Mental Health

15
Jun

Managing Well-being During a Global Pandemic

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:

  1. Maintain social connections with loved ones and community – look for online or phone options if you are concerned about social distancing. Zoom and Skype have become extremely popular once again!
  2. Try out a socially distant visit by meeting a friend/family member through a window.
  3. Take breaks from watching, reading or listening to news stories, including social media. Focus on sources that you trust and limit time spent on COVID-19 news items.
  4. Find a few minutes each day to engage in deep breathing exercises to help calm your mind and release physical tension.
  5. Look for opportunities to practice being more patient or kind with yourself, or to see the situation as an opportunity to learn or build strengths.
  6. Spend a few minutes each day reminding yourself of things you are grateful for and or identify 1 or 2 positives from the day.
  7. Exercise daily- even a gentle 30mins of walking in a lovely nature spot can help reduce stress and improve physical wellness. Find an at home work out on Youtube to enjoy!
  8. Keep true to your boundaries and comfort level around what makes you feel safe and healthy!

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

To book: https://okclinical.janeapp.com/locations/kelowna/book#/staff_member/38

11
Jun

It’s All Connected

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 lay down
~be patient and kind to yourself
~take as much time as you wish for this exercise

To Begin:

~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:

https://www.the-guided-meditation-site.com/mindfulness-exercises.html

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,

Christina
MSW Candidate & Practicum Student

To book: https://okclinical.janeapp.com/locations/kelowna/book#/staff_member/58

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1
Jun

Hope Is a Thing with Feathers*: A poem for the loved ones of a child with an eating disorder

By Zara Neukom BSc, MACP

I

As you turn away from me

a new bone emerges

reckless, fearless from under your skin.

Skin that seems papery, gossamer

more wing

less flesh.

II

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.

III

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.

IV

I can’t name the shape

of this despair.

It lives outside lines

outside reality

outside time.

I fear I did this to you.

I fear my absence

fear

preoccupation

did this to you.

V

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

with abandon

VI

It’s September.

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.

VII

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

To book: https://okclinical.janeapp.com/locations/kelowna/book#/staff_member/38

18
May

How to Make Sense of Things in an Increasingly Complex World

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 substance. 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.

References: https://consilienceproject.org/

Written by: Zara Neukom

To book: https://okclinical.janeapp.com/locations/kelowna/book#/staff_member/38

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1
Feb

On Goal Setting: New Month, New Approach to Goals

Hello, February!

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 FocusGuiding Word“I will act from a place of…”
CAREEREnrichmentFearlessness
MINDExpansionCuriosity
BODYBalanceReverence
LOVETrustBravery
NETWORKConnectionCompassion 

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 

Student Counsellor

24
Jan

Coping with Climate Anxiety

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.

Unhelpful Responses

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.

  1. Guilt and shame. While we each have a role to play in responding to climate change, feeling excessive guilt and shame about your individual actions is not helpful. In fact, research shows that feeling guilt is less likely to encourage people to take meaningful action.
  • Psychic numbing. Psychic numbing is described as indifference or avoidance when confronted with an overwhelming threat. Numbing and avoidance are reactions that try to protect us from feeling overwhelmed. Unfortunately, avoidance is not effective in reducing anxiety and instead can increase it over time, while numbing results in disengagement from the issue and inaction.

Helpful Responses

Thankfully, there are things you can do to reduce anxiety while continuing to engage with the fight against climate change.

  1. Take action. Consider what you enjoy doing, what your interests and strengths are. There are many ways to take small meaningful actions towards reducing climate change. This might include volunteering for a local agency, educating your friends and family about sustainable practices, or campaigning for a political party that has a strong platform on climate change. Learn about what actions have the most significant impact and commit to fewer, but more impactful, changes.
  2. Find balance. Know when to take a break from hearing, reading, or thinking about climate change. With technology in our pockets, we have the ability to be tuned in to the latest news and updates 24/7. Take time away from news about climate change to rest and recharge. Variety is the spice of life! Remind yourself of other interests, hobbies, or topics of conversation that you can engage in when feeling overwhelmed by climate anxiety.
  3. Enjoy nature. Spend time taking in the wonders of the outdoors! Becoming immersed in nature has an immediate impact on stress levels. Take a mindful walk and notice what is happening in the natural environment around you. Engage your sense of smell and touch to really tune in to your experience. Witnessing the wonders of the natural environment positively impacts mental health while reminding us why we are invested in protecting our natural spaces.

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.

www.okclinical.com

250 718 9291

To book: https://okclinical.janeapp.com/locations/kelowna/book#/list

Written By: Cassie Hager MACP Counsellor

2
Dec

Setting Healthy Boundaries

What Are Healthy Boundaries?

A buzz word I keep hearing these days is “boundaries”, but what exactly are boundaries and why are they necessary?

What Are Boundaries?

