Tag Archives: sadness

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

Surviving a Quarter Life Crisis

2009-09-cover-puzzle_tcm7-84442The first years of adulthood or “real life” is often a time of excitement and thrill. We are trying to become established and individuated. We are making big life decisions. We are out on our own for the first time. These are supposedly the best years of our lives, but what often gets overlooked is just how difficult this period of time can be for a lot of people. Alongside the thrill and excitement are often feelings of inadequacy, confusion, and anxiety as we move through the transitory phase. Rest assured, if you feel this way you are not alone. Many twenty and thirty-somethings will face this quarter-life crisis where there is a seeming disconnect between what is happening in our lives and what we want to be happening in our lives. Here are some tips to help survive this transitory phase:

Create Your Own Path and Stop Comparing Your Life to Other People

We develop ideas about the type of relationships we have, the stage of our career we should be in, and the commitments we should make based on societal pressure and norms that have been developed in our family and social circles. It may seem that everyone around you is excelling in their career, falling in love, and utterly satisfied with their lives but that doesn’t mean you need to be in the same place. If these are goals that you have then by all means strive for them, but try not to let the accomplishments of others be injurious to your own self-esteem. Life is not a competition. It’s okay to feel unsettled and unclear on what you want. Clarify your own hopes, dreams, and needs. Decide what will make YOU happy, and go for it.

Set Goals and Make and Action Plan

Set goals for yourself relating to all areas of your life (career, personal, relationships, etc.) and break them down into specific ambitions for short, medium, and long term (think – 1, 5, 10 years from now). Ask yourself what specific actions need to be taken in order to reach each goal. By making small sub-goals you can make things manageable and stop you from feeling overwhelmed. Creating an action plan will make you feel proactive in control, and accomplished. BUT…

Don’t Get TOO Caught up On a Timeline

We face a lot of pressure to accomplish things in our lives within a certain time frame and when we miss that “deadline” we are left feeling like we have somehow failed. We need to make plans for the future in order to stay motivated and excited about our lives but it’s important not to get too focused on time. You may have decided that you want to be set in your career, own a home, and be married by the time you’re 30, but if you’re too rigid in that timeline you’ll be disappointed if it doesn’t work out that way. Or worse, you may make decisions that are consistent with the timeline but not necessarily consistent with what truly makes you happy in life. Draft a personal and reasonable timeline for the goals that you have but be flexible if you encounter bumps it the road. You don’t need to have your whole life figured out by the time you’re 30 (and in all honesty, you probably won’t). Things will happen as they are meant to happen.

Talk it Out

It’s common to feel alone during this transition phase of your life so make use of the connections you have to other people. Opening up to friends, family, or a mentor about your struggles and you may find they’ve experienced similar crises in their lives.  It’s okay to have doubts or be dissatisfied with this period of your life. But it’s important to figure out what isn’t working for you in order to make positive changes in your life. Sharing your problems with others may lead to a wealth of advice and support in a time where guidance can be paramount to success. If you’re feeling really lost, it may be helpful to speak to a therapist to help you establish what you want out of life.

Define Success in Your Own Terms

Many of us have come to equate success with status and money. Instead of letting that be the sole definer of success, think about all the ways you can measure your own success. Perhaps it’s the feedback you receive from peers and colleagues, the difference you make in the lives of others, or the fact that you live a well-balanced life. Your definition of success should be reflective of all of your values rather than just financial gains. Acknowledge all of your achievements, past and present, to remember you have a number of things to be proud of.

By: Catherine Kamel

counsellor, psychologist, psychotherapy

Emotional Sunburns

purple-beach-sun-setWhat is an emotional sunburn?

Think about your last trip to sunny Miami!

There, you are soaking in the sun, partying and having the time of your life.

Then, you arrive back to cold Toronto with a painful and blistering sunburn only to have to cover up in layers, long pants, turtlenecks, extra sweaters, boots and long down filled coats.

Your friend greets you at the airport and in his excitement to greet you after your trip, he gives you a big bear hug. Ouch!!!

Not realizing that you have a sunburn on every part of your body, you scream and push him away.

What did he do? How does he feel? How do you feel?

He had no intention of hurting you and did not realize what was covered up underneath your bulky winter clothing. Yet his hug still caused you to scream and pushed him away.

