What is Self-Efficacy and How Can It Improve Our Quality of Life?

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Self-efficacy is a person’s belief in his or her ability to successfully manage or cope in a particular situation. When we have a low sense of our own self-efficacy, we may feel a lack of self-confidence and control which can lead to distressing feelings of helplessness and powerlessness.

Since Psychologist Albert Bandura published his 1977 research paper, “Self-Efficacy: Toward a Unifying Theory of Behavioral Change,” the subject has become one of the most studied topics in psychology. Self-efficacy is an important topic among psychologists and researchers because it can have a profound impact on everything from our psychological states to our behavior and our motivation.

When we want to reach a goal that we have set for ourselves, self-efficacy is essential toself-concept help us move forward towards a positive outcome. This is why people with mood disorders might remind themselves that they have gotten through a depressive episode before and that they have the ability to get through it again. This kind of hope and optimism can help us to see ourselves as capable human beings with the skills to work through tough times.

If we don’t have strong self-efficacy, what can we do? How can we get more of it? Thankfully, there are strategies that we can use to change our efficacy beliefs. The originator of the theory, Albert Bandura describes four sources of efficacy beliefs:

  1. Mastery Experiences

The most powerful source of self-efficacy is having a direct experience of mastering a task or an environment. Having success reaching a goal through effort and perseverance will help us to build our self-efficacy and our belief in ourselves. If we are feeling unsure, we can start with mastering a relatively easy task and then increase the difficulty and complexity as we begin to feel more competent.

  1. Vicarious Experiences

The second source of self-efficacy comes from our observation of people similar to ourselves succeeding while using perseverance and effort to overcome obstacles. Seeing that other people learn and grow can strengthen our beliefs that we too can master the activities needed for success. One great way to increase our vicarious experiences is to read biographies of people who we admire in order to greater understand the paths they took to became “masters” in their field.

  1. Verbal Persuasion

The people who have influenced our development such as our parents, teachers, siblings or coaches may have either strengthened or weakened our belief that we have what it takes to succeed. Having people who persuade us that that we can master the skills needed for life makes it more likely that we will put it the effort and sustain it when we have set-backs.

If we weren’t lucky enough to have people encouraging us to keep trying as we grew up, we can make it a priority as adults to surround ourselves with people who are supportive and who let us know that they believe in our abilities.

  1. Emotional & Physiological States

Our self-efficacy is also impacted by the emotional or physiological state in which we find ourselves. Depression, for example, will decrease our confidence. When we are feeling tired, sad or anxious, we may perceive our self-efficacy as weak. When we are well-rested and happy, we may perceive our self-efficacy as strong. Reflecting on our emotional state before we start a new task will help us to understand that we may be underestimating our abilities. Learning to self-regulate our emotional states and practicing self-compassion can also help us to have more realistic appraisals of our abilities.

Psychologist James Maddux has suggested a fifth route to self-efficacy through “imaginal experiences”, the art of visualizing ourselves behaving effectively or successfully in a given situation. If we can visualize ourselves completing a task successfully or handling a difficult interaction competently, we can increase our optimism about our potential for success.

How do you feel about your level of self-efficacy? Although it is not something that most of think about regularly, we can see that having a belief in our ability to cope and even thrive in life can be a welcome boost to our self-concept and quality of life. Building self-efficacy cannot be done in a day, but each day we can take steps to learn new skills, handle disappointments, and deal with whatever life throws at us.

By Polly Guetta

 

 

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What does recovery mean to you?

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I was recently speaking with some people who work in the mental health field just as I do, and someone asked me the question, “what does recovery mean to you?” My first thought was that mental health recovery will look different for everyone because no two people will follow the same path while they work towards positive mental health. I stumbled through an answer touching on my own experiences of depressed mood and anxiety.  I can say that I have recovered from depression and anxiety because I now feel that I have enough self-awareness and self-compassion to recognize when I am struggling, and because the coping skills and support network that I have developed over the years allow me to feel confident that I can face my concerns head-on. That doesn’t mean that I am not susceptible to future periods of depression and anxiety, and so, I have accepted that I will always have to be vigilant and proactive when it comes to my mental health.

