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Stop the Worry Trance and Simplify Your Choices

I’m currently renovating my living room and wanted to paint the walls a shade of white. There are almost 100 different shades of white. I felt overwhelmed while at the paint store, I wanted to choose a colour that would make the living room lighter and brighter. I decided to pick “pebble white”, but questioned whether I had made the best decision or not.

You may not be experiencing a paint dilemma right now, but perhaps you have had to make a choice related to your health, school, parenting, finances, relationships, work, travelling or planning an event recently that resulted in anxious feelings. Research is showing that more choices are leading to increased accounts of self-blame and depression.

The happiness equation by Neil Pasricha describes that, “We are exhausted by making decisions. We want to go to the movie theatre with the most movies playing, we like the restaurants with the long menu. Having more choice reduces our happiness. We get decision fatigue. We avoid the decision or we make a bad decision and we always worry we made the wrong choice.”

I really started to understand choice fatigue after travelling to India. I travelled to the Himalayans and stayed at an Ashram. I used the same plate and spoon at every meal. I had a bucket of water to wash my clothes at the end of the day. I wore the same clothing almost every day. It was a cultural adjustment at first, however I enjoyed the simplicity of it, which created more clarity and focus.

There is a reason why Steve Jobs wore a black t-shirt every day, and the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, also embraces a simple clothing style. Simplifying your clothing choices at the start of your day gives you more brainpower for other decisions.

Researchers at Columbia University discovered a striking pattern while looking at the verdicts reached by judges in the Israeli court system. Prisoners that were seen in the morning for charges of fraud and assault received parole 65% of the time. Prisoners who appeared late in the day for similar cases received parole less then 10% of the time. There were other common variables noticed in the study, if the judge had taken a lunch break, the cases after the break-received parole 60% of the time. Each choice you make depletes your energy. As you become more fatigued, you’re more likely to make decisions with less clarity. If you’re curious about other choice fatigue research studies, then you may want to read the book Willpower by Roy Raumeister and John Tierney.

There is a Ted Talk on the paradox of choice by Barry Schwartz, which describes that choices can produce paralysis instead of liberation. I didn’t fully understand this until my experience in a third world country. When I was staying in India there was only one store in walking distance. At the store there was only one face wash to choose from, you were lucky to find a roll of toilet paper, and only one cold beverage was available – coconut water. Unlike the corner stores here in North America, where we are inundated with 100 different drink options, having only one choice made the selection process very easy. This saved me time, mental exhaustion, and overall I appreciated every drop of that delicious cold coconut water.

Having an abundance of choices can lead to depression. When you enter a grocery store and have over 100 different drink options, you can feel paralyzed over what choice to make. Once that choice is finally made, then you may even start to ponder if a different choice would have been better, which can lead to self-blame and depression.

So, what can you do to combat the choice fatigue that leaves you exhausted day after day? Below are seven daily tips to create more brainpower!

1. Eating the same thing every day. I enjoy eating oatmeal every day, and when I start to get bored I spice it up with some cinnamon, almond milk and apples!

2. Wearing the same thing. I choose to wear solid colours, and will wear the same cozy clothes each week, rotating approximately 30 items.

3. Embrace daily routines. I enjoy making myself a schedule for the next day the night before. I will plan out a yoga class to attend in the morning, make a grocery list and will meal plan every Monday. I make one soup every week, and will make an abundant amount to take to work with me each day for the week.

4. Limit choices. Fewer choices lead to more time for other things. Reserve your energy for time that matters. I enjoy attending a yoga class before going to work. The yoga instructor creates the flow and instructs me to move from pose to pose. I feel energized when I leave and have more focus and clarity for other decisions during my day.

5. Single-tasking. Schedule time each day to check your email and provide a response. I check my email twice a day, once at 7am and again at the end of the day. I allocate a 30-minute window to go though my email and provide a response. I keep this time distraction free so I can focus on each person to provide the best response.

6. Focus on your intention instead of the outcome. When I injured my IT Band, I had difficulty walking for almost two months. I really wanted my leg to heal so that I could be pain free and move about my day easily. I felt disappointed and sad that it wasn’t healing faster. I had stopped my yoga practice and started float therapy. In order to address the disappointment that I was experiencing, I changed my mindset. Instead of focusing on the outcome I focused on my intention, which was to relieve stress and sooth my pain. Once I became intention focused, I valued and enjoyed the experience of float therapy much more. I stopped focusing on the outcome and enjoyed being in the moment, floating on water like a frog lounging on a lily pad.

7. Trust your intuition! Recently during my home renovations, I was debating whether or not I should keep the popcorn ceiling in my living room. I made a poll on Instagram to see what others thought, but before looking at the results I had already made the decision to embrace the popcorn ceiling.  Many people voted not to keep the popcorn ceiling, which made me ponder whether or not I was making the right choice. In the end, I stayed true to my decision to embrace the popcorn ceiling because it not only saved me time and money, but also added character to my living room.

Have faith in the decisions you make and trust your gut!

 

“May your choices reflect your hopes not your fears.” – Nelson Mandela

 

Written by Bliss therapist Stacey Harris.  Learn more about Stacey and get her secret “Tips From the Couch” here!

Single this Valentine’s Day? We’ve got you Covered!

