In the current hustle and bustle of our world and lives, we often seem to forget about the importance of taking care of ourselves. Finding time for the things we personally enjoy can be challenging as it can feel uncomfortable to create and take the space to do something that does not revolve around others’ needs.
Creating a focus on our own needs and wants is crucial in ensuring we take time for ourselves. Often when time is not taken on a regular basis it results in our mental well-being decreasing. When this occurs it’s a sign that we need to re-evaluate what we are needing to feel our best. This may also mean that we need to readjust priorities in order to take care of ourselves.
Self-care can come in many different forms, for instance, self-care can come in forms of emotional self-care, practical self-care, physical self-care, mental self-care, social self-care, and spiritual self-care. While self-care does take many different forms it can look different depending on the person. Recognizing what works best for us and what we need is an important step in working towards an increase in self-care activities and one’s overall well-being. Depending on what one is experiencing or feeling will also determine what self-care looks like in that moment. Maybe one day self-care is going for a run, but another day self-care is watching your favourite show. Understanding that self-care can look different and that there should be no judgment placed on self-care done for oneself is a valuable consideration. Finding multiple activities of self-care that are within these different categories that feel good for oneself can also be valuable. Having many different options of self-care, it can allow one to have a variety of options of self-care depending on how they are feeling and what they are needing.
We are continually faced with many different situations personally, professionally and within society that can greatly influence our overall well-being. Being able to find self-care activities that we can incorporate into our lives can have a positive influence on how we feel.
Written by: Cassidy Laskosky, MACP
To book: Click Here
At some point in our lives, we face the heartbreak of having someone we love pass away. The loss may be sudden and unexpected, which brings a unique type of pain. Other losses may be gradual, such as having a loved one pass away from a terminal illness or natural decline. When someone we love dies, it can feel as though the ground has been pulled out from beneath us. During the initial phase of bereavement, it is common to feel a variety of intense emotions, ranging from denial, anger, sadness, emptiness, regret, fear and nostalgia. We may experience shock or disbelief that someone who had a physical presence in our lives no longer does. We may be trying to wrap our heads and hearts around what happened and how to move forward. We may even face our own thoughts of mortality.
Moving into the grief phase, we slowly adjust to day-to-day life without our loved one in the physical world. This is often a time where rituals, such as memorial services and gatherings will take place. For some, these rituals bring a sense of peace, closure and closeness, while others may experience difficulty accepting reality. It is important to remember that complex emotions are expected to occur when healing from a loss.
While death is often the type of focus on grieving, it is important to note that there does not have to be a death for grief to exist. Grief can be present any time that we experience a loss or major shift in a pattern or routine that we have come to know. Grief can also appear when our connection with a loved one changes or how we know a person to be changes. This commonly occurs when an adult child journeys alongside a parent who has dementia and recognized changes in their parent’s personality or ability to recognize loved ones. Another common example of situational grief is when someone separates from a long-term partner, or an adult child moves out on their own. Situational grief can have just as much of an impact as grieving as a result of someone dying does.
What is important to remember is that there is no right or wrong way to grieve, and each individual will have different approaches to processing their feelings and reactions. Society tends to set grieving norms that can influence our view of how we think we should behave and feel. While grieving, it is key to honour and acknowledge your thoughts, feelings and emotions as they come up and to be gentle with yourself. Try to avoid comparing how you are grieving with how others around you are grieving. Find self-soothing activities that are meaningful and nurturing to you. Take the time to honour your loss in a way that suits your values, worldview and needs, despite societal pressures.
Reach out to your support network and recognize who you feel safe discussing your grief with and why. Remember that grief tends to continue to exist within us to some degree, particularly after a significant loss. The hope is that with time and growth, the grief will shift and become more manageable. Always know that you are never alone and there is always someone willing to listen.
If you or someone you know needs additional support for grief or loss, please feel to reach out to us at or 250-718-9291.
Written by: Christina Postnikoff, MSW Candidate
Visit here to book with Christina: https://okclinical.janeapp.com/locations/kelowna/book#/staff_member/38
As we transition into another season and new routine it is important to remember the value that mindfulness can have in one’s life. Becoming more mindful can allow for a great deal of clarity or awareness to occur in an individual. There are many benefits to introducing mindfulness activities into one’s life. Some of the benefits are:
-Improving one’s overall well-being
-Improving one’s physical health and mental health
-Helping to relieve stress
-Improving cognitive abilities
-Improving emotional regulation
While there are many benefits to using a mindfulness activity, each person will have a different mindfulness practice or activity that will improve those areas of their lives. Here are a few mindfulness activities that could be beneficial.
