With Halloween approaching, many of us are preparing by decorating our house, buying goodies for the neighbourhood kids, choosing costumes for our children, and carving pumpkins. However, holidays can be an emotionally stressful time for many of us. Holidays have the tendency to evoke our needs for inclusivity. We want to be a part of our community and a part of a local celebration. Often, we just want to find a way to feel like celebrating, but that celebration can be complicated by financial, relationship, familial, or domestic stress. Sometimes we might find ourselves having a hard time reconciling what we ARE feeling with what we SHOULD BE feeling.
For many people, these times are a source of stress and anxiety. Some may not have children but have tried for a long time to have them. In this instance, seeing children trick or treating can evoke feelings of longing and loss. Some people may be going through a divorce and are facing their first Halloween without their kids. Whatever the situation, I want to encourage the idea that we can create our own happiness.
What if we consider it to be a truth that ALL HAPPINESS IS SHAPED BY OUR PERSPECTIVE.
Much of what makes us happy is not actually about how life affects us, it is how we perceive our life in the context of the lives of others. Knowing this, we can shift our expectation of happiness towards the concept that we can create our happiness by doing two things: Helping others achieve happiness and being happy for others when they achieve that happiness.
We all have the power to see the joy in others. At that moment we have the choice to interpret that joy in terms of a comparison to our own happiness or interpret that joy through the eyes of the other person.
I am not trying to minimize the isolation and loss that is sometimes inherent with holiday celebrations, but I am challenging you to consider that you can choose your own outcome with a few simple steps. If we consider the statement “Happiness is wanting what you have”, we then accept that we have everything we need to be happy, we just need to believe it is enough.
This month, challenge yourself to:
As Halloween approaches, look forward to seeing the untainted joy in a child’s face as they knock on your door, truly believing in the magic of Halloween. That magic is contagious if we are willing and open to accepting that our perspective determines our ability to see that magic.
Written by Lisa Ann Butcher, Graduate Student Counsellor
With divorce rates in Canada steadily increasing year-after-year, it’s time to consider how we look at separation and divorce, and how our children perceive it. Separation and divorce are often very ugly, leaving hurt exes rearing their angry heads suiting up for great big legal battles that they have no idea yet, may financially destroy them… yes, both of them.
Divorce is such an ugly word. Like many other societal issues, divorce carries with it a certain stigma. As separation and divorce become more common, the stigma is slowly becoming less apparent (or maybe even “more gentle” if-you-will). That doesn’t mean that it becomes any easier, especially for the children involved.
All too often I hear one parent or another use very colourful words to describe exes, they use tones of voice that just scream anger, and hurt, and resentment. Kids pick up on that. Even if you think that you’re “just saying it to a friend; the kids aren’t listening”—SPOILER ALERT—kids are ALWAYS listening!!
What would it be like to be gentle with ourselves? What would it be like to put hurt feelings aside (I realize that this may require professional help)? What would it be like to be slightly more gentle and more compassionate to your ex-significant-other (only to the extent that you have to change your language… but not your position on the other crappy things he/she (ex) has done)?
By no means am I trying to minimize the excruciating emotional pain that often comes with divorce but merely suggesting a change in our family language hopefully leading to a change in perception about the situation, for the better. How do you think your kids would feel about being at school (say a parent-teacher interview) hearing their parent say… “I’m just waiting for theiiiiir dad <insert eye roll>.” Now imagine your child hearing “I’m just waiting for my ‘parenting partner’?
Terms such as: ex, deadbeat dad (or mom), yourrrrr father, <insert other nicknames here> carry such a negative connotation that the conversational tone has really already been set before the actual communication (or lack thereof) begins!! I’m not saying we all need to be happy and bubbly and have pet names for our dreadful exes. I’m merely suggesting that once separated, we refer to them with a neutral term such as ‘parenting partner’. By doing this, we not only set up a relatively neutral relationship as an example for our children, but we (our kids too) can see divorce and separation as something that happens as a family for the betterment of the family. The other good thing… when you meet someone new, the terminology doesn’t have to change—your ‘parenting partner’ will always be your ‘parenting partner’ no matter how blended families can possibly get. ‘Parenting partner’ suggests that both parents will continue to be involved—possibly one of the most important things for a child experiencing family break down… a sense of stability and consistency. Partnership also sounds long-term possibly suggesting to children that even though their parents are apart, they are BOTH in it with the kids long-term.
If your child is struggling with separation or divorce, I encourage you to try changing your language surrounding the situation. Remember you’re the role model; you’re the adult; you get to set the tone for different conversations. Divorce and separation will never be easy, but maybe we can make it just a little less disruptive to our children by simply changing our language.
