Category Archives: Holidays

How to Minimize the Stress Around Valentine’s Day with all the High Expectations


Valentine’s Day is one of those special occasions where we begin to think about ideas of how to make our partner have an unforgettable day long before Valentine’s Day has even approached. As a result of this, we often tend to overthink plans and gifts, which leads to a high amount of stress that could get in the way of our enjoyment of this very special day.

I will give you several perspectives on how to make Valentine’s Day a less stressful and more enjoyable experience.

1. Always, always be yourself. When we go out of our way to impress our partner, we often fall short because we are trying to be someone that we are not. It is helpful to keep in mind that your partner is yours, and they chose to be with you for who you are, so why try to change yourself? Some people might say that change is good, and I agree with that as long as you preserve and maintain the essence of who you are, even if you improve certain aspects of yourself.

2. Stick to what is relatively familiar. Based on your romantic relationship, you start to know what your partner likes and dislikes. Plan out a special dinner or a special outing based on what you and your partner like and enjoy. You can use previous successful outings as groundwork for creating a novel idea. Valentine’s Day is the day to step out of the box and try something new and unfamiliar, but it is important to stay grounded in reality and accept the fact that your plan might not turn out to be exactly the way you wanted it to. By having this thought in the back of your mind, you are likely to feel less stressed out if your plan doesn’t go exactly as planned.

3. Plan ahead of time. If you leave yourself to the last minute to plan your day and buy the gifts, then you might be putting yourself under more stress, and you might start second-guessing yourself about what you have arranged. However, if you plan ahead of time, and arrange things piece by piece, then you are likely to have more time to think about what you might be missing (whether it is gifts or any other thing that you might need to have a splendid Valentine’s Day). This will help minimize the stress.

4. Trust yourself, and know that you have given it your best. At the end of the day, Valentine’s Day is about the feelings that you show your partner, more than it is about the plans that you arrange for them and the gifts that you give them. It is helpful to bear in mind that you have done your absolute best to make this special day as memorable as possible.

By: Ghinwa El-Ariss

Ghinwa El-Ariss holds an Honors Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology and Environmental Studies from the University of Toronto. She will be pursuing her Master of Science degree in Psychology at Trent University starting September 2017. She is passionate about Psychology and the Environment. She hopes that her blog posts help you learn a bit about her and her take on certain things. Most importantly, she hopes that you enjoyed what you read!

 

How to Commit to Your New Year’s Resolutions


New Year’s Resolutions is a special tradition that has existed for years, dating back to the Romans and Babylonians who took this chance to renew themselves in preparation for a new cycle of life. In modern times, we still continue this ancient tradition by setting personally valuable goals at the start of each year. However, according to national polls and anecdotal opinions, at least half of people’s Resolutions fall apart fairly rapidly. So how do we ensure that we follow through with our New Year’s resolutions?

For starters, research shows that people who successfully attain their resolutions are those who believe they have the ability to follow through with their plans and achieve their goals. They genuinely desire and are prepared for the change to happen. Additionally, the beginning stages of the resolution play a vital role in its success. Research shows that strong willpower, self-rewarding, avoiding facilitators of failure, constant reminder of the goal, and sparing use of self-blame are especially crucial ingredients in starting your resolutions. Below are a few tips to help you stick to those resolutions and move from contemplation to action:

  1. Go after something you want, big or small. Resolutions are a chance to follow your heart and change yourself in ways you desire. This will give you the energy to pursue.
  2. Make it something you are ready to change. If you’re ready, then you’re more likely to have the motivation to maintain your goal.
  3. Like rewards for like efforts. Rather than focusing on everything you have not yet done, focus on the things that you have done and reward yourself for each small milestone you achieve.
  4. Know your enemies. Anticipate things that can impede your progress and try your best to avoid them. Try making them part of your reward if applicable.
  5. Make it part of your life. Put out a visual reminder, like a poster, of your goals and the steps needed to achieve them.
  6. Cut yourself some slack. If you deviated from your plan, reflect, don’t blame. Remember that change is hard and takes time.

Finally, I can think of no better route to enhance your willpower than to renew your efforts, especially when desirable results do not fall through. Armed with this, I hope we will all reach new distances on the road to achieving this year’s Resolutions!

By: Ruihong Yuan

Ruihong is a graduate from University of Toronto with a major in Psychology and Physics. He is currently looking to gain either clinical or research experiences in psychology. His goal is to become a clinical psychologist with his own practice and research in order to help people improve their lives and explore the mysterious human mind.