-Focusing on one’s breathe
-Focusing on one’s senses
-Being in nature
Each of those activities has a variety of options that allow a person to choose what is best for themselves in order to create the best mindfulness practice for them. Finding what brings one clarity, joy and awareness will differ from person to person. For example, one may find yoga to help bring them mindfulness but someone else may find walking outdoors to help create mindfulness for them. These two activities are different but depending on the person will depend on the benefits that they experience from the activities. It may take time to find what works best for oneself and trying different variations of what was listed above may need to occur before finding the best mindfulness practice or activity for you.
Starting by picking an activity you feel you may enjoy could allow one to start exploring what mindfulness looks like and means to them.
Written by: Cassidy Laskosky, MACP
To book: Click Here
The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented circumstances for all of us. For almost three years, the world has had to make major shifts in how we interact with one another. Some of us have been unable to spend time with friends and family, some of us lost our jobs, some of us had to miss or cancel significant life events and some of us experienced COVID-19 firsthand. And some of us have been coping with challenging feelings surrounding the impacts of COVID-19. It is likely that COVID-19 has disrupted all our lives in some way.
Human beings are creatures of habit and we tend to become comfortable and content with our routines. When these patterns and rituals are interrupted, it is expected that individuals, families and communities will face additional stressors. When facing a global pandemic, it is normal for individuals to experience anxiety, fear, anger, sadness, grief and frustration. Feelings of isolation are also common. Many of us may have even experienced feelings of divide, as we encounter rules around masks, social distancing and vaccines.
When a situation seems ambiguous, continuous and large scale, it can seem like things will never improve and solutions can seem difficult to find! In addition, a situation that is unpredictable and frequently evolving can also foster anxiety, as we are unsure what to expect. It is common to feel a lack of control over things that we once had a stronger influence on.
While we cannot magically fix a global pandemic, such as COVID-19, we can look at ways to help maintain our personal well-being.
Here are a few ideas to enhance well-being:
The team at Okanagan Clinical Counselling Services is happy to assist you as you process the impacts of COVID-19.
You can book an appointment at https://okclinical.janeapp.com/ or by calling 250 718 9291.
Written by: Christina Postnikoff, MSW Candidate
The body, mind and spirit have a complex and intertwined relationship. They are constantly in flux and influencing each other. For example, have you ever noticed that when you experience a strong emotion such as sadness or anxiety, you may develop a headache or a stomachache? Or when you get angry, your heartbeat increases or your muscles tense up? The same connection can be observed for positive emotions. Your body may feel relaxed, or tears of joy may fill your eyes when you are experiencing a joyful moment. This is because your body and mind are in constant communication with each other, following each other’s lead in reaction to stimuli and events around you.
With day-to-day life being busy and at times chaotic, it can often feel as if we do not have the time or space to recognize when our well-being is out of balance. It can be challenging to realize that our physical and psychological states often go hand in hand. Keep in mind that your well-being will fluctuate throughout the day, depending on the environment, your mood and your previous experiences. This is normal and to be expected. Human beings are incredibly adaptable and resilient. Part of managing all forms of well-being is to be mindful of physical sensations that arise with certain thoughts and certain emotions that get triggered with specific physical sensations. By looking at the relationship between body and mind, we can develop tools to improve how we feel and react to our thoughts, feelings and challenges.
Knowing that you have the resources within yourself to find and maintain well-being can be an empowering feeling! Mindfulness is a meaningful perspective to sustain ways of coping with unpleasant emotions and physical sensations.
A body scan is a mindfulness exercise that helps you identify areas of tension in your body and consciously relax by breathing deeply into those areas. It is all about noticing where you carry your emotions. For example, you may notice that fear sits in a tight knot in your chest, or that sadness sits heavily on your shoulders. Having this awareness can contribute to physical and mental relief from stress.
A few things before you get started doing a body scan:
~find a comfortable, safe and quiet space to sit or
~be patient and kind to yourself
~take as much time as you wish for this exercise
~sit in a comfortable chair, with your feet planted
firmly on the ground or lay in a comfortable position on a bed.
~Take a few deep breaths and close your eyes if you wish.
~Bring your awareness first to your upper body, noticing any tension in your head, neck, shoulders, chest and torso. Spend time in each of these areas, being mindful of any pain, discomfort or tension. Notice and acknowledge any emotions or thoughts that come up while doing so.
~When you discover a spot on the body that feels tense or carries emotion, take several deep breaths into that area, focusing your breath into that area only.
~ You may wish to say positive affirmations to yourself at this time, such as “I am sending calming energy into my shoulders” or “I release this tension in my neck”.