I encourage you to really pay attention to the words you’re using, the picture you’re painting, and the impact it’s having on your children.
For these, and other supportive parenting tips, feel free to contact one of our family counsellors with a parenting focus for a free consultation.
This post was written by:
Chrystelle Crockford, BSc, MA (Couns Psyc) Candidate
As families move through the back-to-school transition, so many aspects can cause stress and anxiety for both parents and children alike. Parents worry about who their child’s teacher will be, class sizes, where their child will fit in the academic hierarchy of their grade. Children will worry about change—pure and simple—leaving their parents yet again, for a new teacher, a new group of classmates, new material and just…trying to fit in…in general. Most of these things are things that we cannot control. Let’s focus for a minute on what we CAN control…
As a graduate student counsellor and a mother, I hear it time and time again, the overwhelm, the “I thought I was prepared…”, and frankly, the extreme and utter chaos that can ensue in the early days of back-to-school. It happens. Stuff happens, and you are not alone!
The difference between school being out for the summer and school returning to session is the loosening and re-tightening of routine. While it is easier to loosen the reins for summer fun, research suggests that children need (and respond best) to structure and routine. This is important in many aspects of development: from behavior and emotional regulation, to sleep, nutrition, and so much more.
According to research “naturally occurring family routines/[parent–child interactions] provide both a predictable structure that guides behaviour and an emotional [regulation] that supports early development” (Chen, 2017; Spagnola & Fiese, 2007).
Further, when preparing to go back to school “a consistent bedtime routine was [found to have] better sleep outcomes, including earlier bedtimes, shorter sleep onset latency, reduced night wakings, and increased sleep duration. Decreased parent-perceived sleep problems and daytime behaviour problems were also related to institution of a regular bedtime routine” (Buxton et al., 2015; Mindell, et al., 2015, p. 717). In order to re-establish regular sleep patterns, it is advisable to start a full-week to two-weeks before school is back in session (depending on the child.) In fact, some parents maintain their children’s sleep schedule right through summer break. It is important to recognize that each child and family dynamic is different and that there is no be-all, end-all “rules” for what is best for your family.
That said, if you are simply “surviving” the first few weeks of school being back in session and you are still experiencing feeling of overwhelm, your household is in constant chaos, and your are flailing to keep your head above water, help and support are readily available. Okanagan Clinical Counselling Services deals with a wide array of clientele and we can help you handpick the appropriate professional to help you tackle your concerns.
This post was written by OCCS’s Student Counsellor:
As Mother’s Day comes upon us, just weeks away, we are bombarded by reminders of another annual, secular holiday. We rush to pop a card in the mail or send beautiful bouquets of flowers to our mothers to show our appreciation of all that they have done (and given up) for us from birth until the current moment. For it is far easier to get caught up in the materialistic hype than to put life on pause and show up, I mean really SHOW UP. In this fast-paced society, we leave little room for the opportunity to be in the moment; to be fully and completely present, and truly and entirely grateful, to the one person who was given the extraordinary ability to grow human beings, to grow us—our mothers.
While in that state of obligation to praise the people that gave us life, we too often forget what that really means, and as mothers, we too often, take our healthy children for granted. In the busyness of trying to make sure we show our affections, we can often lose sight of the fact that this isn’t a happy holiday for all. While in the past many women have suffered in silence, lately we hear and see their voices getting stronger. They assert themselves in so many creative ways. They are the mothers that deserve a hug, a visit and a glass of wine, a badge of honour as well, but never get formally recognized. These are the mothers who have struggled in one way or another. These are the women who have spent months on end trying to conceive; the mothers who have spent thousands of dollars to travel far-and-wide for in-vitro fertilization; these are the mothers who were pro-life, but could not give their child the life they deserve and therefore opted for adoption; these are the mothers who have lived through miscarriages and stillbirths and even those who have lost their young to birth “complications”. I encourage you to not forget these strong, beautiful women this Mother’s Day for it is not only the women with healthy children of all ages that deserve recognition but so do those who have fought the fight to give life; they, are every bit a “mother” as those who have naturally been blessed with the task and ability to do so without challenge.