 

As Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, it’s hard not to notice stores filling up their shelves with chocolates, stuffies, cards and everything pink and red. For those that soak up all the fun, loving, mushy sentiments, Valentine’s Day can be great! But what about those of you who are riding solo this year? Here are 5 ways to help navigate this Hallmark holiday:

  1. Check in with yourself.What emotions is this day bringing up for you? Once you have identified if there are any lingering feelings that you haven’t dealt with, you can begin to make space to process them. Whether it’s sadness, loneliness, relief or happiness, what are you feeling? Are you holding on to a past relationship, lover, experience, etc.? What do you need to heal and move forward? Valentine’s Day can stir this pot, so make sure you are being honest with where you are at, and what you need.

 

  1. Check in with your friends.Who else is in the same boat as you? Sometimes it can be helpful to know that there are others feeling the same way. Do you have other single friends that you could connect with? Or maybe even friends that are in relationships that don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day? Think about getting together and going out for a movie, dinner, paint night, dancing, a spa day, a yoga session or a killer spin class. If going out isn’t your thing, maybe you could have a low key night at home, or invite friends over for dinner or to hang out on the couch catching up.

 

  1. All my friends are coupled up, so now what do I do? Do something for yourself!Buy yourself those special chocolates you were eyeing earlier at the grocery store, take yourself out for dinner or order in your favourite dish. Do something that will make you feel good and empowered. We are our own worst enemies, and we can get wrapped up or lost in our own thoughts and self-judgments. Be kind to yourself and give yourself a break. Remember that you are worthy of love and healthy relationships, but being single can be celebrated just as much as being coupled up; and Valentine’s Day gives you the opportunity for self-reflection and well-deserved me time!

 

  1. Check in with your family.Maybe you could use this day to have dinner with your parents, or to spend time with a grandparent. Do you have any nieces or nephews? Maybe you could babysit them while their parents go out. It could be fun to do cheesy crafts again, or decorate some heart shaped goodies!

 

  1. Limit social media.We all have those friends on our Facebook or Instagram feeds who create over the top posts on how great their partner is, and how loved they are. While that may be something they feel is important for them to share on their platform, it can feed challenging or unhelpful thoughts that you may be experiencing. Social media has the tendency to contribute to our need to compare where our friends are at in their lives and relationships with where we are. So, if you think you may feel triggered by seeing what your friends are sharing on Valentines Day, don’t spend as much time scrolling!

 

There isn’t a clear path to avoiding Valentine’s Day altogether, but there are definitely ways to help you navigate the day and get out on the other side. If you really do find yourself struggling with where you’re at right now and need someone to talk to, you can always connect with one of us here at Bliss Counselling.

 

Do you need some ideas of solo activities, or things to do with friends this Valentine’s Day? Check out these websites for things to do around KW!

  1. https://www.ammayoga.ca (Restorative yoga? Yes please!)
  2. https://www.hustlandflow.com/home (Kick boxing, spin classes, yoga and juice bar)
  3. https://www.socialart.ca (Get your paint on)
  4. https://www.dejavusalonandspa.ca (Pamper yourself)
  5. https://www.thewatersspa.com (Making me time)
  6. https://www.ginaspa.com (Focusing on yourself)
  7. http://adventurerooms.ca(Grab a team and try to escape these rooms)
  8. https://batlgrounds.com/axe-throwing-kitchener/ (Let it go!)
  9. https://www.ctrlv.ca/ctrl-v-waterloo-flagship/ (Whoa!)
  10. https://www.cineplex.com/Theatre/cineplex-cinemas-kitchener-and-vip?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=local&utm_content=CPXKitchenerVIP (Drinks, food, movies, sounds like a plan)
  11. https://apollocinema.ca (A gem kind of spot)
  12. http://www.princesscinemas.com (And they have a café too!)
  13. https://www.facebook.com/PatentSocial/ (Super Mario!)
  14. https://www.acepingponglounge.com (Ping Pong)
  15. http://www.crossroadscafe.ca (Board games)
  16. http://www.gamesontap.ca (More board games)

 

Written by Bliss sexologist Lindsay Kenna. Learn more about Lindsay and get her secret “Tips From the Couch” here.

Holiday Stress Tips

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… unless you are burnt out, over spending or anxious about seeing a family member!

The holidays are wonderful, but they tend to come with some added stress for most of us. It is mostly because people tend not to have a lot of boundaries at this time of year. We believe we should put others’ needs ahead of our own; after all it is the season of giving, right? Well your therapist would tell you something different. At this time of year it is especially important to have some healthy boundaries.

Our team at Bliss Counselling would strongly suggest using the following tips as a helpful guide to get you through this difficult time of year.

 

  1. Try not to take on too much. When possible, encourage people to bring a dish if you are hosting, or if you are visiting, try not to cram in going to too many places in the same day. Burning yourself out will not make your time enjoyable.
  2. Say no!!! If you feel like you have too many things on the go, it is ok to say no. No is an answer all in itself. You can always suggest another day or time in the future. Christmas Day is December 25th but we don’t have to fit everything and everyone into this ONE day.
  3. Don’t spend too much. Some of the most valuable gifts don’t include a price tag. One of the traditions in my family is an experience gift. Make your own gift card and suggest a day of tobogganing and hot chocolate. You will never regret spending time with your loved ones.
  4. Don’t isolate yourself. Some people find the holidays challenging because they feel left out. It is always good to get out rather than to stay at home. Find a place that brings you some joy. Walking through a park with Christmas lights or going somewhere you can listen to music
  5. It’s ok to honour lost loved ones, or those we can’t be close to during the holidays
  6. Try and stick to some of your daily routines that make you happy, like working out or enjoying a good book
  7. If you need to take space because you are upset at something that a family member said, or just overwhelmed with the number of people around you can always go for a walk or drive, or find a quiet space to sit alone. It’s ok to take a break from everything
  8. Make sure to check in with your partner prior to saying yes to things. This is always a good check point and allows your partner to be a part of the planning process. They may also provide you with a healthy reminder of when it might be time to say no to something.

