Tag Archives: Counsellor

How to Deal with Bullying

Unfortunately, many of us have been or will be bullied at some point in your lives. This can take a serious toll on your mental health and self-esteem.

Bullying happens when a person abuses their position of power or authority, physical strength or position in life to hurt someone else, whether that is emotionally or physically. This is done due to a need to boost their ego for personal satisfaction or even to impress someone else. The truth is that a bully has personal issues that they refuse to deal with head on, so they use relieve their frustration by taking it out on others.

So what can you do to stop or avoid being bullied?

It all depends on your situation.

In most cases, the best thing to do is nothing. This shows the bully that you are not affected by their actions. Bullies thrive off of making you uncomfortable and putting you down. So showing that you are not affected by their antics actually makes them lose their interest because they also lose a sense of accomplishment. Most bullies are acting out to get attention, so if they are not getting a rise out of you, they are likely to move on and leave you alone. It is also important to have someone that you love and trust to talk to for support while all of this is going on.

In other cases, it may be necessary to have a parent, counselor, or teacher get involved. You will know that this is the right thing to do if the bullying has gone beyond the limits of your ability to cope with it on your own.

People often think that if you remove what makes you different and if you conform to the norms of society, that you will reduce the chances of being bullied. But we must realize that those things that make us different and unique are also what makes us special and can take us far in life. So go forward boldly and unapologetically because the world needs you just as you are, regardless of anyone else’s opinion.

Procrastination: Tips to Stop Waiting and Start Doing!

Infinity time spiral 15267876“I”ll do it later.” – the anthem of the procrastinator. Too often later never comes around or we wait so long that we have to scramble to get things done. Procrastination can be the monkey on your back that you feel you just can’t shake off. The best thing to do is to understand why you are procrastinating and work from there.

There can be numerous reasons for procrastination. One may feel as though they do not have the skills or tools needed to complete the task, so it is put off. The task could also seem unimportant, thus lacking the motivational qualities for you to start working on it. Another common reason for procrastination is a fear of the outcome. You may have been in the same situation before and things turned out poorly, so, you are avoiding the outcome by avoiding the task. On the other hand, it may be that you have no clue what the end result will be, thus you are steering away from the potentially perilous unknown. What is important here is to note that the act of procrastination varies between tasks and people. We don’t procrastinate on everything and we don’t always procrastinate on the same thing in the same way. So how can you decrease the possibility of procrastination? Know yourself.

One of the best things to do is to NOT label yourself a procrastinator. We tend to act in self-confirming ways. So if you think you’re a procrastinator, you will procrastinate. The second thing to do is to recognize why you are procrastinating and correct the issue. If you think the task is too boring, find meaning in it. Yes, the 12 page essay on cyberbullying may be tedious, but consider all of the information you will gain that will help you keep your future children protected from it. If you feel like you are lacking a skill, see this as an alarm to spring into action and find the proper resources to solve that issue.

By changing your perspective of procrastination so that it is an alert rather that a barrier, you can change your slacker ways into proactive ones.

When A Family Member Has A Mental Illness

selfcareThere’s lots of information out there about different mental illnesses and how to find help or treatment for them.  But what is often missing is advice for you on how to cope when it’s your child or another family member who has the mental illness.  Perhaps you’ve connected this person with great resources and treatment is progressing as expected, but that doesn’t always mean there isn’t a ripple effect created that impacts you and your family.  Here are three tips for helping yourself, while you’re helping your family member.

Accept your feelings.  You might feel shame, anger, guilt, embarrassment, disappointment.  All of these feelings are normal.   It’s hard to let go of the dreams we have for our children or our families, and sometimes a mental illness gets in the way of those dreams coming true.  Maybe it will help to know that everyone in your position runs through a gamut of emotions; you’re not alone (even if it feels that way).  Sometimes life is challenging in ways we don’t expect, and in those cases, we just do the best we can.  Under these circumstances, advocating for your ill family member and taking care of the business of running your family can seem like an enormous responsibility at times, but remind yourself that anyone in your shoes would feel the same and that you’re doing the best you can.

Develop coping strategies.  There are going to be lots of things you can’t control, so get control where you can.  Whether it’s regular exercise to offset stress, or a monthly night out, or a few minutes with a book before bed, do what you can to impose a little bit of order and structure to your days.  Remember that you can’t give away what you don’t have; it’s important to fill your tank up, too, in order to be able to give your best to your family.  You deserve to have moments of relaxation, and joy, and peace, so create those moments in whatever way you can.

