Self-Talk: A Powerful Self-Help Tool

change-your-thoughts-and-you-change-your-world59

Each day tens of thousands of thoughts stream through our brain. Some of them deliberate, some automatic, and many completely random. However, many of the thoughts we have act as a running dialogue, which we call self-talk. When this self-talk contains negative of self-deprecating messages, it can have a big impact on how we feel about ourselves. For example, if our self-talk is telling us “I’m not good enough” or “I’m incapable”, it can result in self-doubt and leave us feeling depressed, anxious, and defeated. These messages often can start to play on repeat and get stronger the more that we say them, a process called rumination. Our brain may also seek out information in our current or past experiences that provide evidence to support.

So, what can we do to reduce the impact of negative self-talk?  The good news is there isdont_believe_everything_you_think_1 plenty we can do to intervene with the negative messages we are relaying to ourselves.  One of the most powerful way to do this is to re-shape and replace our self-talk through a process called thought restructuring.

Steps for Shifting Self-Talk:

  • The first step in the process is to recognize our negative self-talk in the first place. Often our negative self-talk happens quite automatically, so it can be helpful to pay attention to the dialogue running through our mind. Journaling our thoughts is a powerful way of doing this.
  • Next, we want to take those thoughts we identified and start to dispute ones that are not fair, balanced or realistic. We often assume our thoughts are facts. However, if we dig a bit into the evidence that is supporting them, we sometimes find that we are basing the thought on limited or skewed evidence.
  • Finally, we want to replace our initial thought with a more positive, self-compassionate, or realistic thought. This can be a completely new thought or a reframe our initial thought. Our initial thoughts that “I’m not good enough” and “I’m incapable” could now look like “I am good enough” and “I have many ways that I am capable”.

These new thoughts may seem strange or have limited buy-in at first. But often the more we practice restructuring our thoughts, the more it allows us to experience shifts in our patterns of thinking and feeling. These shifts can ultimately lead to meaningful changes in our perceptions and experiences over time!

By Rose Record Lemon, Counsellor at the Counselling and Wellness Centre at MDABC

http://www.mdabc.net/counselling-and-wellness-centre-mdabc 

Advertisements

Self-Help Book Recommendation

It can be difficult to choose a self-help book when there are so many titles out there. With this in mind, we asked Valentina Chichiniova, one of our Counsellors at the Counselling and Wellness Centre at MDABC, to recommend a book which is easy to follow, enjoyable to read, and which offers real tools and strategies that you can use in your journey to mental health and wellbeing.

Book Recommendation: The mindful Way workbook: An 8-Week Program to Free Yourself From Depression and Emotional Distress by Teasdale, M. Williams & Z. Segal

the-mindful-wayThis book is an amazing resource for anyone who does not have the time to go to a mindfulness therapy program or has been through the program but wants a clear structure of how to continue with the practice on their own!

The authors walk you through the theory behind the mindfulness practice in a clear, easy to understand language.  The carefully organised chapters guide you step-by-step in you journey to change unhelpful ways of thinking and acting when dealing with depression, anxiety, or stress.  Each chapter clearly explains and describes the specific mindfulness practices for you to try each week.  In addition, to help you with the process, the authors ask you specific questions to reflect on and give you tools of how to keep track of your progress.  Furthermore, they give you examples of plenty of comments by other people who have been through the program so that you do not feel alone in some of the challenges you may be facing.

Finally, you are given the guided meditations on a CD with the option to download them as an MP3 on your phone, tablet, or home computer- perfect for easy access anytime anywhere!

Enjoy!

What to do when that person in your life just won’t get help…

pondering

When we want someone that we care about to make changes in their life, we often gravitate to telling them what we think they should do. It can be especially frustrating when we tell someone to get help for a mental health issue or to take better care of themselves but they just refuse!  However, if you think about it, does anyone actually like being told what to do?  Do you? Even children don’t like it. Telling others what to do sometimes makes people want to dig their heels in and do nothing or even do the opposite of what they’ve been told.

An alternative approach to just telling someone what to do is to guide them in the direction of positive change. The idea here is to help the other person come up with their own solution to the problem. Ok, fine, you say, but how exactly do I do that?

