Rainbow Walking – A Mindful Activity for the Young and the Young at Heart

walking with dad

As the start of the school year approaches, some kids are getting excited and impatient while others may be experiencing nervousness and anxiety. Whether the kids that you care for are dealing with restlessness or anxiety or both, learning how to calm down and ground themselves is a great coping skill   to learn early on in life.  This simple mindfulness activity can be learned in just a few minutes and practiced just about anywhere. It is great for kids because it is easy to remember and involves being active. Adults who practice rainbow walking will reap the benefits of mindfulness too!

How to do a Rainbow Walk:

rainbow hands
Rainbow light crossing hands of a child on ground

The first thing to do when preparing for a rainbow walk is to review the colors of the rainbow with the child. If you have a prism, it’s great to show off how you can create rainbows right in your home (honestly, I spent hours and hours doing this as a child).

Now, head outside and simply start walking and looking for something in each color of the rainbow. You and your young companion will begin to tune into your surroundings and start noticing things that you would usually have just walked right by. You may see the raspberry pink reflection of a flower in a puddle or a bold cobalt blue streak of the sky. You may begin to wonder how you’ve missed all of these things for so long and why your mind has been so preoccupied with thoughts that you haven’t paid attention to all the beauty around you! Once you have found something in each color, you can just start over again.

As you finish your rainbow walk, you can remind your walking companion that they can practice mindfulness any time and that it is always available to them if they feel nervous, worried or overwhelmed.  If they are at school and they can’t go out walking, they can do a rainbow sitting activity and just look around the space that they are in finding something in each color of the rainbow.

Mindfulness activities and practice serve to quiet the constant chatter in our minds that prevents us from being truly present. When those thoughts of the past and the future are racing through our minds, anxiety and worry can take over. Mindfulness can help us to connect with the present moment and put our fears and worries aside.

For more information on how to help a child who is experiencing back-to-school anxiety, check out this very helpful page at at AnxietyBC.

 

Polly Guetta

 

Try this Wellness Journalling Writing Prompt and Discover the Power of Now

Writing workshop exercise: “Write about what you really want right now. Prose. You have two minutes. Go.”

Below is the beautifully written response to this prompt from  Toronto-based writer Wendy Sinclair.

wendy's poem

Three Fun Summer Activities That Are Great For Your Mind and Body!

road trip
Take it on the road!

There are just so many activities that we can engage in the summer time that are great for our minds and bodies, but here are three that really are at the top of the list in terms of benefits:

  1. Swimming

You probably already know that aerobic exercise is good for your mental health, but did you know that swimming seems to be one of the most beneficial options?

Not only does swimming release endorphins, it also encourages the growth of new brain cells according to an article in the  Huffington Post .  Additionally, an  Australian study  found that there’s a connection between warm water immersion and increased blood flow. More blood flow means more nutrients for the brain which means a better functioning mind.

And finally, swimming also has a lot of the same benefits as yoga. They both involve the coordination of breath and movement which can release mental, emotional and physical stress. The repetitive movement and mind-body connectivity can help put you into a state of deep relaxation just as yoga can.

  1. Vacations

Summer is a great time to take a vacation if you are able to do so. It is awesome to have the opportunity to get away from your normal surroundings and take in some new scenery. During a vacation, we have the potential to break away from the stress cycle that we may find ourselves in.  We can come back from a successful vacation feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world again and face our challenges.

British researcher Scott McCabe noted that vacations can also provide new experiences which lead to a “broadening of horizons and the opportunity for learning and intercultural communication.” This is the experience of getting a little bit of distance from your normal day-to-day life and being able to see things in a new light and perhaps develop insight into the human condition. We can also strength bonds with the people in our life when we vacation together.

If you need some inspiration, check out the Huffington Post’s article on top road trips in BC.

  1. Soaking Up (a little) Sun

The sun is finally shining and somehow it seems to put a smile on our faces in the way that a rainy dark day just doesn’t. We all know that too much sun can be harmful to our skin but the right balance can do a lot to boost our mood.

Exposure to sunlight is thought to increase the brain’s release of a feel-good hormone called serotonin. This is associated with boosting mood and helping a person feel calm and focused. Sounds pretty good, right?