In a society where time is not on our side, the tasks are never-ending, and we move almost mechanistically through each day as we did the one before, I encourage you to think of what your mother truly means to you, to spend the time ever-present, in a state of gratitude, and further to voice your love and thanks. I also invite you to reach out to those friends and family who have stayed silent through their personal battles: fought infertility, who have let their morals lead their heart (and choice), who have lost a child at any age (conception and onwards) and just let them know that they too are loved, and appreciated, and absolutely, unequivocally, 100% worthy of celebrating Mother’s Day for they are truly, sincerely, and honourably mothers at heart…
No matter how you’ve experienced motherhood, your mental wellness can be affected. Plenty of new mothers deal with things such as post-partum depression, hormone imbalance, body image issues, lack of sleep which can affect your daily functioning, and more. Those who have lost babies often experience feelings of unmanageable grief, sadness, or even a skewed sense of curiosity: what did I do wrong? what’s wrong with my body? Depending on each unique situation, both individual counselling and group counselling can help mothers through their trying times. Often when we are not mentally well it is hard to take the first step to reach out to someone for help, but I assure you the benefits of reaching out far outweigh any perceived risks. It’s important to know that you’re not alone, you’re not “going crazy” and that there are many others out there that share similar experiences. Getting help or even just support is critical to your well-being. Once you reach out, you are one day closer to achieving mental wellness through support; learning techniques to work with anxiety, depression, or grief; and getting back to your optimal health.
Happy Mother’s Day to every single Momma (by traditional definition) and every single Momma (by the 21st-century definition)! Wishing you all light, love, and a truly happy day of celebration no matter how you decide to spend it.
This post was written by OCCS’s Student Counsellor:
Have you and your partner ever experienced an event, or a period of time, that causes loss of trust, resentment and aggression? Even something so subtle you didn’t notice the buildup of negative emotions towards each other until one day you realize you have been fighting about everything lately. Perhaps it is just one partner who feels this way, and the other is left constantly wondering why they cannot do anything right, why there is so much tension or conflict seemingly out of nowhere, or perhaps even starting to feel suspicion towards their partner. Relationships are difficult; there is no way around that. Once the new relationship energy wears off, it is hard work maintaining a life with someone who does not share all of the same values, opinions and sometimes schedule as us. When trust is lost, and the cause of that loss of trust is not repaired in the short term, it can start to build and eventually you may feel as though you are staring back at all the moments trust slipped right past you and you’re facing what seems like an impossible, and sometimes unbearable, task of beginning to repair the relationship. Individual and couples/family counselling can assist with immediate concerns or long-standing sources of conflict (sometimes known as hot-button topics) in a safe, neutral environment.
Short-Term Trust Repairing – Holding Space
Holding space is a term used to describe allowing another the time and physical, emotional and cognitive space to allow hurt feelings exist. Shutting down negative emotions or anxiety in the moments can actually, at times, hinder the process as the other is not given their time to sort and heal in their own way. Sometimes things cannot be “fixed” in the moment, and sometimes people are not ready to talk or work through it. This does not inherently mean it will never be resolved. Another way to hold space for someone is when a conflict is getting particularly heated and there is no effective communication happening. Sometimes walking away and taking a break is the best thing people can do during a conflict. Self-soothing, alone, and holding space for when your partner is ready to return can be extremely helpful in moving a conversation along effectively. Give your partner space to feel hurt, feel betrayed, feel resentful, but always make sure that, together, you are coming back to discuss and move forward with it. Holding space is a technique specifically designed for the person receiving it, so holding space without expectation for self is key.
Long-Term Trust Repairing – Intentionally Doing the Work
If trust is a long-standing issue and holding space does not work, there are many other options to go about repairing lost or broken trust. To start at the beginning and determine if both/all parties involved want to repair the relationship is an effective place to start. If one person is always trying to save the relationship and the other person has little interest in helping in that process, it is not going to work. Both/all individuals involved in the relationship conflict need to be open to talking, solving, and eventually moving past the issue or issues that resulted in the loss of trust. This is not usually easy to do, is a process that requires effort and mindful approaches, and will take a lot of time, energy and commitment, but it can be done. Knowing the source of the conflict is also paramount, and it may be a surprise to somewhat might actually be causing the problems to begin with. With counselling, healthy communication and striving towards a healthy relationship can be achieved.
This post was written by OCCS’s Clinical Counsellor:
“I can’t talk about it, but I can draw how it feels inside. Once I see the image on the page, the weight seems much less and I usually end up knowing what I can do about it.”
~ Adult client grieving the loss of her mother
“It hurts too much! The puppets help me say what’s going on so I can feel better.”
~ 6-year old expressing how he feels about his parents’ divorce
“Talking only makes me angrier. That’s why I like writing a story and seeing where it takes me…it’s always so surprising to me how the characters figure out how to help themselves! This helps me remember that I have what it takes to stand up for myself…”
~ Teenager experiencing bullying and anxiety
“Getting outside of my comfort zone by doing something spontaneous in session has helped expand my thinking and increased my confidence. I would never have thought it would have worked for me, but it’s what I’ve been missing in my treatment.”