The question about recovery got me thinking, and I started wondering about how other people and agencies define recovery. The Mental Health Commission of Canada answers the “what is recovery?” question like this:

” The concept of “recovery” in mental health refers to living a satisfying, hopeful, and contributing life, even when a person may be experiencing ongoing symptoms of a mental health problem or illness. Recovery journeys build on individual, family, cultural, and community strengths and can be supported by many types of services, supports, and treatments. 

Recovery principles, including hope, dignity, self-determination, and responsibility, can be adapted to the realities of different life stages, and to the full range of mental health problems and illnesses. Recovery is not only possible, it should be expected.”

Because mental illnesses vary greatly in severity, duration, and presentation, recovery cannot be narrowly defined as the absence of any symptoms of the illness. While someone who has experienced an episode of depression may go on to never experience the symptoms of clinical depression again, someone with a diagnosis of schizophrenia (for example) will most likely live with some symptoms of the illness throughout their life. However, if we look at the way recovery is defined in the quote above, the person living with an illness can still recover because they can become empowered to live a satisfying life. Therefore, a person who is living with a mental illness can also be a person with good mental health.

The recovery model of mental health service recognizes the importance of looking at mental health holistically while supporting people with mental illness to create their own recovery plans, set their own goals, build on their strengths, and engage with the communities in which they live.

Perhaps recovery is best thought of as a process or even a practice. It is a journey rather than a destination. To everyone who is living with ongoing mental health concerns and who is practicing recovery, I hope that you will find the path towards wellness that is just right for you.

By Polly Guetta

 

 

Self-Talk: A Powerful Self-Help Tool

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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 

Overcoming Negativity Bias

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Negativity bias is the name given by psychologists to the human tendency to be much more likely to focus on and to remember negative experiences, instead of neutral or positive experiences.

Human beings developed a negativity bias—that is, they evolved to notice and respond more forcibly to the negative because this bias helped our our ancestors to stay alive. Thousands of years ago, when we were living in survival mode and real danger was always present, it was more important to escape dangerous (negative) situations than it was to approach opportunity. However, in many ways, this bias no longer serves us in modern-day life.

A strong negativity bias can severely impact our sense of wellbeing and quality of life.  Fortunately, there are ways to deal with the negativity bias. The list below includes some ideas taken from the study of positive psychology and learned optimism which can help you to rewire your brain for increased positivity.

Some strategies to re-wire your brain:

  • Be aware of your bias. Knowing that you have a negativity bias will help you to recognize when and why you’re dwelling on the negative aspects of a situation.
  • When something positive happens to you, try to hold on to the feeling for a few extra moments. Replay it in your mind a few times so that the memory of the positive experience gets stored in your long-term memory.
  • Scatter simple pleasures throughout your day in addition to the bigger ticket events (like vacations) that you are looking forward to. Simply put, make sure that you make time to do more of what you love.
  • Gretchen Rubin—owner of “The Happiness Project”–recommends that you create an “area of refuge” in your brain. Have a list of positive memories, quotes, or lines from poems or favorite books—that you can think of whenever you find your mind wandering into negative territory. You can also make your home into a sanctuary in which you display art, photos, and objects which remind you of the things/people/ideas that you love.
  • Make gratitude a habit. Journal each night about all of the good things that happened to you throughout the day. Be specific! You can also think of three things that you feel grateful for every morning before you get out of bed. By focusing on the good you’ll gradually be rewiring your brain for happiness. If you do this long enough, it will eventually become a habit.
  • Keep a “well done” list. Every time you accomplish something (no matter how small), face your fears, help someone out, or receive a compliment, make a note of it on your well done list. When you are feeling bad about yourself, bring out your list and remind yourself of the good stuff you do.
  • Practice mindful awareness of your emotions. Try to accept yourself for having negative emotions and realize that they are part of the common human experience. Observe your emotions without judging them or acting on them. Do not let them define who you are. So instead of thinking “I am an angry, jealous person”, say “I am experiencing some feelings of anger and jealousy in this moment.”
  • Learn more about how to rewire your brain. Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a neuropsychologist and author of “Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom”.  Martin Seligman has written about positive psychology topics in books such as The Optimistic Child, Child’s Play, Learned Optimism, and Authentic Happiness. His most recent book, Flourish, was published in 2011.