You may also need some coping strategies for dealing with your loved one’s behaviour, either at home or out in public.  Plan ahead for these situations as best you can, and remind yourself that it isn’t personal.  Don’t let public pressure or the judgment of others keep you from doing what you know is best for your family.  Have a plan in place for the unexpected, so you’re not derailed by a crisis.

And finally, stay connected.  Maintain a relationship with your partner; don’t let that become a casualty of the illness.  You’ll feel better if you believe that you have a partner in all that you’re going through, so keep that relationship strong.  Seek out support from others who can relate to your challenges or who are reliably there for you, whether that’s an association or support group, a therapist, or a friend or family member.  It’s hard not to worry about being judged for what your family member is doing or experiencing – sometimes people are not very compassionate about the struggles of others and worry only how it might impact them.  Don’t let this get you down or lead you to shut down about your struggles.  It’s not your responsibility to educate every thoughtless person you meet, but at the same time, staying quiet and not sharing your story keeps the whole topic out of conversation and continues the cycle of misunderstanding and suspicion.

Mental illness can have far-reaching effects on a family, but don’t let it define you.  Know that you’re doing the best you can in exceptional circumstances, have a plan in place and strategies to cope, and don’t let yourself become isolated.

By: Andrea Ramsay Speers

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The Journey of Personal Transformation

moving-on-from-a-cheating-partnerPersonal transformation is probably the single most challenging and rewarding activity we as humans can ever take on. If you’ve ever found yourself riding the high of freedom from a lifelong concern, only to wake up the next day in the midst of an emotional crisis, then you will have some idea of what I’m talking about.

 

People wind up on the path of personal transformation for different reasons. Some can no longer stand to live with the pain of childhood trauma. Others live for many years with an inkling there is more to life than what meets the eye. Just like everyone, those “on the path” of transformation are motivated by the desire to live happier, more empowered and meaningful lives. However, those who walk the path of personal transformation have consciously chosen to acknowledge the inner obstacles to happiness. They have chosen to turn their relationships with themselves upside down until they’ve come to peace with every last part – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

During the process of personal transformation, step-by-step we trade the old, outworn cocoon of the personality we inherited from our parents, siblings, babysitters, teachers, authority figures etc. for our unique and irresistible authentic selves. As the process unfolds we experience a continual stream of new possibilities for meeting the challenges and opportunities of life, which are accompanied by a rush of excitement and renewed sense of purpose. We begin to catch glimpses of peace, joy, and bliss more alluring and gratifying than any we’ve ever experienced, and as time goes on we experience these states more and more.

Sounds amazing, right? It is, except for all the personality traits that make up our old cocoons. Make no mistake. We have invested a lot of energy and time – several decades in some cases – in pumping up these parts of ourselves in order to get by in life. We have become so reliant on these parts or our personality that whenever they want something we bend over backwards to give it to them. And since our relationship to these parts is more intimate than any other, they know how to hit us where it hurts the most every time.

The good news is, we are free to choose change in every moment, no matter how slowly it seems to occur sometimes. And by surrounding ourselves with an environment that supports us on the path of transformation, the old parts of us can gradually come to see that they no longer have to work so hard to ensure our security. In the meantime, it helps to remind yourself of the wise adage “there’s nothing to fear but fear itself”. And give yourself permission to sit back and enjoy the ride.

By: Kelly Pritchard

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Achieve Your Goals! Tips for Goal Setting

ladder 1When there is a big enough discrepancy between what a person is and what a person wants to be, we tend to set goals in order to get to that ideal state. Unfortunately, we often don’t know where to start or how to go about setting up a plan that will lead us to attaining those goals.  Here are a few things to think about when goal setting.

We need to consider the level of difficulty and the specificity of our goals.  The difficulty of a goal is what energizes our behaviour. We need to make sure that our goals are difficult enough that we know it will make us exert effort, otherwise, let the procrastination begin.  Nothing worth doing is easy. We also need to be specific in terms of what we have to do and how we will do it. This directs our behaviour and decreases ambiguity. If we know exactly what we have to do, we are more likely to do it because it removes any guessing; like following a recipe.

And like a recipe, we need to follow small steps in order to get to the desired result. Set small goals that will help you get to your final goal. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

We need to remember that this is a dynamic process. Too often we sit down, create a plan, and when things don’t go as we expected, we see it as a failure. This is not the case! Things happen and we have to adjust our plans accordingly, rather than giving up.

Feedback! It is essential to document your actions in order to make goal setting effective.  You can use the record to make sure you are keeping on track. Also, by having something to look at to see your progress, you create emotional importance for yourself in relation to your goals.  If your performance is greater or at par with what you expected, it creates a sense of satisfaction which can lead to you creating new, more difficult goals. If your performance is less than expected, it can motivate you to increase your effort in order for you to reach your goal.