Of course, prolonged direct exposure to sunlight is not advisable. So make sure that you wear a good sunscreen or stay in the shade when you’re out in the sun.

By Polly Guetta

 

Getting to Know the Counsellors at MDABC  

Are you thinking about starting counselling? Or are you considering counselling as a career path? Would you like to know a little bit more about how and why the counsellors at the MDABC chose this particular occupation? To get some insight into this question, we asked the Counsellors at the Counselling and Wellness Centre at MDABC,

“How did you decide to become a Professional Counsellor?”

Here are some enlightening replies from Rose Record, Sarah Barker, and Steve Ching:

 

Rose Record, MA, CCC

rose recordI knew from a pretty young age that I wanted to go into a helping field, I think it was in my grade 8 career planning course where I first identified that counselling was something that I wanted to do as a career.  My curiosity stemmed not only from my interest in psychology and mental health, but also in seeing and experiencing the profound impact that support can have on the well-being of both myself and the people closest to me in my life.  However, I didn’t always work as a counsellor. In fact, I actually worked in hospitality and in business before making a career shift and finding my professional “home” in counselling.  A really critical part of that journey were the years I spent volunteering on crisis lines, which demonstrated the power of being there for someone in the moment and offering non-judgmental and empathic support to help navigate the stressors and struggles that come up in life.  It made me realize the passion I have for supporting others in their mental wellness journeys. And, it’s been inspiring and honoring now working in an occupation that allows the opportunity to do so, I truly couldn’t imagine doing anything else!

 

Sarah Barker, MA, RCC

 I grew up in a household with two parents who worked in health care (a nurse and aSarah Becker psychologist). As such, the helping professions have always been of natural interest to me, and as a youth I often found myself drawn to the stories and challenging experiences of the people in my life. Further, having experienced a level of anxiety and uncertainty as a child who moved often, I felt that I was particularly well-equipped to empathize with others who experienced similar emotional struggles. After I completed my psychology degree, I was torn between counselling and law. I worked part-time for a law firm and realized that I was most interested in the experiences of the clients, and this confirmed what I had already suspected- counselling was a much better fit for my personality, and gave me a much deeper sense of contribution. It did not take long for me to enroll in graduate school after that, and the longer I work as a therapist the more certain I am that this is what I am meant to be doing.

Steve Ching, MA, CCC

Steve ching“I feel that counselling came to me as an interest and as a calling. Growing up, I had never considered counselling as a profession.  It became an interest through other therapists who I’ve spent time with. I learned from them how profoundly impactful it can be to simply BE with someone, to connect deeply with others on a personal and meaningful level.  I think that it’s a calling too. I feel so humbled, honored, and so alive to be able to share with others a part of their life journey. In a way, I feel that this is from beyond me – that this call is both a gift and a grace.”

 

 

You Won’t Believe How Good Reading Is For Your Mental Health

reading

Reading for pleasure could be just about the most relaxing activity around! According to research studies , reading for just six minutes has been shown to reduce stress by 68 percent. It works better to calm down your stressed nervous system than listening to music, going for a walk, or having a cup of tea.

This is great news for people who love to read, and it may encourage those who haven’t picked up a book in a while to hit the bookstore or the library to find something that piques their interest.  Dr. Lewis, who conducted the research studies explained how reading relaxes the mind and body,

“It really doesn’t matter what book you read, by losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world and spend a while exploring the domain of the author’s imagination. This is more than merely a distraction but an active engaging of the imagination as the words on the printed page stimulate your creativity and cause you to enter what is essentially an altered state of consciousness.”

And besides the amazing calming power of reading, there are a ton of other benefits to being a reader such as improved brain health, vocabulary, and communication skills, just to name a few. Reading can also help us to develop empathy because when we learn about other people’s viewpoints and experiences, it is easier for us to understand how people are more alike than different.

The next time you are feeling stressed, try settling down with a good book and notice how your heart beat slows down, your shoulders relax, and your breathing deepens. And then just let go and let your mind travel to wherever the story takes you.

By Polly Guetta

 

5 amazing illustrators who are changing the conversation about mental health (in no particular order)

gemma correll

  1. Gemma Correll

British cartoonist, writer and illustrator Gemma Correll, who now lives in California created a series of comics as a way to explain and cope with her own struggles with mental health concerns. She states,

‘I suffer from clinical anxiety and depression and I find that the best way to deal with it is to find humour in it.’