One way is to make suggestions or share information by using “wiggle words”. For example, instead of saying “here’s what you should do”, you could say:

  • Maybe, you could consider…
  • I have found it helpful to ….
  • What are your thoughts about…?
  • Another option is…
  • Here’s an idea…what do you think?

These phrases don’t assume that we know exactly what the person that we care about should do, how they should do it, or when they should do it.  The “wiggle” words send the message to the person that they have choices, that you respect them, and that the decision about if, when and how to change is theirs alone. This can be very empowering and can help people to start thinking about the changes that they are ready to make without feeling that they are being forced. Even if the person that you care about isn’t ready to consider making a change or getting help, you will at least know that they have been made aware of some options. If they are just saying no to all options you suggest, you could ask them if they have any ideas to improve the situation, or you could offer to explore the reasons for their resistance with them. For example, you could say something along the lines of:

  • I’m hearing that you aren’t interested in seeing a doctor/counsellor but can you tell me why you think this would be negative for you?
  • I get it that you don’t want to talk to me about what’s going on, so can you think of someone who you would be more comfortable talking to?

What if the person in question still refuses to make any change? Being a caregiver to someone who is struggling emotionally can be very draining and can lead to feeling burnt out and depleted. At this point, it is important to remember to take good care of yourself, to get support and to let the person know that you expect them to respect your boundaries.

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.”

 

 

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

 

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) 

Everybody needs a little help thinking positively…

The MDABC has created a new “positive thoughts” poster for you to print and share – click here to download the PDF.

positive thoughts

Top 5 Mental Wellness Digital Apps

By Rachel B.

1. Moodnotes

moodnotes-3 moodnotes2

Description: MoodNotes by Thriveport, LLC offers the user a new innovative approach to journalling. Designed in conjunction with two American psychologists, it employs cognitive behavioral therapy techniques. It works by asking the user to capture his or her mood in the “face” icon, and then allows the user to add detail with a note-function. By translating your emotions into data, it empowers you to chart your moods, recognize patterns, target negative thinking traps, and develop better self-awareness. This app will be a useful companion to counseling with a professional therapist. Read more at Wired.Co.UK.

Cost: $4.59

Compatibility: Compatible with Apple iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Requires iOS 8.0 or later.

You can purchase and download the app here

2. Headspace

headspace 1headspace2

Description: Headspace is a wildly popular app – co-founded by Andy Puddicombe and Rich Pierson – that teaches the user meditation through authentic and accessible voice guided sessions. Over the summer of 2015, version 2.0 was released to much fanfare. Each user’s journey is now mapped into a timeline (much like Facebook) and shows the user’s development and achievements over time. In the beginning, you work through the “foundation” sessions. From there, content is divided into four categories called “Health,” “Performance,” “Relationships,” and “Headspace Pro” (which allows the more experienced user to experience meditation sessions unguided by Puddicombe’s voice). Users have reported that the app has allowed them to develop the skills to meditate for extended sessions, which has improved their mood, sleep and daytime energy levels.

Cost: FREE for first 10 meditation sessions

Compatibility: Compatible with Apple iOS and Android devices.

You can download the app here.

3. DBT Diary Card and Skills Coach

dbtscreen1DBTscreen2

Description: Based on Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and developed by psychologist Marsha Linehan, this app is a rich resource of self-help skills, reminders of the therapy principles, and coaching tools for coping. This app could be useful to explore and learn about DBT as a therapeutic practice, or be used in conjunction with therapy with a professional.

Cost: $4.99

Compatibility: Compatible with Apple iOS software, iOS 7.0 or later required.

You can purchase and download the app here.

4. Optimism

optimism2

Description: Optimism by Optimism APPS is a mood-charting app specifically designed for people coping with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses. Based on your input of core data for each day, the app generates graphs and charts to give you a portrait of trends in your well-being, sleep quality, and exercise frequency, etc. One of the strengths of Optimism is that it highlights medication and the importance of adherence in treatment approach, which other mental wellness apps tend to overlook.

Cost: FREE

Compatibility: Compatible with Apple iOS 8.0 or later.

You can purchase and download the app here.