~ Adult client with depression
“I noticed that each week he was getting out more and more of his pent-up frustration. He was able to focus more on tasks and think clearer. His “toolbox” he created gave him the physical reminder to use the lessons from the session at home and school before ever having a meltdown.”
~ Parent of an 8-year-old with ADHD
These are the types of testimonials I have heard and witnessed throughout my education and experience with the expressive arts as a therapeutic intervention. As the new child, youth and family counsellor on the Okanagan Clinical Counselling Services (OCCS) team, I am going to describe the core benefits of Expressive Arts Therapy, as it is often a misunderstood form of support.
Expressive Arts Therapy involves the use of various creative measures in order to bring about empowerment, healing, and change. It is all about releasing emotions in a safe, supportive, and creative environment.
What Expressive Arts Therapy is NOT:
What Expressive Arts Therapy IS:
In our creativity lies passion and hope, which motivate and inspire us to change what is not helping us, to move through pain, to gain strides that will help us achieve our greatest potential. As Daria Halprin expressed (2003), the creative process opens and reflects back to us images of who we have been, who we are, and who we might become. Indeed, the passion and creativity of the arts allow us to live with our suffering and find release through creative play.
So next time you are feeling like you could use a bolster of confidence, get out of your comfort zone, or express what is going on in your life in a creative way, I encourage you to consider how the expressive arts may assist you and your loved ones in a personal journey of wellness and fulfillment.
This post was written by OCCS’s Clinical Counsellor:
At our last OCCS counselling team meeting, one of the counsellors was visibly excited to talk about the successes a client of hers had experienced. We were all excited by the news and acknowledged that we needed to do more of this – share more of the positive outcomes we experience in our various counselling sessions.
That got me thinking about the power of the positive, especially related to counselling and what is known as ‘positive psychology’. How did this branch of psychology develop, by whom and how can it benefit our lives?
Although the term ‘positive psychology’ was thought to be first used in 1954 by Abraham Maslow (in his book Motivation and Personality), it was when Martin Seligman used it in 1998 as the theme for his presidential term with the American Psychological Association that the term gained more support. At that time, two other co-founders and Seligman attributed the development of positive psychology to their concern that psychology was focusing more on the negative – mental illness – and not giving enough emphasis on the inner strengths, virtues and positive elements of humanity.
Highlights of the development of positive psychology from the 50’s to the 90’s include support from the fathers of the humanistic movement (Maslow, Rogers, Fromm) and a study of ‘flow’ – the ability to ‘loose oneself’ in the moment when engaged in activities that ignite one’s passion, focus and energy. The benefits of flow include the experience of ‘good stress’ when one’s abilities are well matched to the challenge at hand. Flow increases self-confidence, excitement and well-being.
More recently, Seligman’s book Flourish (2011) explained the five parts of his theory of well-being with the acronym PERMA, that is Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning (purpose) and Accomplishments.
You – and I – will have greater well-being (think happiness, contentment, a more meaningful life) if we:
Research indicates that the effects of Positive Psychology Interventions (PPI) – such as developing a gratitude letter, developing more optimistic thinking, replaying positive life experiences and socializing with others – last from 3-5 months after the intervention and in some cases, well beyond.
The writer acknowledges Wikipedia (Positive Psychology) as the major source.
This blog post was written by OCCS’s Clinical Counsellor:
Grieving is a unique journey for every individual who experiences it. There is not a “normal” amount of time to “get over” any loss, especially one as significant as a parent or child. Normal or typical grieving often has multiple symptoms (please note this is not an exclusive list):
Physiologically/in the body, many (or some) folks experience:
• Heart ache, general aches and pains, extreme fatigue, choked sensations, and sometimes even feeling like they are outside of their own bodies–kind of disconnected;
Psychologically/in the mind, many (or some) folks experience:
• Memory loss, or decreased ability to focus and concentrate, mood swings, or sometimes complete emotional numbness (not feeling anything), racing thoughts, decreased or absent motivation;
Emotionally, many (or some) folks experience:
• Sadness, anger, loneliness, at moments or time periods feeling “fine” (like everything feels normal/typical as they did prior to the loss); confusion (how could this happen?), acceptance, peace, relief, calm;
Spiritually, many (or some) folks experience:
• Questioning their religion/spirituality/God;
Many individuals experience heightened grief as they are reminded on holidays, anniversary, and other significant dates. Folks also are often reminded by the one who has died by scents (their favorite flower or perfume for example), sounds (music), objects (clothes, sentimental items), and so on. You cannot always anticipate when these reminders will happen, or how you will react/respond to them. There are individuals who have felt “fine” for several years, and one day something reminded them of their loved one who had passed and significant grief overcame them. This is completely okay and normal*.