~Continue to scan the different areas of your body, including hips, legs, feet and toes. Take deep breaths into any areas that feel tense.
~Again, you may wish to say positive affirmations to yourself at this time.
~Repeat the body scan as many times as you would like
~When ready, slowly open your eyes and bring your awareness back to the room around you.
For other mindfulness exercises you can visit:
To develop more tools to maintain balance and mindfulness in your life, book with one of our counsellors by visiting https://okclinical.janeapp.com/ or by calling 250-718-9291.
Take good care,
MSW Candidate & Practicum Student
By Zara Neukom BSc, MACP
As you turn away from me
a new bone emerges
reckless, fearless from under your skin.
Skin that seems papery, gossamer
These days your cheeks have lost their joy.
I remember last summer
when you were queen of soccer
face flushed: pink and shinning.
I think you disappear more each day.
One day after therapy
you looked at me and said
I can’t do this
And inside, my world crumbled
I couldn’t show you how much
I fell apart in that moment.
Instead I said:
I could imagine you don’t want to recover
Because you’re angry
And because life is easier when you can’t feel
And because this culture is cruel
I used the script. I said the words.
They felt like dust in my mouth.
I can’t name the shape
of this despair.
It lives outside lines
I fear I did this to you.
I fear my absence
did this to you.
It’s June now. You wore a sun hat for the first time
your cheeks have freckles
you laugh with your mouth wide open
I watched you eat a bowl of cereal
You just started grade 11. When we went back
to school shopping you smiled when you looked in the mirror.
I know this is still hard. I know you still pinch
the flesh of your hips
when no one is looking.
Sometimes when you get that vacant stare
I realize how much we have both grown.
I have come to love
that blank look, because I know
it’s attached to the part of you
that is still hurting.
The part that needed to disappear because
the hurt was too much.
And then I kneel next to you and hold
that tender part of your spirit.
We don’t need words. We both cry.
When people say hope exists
I used to laugh like hyena
cackling despair and disbelief.
I used to say try watching your child
disappear and then tell me about hope!
Yet these days
hope sounds like: cutlery clanking on dinner plates
hope looks like: how your eyes have turned into oceans
hope feels like: how strong and warm your hand is in mine.
Thank you to all the families who have shared their stories and their hearts. You are an inspiration and hope embodied.
If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder visit:
https://kelowna.cioc.ca/record/KNA0046* title is borrowed from an Emily Dickinson poem
Written by: Zara Neukom
By Zara Neukom BSc, MACP
It’s true, the last two years have sent us into a collective tail-spin. And we are confronted daily with the complexity of our times. If we take inventory of what has happened over the last two years, it’s easy to get lost in it all. We have faced a global pandemic, political unrest, the resurgence of propaganda driven media, extreme climate events, and collective reckoning with systemic oppression and violence. And we are holding all of this, while expecting ourselves to continue, as if nothing has changed. No wonder we are all exhausted and overwhelmed.
There is no easy way to continue forward, when forwards feels like staggering through uncertainty (or at least that’s how my clients have described it). If I spend some time here, I start to wonder if there is another way through this and what that might look like…I wonder if we can acknowledge these strange, challenging times and also invite in the possibility of hope.
Over the last two years, as my own form of balm, salve, sense of safety, I have turned to thought-leaders and philosophers who ask the questions I often ask myself…Questions like, what do we do with this upheaval? How can we learn from it? What is this telling us about what we value, how we operate, and what we stand for?
One of these thinkers, Daniel Schmachtenberger, underscores that at the core of existential struggle is our inability to make sense of things. We cannot hold all the complexity that is being asked of us, and instead we react with pejorative exclamations and cling, with ferocious certainty, to our biases.
I cannot possibly place all of Schmachtenberger’s insight into this blog, so instead, I’ll highlight the pieces that I have taken away and assume, that you, reader, proceed with an open heart.
When we feel shaky, when our world-view is holding on by a thread, let us be reminded of our shared human-fabric:your neighbor may be pro-vax; anti-vax; resist climate change; believe in climate change; or stand for all things directly in opposition to your beliefs. However, at their core, they are in this life thing, like you. They are equally shaped by their upbringing and experience and their perspective, like yours, is a product of their life story.
When I open to this and consider it, I start to feel a sense of curiosity unfold…I wonder if you feel it too?
Might you consider that what “separates” us, is actually the very essence of our unification. We all care deeply for our loved ones; we value being seen, heard, protected, and purposeful; and we want to live in a world where our values are integrated and reflected back to us.
