’s

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In collaboration with Caron Leid, an international speaker and advocate, we are embarking on an exciting opportunity to publish a book about the narratives of caregivers and families who have experienced struggles with managing their loved ones with Dementia or Alzheimer’s.  Our vision is to share and inspire individuals who are also going through this experience and provide validation and support from people who have developed resiliency and strength throughout the process.

So this is an official CALL OUT to those who want to contribute to this project.  We are looking for written entries for our book that can reflect on various aspects of caregiving.  This can include topics such as grief and loss, compassion fatigue, self-care and self-compassion, and aspects of these diseases that cannot be found in textbooks.  In other words, we are looking for lived experiences.

Additionally, our hope is to not only compensate those whose entries are chosen for the book, but also forward a percentage of the proceeds to an exciting foundation that is in development as we speak, which will focus on helping caregivers receive the support that they need during this journey.

For more information or to submit your entry, please feel free to contact me or Caron.

#gettingreadyforchange: A one-day workshop coming to Georgetown!

My colleague, Uresha Salgado, and I are VERY excited to host our first workshop in the Georgetown area!

On Tuesday, August 14th, we will be having a one-day workshop for students transitioning from grade 8 to high school and are feeling worried or nervous about this change.  It will be a supportive group that will explore, process, and work through some of the common worries that occur during this time.

If you know of anyone in the Georgetown area that may benefit from this program, or for more information, contact me.  Depending on the number of referrals, there also may be a possibility to extend to another day at the end of August.

summer group flyer

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!!