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 is 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
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
This 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!
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
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
I 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 a 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
“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.”
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
by 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:
- Art Therapy can provide a forum to express strengths and genuineness.
- Through viewing one’s own creation – one can improve the skill of self-observation.
- What cannot be said with words – may be more easily expressed through the art.
- Metaphors and stories emerge through the art – which can provide a ‘voice’ for material which may be difficult to express.
- Art Therapy is active & physical, fun, and stimulating.
- Emotions and art are closely connected; making art can aid in uplifting one’s mood.
- Making art activates the whole brain and can foster integration of emotional, cognitive, and sensory processes.
- Emerging and recurrent symbols expressed in the art can help to make unconscious material conscious.
- Art can make the hidden – visible in an external & tangible way.
- 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.
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:
- 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
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.
You don’t need to be a professional photographer to enjoy taking photos of the beautiful things that nature offers us everyday. So, why not grab your camera or phone, take a few shots and submit one or two to our new fundraising photo contest? And then don’t forget to ask everyone you know to DONATE to VOTE. All donations will go to mental health programs and services offered by the MDABC in BC. And of course, you could win one of three brand new I-pads donated by www.openbox.ca. Click on the poster below to go directly to the contest page.
Why are more and more people drawn to the practice of mindfulness? We see that mindfulness centres, groups, and classes are popping up everywhere…is this just a trend that will soon fizzle out?
In fact, mindfulness has been practiced for centuries and although it may have recently seen a surging in popularity in the West, it is certainly not a flash-in-the-pan Wellness trend. People who practice mindfulness find that they feel happier, more content, and more relaxed. Studies have shown that this practice can also help you to increase your self-compassion and your compassion for your fellow beings. This compassion can often lead to more altruistic behavior which creates a better society for everyone.
Very simply, mindfulness can be defined in this way:
Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose,
in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Jon Kabat-Zinn
Kabat-Zinn is a famous Buddhist monk and teacher of mindfulness meditation and the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center and many of the strategies and exercises that counsellors use when they teach mindfulness are based on his teachings.
If you would like to learn more about the practice of mindfulness and how it can help you to recover from anxiety and depression, we invite you to consider registering for MDABC’s Spring 2016 Mindfulness Course. Click here to start the application process.
By Susan Furtado, Registered Holistic Nutritionist
Many people are seeking to improve their mental health by using self-help strategies, and by finding approaches that they can use alongside, or even instead of, prescribed medication. One self-help strategy is to make changes to what we eat, and there is a growing interest in how food and nutrition can affect emotional and mental health. There have been positive responses from individuals who have made changes to their diet which confirm the importance of food and nutrition for maintaining or improving emotional and mental health.
In addition to self-help, experienced healthcare professionals may support individuals in making dietary changes, and recommend appropriate nutritional supplementation. The real effects of food on mood demonstrate how it can form part of a more holistic approach to the treatment of mental health concerns.
How does food affect mood?
There are many explanations for the cause-and-effect relationship between food and mood. The following are some examples:
- Fluctuations in blood sugar levels are associated with changes in mood and energy, and are affected by what we eat.
- What we eat can affect brain chemicals (neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine and acetylcholine) which influence the way we think, feel and behave
- There can be abnormal reactions to artificial chemicals in foods, such as artificial colourings and flavourings.
- There are reactions that can be due to the deficiency of an enzyme needed to digest a food. Lactase, for instance, is needed to digest lactose (milk sugar); without it, a milk intolerance can build up.
- People can become hypersensitive to foods. This can cause what are known as delayed or hidden food allergies or
- Low levels of vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids can affect mental health, with some symptoms associated with particular nutritional deficiencies. For example, links have been demonstrated between low levels of certain B- vitamins and symptoms of schizophrenia, low levels of the mineral zinc and eating disorders, and low levels of omega-3 oils and depression.
Continue reading “Can food really affect my mental health?”