By Polly Guetta

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!

When was the last time you really cried?

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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) 

The Value of Connection : A Mental Health Perspective 

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By Catherine St. Denis

Building a social network helps aid in the improvement of the lives of people with mental illnesses. After years of working with people with mood disorders, we at the Mood Disorders Association of BC believe that not only do social networks improve the lives of people with mood disorders, sometimes social networks can save lives.

Staff at the MDABC frequently hear, “The support group saved my life” and, “I don’t know what I’d do without the support of this program”. We take these little nuggets and store them away knowing that opportunities for social networking and support are crucial to an improvement, or lack of decline in mental health; this is what we hear and see around us all the time. These messages come from people in our peer support groups, our Cognitive Behavioural Therapy classes and in our workshops.

There are many reasons that connecting with others in meaningful ways is helpful. Connection with others reduces the isolation people with mood disorders often feel. Connection with others helps us learn about our illness through the informal or formal learning one gets from talking to others. When we connect with others with similar concerns we know we are not alone in our feelings and behaviours; others have also struggled with our issues. When we connect with supportive loved ones we can feel their caring and compassion and can realize that no matter how we feel on the inside, no matter how great our symptoms are, there are people who really care for and love us. When we are in the throes of active symptoms of our illness it is very challenging at times to feel and believe that we are loved and cared about so this connection can be a perfect reminder.

There are other ways of connecting even if one does not have a circle of family and friends. The MDABC offers peer support groups, classes and workshops so that people can make these important connections. There are members of some groups who have become friends and who have formed close, mutually beneficial relationships that have enhanced their lives. Connection does not have to mean personal relationships either. When we volunteer or enter or re-enter the workforce we have opportunities to connect with others and there are hundreds of organizations that look for volunteers throughout the year, for either short or long term positions.

When we attend lectures, discussion groups, or entertainment events we can connect with others for brief periods, this can make the difference between a bad day and a good one. Of course just being around others is not enough if we keep to ourselves and don’t make efforts to talk, make eye contact or add to a discussion, this is the part of connection that takes some effort. If we want to have friends, colleagues, supportive family members and other relationships, no matter how brief, we must take our fears and discomfort in hand and experiment. We won’t connect with everyone all the time but the more one makes efforts to connect the more chance of it happening.

For more information about the programs and services the MDABC has to help you connect please visit our website at www.mdabc.net.

For more information about opportunities to volunteer with other organizations please visit Go Volunteer at http://govolunteer.ca/.

Can food really affect my mental health?

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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?”

Meet Lisa Kleiman – One of MDABC’s Wonderful Volunteers

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How did you come to be a volunteer at the MDABC?

I was facilitating a group at the MDABC office when two members of the staff announced that they were putting together an Information Bureau. It is for volunteers who go and set up a booth of information and education about mental illness and let the community know about all the work that the Mood Disorders Association of BC is doing.

What kind of volunteer work have you done at MDABC?

I have been facilitating support groups since 2012. I am one of the facilitators of the Jewish Support group.

What do you find most rewarding about doing this work?

I love facilitating; being a member of a support group is a big part of my wellness. I have met the most incredible people. To be able to facilitate a group makes me feel so privileged. I also love going to events around the city as part of the Information Bureau because it is so much fun. You get to talk to people that may be asking questions about mental illness for the first time. Just to listen to them and tell them that there are lots of resources in the community is an amazing feeling. I feel so proud to tell them about the Mood Disorders Association as finding MDABC changed my life.

What kind of programs would you like to see offered in the future?

I would love to see a support group for high school students offered in the future. MDA has a support group for young adults 19 years old to 30. I would like to see one for young people under 19 years old. When we go into the schools to bring information, I would love to say that there is a support group for them.

What are three things that you do to feel happy and well?

I love having coffee with friends, relaxing and watching Netflix.  I also love to walk with my music blaring to shake off the day and to look after myself.