 

Written by Bliss Therapist Tammy Benwell.

 

We know that the holidays can be stressful, and hope that these tips can provide some guidance to those experiencing anxiety during this busy time of year. If you’re looking for further support and wish to speak with a Bliss specialist, you can book an appointment here.

What Does it Mean to be Authentic?

“Authenticity is not something we have or don’t have. It’s a practice – a conscious choice of how we want to live. Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”

– Brené Brown

 

Being authentic means feeling comfortable sharing your flaws and failures as much as your triumphs and successes, and that you don’t need to be liked by others to feel as though you matter. It is a true recognition that you matter regardless of what others think, and being able to embrace your weaknesses as much as your strengths.

Being authentic means not striving to be what others expect us to be, or even what we think we are supposed to be, but rather loving the most vulnerable parts of ourselves. It means knowing that we can form opinions on our own, and to voice those opinions in a way that holds true to our values. Most importantly, being authentic means staying true to our core values, even when they are different from someone else’s.

We have all had those moments where we faked being happy when what we really wanted to do was fall apart. Why do we do that? Because we have been programmed to believe that who we are isn’t enough, and that how we feel isn’t ok. We are taught very early in life that people will only truly like us if we present them with something that feels good to them. This fear often holds us back from being authentically ourselves.

Imagine arriving to work, and when asked “how are you today?” you actually respond with how you are feeling; “I am feeling awful, my kids were having complete meltdowns” or maybe it sounds like, “my morning was horrible, my husband and I got into an argument”. Most of us would never say these things, even though they are exactly what we are experiencing and feeling. Of course there may be some people you aren’t willing to share that information with, and that’s okay too! Being authentic means doing and sharing what we feel when we want to, and with whom we want to share that with. Being authentic means not being scared to share those feelings in order to make others more comfortable, and sharing what we want to based on what we may need in that moment.

Lastly, I want to emphasize that being authentic isn’t something that we have to search for, it is being exactly who we are. To each person this will look different, and that is what is so beautiful about authenticity!

 

Written by Bliss therapist Tammy Benwell. Learn more about Tammy and get her secret “Tips From the Couch” here.

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Do you have any questions for us? We’re happy to help! Get in touch with us here.
If you’re interested in booking your first appointment with Bliss, you can do that here.

 

 

How to Handle Financial Stress in your Relationship

It’s no secret that money problems can be a huge source of relationship strife — in fact, most surveys report money as the main source of stress in a relationship, and it’s easy to see why. If the money isn’t there, it can seep into every part of your life and affect every part of your day. From grocery shopping, to a friend’s birthday, to what you think about before you go to sleep, money is always there. It’s an incredibly difficult scenario to be in — but new research shows that it affects some of us more than others.

Recent research from The Harris Poll and Ally Bank surveyed more than 1,400 American adults about where their relationship stress was coming from. Unsurprisingly, money came out on top. But in an interesting twist, the research found that young Americans were twice as likely as older Americans to say that money was the biggest cause of stress. While 44 percent of the younger adult group pointed to money, only 23 percent of the older adults said the same. With housing prices skyrocketing in recent decades and a pool of student loan debt you could drown in, Millennials are feeling the financial strain far more than Baby Boomers.

The most difficult part? Well, as we know, money doesn’t grow on trees. If you’re already stretched to your limit and an unexpected bill lands on your door, there’s no magic fix. But there are things you can do to help keep money stress from wrecking your relationship. Here’s what you need to know:

 

Educate Yourself

Many of us are not financially savvy — because we simply didn’t receive the education. For some reason, we spent way more time on the Pythagorean theorem than learning about how to save money or file our taxes (and it’s pretty obvious which one we actually need as adults). If you haven’t already learned how to do these things, then you need to educate yourself. And, if your partner’s spending is stressing you out, remember that they probably need some help, too. “Most of the time, bad money habits come from either a lack of education because this stuff isn’t taught in school — which isn’t your fault of your partner’s,” Priya Malani, co-founder of Stash Wealth, a wealth management company, told Brides. “Seek out education and advice so you can see the financial impact of current behavior on your future self.” This might mean seeing a financial advisor, if you’re in a position to do so. If money’s too tight for that, start by checking out some money-saving websites and basic financial advice. There’s so much available online, so use it!

 

Talk About Money — Think “Little And Often”

Talking about money can take on a larger-than-life quality in some relationships. Maybe you never talk about it and you don’t know where to start — or maybe money is so stressful that every time it comes up it sends you both towards a meltdown. Either way, it’s time to normalize talking money. Start discussing it as early as you can in a relationship, but it doesn’t have to be in these huge, awkward conversations. “Little and often” is how you should talk about money, with small comments that bring it up on a regular basis. Whether it’s, “I’m really tight this month, do you mind if we don’t go out for dinner?” to “I really want to sort out my 401k and I don’t know where to start” or even, “I don’t think we can afford as big of a trip this year, should we sit down and crunch the numbers?” These little moments will normalize how you talk about money, so you’ll be in a better position for the big conversations.