Most people are walking around weighed down with their emotional sunburns. These are individual areas of sensitivity. They are our bruises from our past. They come from past negative experiences; experiences with our family, friends, and lovers.

Many people do a great job of covering their bruises up. Often, no one can see them on the outside and no one knows about them except for you. Sometimes you may not even realize how the past is affecting you in the present.

Your partner doesn’t know about all your emotional sunburns and how they are affecting you today. Next time you have a strong emotional reaction of anger, sadness, anxiety or any powerful feeling to a situation that doesn’t seem to warrant it, take some time to question your reaction and determine if your response is triggered by the present situation or perhaps if it is triggered by a past experience or relationship. Stop and think of the reasons pushing your reactions and identify your emotional sunburns.

If your current relationship is healthy, strong and safe, start sharing your experiences with your partner and work together to help to see how your past is affecting your current relationship. Your partner can become more sensitive to your reactions and you will begin to realize that what happened in the past in not reoccurring again in the present and slowly you will be able to let it go.

Keep in mind emotional sunburns are more painful than your bad burn at the beach last summer!

If you are experiencing an emotional sunburn, especially one that isn’t healing, you may want to invest in working with a therapist to help identify and work though these past hurts. This might enable you to live with renewed emotional equilibrium, without being pulled back into the past.

By: Ilana Brown

IB

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

 

Coming Out to Family & Friends

Getting Over BreakupWow!

Congratulations on making this decision!  But isn’t it terrifying too?! Every experience of deciding to tell your social circle you are gay, lesbian or bisexual is different. It is also unpredictable. You may assume it will be okay because you have an open-minded parent, BUT there is a difference between being open to anyone else being LGBT and your own child. This can be a challenge for any parent.

I do not say this to scare you, but to prepare you. You will need to have either a trusted person in your life to talk to during this process or a professional to support you. This is especially the case if you come from a faith community or culture in which being LGBT is simply not accepted. It is important to keep in mind that this time is not just about you. Please recognize that you may be changing the perceptions and worldview of the people in your life. This will take time. Please be compassionate but ALWAYS expect and insist on being treated with personal respect.

If you have a family that is willing to work it through with you, you will need to create a safe place for the people in your life to say and ask what they need to in order to take this new information into their spirit.

Examples:

  • Your mother may wonder what she did wrong.
  • Your sibling may feel there is an important part of you they have never known and need to grieve this.
  • Your grandmother may worry about you and you being judged by others.

Yes, there are some stereotypes inherent here and it will be easy for you get angry. However, these are also real feelings and concerns for your friends and family members. If a safe place is created to explore this together, this can be a time to strengthen yourself and your family.

However, if the reality of your family is that it is not accepted, please remember that you deserve love and respect. There is support out there. I wish you love and light!

By: Lisa Shouldice

Lisa Shouldice

 

10 Relationship Issues That Can Benefit From Professional Counselling

toronto-couples-relationship-counselling.jpgHave you been having relationship problems with your partner, family, friends or someone important in your life lately? In life, complications between the people we love arise and there are ways to solve those complications through many different ways. There are healthy and appropriate ways to solve those complications and two of the options are through counselling or psychotherapy.

Sometimes we ask ourselves, “Am I the only one having problems with the people around me?” Everyone has different circumstances throughout life, and its common for most people to go through rough patches as well as periods of joy throughout their life. It is important for us to recognize that no healthy relationship can avoid conflicts! Issues are created while having interaction with people but that shouldn’t stop us from having relationships with others.

There are many different reasons to why we may not be getting along with the people around us. Have you gone through any of the following lately?

1. Trust Issues
2. Difficulty Communicating
3. Personality Differences
4. Money Problems
5. Life Transitions (Minor or Major)
6. Overcoming Grief and Loss
7. Dating/Lack of Intimacy/Ending of a Relationship
8. Parenting/Controlling or Needy Partners
9. Coping with Each Other’s Extended Family/Blended Family
10. Household Responsibilities/Toxic or Judgemental Household Climate

Sometimes, all we need is to chat things over with a friend or family member, or even have some time to think on our own about the issue. Other times, therapy is a great option to explore why we’re having relationship issues and work out skills and coping strategies so we don’t end up in the situation again.

