Author Archives: Beth Moore

About Beth Moore

Beth Moore is a psychotherapist with a Masters of Education in Counselling Psychology from the University of Toronto and is a Canadian Certified Counsellor. She believes firmly in a trusting and warm therapeutic relationship as a basis for therapy and works from a place of empathy, compassion and genuine caring. Beth uses cognitive-behavioural therapy, compassion-focused therapy, humanistic therapy. She specializes in a diverse range of concerns including anxiety, depression, self-esteem, self- criticism, stress management, relationship issues, and family concerns, among others. For more information, visit www.bethmooretherapy.com.

5 Common Myths About Emotions

FeelingsThere are some colloquial ideas out there about emotions and mental health that we tend to carry with us. I pick up on them all the time in therapy with clients.  Try to recognize if you believe any of these…

1. Sadness and depression are the same thing:

Nope! Sadness and depression are different. We tend to use “depressed” these days as a word for “feeling really down because something bad happened.” However, there is an important difference between difficult life circumstances that result in sadness, and depression. Clinical criteria for depression includes various changes in behaviour and functioning, and consistent depressed mood all day, everyday, for an extended period of time. Sadness about aspects of life is healthy, normal, tends to come and go, and is often alleviated by crying or talking about it. This can be an important distinction for people who have been depressed before, as after a clinical depression, any sense of sadness can feel like a warning sign for depression.

2. If I let myself feel something, I’ll feel that way forever:

Nope! Your emotions will not last last forever. Emotions are varied and they also have a time limit. Even though it might feel like you’ll experience sadness, worry, uncertainty, despair (or any other unpleasant emotion that exists) I promise it will abate, or at least lessen in intensity over time. Identifying your feeling, talking about it with others, engaging in self-care and other coping activities can help to speed up this process.

3. I must. Be. Positive. All. The. Time.

Nope! You do not have to think positive and project positivity all the time. There seems to be a trend in distinguishing “negative” and “positive” people and emotions. Let’s clarify something: being “negative” is not the same as sharing and being vulnerable about harder (notice I didn’t say negative!) emotions. I hear a lot about “being negative and “negative people” in the self-help and social media world and I think those get equated (incorrectly) with people simply expressing feelings that are not considered “positive”.  Contrary to popular opinion, sharing vulnerabilities and finding validation and support about the tougher side of life brings people together – not apart. And it’s not negative!

4. I have ultimate control over my mind and emotions and should be able to fix things myself:

Nope! I think the way we blame people for mental illness has a lot to do with the perceived sense of control we have over our brains. But brains, just like bodies, need help to get better. When our bodies are injured or unwell, we consult a team of healthcare specialists to help bring us back to health. Similarly, in our efforts to improve our mental health, we shouldn’t expect our brains to be able to go at it alone.

5. Anger is a bad emotion and I shouldn’t ever feel it.

Nope! You are allowed to feel and express your anger. The problem with anger is when we express it in ways and behaviours that harm others (I.e. physically, or in emotionally/psychologically abusive ways), not the emotion itself. Naming when you’re angry, and taking time to allow yourself to feel angry and have it pass is healthy. Anger even has a productive side and can be a useful emotion to facilitate change, establish boundaries, and learn about yourself.

This is undoubtedly only a partial list of the myths surrounding mental health and emotions that are out there. Keep an ear out and tune in to your own beliefs to uncover more!

 By: Beth Moore

Beth Moore Counselling & Psychotherapy

Panic Attacks 101: How To Cope

sun-set-maldivesPanic attacks are tremendously exhausting and frightening experiences. Some people experience these rarely, while others may experience frequent and persistent panic attacks. Whatever your situation, here are some keys to working through panic both during an attack and before another one occurs.

 

1. Know what’s happening in your body when you panic. Get familiar with your physiological markers and symptoms for panic and know what happens for you. For example, some people might hyperventilate and feel tightness in their chest while others might feel nauseous and experience tunnel vision.

2. Remind yourself that your symptoms are not dangerous (read my other blog post here for more information). Once you know what it feels like in your body when you panic, you can remind yourself that you are having a panic attack and the symptoms you are experiencing are uncomfortable, but not threatening.

3. Identify your triggers for panic. Here is where a therapist can really help you to slow down the process and figure out what started the path to panic. When they happen again, you can take a step back and notice it.

