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Anxiety

Anxiety, while often painful, disruptive, and sometimes debilitating to the person experiencing it, is a completely normal response to a situation that is stressful. The same innate biological responses that cause anxiety in us today were fundamental to our ancestor’s prehistoric survival. Our heart rates speed up, minds race, palms sweat and bodies shake as adrenaline floods our systems, preparing us to fight or run away from a threat. If our bodies hadn’t responded in this manner back in our Neanderthal days, we would not have survived very long at all.

The difference between then and now is that most of us are relatively safe at any given moment, and are less likely to need to physically protect ourselves from external threats. The same evolutionary processes that once kept us alive have a less significant role in the modern world, but unfortunately this does not mean that they cease to function.

Evidently, since so many of us are experiencing various forms of anxiety, our bodies have continued to react to perceived threats. It’s no longer giant, furry predators that provoke our fight or flight responses, but the daily stressors of our jobs or the weighty expectations that we cannot seem to shake. And one of the most significant threats to our safety today is how we speak to ourselves. Thoughts such as “you aren’t good enough”, “how could you have been so stupid” and “they think you are disgusting” are internalized as threats, and our bodies attempt to protect us from them. The trick is that these thoughts are often hidden in the background, and we aren’t necessarily aware that they are the trigger.

To combat the internal threat that you pose to yourself, try to be aware of the thoughts that accompany your physical symptoms of anxiety. With this awareness you can begin to replace some of those thoughts with more compassionate ones, similar to what you might tell a friend in the same situation. Try “you are doing fine”, “no one even noticed”, and “don’t be so hard on yourself”. It might not always come easily, our brains can be tricky to control at times, but with practice and perseverance you just might be able to tame your wild mind and make it work with you rather than against you.

 

Heather Anderson

Photo by Practical Cures on Flickr

Ghosting

Relationships can be extremely difficult, sometimes never more so than when they are ending. But what about the relationships that do not offer a typical, messy ending? Ghosting is when someone you care about, a close friend or someone that you have a romantic connection with, disappears from your life by discontinuing contact. Not only has a relationship that you put time and effort into ended – maybe with someone that you were excited about or possibly loved – but it has ended without explanation. In an age of primarily digital, commitment-free modes of communication, ghosting is a popular phenomenon. The ghoster begins to limit communication, cancel plans, and ignore messages until it becomes apparent to the ghosted that their friend or partner is no longer interested in the relationship.

Ending a relationship is difficult, and requires a significant amount of courage if it is to be done honestly and respectfully. However, the lack of face-to-face contact between people in many modern relationships weakens the sense of the other as a person who possesses a full range of emotions and the capacity to feel deeply – they are reduced to the text that appears on our screens. If someone has become desensitized to the fact that the person they are ghosting has real feelings that will be affected by the choices they make, it becomes much easier to avoid the mucky breakup part and simply move on. Feelings of guilt may come much later or not at all, but more immediately the ghoster is likely to experience a sense of relief. In such cases, those who choose to ghost their way out of a relationship either do not believe that the relationship is serious enough to warrant a discussion, or are more concerned with their own comfort than giving another what they deserve.

Of course, ghosting may also happen in cases where individuals have been in a committed and serious relationship for a significant period of time. In such cases, the lack of respect on the part of the ghoster is more than desensitization or laziness, but signals a real lack of respect for the person with whom they had a relationship. In such cases it is possible that the ghosted was led to believe the relationship was much more important to the ghoster than it actually was, or perhaps the ghoster has some deep-seated issues with relationships that cause them to avoid confrontation whenever possible. Whatever the reason, being ghosted usually feels awful.