Let’s take a pause here. Maybe a breath. Because when things get complicated, we want to double down on what we can control; we have a deep, innate desire to find direction, truth, and structure. We want simplicity and answers, and perhaps we are hardwired for such tasks. Yet, now, in this unknown world, we don’t have the luxury of black and white.
If we cannot compartmentalize or categorize for safety, I wonder if a possible answer lies in intentional resistance, in doing the opposite of what is “normal”, and by learning to embrace more complexity instead of less.
I am reminded of Carl Jung’s discussions on polarity. Such that learning to hold the tension that results from opposite elements gives rise to transformation. We have found ourselves swimming in a sea of opposition. We are pitched between connection and disdain, and we have yet to catch a wave.
When we think about neurobiology, psychologists often say, neurons that wire together fire together. Essentially this means we develop patterns in thinking and behavior, and over time, these patterns become neurobiological highways. If we want to change a pattern or entertain a new idea, we have to actively open to something new and novel.
So here it is, might we consider that many truths can co-exist? Might we sit in the tension of complexity and learn to grow and stretch our capacity to be with opposition?
To me, this looks like stretching to build a home in the liminal space between known and unknown; me and you; where we are and where need to go. In so doing, I believe that we will build new connections and networks so the default becomes deeper compassion, empathy, capacity and transformation. It’s learning to be ok in the grey.
And in terms of tangible action items, this could look like taking responsibility for how you react. What about this feels triggering? What is shared? what is different? What about my past informs this perspective?
It might look like listening, actively, and with unbridled compassion to what is really being said without collapsing biases.
It might look like reminding yourself that your neighbour, with all their wild Facebook posts, is actually in love with and terrified of, the same things you are.
Can we assume our shared humanness first, before grouping, othering, and rejecting? And when we feel the pull of tension that says, you are different from me, can we learn to lean towards that friction with curiosity?
To end, I think that “sense-making” is a process of being both critical and compassionate. It is the ontology of truth-seeking, and I see it as the only compass in these times. Such that the antidote to confusion is expanding beyond both the perspective you have and the one you disagree with. What is greater than both of those things? What is more complex? And when you find that, might you notice how the world changes, how hope seeps in, and how for a moment there is a little bit more wonder.
Written by: Zara Neukom
We have found ourselves a month into 2022 (already!) which places us at a statistically critical point in time. In all likelihood, we started our year off fresh and strong with a new perspective, great goals, and a clear mindset, but you may have found yourself slowing down, feeling unmotivated, or just busy…
Recall your New Years resolutions. You know the ones. “Eat better, work out more, lose weight, love harder, sleep better…”. Maybe you dialled in your vision with a SMART Goals worksheet, where you made sure your goals were Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. I’m not writing to tell you to stop doing that, because there is utility in the practice. But, I am also well aware that life gets in the way of our goals sometimes. And, sticking to timelines can be really defeating if you fall off track! So, I personally don’t set goals like that (*gasp*). I know, stay with me. I’ll tell you what I do instead!
The turn of a New Year activates our innate sense to be better and it prompts our drive for change. The feeling is ubiquitous. It’s a fresh start and a “second chance.” Humans are deep! I believe that all humans have within them the desire for growth and betterment; it is a big part of why I became a counsellor. The same as our bodies start small as babies and infants, then grow larger into children, and eventually adults, naturally, I believe our sense of self and our sense of the world around us grows similarly, particularly if we are in an environment where we feel safe, understood, and valued. Some theorists, like Maslow, call it “self-actualization”, humans have a natural sense to work towards being better. So, to me, that means something much deeper than “lose weight” and “eat more plants.”
For myself, I’m less interested in *what* I’m going to do this year and much more interested in *how* and *why* I’m going to do it. Because, in critical moments like now, when our foot lightens up on the proverbial gas pedal, I like to be reminded of the purpose behind my goals.
So, here’s what I do: I identify areas of focus in my life (ie. Career, Mind, Body, Love, Social Network) and I reflect deeply on *how* I can sustain consistent growth in those areas. How will I need to fortify my mindset in order to execute my goals in that area in a way that aligns with my core values? (Don’t know your core values yet? Working with a therapist might be able to unearth them!) What is the fuel that I want driving that area forward?
I look closely at who I am and who I want to grow towards being, then I assign 1) a guiding word, and 2) an action word to each area of focus. The Guiding Word helps remind me what is driving my goals (in alignment with my core values) and the Action Word helps remind me how I want to execute them.