 

Look At Your Shared Expenses 

If you and your partner are serious, it may be time to have a look at your shared expenses. Maybe you each pay for a couple of the bills, maybe you transfer money into a joint account every month. Either way, going through the numbers together and looking for ways to save money — like changing to a new gas or electric company or cancelling that cable subscription you don’t use — can be a good way to open up the conversation about money and make sure you’re on the same page.

 

Start Saving

The best thing you can do to relieve your money stress it to start saving — yes, right now. It may not be a lot, it may seem totally insignificant, but it can be something. Even just twenty dollars a month adds up to $240 over the course of the year — which is a nice little cushion to have. If you have the means, putting a little away for retirement and a little away for money for something fun — a trip, a new purchase, or a house deposit — will help incentivize you to save.

 

Focus On An Emergency Fund First

Although day-to-day money stress can be excruciating, a lot of the panic and frustration comes in when you get an unexpected expense. The car breaks down, your child needs a filling, or you need a plumber to come and fix that hole that’s gotten way too big — whatever it is, it can be incredibly stressful and throw your entire equilibrium out of whack. If you can get together an emergency fund of even a few hundred dollars (more if you can afford it), you’ll be covered when an unexpected bill hits. Just make sure you replenish your emergency fund as quickly as you can.

If money is tight for you and your partner, it’s totally normal for that to be a source of stress — but it doesn’t have to ruin your relationship. Educate yourself about managing your finances and get comfortable talking about money — because that’s half the battle.

 

 

Written by Bliss therapist Kelly McDonnell-Arnold.

We know that talking to your partner about money can be uncomfortable, and having a third party to help navigate these difficult conversations can be extremely helpful! Our Bliss therapists are happy to help! Book an appointment here.

Sexy Friday: Pre-teen Sex-Ed and Healthcare Accessibility for Transgender Individuals

This week, join us for another Sexy Friday to talk about pre-teen sex education and healthcare accessibility for transgender individuals. On this episode, Kelly is joined by Stacey Jacobs again, a sexual health education manager at Sexual Health Options, Resources & Education – SHORE Centre. Deanna Clatworthy, nurse and clinical manager at HIV/AIDS Resources and Community Health (ARCH), in Guelph, Ontario is also on the show today to discuss the healthcare needs and supports available to transgender individuals.

Stacey addresses talking to pre-teens about sex, and taking advantage of the many resources available to us. She explains that we shouldn’t avoid answering a question simply because we don’t know the answer. We have access to resources to help us answer these questions, so we should be working toward finding the proper answer to the questions our children ask, instead of avoiding or guessing the correct answer.

Another very important suggestion Stacey makes is to watch TV shows and videos with your children. This ensures that you are aware of what they are watching, and can help them navigate complicated or incomplete information. Make sure to be engaged with them, ask them questions about what they are watching and challenge them to critically view the program to challenge the stereotypes. Allow them to talk about gender, gender roles and gender expression, and most importantly, let your child be themselves.

Deanna joins Kelly to share with us the health care support that is available to transgender folks, and the knowledge that community members should be responsible for seeking out to ensure a comfortable environment for all. She also talks about gender affirming surgeries, providing further information on what surgeries are accessible and paid for, and the obstacles or lack of support that people may experience during this process. Finally, Deanna addresses the importance of using appropriate language, “It doesn’t cost you anything to call someone by their preferred name, but it means everything to them”.

Watch the full episode for more information on these very important topics HERE!

 

Guest Information:

Stacey Jacobs

Instagram: @shorecentrewr

Deanna Clatworthy

Twitter: @ARCHguelph

Bliss Specialists Answer Questions About the Intensive Sex Therapy Training Program

Recently, Bliss specialists Farrah Kherani and Stacey Harris participated in the Intensive Sex Therapy Training Program at the University of Guelph. Although they were dearly missed around the office, they returned to Bliss with valuable knowledge to further support their clients!

Below, Stacey and Farrah answer some of the burning questions that we had about their experience with the Intensive Sex Therapy Training Program.

What sparked your interest in the intensive sex therapy course?

Stacey: The course was highly recommended by Sex Therapists, Kelly and Lindsay. I have been working with individuals and couples that have struggled with their sexuality, and I wanted to be able to offer more resources and information. People have shared struggling with intimacy due to pervious trauma, having low desire, pain, infidelity and other struggles. I want to offer a space for individuals and couples to feel comfortable exploring their sexuality to discuss their desires, hopes and fears.

Memories, emotions, thoughts and expectations have an enormous influence on pain. I offer hypnotherapy for pain management and I wanted to learn more skills related to sex therapy to incorporate into practice.

Farrah: My colleagues at Bliss had been raving about this course, and I wanted to learn more about what Sex Therapy entails.  I also wanted to learn about a different type of therapy that I could implement into my practice with individuals. Interestingly enough, many of the clients that I see come in for various reasons, and some of these reasons impact their sexuality and intimacy in their relationships with others.  This course helped me expand my knowledge and skill set in order to help clients discover themselves as sexual beings, and work through any sexual struggles they may be facing.

What did you enjoy most about the course?