There are a number of reasons why you may be experiencing emotional pain after being ghosted:

  • Ghosting gives us no clues about how to respond to the situation. When someone breaks up with you, you may feel hurt or used or angry, but at the very least you know that you must begin to move on and live without the relationship. When someone disappears it can be difficult to figure out how to carry on – do you wait for them to resurface? Do you seek them out or do you let them fade away? Are they not messaging you by choice or has there been some sort of accident that is preventing them from contacting you? You can’t possibly know, and so the difficult work of moving on is delayed and confused – without any cues from them, it can be difficult to tell how to respond and regulate your own emotions.
  • When we are ghosted, we are more likely to blame ourselves for the dissolution of the relationship. Rather than looking for signs in the relationship or in the behavior of the other that something was wrong, we look to ourselves. If they could just disappear like that it means we weren’t funny, attractive, smart enough to captivate them. Rejection often has a negative impact on our self-esteem, this is nothing new, but when it seems that the other was so completely uninvested or uninterested that they could just walk away, our esteem takes an even greater hit. We feel disposable.
  • Their silences forces silence upon us in turn. They rob us not only of an explanation but also of the option to voice our concerns, frustration, hurt, and anger. We become powerless to ask questions that will allow us to understand and move forward. It is the ultimate silent treatment. Even if you can technically still send them messages, the silence on their end will more likely leave you feeling hopeless and desperate rather than satisfied and vindicated.

 

When you have been ghosted, try to remember that it has nothing to do with you – sometimes people will not be interested in you, and that is a matter of preference rather than a flaw of yours. The flaw rests with their inability to deal with the discomfort that accompanies ending relationships, and more than anything else it shows that they were not ready for a healthy adult relationship. It can be difficult when our hopes for a relationship prove to be unfounded, but don’t let someone else’s selfish behaviour determine your openness to new people and new relationships. Communicate your needs and desires, keep an open-mind, and recognize that not everyone is ready or mature enough for sincere commitment. If you continue to move forward and treat others with the dignity and respect that they deserve, eventually you will attract someone who will reciprocate.

 

Ariel Benwell

 

What is EMDR?

 

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. EMDR is a form of psychotherapy that has been researched and proven effective in the treatment of PTSD and other mental health related problems. Using standardized protocols, it is a very scripted form of therapy. The focus of EMDR is not on talking or discussion, but on helping the brain process negative memories using bilateral stimulation, accomplished through guided eye movements or tactile stimulation. The bilateral stimulation is utilized to help the brain release emotional experiences that are trapped in the pre-processing phase.

 
I often describe using EMDR to my clients as a way of treating a wound that will not heal. We have all had cuts that heal with no need for any further intervention, but occasionally we end up with one that requires some extra care. The same can happen within our brains; typically we are able to process difficult things with time, but sometimes things happen to us that we cannot seem to overcome. EMDR is beneficial to use in these types of situations.

 
I have completed my basic training in EMDR with the Niagara Stress and Trauma Clinic, with the goal of eventually becoming a certified EMDR therapist.

 
For further information please check out the Canadian website: http://emdrcanada.org

 

Tammy Benwell

Redefining Productivity – The Bliss Way

Productivity cannot always be measured by how much has been crossed off of your daily to-do list or the number of job ladders climbed in your life. Tallying tasks or goals completed will leave you feeling overwhelmed and frustrated on days when you simply couldn’t do all that you had anticipated, or after a year that didn’t produce the outcomes you had hoped for. We all have those days, and those years, but if you focus on what you didn’t accomplish you will miss out on all of the things you did right! Here are a few alternate ways to determine whether you have been productive:

  1. If you did something that will help you out in the future. This could include learning a new skill that does not apply to your current job simply because it interests you (who knows when you will need it!), or working on some aspect of yourself that is holding you back emotionally, physically, or spiritually. Do not discount what you accomplished just because it doesn’t have immediate results.

 

  1. If you did something that builds or strengthens a relationship that is important to you. Spending time with people we love or enjoy being around can feel like a distraction from our real work, especially when we are busy, but prioritizing relationships is highly productive and important to present and future wellbeing. You may not have gotten the position you wanted at work, but you have someone to lean on when disappointment comes your way. Another position will open up eventually, but that relationship will fade without due attention.