Setting goals is something we all do, but we don’t all do well. By creating small, specific and difficult goals, we can create a ladder that will raise us up to where we want to be. And by taking note of out progress we can properly adjust our plan to make sure we achieve our goal.

Practising Mindfulness in Everyday Life

mindfulness-imageIt’s easy to live our lives on autopilot, going through the motions without ever being fully present in our experiences. We can find ourselves always waiting for what’s next and never fully appreciating the here and now. For example, we may find ourselves always waiting for our meeting to be over or waiting for the end of the day. When we are not living fully in the present, we miss the magic in the simple moments. If we do this for long enough, we miss our entire lives. After all, life is made up of moments.

When we think of mindfulness, we often think of yoga or meditation. While these can be wonderful ways of incorporating mindfulness into our lives, we can also be mindful in the simple moments.

First Thing in the Morning

When we are mindful, we purposefully ‘tune in’ to the present moment. Take some time when you first wake up to notice your surroundings, along with the infinite potential that your day holds. Notice the softness of your sheets, the sun shining through your window or the gentle patter of raindrops on your windowsill.

Commuting to Work

Notice the colour and smell of the flowers, the crunch of newly fallen snow under your feet or the way your boots splash in the puddles as you walk. If you drive or take transit, notice how the steering wheel feels in your hands or the shape of the clouds in the sky.

Mealtimes

Meals are a prime time to practice mindfulness. There are numerous benefits to mindful eating, so take a moment to truly savour the colour, texture and flavour of your food.

Conversations

When you’re speaking with someone, instead of being focused on how you’re going to respond or the meeting you need to be at in five minutes, really focus on what the other person is saying. What emotions are being conveyed, what is their body language telling you?

Doing the Dishes

Some people say they find doing the dishes to be therapeutic, and it really can be! When you’re cleaning up after dinner, notice how the warm water feels on your hands and the gentle scent of the soap bubbles.

These are just some examples of how we can incorporate mindfulness into our everyday lives. None of the above may be particularly extraordinary in and of themselves, but through mindfulness ordinary moments can begin to feel purposeful and special – as opposed to only “exciting” or “extraordinary” events being meaningful. The more we incorporate mindfulness into the simple moments, the more we open ourselves up to experiencing the beauty and magic that exists in even the most ordinary of moments.

By: Jenny Gomez

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Workplace Confict II: Addressing the Problem

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This article is the second in our workplace conflict series. It outlines effective assertion skills that you can use to address problematic behaviour by co-workers, which can be detrimental to your mental and emotional health, and interfere with your ability to do your job. The previous article can help you determine whether asserting yourself is appropriate in a given situation.

There are three rules of thumb to keep in mind when crafting an effective assertion. The first is clarity. Conflict thrives on misunderstanding. Therefore, stick to the situation in question, and do not embellish the details! Give the other person as close of a play-by-play of the situation as possible to minimize room for interpretation.

Next comes the “I statement”. Notice the difference between “when you interrupted me I felt irritated” and “it was very rude of you to interrupt me”. You are the sole expert on your feelings, but it’s very difficult to accurately pinpoint where another person is coming from. So keep your comments about you to ensure that your assertion doesn’t inadvertently put the other person on the defensive.

Thirdly, you want the other person to know how their behaviour has impacted you. This shows them that there are reasonable grounds for your response, and reminds them that there are consequences to their actions. Drawing on the above example, our complete assertion looks like this “when you interrupted me I felt irritated because I didn’t have an opportunity to get my main point across.”

The example we’re using here is a pretty basic one. If you’re dealing with more complex situations, it’s a good idea to also approach the conversation equipped with a possible solution. But just as you are hoping the other person will be open to seeing the situation from your point of view, be prepared to do the same for them if they come up with an alternative solution that seems like a step in the right direction. That said, know what you are and are not willing to compromise. And if an effective solution can’t be reached, don’t be afraid to let the other person know that you will be addressing the matter with your manager.

Follow these easy steps and you’ll be handling workplace conflict like a pro in no time!

By: Kelly Pritchard

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Workplace Conflict I: Assessing the Problem

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At one point or another we all encounter difficult relationships on the job. Taking a proactive approach to on-the-job conflict is essential to our emotional and mental health, in addition to our performance. Due to modern technology and around the clock work demands, today’s workplaces are already stressful enough without having to deal with uninvited conflict. The good news is, there are easy steps anyone can take to nip workplace conflict in the bud.

The number one thing to remember when a co-worker is getting under your skin is not to take it personally. How people show up in one area of their life is usually how they show up in all areas of their life – so you can bet you are not the first to encounter the behaviour in question. By not making the behaviour about you, you will be in a much more balanced state to address the situation than if you were to interpret it as a personal insult.