Stacey: I enjoyed meeting people from all over the world and hearing their stories. I’m grateful that I got to participate in a diverse group that sparked many light bulbs in my mind. It was an embodied experience that left me feeling more energized and motivated to help others. I enjoyed learning more about sensate focus and plan on incorporating hypnotherapy sensate focus to help individuals calm the nervous system, increase intimacy and build self-esteem.

I plan on asking people what gives them pleasure more often. It may be sex or it may not, and that’s okay. Something that gives me pleasure every day is playing with my dog.

Farrah: Such an exceptional course!  I met so many professionals from various backgrounds and from as far away as Australia and Sweden.  The content provided in this course was beyond what I had expected and I learned so much. It left me wanting to keep learning more. We were taught by well-informed professionals, which included; Sex Therapists and Researchers, a Pelvic Floor Therapist, an OBGYN/ Sexual Medicine Doctor, a Pharmacist, and an expert in Sexual Pleasure and Sexual Play.  Each presenter brought a wealth of knowledge to this course and to my learning. We had some intense dialogues as well as lots of fun and laughter.

What portion of the course did you find most informative to your practice (group discussions, practice therapy sessions, lectures or videos)?

Stacey: I highly enjoyed the presenters that offered various perspectives. There was an OBGYN, Pharmacist, Consensual Non-Monogamy Researcher, Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist, Sexuality Coach and different therapists. I learned different skills from each person that I plan on incorporating into my practice. A quote that stands out to me by Albert Einstein, “Education is not the learning of facts. But training the mind to think.” The course was holistic and certainly opened my mind to various ideas, theories, medical information and strategies. I plan on offering clients a safe space to share about sexuality, and train the mind to think in different ways.

Farrah: I would have to say that all of the presenters were informative to my practice.  No questions were off limits, and I enjoyed and learned from the open dialogue among the group and the presenters.  Group discussions offered a variety of perspectives. We were given the opportunity to witness an actual sex therapy session, which provided an in depth view of what types of concerns and trauma clients may have experienced, and how this impacts them as sexual beings. I also learned more about how the dynamics of the act of sex changes in relationships over time and while individuals age. One particular video that stands out which really informed my practice was “Naked on the Inside”. I would highly recommend watching this.

Could you share a resource that you used during the course that you found especially interesting/helpful to your learning?

Stacey: Naked On The Inside Documentary- Six individuals share their stories about body image issues and dig deep into their vulnerabilities to create inner healing.

Farrah: “Want”- Lori Erikson. This video describes the realities of homosexuality and aging.  Documentaries such as this inform us on how homosexuality can affect our ability to get appropriate personal care, and how individuals feel they have to go back ‘into the closet’ in order to get into a proper care facility.

 

Written by Bliss therapists, Stacey Harris and Farrah Kherani. 

Are you interested in booking an appointment with Bliss? Find more information about doing so HERE!

 

Why Integrated Treatment with Co-Occurring Disorders is Essential

The national institute of health estimates that half of the patients who are in abuse rehabilitation centers also struggle with mental health problems in addition to their addiction. In the past, treatment centers which deal with these problems have always looked at them as separate entities, and there were no programs which involved dealing with the co-occurring disorders. As a result, patients ended up with an increased risk of poor compliance with medication, relapses, violence and even suicide attempts. Studies that have been conducted in recent years show that patients who receive integrated medication which involves behavioral therapy and other related psychosocial interventions have a higher chance of beating addiction than those who just go to the regular old school rehab.

The Components of An Effective Integrated Approach Program

There are certain criteria that a certain substance abuse and rehabilitation program must meet for it to qualify as an integrated approach:

  • A multidisciplinary team will be involved. This includes rehab experts and mental health experts.
  • The patients will get stage-wise interventions with comprehensive access to the services.
  • There are motivational interventions and participation in self-help groups.
  • Pharmacological treatments and interventions whose aim is to improve health are also common.

 

Dual diagnosis 

The treatment starts with a diagnosis. The diagnosis comes after the patient admits that they have a substance abuse problem. It is good that most of the substance abuse therapists are now asking the right questions which lead up to a dual diagnosis. It is now quite standard to have the practitioners asking about a patient’s mental and emotional health when they are approached for a solution to substance abuse. When it is established that substance abuse is coupled with an emotional health disorder, practitioners come up with an integrated treatment program which does not separate the addiction from the mental health issue.

Why Dual Diagnosis Is Important

Statistics show that people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are five times more likely to have substance abuse problems than their mentally healthy counterparts. 37 percent of people who abuse alcohol and 53 percent of people who abuse other drugs also suffer from a co-occurring mental condition. These statistics show that mental health issues cannot be ignored when offering treatment for substance abuse. Other mental health issues which co-occur with substance abuse include anxiety, PTSD, borderline personality disorder and major depression. These people normally abuse drugs like alcohol, opiates, nicotine, prescription drugs, sedatives, hallucinogens and stimulants. With close to ten million Americans struggling with co-occurring disorders, according to SAMHSA, it is important to adopt an integrated approach in treatment.

Benefit of An Integrated Approach 

It is essential to note that when a patient has these two co-occurring disorders, and one is left untreated, it will hamper any progress that would be made with the other one. Also, in most cases, the two conditions end up being related to each other in complex ways and treating them together gives the health care practitioners insights on how to handle both on a day to day basis. In addition to these benefits to the patient, the society benefits in the following ways:

  • Reduction of arrests and incarcerations among the patients.
  • Reduced rates of hospitalization over substance abuse or mental health episodes.
  • Fewer service costs and reduced instances where services are duplicated.