 

  1. If you spent some time on self-care. Taking care of your self might feel a bit indulgent at first, but in reality its positive effects spill over into all other aspects of your day! It will make you a better friend, partner, parent, co-worker, or boss – what could be more productive than that? Do things that make you feel content or centered, things that remind you of the joy of living or that make you feel more fully yourself.

 

  1. If you did something that reflects your core values. Taking time out of your day to do things that make you feel like the best version of yourself is equally important. If you value being a good friend, listening to a friend vent on the phone for half an hour is not a waste of time. If you value being kind, then taking a few extra seconds to hold open a door or to help a stranger carry something to their car is not ruining your grocery shopping schedule. Your values should not be abandoned for the sake of efficiency.

 

  1. If you conquered something that was causing you anxiety, or dealt with something that was stressing you out. Okay, so this one might be more obviously productive. It certainly feels good when we finally take our car in to figure out what that funny noise is or when we finally have that conversation with our co-worker that we have been dreading. These things are productive in a way that is more tangible to ourselves and others, and might even allow us to check something off of our ‘lists’. But what about the things that aren’t typically on your list, like taking time out of your day to write about a fear that has been overwhelming you lately, setting aside some time to meditate before you try to get the kids ready for school, or visiting a therapist to discuss coping methods? These small things may feel like they are eating up valuable time, but they are truly invaluable when you consider the relief they will provide. Have you been feeling self-conscious and socially anxious because all of your clothing feels outdated or uncomfortable? Then, YES – a shopping trip just might be the most productive thing you do today.

By Ariel Benwell

 

Tips for getting the most out of therapy!

Are you are wanting to understand yourself and your personal goals and values better? Develop skills for improving relationships? Or overcome certain problems? Live a happier more fulfilling life?

While some individuals and/or couples may see a therapist out of necessity it is something that everyone can benefit from, like going to the gym, we don’t necessarily need it, but it has the potential to optimize our lives. I believe therapy is a gift people can give to themselves, their life and to the people they love.

For some, making the decision to begin therapy can be scary, intimidating, confusing and stressful. There’s good news, though! You can work through these feelings and truly get the most out of therapy. Join me for a quick look at some very easy steps that can make all of your therapy dreams come true!



Take your time selecting a therapist

You can’t very well go to therapy without a therapist, right? Right! So, the first thing you have to do is find a therapist who meets your specific set of needs. It’s super important to do this slowly and thoroughly to cover all of the bases to prevent you from feeling discouraged and overwhelmed.

Start out by determining the type of therapist and approach you’re interested in and whether or not they are professionally registered and/or licensed. From there you can create a list of those you’d like to reach out to along with a list of questions that you’d like to ask before scheduling a session. You can always skip this step if you’re feeling adventurous or have received a trust worthy referral, by simply scheduling an initial session with the therapist(s) who strike your fancy based upon your research.

I’ve always believed in the research showing that ‘fit’ is incredibly important in the therapy experience. There is a significant relationship between the therapeutic alliance and therapy outcome. Therefore, you should be able to connect with your therapist in order to make the best progress possible. It’s totally normal to go through an adjustment period at the beginning of your therapy journey, but don’t be afraid to listen to your gut if it’s telling you that you’re not seeing the “right” therapist for the job.

Be open to the therapy process

Therapy is hard work! But it can also be enriching, run, and sometimes even uncomfortable. You will learn more about yourself and the world around you – your relationships, patterns, bad habits, and ultimately what is holding you back from living your best life. It requires you to be open to challenging yourself and making changes, which tends to leave many feeling vulnerable and resistant to the process. Just know that a certain level of discomfort isn’t really a bad thing because breaking out of your comfort zone is the pathway to growth and the end result is worth it.