LOVING SOMEONE WITH A MENTAL ILLNESS AND VALENTINE’S DAY

downloadValentine’s Day is here and it’s a day to express love and affection towards family, friends and loved ones. It’s an emotional day for most, but it can be a frustrating day for others, especially for those living with a mental illness.

I remember the first Valentine’s Day with my boyfriend. Even though it was a new relationship and we were just getting to know each other, we treated Valentine’s Day just like any other day. For me it was a day to show affection, but not it wasn’t for him. You see, my boyfriend lives with a mental illness and when he first moved in, 2 months prior, I discovered that he was not on any medication and as a result he couldn’t tell me how he felt. I didn’t completely understand then, but I do now.

He lives with clinical depression and with that comes sleeping all day, not wanting to do anything or go anywhere, and emotions are put on hold (don’t want to laugh and don’t know how or what to feel). He also lives with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), which adds anxiety to the depression. Now you add dealing with the fear of going outside and the fear of talking to someone (you don’t want to text, call or email anyone). When you’re in a relationship you may also see paranoia, at least I did. He would ask me questions like “Do you love me?” “Why do you love me?” “Why don’t you find someone else, someone with a stable mind?”

Something else that I noticed, was that he couldn’t be touched when he was upset, anxious or panicky. The best thing I could do in those situations was to just talk to him and provide reassurance. What helped me the most was reading all I could on other people’s experiences of mental illness. I found it helped me to better understand him and his needs.

I’m not afraid to say it was a rough year, but it was worth it. We made it through. For the past 2 years now, he has been going to therapy and taking his medication, and we couldn’t be happier.

If you have a loved one that lives with a mental illness, I have some advice for you:

1. Please be patient. I know it can be frustrating and upsetting, but it will be worth it.

2. Your loved one will need reassurance. Don’t be afraid to tell them you love them even though they may not be able to express the same back to you.

3. Be sure to take time for yourself. What you’re experiencing may drain you mentally.

Overall, just remember that Valentine’s Day might look different for you and your partner, but the important thing is that you’re with your loved one and that you do love them and see them for who they are and not their mental illness. Also remember that they DO love you, even if they don’t always express it.

By: Anita Levesque

Anita is a mental health advocate with lived experience through loved ones; father – bipolar; brother – PTSD, depression, anxiety; mother – PTSD; boyfriend – clinical depression, severe OCD, GAD, personality disorders. Her goal is to focus on personal experiences with mental illness.

Screen Shot 2016-10-02 at 9.54.13 PM

 

Why Valentine’s Day can make you feel Anxious

170112799Valentine’s day is a day dedicated to celebrating LOVE with those closest to you. However, for a lot of us without relationships this can be a day filled with fear, anxiety, and sadness because we might feel like we don’t have anyone to celebrate with. Even for those of us in a relationship, this day may create a lot of stress and anxiety. It can be confusing to have these thoughts and feelings when you are in a happy relationship and feel pressured to be happy and exude feelings of love. I will be exploring some of the reasons for these thoughts and suggesting ways to combat them to prevent them from becoming harmful to you/your partner.

1. You FEEL pressured to be a perfect couple and have the PERFECT date.

Both in the mass media and on our social media feeds we are constantly being flooded with pictures and images of ‘happy’ couples, decadent gifts, extravagant dates, etc. These images can make us feel like we need to live up to these standards in order for our relationship to be worth something. Trying to live up to these high standards is unrealistic and can be a source of stress and anxiety. Just as in other aspects of the media, the misconceived notion that happiness is about money and material wealth is a lie. I encourage you to stay true to yourself and your partner and do something you both want/love to do, rather than trying to show the world how ‘perfect’ your relationship is. That could mean going to the movies, going out for dinner, or even staying in and ordering a pizza in your PJ’s. At the end of the day, whatever you end up choosing, you will always have fun together!

2. You FEEL pressured to show your loved one you care.

The very reason for the day is to express the love we always feel for our partners (also, family, friends, etc.). For some of the same reasons as above, Valentine’s Day can put pressure on us to find a way to go above and beyond in expressing our love. We have to plan the perfect date, pick out the perfect gift, and even ensure that the ‘I love you’ message we give or send to our partner is perfect. Some of us rely solely on the material objects to convey this message, while others also want to say it or write it in a note or card. Don’t get hung up on what to say or how much to say, just write down how you truly feel. Remember that this isn’t a test or a contest between you and other couples, or even between the two of you. Anything you could possibly say in a card on Valentine’s Day, I’m sure you’ve already said to your partner and will continue to express through the course of your relationship. Valentine’s Day should not be a day to measure your commitment to your partner, but more of a fun day to self-indulge!