 

Patients have also been proven to increase their ability to afford and maintain independent living, stable housing, improved quality of life and achievement of continuity of care.

The Treatment Process Followed

There are a number of steps that are followed in the addiction treatment process for people who have received a dual diagnosis. The steps include:

  • Encouraging the patient to get psyche for the treatment process.
  • Identifying how severe the addiction process.
  • Offering rehabilitation and psychotherapy sessions which are appropriately intense to the patient.
  • Providing follow up support after the main treatment and giving referrals to community-based support groups that the patient can count on as they recover.

 

This approach is, therefore, a better way of dealing with substance abuse than the traditional setup where the two were dealt with as separate entities. The evidence clearly indicates that patients will gain more from an integrated treatment approach than when they deal with these two issues separately, which means that the program is worth a try.

 


About the Author

Ruben Lopez is a freelance writer from Atlanta, Georgia with a passion for addiction treatment. He is committed to helping those who are in recovery, and he occasionally writes for The Recovery Village.

Good News: There’s No Such Thing As “Bad” Feelings

Have you ever screwed up in your relationship, or have done something that you immediately felt terrible about? Perhaps your stomach started doing backflips and you were filled with a sense of dread, anxiety, and maybe even anger or shame. However you choose to describe the feeling, it probably didn’t feel awesome.

Many folks might immediately label these feelings as, “bad.” We hear this a lot in our therapy work with clients, and our response is almost always the same:

Feelings aren’t good or bad—they just are.

These feelings? They’re distinctly uncomfortable. Not bad, wrong, or inappropriate, but simply not comfortable and an important aspect of being human. Feelings give us information that’s impossible to perceive in any other way than with judgment. However, we can only use this valuable information when we stop pushing them away, ignoring them, or becoming numb to them.

To help the difficult feelings feel better, people sometimes turn to the blame game, pointing a finger at someone else for what happened. People often place blame on others to ease the pain in the moment, but it hardly works in the long run. In addition to blame, we often want to stop the uncomfortable feeling right away and move on to a better-feeling one, searching for a quick fix to our feelings.

Just feel it

Whether it’s distracting, minimizing, or turning our backs and sprinting away from uneasy feelings, this could be causing more suffering. Instead, just feel your feelings. It may feel a little overwhelming at first, to feel them all at once, because it might feel too heavy. However, you can give yourself the permission to feel them, do what you need to do, wallow for a while and then move on.

It can be all too easy to pretend something didn’t happen, or even ignore our feelings entirely. However, this doesn’t serve us well in the future because our feelings need to move through us. We can sit in the discomfort of an unpleasant feeling and feel our way through it, staring our feelings directly in the eye in the name of being able to move on.

Feelings can also give us clues about our current physical and emotional well-being. They offer us insight into what feelings bring us closer to, or further away from joy, helping us spot problems before they happen. Feelings can also help provide us with motivationto make a change, try something new, or make a decision. They can be a helpful “heads up” for figuring out our lives.

Keep in mind, they don’t always give us answers. We need our cognitive skills for understanding what feelings mean, and to do this, we need to first register what the feeling is so that we can feel it fully. Once we do this, then we can get to the business of figuring out what this clue means.

The good or bad measuring stick

Many people grow up judging our emotions as either “good” or “bad.” Maybe it looks a lot like this:

“Good” feelings:

  • Happy
  • Glad
  • Funny
  • Calm

 

“Bad” feelings:

  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Lonely
  • Displeased

 

Think about some of the labels you’ve applied to feelings in the past. Perhaps you could add some to this list.

Instead, celebrate your feelings

Here’s a fresh take on how to look at your feelings, no matter what they are: your feelings are proof that you have feelings and that you’re a feeling person! That’s fantastic! It means you’re present, you’re here and living out a rich human experience. Life as a human means that we get to experience a full spectrum of emotion, not just good and bad emotions. Sure, some of these sentiments will feel more uncomfortable than others, but once you recognize this simple truth, it can be easier to move on.

Therapy isn’t about fixing feelings

When you tap into the power of your emotional system and put the information to proper use, this can give you an advantage when it comes to making decisions. Many people see their emotions as something they have to control or keep in check, rather than something they could capitalize on to strengthen their lives.

Visiting a therapist isn’t about helping clients to stop feeling their feelings, learning how to manage them, or going through emotions previously described as “bad” or “wrong.” Instead, consider therapy as a practical, judgment-free space to help people feel safe enough to allow the feelings to pop up and incorporate the less comfortable feelings. As therapists, we’re not here to “fix” anyone, but rather, set up a space to just feel and explore feelings.

Amp up your emotional intelligence

Using your feelings as a learning opportunity is the key to making better life choices. What would happen if you decided to see your feelings as information? What might that change in your life?

The next time you notice an uncomfortable or distressing feeling knocking on your door, try pivoting from thinking, “this is bad” to “this feeling is uncomfortable,” and notice what happens to your demeanor and interactions with others.

Are you ready to dig into your feelings and learn the clues they might be offering you to help live your best life? We’d love to hear more! Get in touch and book an appointment here.

 

Written by Bliss therapist Kelly McDonnell-Arnold. Learn more about Kelly and get her secret “Tips From the Couch” here.