She hopes by injecting a little humour into her illustrations, she’ll break down some of the stigma and encourage others to be more open about what they’re going through.

 

  1. Toby Allen

toby allen

Toby Allen is a UK-based illustrator who created a series of drawings of mental health disorders and conditions depicted as monsters.  The Real Monsters series is a collection of 16 illustrations that deal with everything from depression and anxiety to schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder.

 

 

  1. Sylvie Reuter

Sylvie Reuter, a German cartoonist used her artistic skills to create a visualsylvie reuter representation of depression. She was able to effectively communicate what depression can feel like without using any words. In an interview about her work, Sophie stated,

“Mental health is still something that is stigmatized and rarely talked about in public. But online it’s different, you can share your thoughts and you can do it anonymously and that way it’s easier for people.”

 

4. Marissa Betley

After seeing firsthand how mental illness can take a toll, Marissa Betley decided to use art to express how it truly feels to struggle with a mental health disorder.

The artist posted one illustration a day about the impact of mental health issues for 100 days on Instagram.  Melissa called this series Project 1 in 4 because that is how many people will experience a serious mental health concern in their lifetime. Check out her work at  project1in4.com

i was stuck

 

  1. Robot Hugs

Robot Hugs is a Toronto-based illustrator whose art is concerned with mental health, feminism, and gender politics.  RH sees the accessibility of online comics and art as integral to it’s popularity. RH states,

“There’s a lot of writing out there about mental illness and how to support someone but it can be hard to ask someone to go to the labour of reading a lot of text. Everyone’s got 10 seconds to look at a comic.

robot hugs

 

 

 

 

When was the last time you really cried?

zach cries

It may start with a sharp lump in your throat, followed by a little wobble of your chin. Next your eyes are feeling moist and you’re blinking hard in an effort to hold back the tears. But your effort to not cry makes your chin wobble even more, and the next thing you know the tears are flowing, the lump in your throat is melting, and your nose is running. You are now in full sob mode. You grab the box of Kleenex and succumb to the weeping.

When was the last time you had a good cry? If you are not in a chronically depressed mood, crying once in a while can be very cathartic and healing so it’s actually better for your health to allow yourself to cry.

Are you sometimes in the mood to watch a sad movie or listen to some sad music? Do you wonder why you are seeking out opportunities to feel sad?  Movies and music can help us get in touch with the sadness within ourselves, allow ourselves to feel it, and then let some of that sadness go. The calm after the storm can then set in, and we often feel that the sadness is diminished and that there is now room in our minds and bodies for happier emotions.

Neuroscientist and tear researcher Dr. William H. Frey IIhas spent over 15 years studying crying and tears. Some interesting facts about crying that his research uncovered are:

  • 85% of women and 73% of men felt less sad and angry after crying.
  • On average, women cry 47 times a year, men cry 7 times a year. (WOW!)
  • Crying bouts last 6 minutes on average.
  • Crying has been found to lower blood pressure and pulse rate immediately following therapy sessions during which patients cried and raged.

To make the most of a good cry and really reap the benefits, it is important to remember that you have to be kind and compassionate with yourself after the crying jag. If you beat yourself up about crying, feel guilty, or use negative self-talk and tell yourself things like “I’m such a loser for crying” or “Guys shouldn’t cry”, you will undo all the healing that your sobfest can bring you.

So, go ahead and cry it out. And then you can proudly say to yourself “Well done! That was a good cry and I feel a lot better now!”

By Polly Guetta

 

MDABC Creates New Outreach Campaign For Young Adults

anisa
Anisa Mottahed is MDABC’s lead researcher for phase one of our new campaign

The MDABC is currently working on phase one of a three-phase project to create and implement a mental health awareness campaign which specifically targets young adults ages 18 to 30. Phase one of the project is the research phase and so far, what we have found out is very enlightening.  Evidence shows that the typical onset of a first episode of a mental health issue takes place in the late teens or early adulthood and yet many young people do not reach out for help. If they do reach out for help, it is most often to a peer or friend. While friends can certainly offer support and an attentive ear, more education is needed so that friends can help steer the person in distress to get the kind of help that they need.