3. You FEEL like a bad partner if you don’t do something for them/you don’t know what to do.

Wanting to do something nice for your partner isn’t a bad thing at all. The only time this can feel uneasy is when you feel uncertain of what they’d like or uncertain if they’ll receive the message that you care and want them to feel loved. My advice would be to NOT overthink it. If you know your partner well enough, you’re bound to know a few things or dates that they’d like. All in all, I’m sure your partner will be happy simply with the idea that you thought about them and put time into planning a date or getting a gift, regardless of what you choose. If your partner is hung up on what you chose, there could be a reason for this. Do you express feelings solely through gifts, did you both set a limit that was or wasn’t met, or do they value your relationship only on gifts and dates, and not actual feelings? These are all questions that hopefully you don’t need to answer, but can be helpful if your partner is really unhappy when you try to do something nice for them.

The bottom line is: KEEP IT SIMPLE and HAVE FUN! If you’re single, take the day to treat yourself and relax! And if you’re in a relationship just tell your partner what you always do, that you love them, and be authentic if you are giving them a gift or going out. Happy Valentine’s Day!

By: Sarah Morrone

Sarah Morrone lives and works in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She is an aspiring teacher and Registered Early Childhood Educator. Life has taken her on a little detour and is currently managing a cosmetics shop while writing, painting, and getting to know herself.

15877223_1384179551663157_4166962878143791104_n

Having a Loved One with Depression/Anxiety and Attending Family Gatherings

 

downloadWhen thinking about the holidays, it’s easy to envision a scenario like this: people getting ready for a family gathering, preparing the gifts, dressing the kids, getting everyone in the car, knocking on a door, having Grandma answer it and give everyone a hug and kiss, and having everyone go inside to see all the other family members to celebrate the holiday. This picture perfect scenario is not a reality for many people, particularly for those with anxiety and/or depression.

My father lived with manic depression and anxiety. Family gatherings were not his favourite. When we would go to family gatherings, there were a lot of relatives and only a few of them knew about my father’s manic depression. Back in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, not a lot was known about mental health, so there was a lack of understanding. My father would become anxious about going to these gatherings and we never knew what he would do or say, or if anyone would comment on his behaviour. Sometimes my family members would say something that would end up hurting my father’s feelings and we would leave the family gathering early. They would bring something up from the past and it would grow into a huge ball of anxiety, frustration, anger, embarrassment, and humility. After awhile, we stopped going to family gatherings all together, as there would always be someone who didn’t want my father there because of something that had happened in the past.

Family gatherings are meant to be fun, memorable, and an opportunity to get closer to one another. When a loved one lives with anxiety and/or depression, it can become a very stressful event. Things are said and done that cause anxiety and eventually the feeling of being trapped occurs, which can result in a panic attack.

When a loved one has anxiety and/or depression, the anticipation of the event can sometimes be worse than actually attending the event. Your loved one may ruminate about all of the possible outcomes and consequences days, even weeks, before the event. Sometimes the preparation of the event can be stressful as well. If it’s Christmas, gifts have to be ready, if you have pets, they have to be taken care of before leaving, if there are children, they have to get ready. All this preparation has to be done within a certain timeframe and can cause the anxiety to heighten.

You may not always be able to control your relative’s actions towards your loved one during a family gathering, but you can help reduce the anxiety that they may feel by:

1. Finding an ally. If there is a relative who is positive and comforting, go with your loved one and begin a conversation.
2. Set limits. You cannot control what someone else says or does, but you can help your loved one come to terms with the fact that it’s okay to speak up for oneself and to know when it’s time to walk away.
3. Bring a distraction. At times your loved one may start to feel overwhelmed. You can help by bringing some comforting items that they enjoy in order act as a distraction from all the chaos, such as an IPod, a book, or board games.
4. Focus on the good.  During the anxiety-provoking situation, you can help your loved one by getting them to focus on the good. There is always something positive that can be found that can be a calming distraction. You can suggest things like talking to a relative who has a positive, understanding energy, reading stories to the children, or assisting with the meal. Doing something positive will calm your mind and reduce the anxiety/depression.

Understanding what is happening and having a plan to make it through a family gathering can increase your loved one’s sense of control and ultimately decrease their anxiety.

By: Anita Levesque
Anita is a mental health advocate with lived experience through loved ones; father – bipolar; brother – PTSD, depression, anxiety; mother – PTSD; boyfriend – clinical depression, severe OCD, GAD, personality disorders. Her goal is to focus on personal experiences with mental illness.

Screen Shot 2016-10-02 at 9.54.13 PM