5. Freudie

freudie1

Description: A silly, fun app called Freudie by The Psych Files that lets you select and insert an image of the iconic father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, into any photograph or selfie.

Cost: $1.19

Compatibility: Compatible with Apple iOS, requires iOS 6.0 or later.

You can purchase the app here. 

If you know of any other apps that help you to prioritize and manage your mental health, please leave the names in the comments.

A Welcoming Space

Untitled design (1)

Valentina Chichiniova is the lead Canadian Certified Counsellor practicing individual and family counselling at The Counselling and Wellness Centre at MDABC. She has been with the Counselling and Wellness Centre since we opened our new offices in April 2015. Over the course of the summer, Valentina began decorating her counselling office with the goal of making it a cozy, inviting, and optimistic space. When we asked Valentina why she was taking the time to decorate the room, she replied: “I want it to feel homey, comfortable, and safe. The more comfortable and homey the environment, the easier it is to share about yourself and your life.”

To book an appointment for individual, couples, or family counselling with Valentina, click here to complete an intake form. Once we receive the form, our office staff will contact you directly.

All About Social Anxiety -A Q&A with Clinical Counselor Rose Record

paper chain

Rose Record, MA, CCC,  is a Canadian Certified Counsellor with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA).  She has a Master of Arts Degree in Counselling Psychology completed at the University of British Columbia. Rose is a member of the MDABC therapy team. This fall she will be leading therapy groups for adults on Social Anxiety and Depression, for more information go to www.mdabc.net

In your experience, how can social anxiety get in the way for people who want to feel more connected?

Social anxiety is an experience of fear, worry and/or anxiety in social situations where there is a possibility of being observed and/or scrutinized by other people. This can get in the way of feeling connected to others in many different ways.  It can lead to intense worry or fear of being embarrassed, judged, or not performing well in public and/or social situations.  It can also lead to worry that anxiety will “show” in ways such as trembling, blushing, sweating or being “lost for words”. This fear can be so intense that even thinking about or anticipating being in social situations can feel overwhelming. Common consequences of social anxiety are reduced enjoyment of social situations, limiting participation in social activities, or avoiding being in feared situations or in public altogether.

Which strategies do you use in your therapeutic practice to help clients with social anxiety?

When supporting individuals experiencing social anxiety, the first strategy is often to build an understanding of what is going on during an anxiety response and working together to determine what their unique anxiety situations and anxiety responses are (everyone is different!). Then, we start to break responses down into the thoughts, emotions, physical feelings and behaviours involved and identify strategies that can help to re-work the responses. Many of the strategies I use are aimed at looking at our patterns of thinking and challenging/replacing unhelpful patterns of thinking with thoughts that may be more fair and helpful. Through this process, we also start to uncover core beliefs that shape our thinking about others, the world and ourselves. Other strategies are aimed more at shifting behaviors in our lives such as setting goals and taking small steps to reduce avoidance and build tolerance for being in feared situations. Finally, relaxation and mindfulness strategies are introduced to help clients to tune into their bodies, to physically slow down anxiety responses and to build self-acceptance.

Do you find working with clients with social anxiety rewarding?

Absolutely! One thing I love about group therapy for social anxiety is that it provides a safe, supportive space for clients to learn, share, set goals and build coping strategies. Through that process, clients often build confidence, skills and take steps toward doing things in their lives that are important or fulfilling to them, whether that be trying something new, meeting new people or simply becoming more comfortable and confident in social situations in general.  As a therapist, it’s very powerful walking alongside clients in their therapeutic journey.

What can clients expect at the first session of the “CBT for Social Anxiety” course that you are leading?

Our first session is really about establishing a foundation from which we’ll build on for the next 8 weeks.  We’ll spend time talking about the group itself – learning what CBT is (and isn’t), building group goals, and setting up some basic structure to the sessions so everyone knows what to expect each week.  Then, we’ll talk a bit about what social anxiety is and learn the basics of what happens during an anxiety response and how to track it.  Finally, in each session we’ll learn a new relaxation or mindfulness technique and for our first session, we’ll focus on the basics of deep breathing.  In every session, some “homework” is also suggested, which basically consists of ideas for how group members can continue to practice and try out the skills we learned in class throughout the week and start to integrate them into their day-to-day lives.