On Thursday, June 16th, 2016 , lead project researcher Anisa Mottahed  held a focus group, which involved individuals within the 18-30 age range who were not connected to any mental health services.  Through the focus group, MDABC gathered information to help inform the campaign.  We wanted to know what the young people liked, what they didn’t like, what kind of mental health campaigns stood out to them, and how much time (if any), they would be willing to put in to show their support for this kind of campaign.

A few preliminary observations from the focus group were:

  • the young people preferred mostly visual information as opposed to mostly text
  • Most of the participants were willing to share campaign materials on facebook, instagram, and twitter but they weren’t interested in sharing anything of a personal nature
  • they weren’t impressed by having a celebrity or sports-figure included in the campaign unless that person was sharing an authentic personal story
  • they noted that they are bombarded by promotional materials from so many different companies and agencies, so a campaign has to be simple, direct, and original to stand out. The majority also appreciated the campaign we showed them that used humour to engage people.
  • they said that they would be interested in watching a short video associated with the campaign as long as it was under two minutes
  • a couple of the participants mentioned that they had friends with mental health concerns who had leaned on them and that they had tried to help. They noted that they didn’t really know how to help and that caring for their friend took an emotional toll on them as well…

Once we have concluded the first phase of the project, we will begin to actually develop our own original campaign. Stay tuned for updates!

 

 

What are the benefits of Art Therapy?

art therapyby Polly Guetta

Some people are reluctant to try art therapy because they feel that they are not “artsy” or “creative” enough. Some of us may have bad memories of high school art teachers telling us we aren’t talented or that we are doing it all wrong (this was my experience) . It can be difficult to get past these negative associations with the art-making process and  jump into it again. But giving yourself the freedom to express yourself visually and to tap into your creative self can really help you to get your thoughts and emotions flowing in positive directions.

We’ve been offering art therapy at the Counselling and Wellness Centre at MDABC for the past year of so, and we have heard some great feedback from the people who have participated. In doing a little bit of research about the benefits of art therapy, I came across a top ten list which I thought summed up the research very nicely:

Art Therapy – Top 10 Benefits’ list:

  1. Art Therapy can provide a forum to express strengths and genuineness.
  2. Through viewing one’s own creation – one can improve the skill of self-observation.
  3. What cannot be said with words – may be more easily expressed through the art.
  4. Metaphors and stories emerge through the art – which can provide a ‘voice’ for material which may be difficult to express.
  5. Art Therapy is active & physical, fun, and stimulating.
  6. Emotions and art are closely connected; making art can aid in uplifting one’s mood.
  7. Making art activates the whole brain and can foster integration of emotional, cognitive, and sensory processes.
  8. Emerging and recurrent symbols expressed in the art can help to make unconscious material conscious.
  9. Art can make the hidden – visible in an external & tangible way.
  10. Art making provides an experience which is stress & anxiety reducing, relaxing, and decreases worry.

So, are you thinking about giving art therapy a try? Join us at the Counselling and Wellness Centre at MDABC on June 30th for a 3-hour workshop on Values-Based-Living Art therapy. Click on the poster below to go to the registration page.june30workshop

 

When Caring becomes too much…

The MDABC recognizes that many people who are caring for loved ones with mental health concerns are struggling themselves. Confusion about where to go for help and support, exhaustion from dealing with the loved one, and feelings of powerlessness in the face of the illness can compound to leave people feeling unable to cope. Sometimes, when it all becomes too much, caregiver burnout can develop.

Some signs that you may be experiencing caregiver burnout include:mom and daughter

  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
  • Feeling blue, irritable, hopeless, and helpless
  • Changes in appetite, weight, or both
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Getting sick more often
  • Feelings of wanting to hurt yourself or the person for whom you are caring
  • Emotional and physical exhaustion
  • Excessive use of alcohol and/or sleep medications
  • Irritability

If you are feeling overwhelmed, it’s important that you try to get the help and support that you need to cope and feel better. It is also essential that you take steps to make self-care a priority in your life in order to prevent burnout.

We invite you to join us at the Counselling and Wellness Centre at MDABC on June 24th for a free lecture on caregiver burnout. You can click on the image below to go directly to the Eventbrite Registration page. caregiver burnout (1)