Expressions of grief differ from individual to individual and this is absolutely okay. For some individuals, they find healing in talking about the person who has died, either with loved ones, a support group, a religious leader, and/or a counsellor. They may also be more comfortable with crying, expressing how they feel, etc. These individuals likely will not find increased support and healing if you force them to “deal with it alone” or ask them to “stop expressing your emotions (crying, anger, etc.)”. Other individuals find healing in processing the death alone or quietly. They may not appear to be feeling anything and/or have a lack of emotions, but very rarely is this case. These individuals likely will not find increased support and healing if you force them to “talk about it” with others and groups. Please note, sometimes talking to an important and trusted person can be very supportive for individuals who typically grieve alone and quietly.
It’s also important to consider cultural factors when folks are grieving. Depending on your culture, expressions and practices around grief may differ.
I personally don’t believe you “get over” a loss of a loved one. I do believe that typically over time, the pain becomes less acute when you are able to accept the loss, find personal coping skills, support, and healing that works for you. Eventually, there will be more “good” days.
I encourage you to not label the pain of loss as “bad”. Pain is your reminder that who you lost has meaning and significance in your life. Be gentle with yourself and your process.
*If you are finding that you are having difficulty in your daily life due to loss seek professional help from a mental health provider.
This blog post was written by OCCS’s Clinical Counsellor:
At any age, and especially as we grow older, we face many challenges in our lives that can bring stress upon our minds and bodies. Whether you are facing the loss of a spouse for the first time or have just moved to a new home, confronting changes after being comfortable with certain routines can lead to a sense of unsettled angst.
Knowing the signs of stress therefore becomes increasingly important to maintaining our health as senior citizens. In the long term, stress can lead to very serious medical issues like cancer, a weakened immune system, or heart disease. Thus, it is key to recognize the short-term effects of stress that you may be experiencing, such as:
· High blood pressure
· High blood sugar
· Headaches or migraines
· Hair loss
· Skin issues, such as acne, dryness, or rashes
· Amplified asthmatic symptoms
· Sleeplessness or fatigue
· Digestive problems
By recognizing the physical effects of stress as early as they begin, you can change your ways and put your best foot forward in promoting a harmonious mind, body, and spirit in your golden years.
Written by: Sally Writes
1. Quit playing the comparison game
Playing the comparison game takes a serious toll on your self-esteem. In such a visual world, it can be tricky to drown out the feeling of “keeping up with the Jones’.” But once you stop caring about at what others have, how far ahead they are and what they look like- you’ll start to love your story for what it is… uniquely yours!
2. Give yourself permission to feel your worth
Often we try not to be conceded and are downgrading our potential and worthiness as a false attempt at humbleness. But knowing your worth does not mean that you think you are better than anyone else, it means you respect for self and what you have to offer the world. By giving yourself permission to feel just how wonderful you are, you might just see a dramatic shift in your self esteem over the next little while.
3. Create a healthy environment
Toxicity is a huge contributor to low self-esteem and feeling worthless. Rid those poisonous people and circumstances out of your life that do not serve you in a positive way. When you surround yourself with a positive environment, constructive to who you are, you will be able to grow stronger and healthier in both body and mind. Remember, no one is capable of growing a plant when it’s left in the dark.
4. Know it’s ok to not be ok
We have this preconceived notion that we for some reason always have to be “on”. We are told to be smiling and happy; thinking that life is a bowl of cherries. But truth is- it’s okay to not be okay. Sometimes the best thing is to just accept our circumstances for what they are and learn to love the way things can be at our worst, before we can appreciate them at our best.
These tips are not only about bolstering self-esteem, but how to be vulnerable. It takes time, courage and practice to become vulnerable and allow ourselves to feel what we’re feeling- but it makes all the difference. In fact, the well-respected Dr. Brené Brown (research and NY Times Bestseller) has dedicated thirteen years of her life studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. She has many books just for you that are devoted to helping you over come those hopeless times and turn them into something magnificent. If you’d like a good read when you need encouragement, please check out her New York Times Bestsellers: Rising Strong, Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection. Stay tuned as our clinic intends to focus on these elements in the coming months.
If you are interested in learning more about self-esteem, worthiness, and vulnerability, please do not hesitate to contact us. Okanagan Clinical Counselling Serves has 3 locations in downtown Kelowna, West Kelowna, and Penticton to best serve you. Our counsellors specialize in numerous mental health, relationship, and life concerns. Online counselling, evening and weekend appointments, and a sliding fee scale is available.