4. Take steps to refocus your attention. If you’re feeling like you’re about to panic, or you’re in the midst of a panic attack, engage in activities that are soothing and that refocus your attention away from your body. Some examples: sing your favourite song, have a cold glass of water, start naming things you see and hear around you.

5. Use self-talk to help cope and calm down. A coping phrase might be: “This is just my body feeling anxious”, or  “I can get through this”. A therapist can help you make coping phrases specific to your panic and in your own words. Repeating your coping phrase is going to help intercept some of the cognitive triggers that lead to panic like “my heart is beating so fast I think I’m going to have a heart attack”. Once your coping phrase has helped to stop the other cognitive triggers, the anxiety cycle will begin to slow down.

You will notice that relaxation (such as deep breathing) is not included in this list. The reason behind this is that panic often stems from too much focus on your body and feared thoughts related to the sensations in your body. In other words, panic can occur when we panic about panicking. For example, if you try to do deep breathing during a panic attack, chances are this is what will happen in your head: “Okay I’m going to breathe slow and steady … My breathing isn’t slowing, I can’t get control of my breathing, what if I hyperventilate?” Notice how the thoughts became more anxious, which will perpetuate panic. In light of this, the best antidote to panic is learning not to fear it through greater understanding and self-talk. If you struggle with panic, try these strategies out and find a therapist who can help you further.

By: Beth Moore

Beth Moore Counselling & Psychotherapy

Panic Attacks 101: Understanding Your Anxiety

purple_water_drop_4_by_shayne_gray-d33c9pfAnyone who has had a panic attack never wants to experience it again. The physical symptoms can be extremely frightening, and people often report fearing that they are dying or having a heart attack during panic. Symptoms of panic or anxiety attacks can include: heart palpitations, chest pain, sweating, nausea, dizziness, light-headedness, hyperventilation, difficulty moving, derealisation, and tunnel vision, among others. Additionally, almost everyone who has had a panic attack feels that it came on suddenly and without warning. If you experience panic attacks or have in the past here are some key things to remember about them:

  • Panic attacks are not dangerous or life threatening. It is important to first identify with a doctor that what you experienced was a panic attack and not a different medical condition. However, once identified, panic attacks are harmless, though extremely unpleasant and distressing.
  • A panic attack is an intense reaction from your sympathetic nervous system; in other words, your body is in extreme fight or flight mode. Essentially, it is the highest level of anxiety you and your body can experience.
  • A panic attack will not, and cannot, last forever. Once you are experiencing that level of anxiety, your body can only maintain it on average, for about 20 minutes. Know that whatever awful symptoms you’re experiencing at the time, they will end.

Panic happens when we focus on, and misinterpret our physiological symptoms of anxiety as dangerous. Additionally, when we focus on a physiological response (swallowing, heart beat, blinking), it deregulates. This means when I turn my attention to my heartbeat for some amount of time, eventually my heart rate will quicken merely from my attention on it. This misinterpretation and focus is often what pushes anxiety from high to panic.

Knowing this information about panic is a great first step. Stay tuned for another blog post about panic to help you cope.

By: Beth Moore

Beth Moore Counselling & Psychotherapy

Overcoming Insomnia And Night Time Worrying

full-moon-purple-sky-223404Most of us go through times in life when sleep eludes us. Often times we sleep less during times of stress and many of us have chronic sleep difficulties that
may be due to past trauma, anxiety, depression or other concerns. Regardless of what the cause of your insomnia is, I often hear people report the same things:

 

  •  I just can’t turn my mind off
  • I keep thinking and thinking about job/family/friends/the past
  • At night time I just worry about everything
  • I start feeling anxious once I lie down to sleep

Although researchers are still trying to figure out exactly why we need sleep, it is
clear that deep sleep is one of our basic needs. If our sleep needs aren’t met, it
affects all aspects of our life and health. Here are a few tips to quiet your mind
and help you get a good night’s rest:

1. Try not to use technology in bed

I know this one won’t be popular since many people use phones/iPads/television
to distract themselves, avoid worry, and induce sleep. Unfortunately, our brains
begin to associate bed with activities other than sleep unless we’re only using it
for sleep and sex! Research has also shown that technology that emits blue light
(like your phone and iPad) tend to suppress melatonin and increase alertness.

2. Get out of bed if you aren’t able to sleep

This is also one that people tend not to like! However, if you’ve tried for about
half an hour to go to sleep to no avail, get out of bed. When you get out of bed
don’t do anything stimulating (i.e. no TV!). Instead, read a boring book under low
light, drink warm milk or sleepy non-caffeinated tea, or anything else relaxing that
will encourage sleep rather than wakefulness.