Here’s what mine looks like this year:
|Area of Focus||Guiding Word||“I will act from a place of…”|
There’s a bit of vulnerability in showing all of you this; but, to me, looking at your goals and your direction in this way is much more meaningful and purposeful. SMART goals give you a place to start, and a place to arrive in the end. I have those, too! I will read 12 books this year, graduate from my Masters with Distinction, run 2 half marathons, and be able to do a handstand. Knowing where you are going is important to getting there, but the fuel that fills the gas tank is ultimately what’s going to get you there.
This flexible, core values-driven approach also alleviates some of the self-critical moments that come up when we lack consistency or something doesn’t go as planned. Many things get in the way of us achieving our goals, so being self-compassionate with our approach can offer us latitude when we need it, which can ultimately keep us more consistent!
If this sparks something in you, I hope you run with it freely and bravely! If you’re nervous to start, know and trust that is normal, and spending some time with a counsellor could help.
A small note in conclusion, credit must be given to the brilliant Mari Andrew (@bymariandrew on Instagram). She is the artist I stole this exercise from three-ish years ago and absolutely adore, both her and the practice.
With love and other hugs,
Sarah Hunter, B.A. Psych, MACP
How exactly is climate change impacting mental health? Climate change has negative impacts on mental health in two clear ways.
Feeling anxious about the future of our planet? You’re not the only one. Climate anxiety or eco-anxiety is described by the American Psychological Association as “a chronic fear of environmental doom.”Being aware of the current climate crisis is certain to spark at least some worry for the future. It makes sense when faced with news about melting ice caps, ocean acidification, and increases in extreme weather events. Most of the time this anxiety response is entirely normal and manageable. However, climate anxiety can become overwhelming and detrimental to your mental health. When climate anxiety is debilitating it can cause people to become paralyzed by fear, feel guilty about their actions, or result in numbing and avoidance of the issue. None of these responses are beneficial for mental health or helpful in responding to climate change.
First, extreme weather events impact the mental health of community members as well as the ability for mental health systems to operate effectively in affected communities. Our community here in the Okanagan was impacted by several extreme weather events in 2021 including heatwaves, wildfires, and severe flooding. The stress of being evacuated, witnessing the devastation of extreme weather, and losing a home or employment all have an impact on mental health. These extreme weather events can also prevent mental health services from being able to serve their affected community through closures and impacts to staff.
Second, climate change as a global environmental threat is creating emotional distress and anxiety about the future. Many people (young and old) are worrying more about their future. This can include how climate change will impact careers, communities, food systems, and future generations. Decisions about where to live, whether to have kids, and what career path to pursue can feel more complicated in light of the climate crisis. There is also an immense pressure on individuals to find solutions and take action.
So, what can I do to prevent climate anxiety? If I’m already experiencing it, what can I do to be less anxious about the climate? While we might not have big solutions for climate change, the good news is that you can take steps to reduce climate anxiety.
It can be easy to fall into these unhelpful responses when we’re feeling overwhelmed by climate anxiety. One way to limit climate anxiety is to be aware of unhelpful reactions. Recognize these responses as unhelpful and choose a different response instead.
Thankfully, there are things you can do to reduce anxiety while continuing to engage with the fight against climate change.
Climate change is a daunting problem that all human beings are facing. The impact of climate anxiety is real but doesn’t need to be unmanageable. If you’re struggling with climate anxiety our counselors are here to help.
250 718 9291
A buzz word I keep hearing these days is “boundaries”, but what exactly are boundaries and why are they necessary?
Boundaries are personal limits or rules that you set to determine what is okay and what is not okay in relationships. There are many types of boundaries including:
Everyone has different personal boundaries. What one person is comfortable with, another person may not be. Our personal boundaries are shaped by experiences including how you were raised, your culture, and the society you live in.
Unhealthy boundaries can be too strict and rigid, or too open and flexible. A person with rigid boundaries may have a hard time developing close relationships, despite a desire for closeness. For example, Shyanne refuses to go out with colleagues after work because she wants to keep work and home life separate, but then feels left out and lonely when her colleagues leave together on Friday. A person with boundaries that are too flexible may let others get too close too quickly, despite a desire for more distance. For example, Darren’s girlfriend has been at his house for 3 nights in a row and even though he keeps telling her she can stay, he really wishes he had time alone.
Healthy boundaries are important to protect our own well-being and to foster healthy relationships. Healthy boundaries keep us close to others while protecting us from being taken advantage of by others. A person with healthy boundaries:
Knowing, setting, and communicating your boundaries can feel difficult. It takes determination and practice to build boundaries into your relationships, especially if setting boundaries is new to you.
The first step is discovering what your personal boundaries are. Here are some questions that will help you reflect on your boundaries:
Learn more about how to set and communicate your personal boundaries to friends, family, coworkers, and more. Book your session today.