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The Power of Me Time

 

In today’s fast-paced, digital world, it’s nearly impossible to be alone. We’re always connected. School, work and relationships all have a major impact on the way we live our life, and ultimately on our state of well-being and happiness.

A critical part of finding peace and happiness is accepting yourself just the way you are. We as people are not perfect, yet we often times lose sight of this and demand things from ourselves we simply cannot do. And being constantly surrounded by others intensifies this sensation. There’s so much pressure to “be someone,” and it seems like we’re always being judged or compared to others.

Enter “me time”. This small change to your lifestyle can have major effects on your self-esteem, self-confidence and self-worth. But what exactly is it? Well, it’s pretty much what the name says. It’s time you take entirely for yourself. It can be just a few minutes, or it can be a few hours, and it doesn’t really matter what you do. The only requirements are that you be alone and that you do something you love to do.

Why is this so important? Simply put, carving out some time of the day just for you is an opportunity for you to show yourself that you can be happy without others. Of course, sharing yourself is a critical component of wellness, but when we’re out in the world, we’re constantly being fed messages that indicate happiness is something to be found outside of ourselves, something we need to acquire. Yet long-lasting happiness cannot be found externally. It’s not even something that can be found. It’s already inside of us; we just need some time to realize it.

And this is exactly what “me time” is for. It’s a chance for you to forget about the situations in life where you’re asked to do things you perhaps don’t enjoy or that bring you stress. These are unavoidable, so by balancing them with moments of true bliss, you are giving yourself the strength you need to make it through the day.

“Me time” can also serve as a great motivator. If you know your day is going to end with you sitting in your room meditating, or that it’s going to begin with a novel and a cup of delicious coffee, you’ll begin to approach the rest of your day differently. Undesirable tasks will take on new meaning since completing them will mean you get to enjoy this wonderful time with yourself and the things you love to do.

When you decide to add “me time” to your day, take it seriously. Tell those around you—your partner, children, friends, etc.—the specific time you’ve cut out of your schedule. Inform them to only disturb you in the event of an extreme emergency and consider switching off your phone and/or tablet so that you can’t be distracted by the outside world. In the beginning, it may even be helpful to put this time on your calendar so that you and those around you can understand this is not a fad or a whim but a real component of you maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Once you start doing this, you won’t be able to stop. You’ll be able to see the impacts almost right away. You’ll find new energy and motivation, and you’ll begin to feel better about yourself. If you’re looking to make bigger changes in life, this is a great way to find the drive and confidence to do so. Start taking some “me time” today and see how it can change your life for the better.

 

About the author: Caroline is a freelance writer and entrepreneur. When she entered the working world, she quickly became a self-proclaimed workaholic. While this brought her some financial success, it nearly ruined several relationships and left her in a truly dark place. After seeking some help, she began realizing how important it was to take life a little less seriously and to reserve time for what she loved to do. This has helped her create a work-life balance that supports both her professional and personal goals. She writes frequently about her experiences to help other ambitious women (and men) prioritize their life in the right way so that success at work doesn’t come at the expense of health and well-being.

Self-Esteem and Challenging the Negative Narrative of “Me”

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, self-esteem is the value we place on how we feel about ourselves, both inside and out. Self-esteem involves understanding our strengths and weaknesses, accepting them, and doing the best we can with that we have. In this piece, Chad Bouma, a Clinical Social Worker and Therapist in the Waterloo region, shares his personal and professional experience on self-esteem.

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Think to your own life. Did you (or do you still) look towards others for affirmation and validation that your choices (career, friends, partners, school, etc.) were/are the “right” ones? Do you think that the choices you’ve made are ones that you can feel good about? When I think to parts of my life I can see that there were many times that I did not feel like I had worth, especially in comparison to other people who seemingly were better looking, more athletic, or more intelligent than I perceived myself. I could characterize myself as someone who had low self-esteem.

In my practice, I see various adults and adolescents who are struggling and/or challenged with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, stress, and various other mood/cognitive disorders. When we begin to dig a bit deeper into the reflections of self, it’s no surprise that clients also identify that they either have or are also struggling with self-esteem issues. While not every person I work with faces these two complexities (mental health and low self-esteem), I can’t help but notice the correlation that exists for many.

In other words, how we portray ourselves in regards to our worth and abilities can definitely have an impact on how we experience and perceive our mental health challenges. Low self-esteem can definitely be a contributor and symptom of something like depressive thinking – which then acts as a “double whammy” in our ability to gain greater self-awareness. Does my self-esteem contribute to my depression or does my depression contribute to my low self-esteem? I believe the answer is both; but it also does not mean that we are altogether hopeless in turning things around. Research shows that many mental health disorders are biologically caused, meaning that talking to our health professionals and finding the right treatment (be it pharmaceutical or not) is always the best first option.

Part of the work that I try to do with people through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is to have a very honest conversation regarding peoples’ perceptions of themselves. Feelings of hopelessness or a lack of motivation do not always equate to low self-esteem, so it’s important to go through the arduous process of becoming self-aware. Here lies the possibility of a problem: if someone has positive self-esteem and self-worth then it may be relatively easy for them to identify this as such. But on the other hand, if someone does not feel like they have worth, then exploring that further may not be a rabbit hole that they really want to go down.