In Counselling and Therapy, we learn to:
1. Recognize the problem, treat it and become stable (emotionally and mentally)
2. Develop skills to work out obstacles in a lively and appropriate way
3. Learn to listen, process, and understand others
4. Establish skills to say what you want in a assertive way without being disoriented by emotions such as anger or resentment
5. Develop full capability to realize how the other person feels and what they want

At KMA Therapy we offer different types of services for Relationship Issues, such as:

– Counselling for Relationships
– Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
– Relationship Therapy
– Relationship Management Counselling

If you’re interested in any of these services, please contact us and we’ll be thrilled to help. Have a great day!

By: Kimberly Moffit

Psychologist, Psychotherapist, Mental Health Professional

Psychologist, Psychotherapist, Mental Health Professional

 

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

Creativity- Benefiting You And Your Relationships

Purple-EyesIn our busy lives, much of our focus goes to family and work and our personal creative hobbies sometimes get pushed aside or even forgotten. Having a creative outlet that is rewarding and fun can be a great way to engage in self-care and self-development. Self- expression is also an excellent way to channel negative emotions we might have and create something with them.

However, it is easy to make excuses. How many times have we said?

“I’m not artistic, I can’t draw.”

“I’m tone deaf, I can’t sing.”

“I’m not musical, I never had piano lessons.”

“I can’t write.”

“I never know which colours look good together.”

Remember, take part in creative hobbies for yourself and not necessarily for the benefit of others. Do an activity just for the sole purpose of your own enjoyment. Do you like every painting in an art gallery? Not everyone will like your art and that is okay. Remind yourself that even though you may not be the best singer, singing has health benefits for the heart and lungs and can also lower stress. In addition, learning an instrument exercises and develops certain areas of the brain. So be creative for your own mind and body. You may even discover hidden talents!

Not sure what activity to take up? Think back to what you used to enjoy as a child. Did you draw? Build with Lego? Sing? See if those things bring you the same happiness now. On the other hand, it can be wonderful to try something completely new! No matter what you choose, the main idea is that you are setting some time for some self-care.

Keeping in touch with our creative side keeps the child inside us alive and therefore can keep us happy and playful. Finding creative ways to express ourselves also can do wonders for our well-being and mental health because creating something that is an extension of ourselves can be deeply satisfying.

If you are single, signing up for a new class is also a great way to meet new people with similar interests. You never know who will be there! Another additional perk to creative hobbies is that it keeps you interesting. This is important for your relationships early on in dating and throughout the relationship. Hobbies help define and develop our individuality, are outlets for our energy and emotions and can help attract people with similar interests. Seeing if you have similar interests when dating is a great way to discover if you and another person can connect and explore compatibility. In addition, having your own hobbies shows that you are independent and do not rely completely on your relationship for entertainment. If you are already in a long-term relationship, participating in a creative activity together with your partner can create a memorable bonding experience.

Here are some examples of popular creative expressions:

Painting, drawing

Music playing

Singing

Gardening

Writing

Decorating a room

Knitting, sewing

Sculpture, woodworking

Jewelry making, beading

Photography

Enjoy!

By: Danielle Taylor

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6 Things to Keep in Mind During a Breakup

heart-broken-purple-loveBreakups can be a terribly painful experience. If you are currently going through one, my heart goes out to you. It’s the worst. Our thoughts and feelings can often turn into a chaotic mess of negativity and ice cream doesn’t always help us feel better.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when you’re breaking up:

1. We need to accept our feelings

After feeling sadness, anger and other negative emotions for longer than we feel we should, it can sometimes be easy to turn the negative feelings towards ourselves. Try to accept that your feelings are normal and try not to beat yourself up for feeling a certain way. Give yourself credit for investing yourself in someone else and giving enough that the feelings of loss are painful. It means that you truly tried and know how to give a relationship a real effort. This is good news for your future relationship(s).

2. Sometimes we never completely get over a person

Each person we have a relationship has unique qualities that may be impossible to find in someone else. If you didn’t have a reason to dislike a feature in a person anymore those feelings may not change so easily. This isn’t saying to not try to let go of the failed relationship. We must learn to cope without it. However, we may need to learn to live without it rather than getting over it to the point that it no longer is meaningful. Sometimes relationships are so impactful that they leave a mark on our hearts forever. This is okay to accept and it is important to realize that these types of significant events become part of who we are.