Next it’s important to keep things in perspective. Is this the first time the person has done something like this? Are one or both of you having a particularly stressful day? Is your preferred outcome a “need-to-have” or is it more of a “nice-to-have”? Or, on the flip side of the equation, is this behaviour that you have already addressed repeatedly, and shows no signs of going away? Egos are at their strongest in the workplace, so it can be difficult not to rush in to correct a perceived injustice. However, the more we can hold off on reacting, the more we can prevent ourselves from getting “hooked” into responding in kind, and saying or doing something we may regret later.

If you’re not sure whether a particular situation requires you to take action, then give yourself some time to reflect on it. Find a way to clear your head – exercise, meditate, or if all else fails, sleep on it. They key is to approach the situation from a balanced frame of mind. And then trust your instincts to point you in the right direction. If you’re still not sure about what to do, then talk to a trusted mentor. And always remember, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. So as hard as it may seem, trust that there is a benefit to taking the time to contemplate your best course of action.

If you are confident that intervention on your part is required, then you’ll likely want to assert yourself. Stay tuned for the next installment in our workplace conflict series, which provides easy tips for how to confront co-workers while maintaining amicable professional relationships.

By: Kelly Pritchard

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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

Boosting Your Child’s Self-Confidence

Purple Butterfly on HandIt can be hard to watch someone you love struggle.  Whether it’s with a complicated math problem, or a cartwheel, or a difficult friendship, our kids will run into a challenge that tests their mettle.  And at the same time, most parents would put “self-confident” on their list of qualities they hope their children will have.  Since we can’t dictate how our children feel about or respond to a challenge, what can we do to help them feel confident in the face of adversity?

The parenting author Jane Nelsen defines self-esteem as “the belief that I count, I’m capable, and I can control what happens to me, or how I respond.”  This is a fantastic cornerstone to our efforts to boost the self-confidence of our children, and helps us break down this notion of “self-confidence” into practical and manageable ideas.

I Count

All of us need to feel that we matter.  That desire for belonging never goes away; we need it as adults, too.  One of the most important ways to help a child feel that he counts is to really listen when he talks.  This means everything to kids – no one likes to feel as though they aren’t being taken seriously or that their problems aren’t significant enough to warrant time and attention, and it’s easy for us as parents to forget that when we’re preoccupied or when our children are experiencing what we might consider to be minor dramas or quick fixes.  Ask questions more than giving answers or your own observations or solutions.  Being included in decision-making through family meetings is an important way for kids to feel that their voices and opinions matter, and that they are an important, contributing member of your family.

I’m Capable

We gain confidence not by being told that we’re great, but by experiencing the overcoming of obstacles.  Being told “You’re the best!” doesn’t mean much compared to that feeling of actually conquering a challenge.  Kids need opportunities to learn new skills, fall down and get back up again, and then look back and see how far they’ve come.  As tempting as it might be, don’t jump in and get involved right away.  Have faith in them that they can find their own solutions (perhaps with you as a coach) when possible.  If you step in too quickly, your child may get the message that you don’t believe in him, that you don’t think he’s able to handle the situation on his own.  “I believe in you” and “You can do it” are among the most powerful words you can say to a child.

I Can Control What Happens To Me Or How I Respond

There are times in life when we can choose the outcome of a situation.  For example,  if we choose to spend the night before a big test or exam out watching a movie, we may very well be choosing not to do well on that test.  Sometimes our actions have a direct relationship to the results we get, and in those times, we need to empower our children to recognize the control they do have.  But sometimes we can’t control what happens to us, that’s very true.  As humans, a feeling of control over ourselves and our surroundings is extremely important to us.  Which is why it’s critical in those moments to remind our kids to recognize that there is something they can always control – regardless of what is happening – which is how they respond to challenges.  They can choose to be angry, resentful, or bitter.  They can choose to be defeated, despondent, or hopeless.  The can choose to be determined, focused, or accepting.  Armed with the understanding that even if they can’t control what happens to them, they can always control how they respond, our kids can learn to look for the elements of a situation that are in their control and take action.  At the end of the day, there are millions of ways to have a positive impact on your children’s self-confidence.  Spending one-on-one time with them, teaching them a skill you have, having a hobby that you share together, showing interest in their school lives and friendships, asking them what they think they should do next, reminding them of their successes, giving unconditional love…the list goes on and on.  Let I Count, I’m Capable and I Can Control What Happens To Me Or How I Respond be the structure of how you think about your child’s self-confidence, and fill in the rest with all of those little moments that happen every day.

By: Andrea Ramsay Speers

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