Talking about self-esteem is hard, and it’s even harder when you do not want to be faced with the fact that you may have low self-esteem. We live in an age where assertiveness is held as a virtue, and the subversion to more dominant personalities is seen as weak or lacking a spine. Moreover, it can be difficult to hear that your low self-esteem may be a large contributor for why things may not be going so positively for you in terms of your mental health. This does not mean, however, that you are the cause of the problem.

The good news is that your self-esteem can be changed. The bad news is that it might be hard work. Past experiences of feelings of shame, being devalued, or not being affirmed in your identity can cause behavioral and cognitive patterns of thought (“I’m not good enough”) which may eventually turn into core beliefs (“I’ll never be good enough”). It’s these road blocks that can prevent individuals from being able to view themselves in a healthier light. Gaining self-awareness by naming your core beliefs and exploring their origins, although difficult, can become a catalyst to meaningful growth.

Were you bullied as a kid? Do you have a manager in your workplace that is only critical and not encouraging? Do your loved ones build you up or make you feel like you cannot succeed? Do you tend to avoid trying new things or taking on new challenges for fear of failure? Any of these experiences can lend itself to your story and perception of your self-esteem and self-worth – and if it’s a negative perception, it only serves as validation to the negative core beliefs you already hold for yourself.

It’s incredibly helpful to talk to your therapist about your self-esteem and how you understand your own understanding of how it came to be. Particularly in CBT, your therapist will help you identify these negative patterns of thought and emotion and work with you in trying to challenge and change some of those assumptions you’ve made of yourself. Does your boss being critical of you actually mean that you’re not good in your role? Not necessarily. Does a bully at school truly know who you are and therefore your self-worth? Most likely not, and their bullying probably stems from their own self-esteem issues.

You may believe that it is beyond your grasp to change your self-esteem. It certainly takes hard work because of the incredible amount of internalizing and externalizing that needs to occur. But, simply begin with becoming aware of the messages you are telling yourself and try to challenge some of those negative assumptions you hold of yourself. With time, patience, and compassion, you have the potential to begin changing the narrative of your own self-perception.


CHAD BOUMA, MSW, RSW

I am a Clinical Social Worker who is trained in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (although I do not profess to be a purist in this approach!). I currently work part-time for the Delton Glebe Counselling Centre in Waterloo as an Associated Therapist and as a Field Advisor/Off-site Supervisor for the Bachelor of Social Work program at Wilfrid Laurier’s Brantford Campus. Practicing Psychotherapy has shown me that people have amazing stories and I am humbled regularly by the resilience and strength that so many of my clients demonstrate. I am passionate about walking alongside people in their challenges and sufferings, striving to provide an empathetic approach while also helping to provide practical, client-centered support. If you would like to connect with me directly, please send me an email at chadboumacounselling@gmail.com, or if you’d like to schedule an appointment with me please visit glebecounselling.ca or by calling (519) 884-3305.

How To Start A Personalized Meditation Process

Meditation and mindfulness methods best suited for depression and anxiety.

Meditation and mindfulness research has been making major headlines in 2017. Across the scientific literature you can generally find a similar definition for the meditative state: present-centred, non-judgemental awareness. Sounds pretty peaceful doesn’t it? We knew the wellness trend would continue but we Westerners didn’t quite foresee how much this ancient practice could shift our emotional experience, our overall perspective, and our physical well being. Thank goodness for some good news!

Now that we’re open to the idea of meditation and mindfulness the first question is often how do I begin? Home practice – especially guided practice – can be a great way to begin one’s relationship with meditation. I often see beginners make a common assumption after their first attempt with meditation; they try one style of guided meditation and sometimes assume the whole field of meditation and mindfulness isn’t for them. As teachers in the sector we could be doing a better job of promoting a personalized approach to meditation and mindfulness, informing meditators of all the styles and methods available and helping to guide students towards their own intuitive nature. Perhaps humans are far too interesting and complex for a one-size-fits-all perspective? For now, let’s focus on methods of meditation and mindfulness that are best suited towards students in some mental distress, namely depression and anxiety.

Some methods of meditation are better suited for those struggling with anxiety and/or depression than others. Generally speaking methods that are categorized in the literature as focused-attention (FA) are best suited to reduce anxiety and aid in disrupting depressive thinking habits. Those techniques include: 

a) Mindful breathing (as long as this doesn’t exacerbate things for individuals who may be triggered by focusing on breathing)

b) guided visualization

c) body-scanning techniques including ones found in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), progressive relaxation, and the practice of yoga Nidra.

Generally my guidance to those beginning their practice is as follows; some methods will work well for you while others, much less so. Try at least one meditation in each style and then choose a method that you feel works best with the nature of your own mind. Choosing a partner or finding a therapist we relate to easily is a highly individualized pursuit, and the same is true for finding a method of meditation best suited to the nature of your own mind.

Here are two meditations in each of the methods I mentioned above:

Body Awareness Meditation

 

Breathing Exercises (watching the breath, not manipulating the breath – as that method is not best suited for those with a tendency towards anxiety)

 

Guided Visualizations (can be done seated or laying down):

 

Before you begin let me say that the best way to enter a meditation practice is in a state of deep readiness. If you feel like you should be doing it or you’re strongly resisting the process, try giving yourself 20 minutes to relax before attempting to sit down. Remember the big picture and your desire to move towards health, happiness and peace, and start small. Even 5 minutes counts! Wellness is a lifelong strategy – be patient and enjoy!


Emily Squirrell, Founder, The Present Centre for Meditation & Mindfulness

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