3. Make yourself a bedtime routine

Many parents do this for children to make bedtime predictable, and train their
children to wind down and get ready for sleep. Just because you’re an adult
doesn’t mean you don’t need this! Try each night to have a “wind down” routine
that works for you. For example: drink your sleepy time tea, check your phone
for the last time and set your your alarm, brush your teeth and wash your face,
listen to some of your favourite mellow music, and get into bed.

4. Use a mindfulness or calming technique

My favourite exercise to introduce to people with sleep difficulties is “5-4-3-2-1”.
Once you’re in bed and trying to sleep, this is a good exercise to interrupt your
thoughts or worries. Start by naming in your head:

5 things you hear (dog barking, wind in the trees, house creaking)

5 things that you see (my closet, the window in my room, my chair)

5 things that you feel (the blanket on my leg, my heart beating)

Once you’ve finished naming five things (you can repeat items as many times as
you need), start all over again and name four things. Continue until you’re down
to naming one of each item. Once you’ve finished the exercise, start right back
at the beginning if you aren’t sleepy. Take your time with this exercise. Say the
items slowly and calmly in your head, and pause between each item. Let your
eyelids get heavy while you’re looking around your room for items to name.

5. Listen to a relaxation tape

This can be a part of your bedtime routine to help lull you to sleep, or use it once
you’ve tried to sleep for half an hour. If a guided relaxation tape isn’t for you,
YouTube has a variety of calming nature sounds, or Tibetan bells that you might
prefer. YouTube for relaxation tapes is the one form of technology you’re
allowed!

Therapy is a great place to figure out a sleep routine that works for you. In
therapy, we can craft personalized relaxation tapes, learn more relaxation
techniques, and explore underlying causes of insomnia.

By: Beth Moore

Beth Moore Counselling & Psychotherapy

 

Are You A Self-Critic?

ed446e42bdd3a9a2c904c7b8c0239b09Self-criticism is a nasty habit many of us have. When something in our work, school, or personal life goes wrong, many of us jump to self-criticism as a coping strategy. You might not even be aware that you’re doing it! To keep our self-critical voice going strong, we tend to have “positive beliefs” about self-criticism and why we need it. For example, you might believe that being hard on yourself is motivating. The truth is that self-criticism is not motivating or beneficial. It is however, good at lowering our self-esteem, and bringing up other negative emotions. If you identify as a self-critic and want to start changing your self-critical voice, here are some steps you can take:

 1. Learn What Your Critic Sounds Like

Pay attention to what your internal voice says next time you make a mistake, or something upsetting happens. Some people’s internal self-critic says “I’m so stupid, I can never get things right”. Other people have a case of the “shoulds”: “I should have known better, I should have picked up on that.” Identifying and becoming aware of your self-critical narrative is the first step to changing it.

 2. Notice What Triggers Your Critic

Some people will have a self-critical response for many situations, while other people are triggered particularly by one aspect of life. Which situations awaken your self-critical voice?

 3. Identify Your Positive Beliefs

Do you believe self-criticism is motivating? Maybe you believe a self-critical voice keeps you modest. Perhaps your belief is that your self-critic keeps you in control. Whatever your positive belief is, identifying your belief is crucial before challenging and changing it. A therapist is a good tool for this step!

 4. Develop a Compassionate Voice

The antidote to a self-critical voice is a self-compassionate voice. Try to think of something you could say to yourself other than “I should have …” or “that was so stupid.” To help you brainstorm, imagine what you would say to a child, or to someone you really love. Your voice would probably change to one of comfort and warmth; it might become lower and more soothing. You might say things like “it’s okay, everyone makes a mistake sometimes” or “you couldn’t have predicted that, you did the best you could”.

 5. Practice & Patience

Have patience with yourself while you tackle self-criticism. There is an irony to changing self-criticism: you can become self-critical of your progress against your self-critic! Remember that you won’t be able to silence your self-critical voice overnight, and that’s okay! It takes a long time to notice and change patterns like self-criticism, but the journey and work is worth it for your self-worth and happiness. If you struggle with self-criticism, a therapist is a great resource for working through these steps and helping you to develop a compassionate voice.

 

By: Beth Moore, M.Ed, CCC.

Beth Moore Counselling & Psychotherapy

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