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:

  • Physical boundaries (protecting our physical space)
  • Emotional boundaries (protecting our emotional wellbeing)
  • Material boundaries (protecting our personal belongings/finances)
  • Professional boundaries (protecting our ability to work effectively)
  • Time boundaries (protecting our use of our time)

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

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

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:

  • Knows what they are and aren’t comfortable with
  • Communicates clearly to others what their boundaries are
  • Enforces their boundaries when they aren’t respected
  • Values their own opinion
  • Is willing to put themselves first
  • Can decide when to be flexible and meet others half-way

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.

What Are My Boundaries?

The first step is discovering what your personal boundaries are. Here are some questions that will help you reflect on your boundaries:

  • Who are you comfortable hugging? Who would you rather give a handshake? In light of COVID-19, have your boundaries for space changed? Who are you comfortable being physically close to?
  • What activities/interactions boost your emotional energy? What or who drains it? Do you know how to tell when you cannot take on any more emotional weight?
  • What items are you comfortable sharing? Is it okay for friends, roommates, or family to help themselves to your food? Who would you lend money to? Under what circumstances?
  • How do you expect others to speak to you in the workplace? What projects or tasks are you willing to accept? What would you decline? Why? Would you work overtime if asked? If yes, under what circumstances?
  • How much time do you want to spend in various aspects of your life like, work, hobbies, family engagements? How can you meet your own needs and also fulfil your responsibilities? How much time do you want to be social? How much time do you need alone? When others ask for your time (run an errand, babysit, etc.) who will you say yes or no to? Why?

Learn more about how to set and communicate your personal boundaries to friends, family, coworkers, and more. Book your session today.

Written By: Cassie Hager
MACP Candidate
9
Nov

What “Seeing Red” Can Teach Us About Ourselves

In our current cultural climate, anger, and especially rage, is considered unacceptable, unwanted, and dangerous. With this rigid categorization, there isn’t a lot of room for us to soften and connect to our emotionality, let alone learn from it. However, as a therapist who believes in the healing power and wisdom of emotions, I hold the perspective that all emotions are valuable; they teach us about our history, our environment, and provide us with the necessary information to heal, integrate our past, and move forward as more connected and authentic versions of ourselves.

It is important to create discernment between what emotion-focused therapy (EFT) calls maladaptive and adaptive emotions. In terms of anger, a maladaptive response might look like violence, extreme self-criticism, and hate. Conversely, adaptive anger might look like assertiveness, awareness of personal boundaries, and protection. Maladaptive anger is usually in response to trauma, such that the adaptive process was interrupted and we were unable to articulate or complete our emotional reaction to a situation in a safe environment. Both of these reactions are teachers, and overtime, the goal of emotion-focused work is to understand why these emotions arise, label them, accept them, tolerate them, and learn to regulate them.

During emotional upheaval, it can be incredibly challenging to step into curiosity instead of avoiding or supressing. This phase is often the topic of many therapy sessions, and if you struggle to feel or even name emotions, you are not alone.

So how do we make sense of this? The therapeutic space can be a beautiful container to explore our emotions, however what happens outside of therapy is equally important. And anger, in all of its forms can act like a guidepost. So, the next time you start seeing red, tune in, and if it feels right, consider the following steps:

First, acknowledge anger’s existence. This creates a dialogue and the process of building relationship with our emotions. Secondly, recognize whether the anger is directed outwards or inwards: are we other blaming or self-blaming? Thirdly, and I like to offer, with one hand on heart, ask anger what it needs. When we hear the core need of the emotion, such as a boundary violation, injustice, or a perceived failure, we can begin to transmute anger to something more vulnerable. Because more often than not, anger is protecting us from a deeper type of pain like sadness, shame or fear. Once the need has been located, we are now in the unique and wonderful position to meet that need. And learning how to meet our own needs is perhaps one of the most beautiful gifts of personal growth. Indeed, as we learn how to compassionately attune to our emotions and honor their needs, we might notice we no longer fear them, or feel the need to repress them. And perhaps, we might even learn to welcome the wisdom and insights they provide for us.

If you are struggling to understand anger, or if you are hoping to learn from and gain more insight into your emotions, the team at Okanagan Clinical Counselling Services is here to support you.

Written By: Zara Neukom, MACP Candidate

25
Oct

Empty Nest

Though not an actual diagnosis, Empty Nest Syndrome is a term many of us are familiar with. This is the situation that we face when our children move out or leave the “nest.” It is often a time filled with excitement, anxiety, worries, and tears. We couldn’t be happier to see how our baby has grown into a confident young adult, and at the same time we can’t imagine not eating breakfast together or gathering their dirty socks from the floor. We cry because we are so proud, we cry because we feel so alone. It is hard to imagine how this kid who can’t put dishes in the sink is going to manage attending school and work, buying their own groceries, cooking nutritious meals, and remembering to put gas in the car. What is it that is changing in our lives when a child moves out and how do we effectively navigate our new role as the parent of an adult?