3. It is okay to lean on others during grieving

Breakups are time when it is completely normal and healthy to lean on our friends and family. As much as it feels at time to shut the world out, try to allow in the people who want to be there for you. It can be very cathartic to talk about your breakup to your friends and family if you need to process what happened.

4. We do not have to listen to people telling you to “get over it”

While you are in a vulnerable state it is important to choose who you want support from. Occasionally, there are people will not be able to relate to your pain. They may not understand where you are coming from and tell you things like “just get over it” and “try to stop thinking about him/her”. It isn’t helpful when others tell you how you should feel and what you should do. Finding friends and family who accept your fragile state and can offer proper empathy, sensitivity and relatedness is key. Sometimes finding support from a therapist can provide hugely beneficial guidance as well.

5. There is only so much we can expect from others (our strength will ultimately come from within)

While we can definitely lean on others, it’s important to keep in mind that as much as they can listen and empathize, they cannot ultimately take the pain away. Our strength to be able to cope comes from within even it takes a while to show up. Try to remind yourself of your positive qualities everyday and tell yourself that you do not need others to validate those qualities.

6. Be a friend to yourself

After you have given too much love to someone else it’s possible to feel so empty that you feel as though you lost yourself. Remind yourself that you still have you. When you feel yourself fading from someone’s memory it can start to feel like you are disappearing. Remind yourself that you are still here and take care of yourself. Do things that you like and that make you happy. Find yourself again be there to comfort yourself during this time of grieving. It can also be therapeutic to channel our negative energy into something productive and or creative.

Grieving after a breakup is a normal process and it is not always a straightforward path. Temporary relapses may occur but time and space will dull the pain. If it seems as though there is no end in sight for your tears, the guidance of a therapist may help you process your situation and bring you back to feeling more like yourself again.

By: Danielle Taylor

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The “Wow Factor” and The Holiday

Ease Holiday StressThis is the time of year when expectations run high, and it’s easy to fall victim to the thinking that if we don’t do something perfectly, we’ve ruined Christmas. That’s why this is the perfect time to employ the Wow Factor. I didn’t invent this principle – I first heard about it in the book The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn – but I think it’s particularly applicable around the holidays.

What this principle does is allow you to recognize the value in your time (or money, for that matter), and whether or not spending it on a certain activity is worth the amount of “wow” you’ll receive in return for your efforts.

Let’s consider gift wrapping. There is a certain Wow Factor in seeing all those pretty parcels decorating the bottom of the tree. Let’s say your enjoyment of those wrapped gifts rates a 5 out of a possible 10. You may feel as though you need to up the ante by not just wrapping each gift in paper, but by wrapping them a la Martha Stewart. But the amount of effort it will take is significantly increased. Shopping for ribbons and coordinating paper, assembling all the scissors and tape you’ll need to create those fabulous bows, and the work to actually wrap and tie every individual package is also part of the Wow Factor. Is the enjoyment you will receive from perfectly wrapped gifts going to raise the Wow Factor from a 5 enough to justify the time and effort it will take?

If you’re going to spend an additional six hours prepping and wrapping gifts but the Wow Factor is only going to go up to a 5.5 on the scale, is that really worth it? Or could your family do without those extra trimmings and be perfectly content with a 5 out of 10? In fact, will they even notice and appreciate the extra work you’ve put in? Because if they won’t, you’ve misspent energy that could have been put to better use on something else.

The Wow Factor can be used in so many situations – it really is a handy tool. (In fact, I even used it to help me pick my wedding dress!) When shopping for gifts, it’s easy to go overboard. But let’s face it: after the first few gifts, the Wow Factor drops off sharply. Those first two or three gifts are as good as gold to a child, but after that the enjoyment per gift really does decrease. So maybe it’s not worth it to spend your time and money shopping for a dozen perfect gifts when your children will be just as happy with only three or four.

Your time and money are valuable. Don’t waste them on things that don’t really bring you enough satisfaction to justify spending them.

Find some time to savour this holiday season. It goes by so quickly, really, as does the childhood of your children, so resolve not to let another holiday pass with a stressed out and cranky parent. You deserve to recapture some of that childhood enchantment of the holidays, too, so make the effort to slow down, just a bit, and remember why your 10 year old self loves this holiday so much.

By: Andrea Ramsay Speers
Andrea Ramsay Speers