Loss of Identity and Purpose: When a child moves out, especially if it is the last child to move out, the parent’s identity changes. One of the first adjectives that comes to mind to describe yourself if likely mom or dad, and these words have many connotations associated with them such as, “the person who packs lunches,” “the person who hugs the children when they’re sad,” or, “the person who drives to 5 am hockey practices.” Parenting is probably the most important role of your life, and therefore a large part of your identity. It is perfectly normal to feel a sense of loss of your own identity in addition to the loss you feel from your child not being present. You might also think that your life has lost its purpose now that fewer, or no children, remain at home for you to care for.

Effective Coping Strategies:  There are ways to overcome the sadness and grief we feel over these losses. Remember that it’s ok if you need to cry sometimes, and it’s ok if you don’t end up missing your child that much at all. The following strategies can help you adjust.

Reinvest energy into other relationships in your life. Perhaps now you and your partner will experience an increase in intimacy. Or maybe you have friends you’d like to see more of. Spend extra time with any other children still living at home.

Find a hobby or activity that you would like to pursue now that you have more free time. Maybe now you can finally take that cooking class you’ve been dreaming of.

Redefine your role as a parent. You are still a parent, and your role is extremely meaningful; you’re just a parent to a child who no longer lives in your house. They will still love to have phone calls, text messages, visits, and care packages from home.  Talk to your child about what they need from you now that they are leaving home and work out new relationship expectations and boundaries that suit both of your needs.

Reinvent yourself. Never had the time to hit the gym, go back to school, or volunteer for a worthy cause? Now you have time to pursue whatever you desire and develop a new self-image, however that looks for you personally. Remember to eat well, exercise, ensure you are getting adequate sleep, and make time just to relax. Reach out to friends and family when you feel lonely and consider seeking professional help if you’re having a lot of difficulty or feeling depressed. There is no right amount of time that it takes to adapt to your new role, so go easy on yourself and try to enjoy your newfound freedoms.

Written by: Emily Zabel MACP Candidate
www.westkootenaywellness.com

14
Sep

Why Routines Are Good For Your Mental Health

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic daily and weekly routines have been disrupted. Many people have had big changes, whether that be the loss of a job, working from home, or dealing with kids in virtual school. Regular activities of going to work, social engagements, or working out at the gym have all been interrupted or altered.

Without the structure of a routine, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. You may find that tasks become unmanageable, or that you have no motivation. Routines can help you cope with stress, manage competing demands, and take time to care for yourself.

Here are some benefits of developing a routine:

1. Routines encourage good sleep

Having a bed-time routine and consistent sleep schedule promotes better quality sleep. Sleep is vital to your physical and psychological well-being. Developing a relaxing routine before bed helps your mind and body to relax. This can help you to fall and stay asleep easier. Try turning off your devices, having a warm bath, meditating, or drinking herbal tea before bed to help quiet your mind and relax your body.

2. Routines promote healthy habits

A routine makes including exercise and good nutrition easier. A common reason for not exercising or eating well is, “I don’t have the time”. By creating a routine, you can make time for these activities and plan for them in advance. Try having specific days for grocery shopping or workouts, and specific times for meal prep. This can help build these important habits into a busy schedule. Taking care of your physical needs is an important part of creating good mental health.

3. Routines help relieve anxiety

Routines give you direction. They help eliminate fears of the unexpected by allowing you to know what happens next. A consistent routine means you make less decisions during the day because there is a scheduled time for each activity. Try picking a specific day and time for dreaded tasks like laundry or a school assignment. With a set time for an activity, you can avoid worrying about it in advance. Instead of thinking, “I really need to get to that laundry” you can rest easy knowing it will be dealt with Sunday morning.

4. Routines help prevent burnout

Burnout is the result of accumulated stress and is commonly associated with work stress. A consistent schedule during the day helps with productivity. Including short breaks can minimize the stress experienced throughout the day. When your workplace is your living room it can be hard to leave work at work. Sticking to a consistent work schedule and ending work at the same time each day helps you protect your downtime. We all need time to decompress at the end of a stressful day. Try creating a routine to help you transition from work time to home time. Use a simple ritual such as closing your home office door, changing your clothes, or putting work tasks out of sight, to signal the end of the workday.

Here are some tips on how to start building a routine.

  • Think small. Simple things like brushing your teeth, making your bed, or turning off your work phone, can have a big impact.
  • Try to do daily things at the same time each day.
  • Write it down. Print or write out a chart of the days of the week. Use this to write in the tasks you need to accomplish throughout the week, and when you plan to tackle them.
  • Use reminders. An alarm is often used to wake up, but you can also use an alarm as a reminder to go to the gym, or to go to bed.
  • Plan ahead. Choosing your outfit the night before helps make the morning easier. Write a grocery list before you go shopping. Book your gym session in advance.
  • Adjust as needed. If you’re finding that your new routine isn’t working for you, don’t be afraid to make changes until it feels right.
  • Congratulate yourself when you stick to your routine. It can be hard to make the shift to a structured schedule, make sure to celebrate your successes!

Whether you’re returning to routine because of kids returning to school, or whether you’ve decided it’s time to wear more than pajamas while working from home, there are many benefits to developing and sticking to a routine.

Written By: Cassie Hager MACP Counsellor