So, give it your best shot and try your very best to be receptive to both what your therapist is suggesting and reflecting back to you as well as your own self discoveries. Also keep in mind that your discomfort may ebb and flow a bit as you tackle new challenges in your sessions. This is totally normal, too, and all part of process as you venture into uncharted territories.

Set goals and do the work to meet them

Sure, you could just waltz into therapy without an idea of areas of your life that you’d like to improve. However, that makes it a bit difficult for your therapist to guide you through the different phases of therapy as well as making it virtually impossible for you both to gauge your progress.

So, take away some of the guess work by thinking of your goals and intentions for yourself both in and out of therapy. Set intentions for self-discovery and goals for changes you want to make personally, professionally, emotionally, relationally, sexually, behaviorally and be prepared to do the work. Doing so will enable both you and your therapist to set check in dates when your progress can be assessed and tweaks can be made to add new goals or modify existing ones accordingly.

Be honest with yourself and your therapist

Try to think of therapy as the time to be completely candid with yourself and with someone else who will hear what you’re saying in an unbiased, nonjudgmental way. However, this can be an incredibly difficult thing to do since we are all naturally inclined to tell people what we think they want to hear or what we are trying to convince ourselves.

Fight the urge to fall into the censorship trap, though. Instead, go into your sessions with a mission to do your very best to drop your guard as you say anything and everything that comes to mind. Doing so is an effective way for both of you to work together and get to the bottom of the reason you’re there in the first place. It may not always be fun to say and hear the things that will come from these brutally honest chats, but remember the end results are greater than the discomfort you feel in that moment.

Allow therapy to become part of your life

Therapy doesn’t just start the moment you walk into your therapist’s office and stop the moment you leave it. In fact, you need to fully immerse yourself in the process and practice mindfulness in order to get the most bang for your therapeutic buck.

This means doing your homework and holding yourself accountable day in and day out. If you’re therapist suggests you journal, work on your relationships, practice breathing, read books or watch movies – do the work and really make the most out of the process. Make the most of it to maximize your results.

Simple & Easy Tips to Getting a Better Night’s Sleep!

By Bliss Specialist Jenna Luelo

“Tossing and Turning,” among other common sleep disturbances such as: difficulty falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, or waking-up in the morning without feeling “rested,” are not only irritating but negative for our overall well-being. These patterns can not only affect your physical sense of alertness but also your mental and emotional health. Need more evidence? Check out this article on the “8 Ways Sleep Benefits Your Life According to Science”.

Keeping all that in mind, investing some energy into getting a good night’s rest should be a the top of your “To Do” list!

Here are a few Simple & Easy tips to help you get on track for a better sleep experience!

  • Start and stick with a routine, even on weekends. Going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time everyday (or as often as possible) is important.
  • Find your sleep number! How many hours do you need to wake up rested? For most of us this number falls between 7 and 9 hours. Experiment to see what works best for you.
  • Limit the caffeine, especially after 2:00pm (Watch out for hidden culprits!) Caffeine has a half-life of 3 to 5 hours, meaning this is the average amount of time it takes for half of the drug to be processed by your body. So when your tossing and turning look to see if caffeine could be the source. (See this link for a good review on Caffeine).
  • Your bed is for sleep (and sex) and nothing else! We can begin to habituate our bed with sleep and restfulness, if we cut out other non-sleep related activities from the bedroom. In line with this theory, if you are tossing and turning, get out of bed and do something relaxing (light reading, meditating, have a cup of warm milk) then try again. Too much tossing and turning can being to habituate your bed with anxiety, so work to make your bedroom a relaxing, comfortable and sleepy place.
  • Your night time routine should start about 30 minutes to an hour before you’re ready to hit the sheets. This means engaging in non-stimulating activities to promote calmness and relaxation. Think light reading, yoga/stretching or meditating as a few simple options. This also means putting our electronics to “sleep.” There is mounting evidence to suggest that the light emitted from your TV, phone, and computer can disrupt your natural sleep cycles (Wood et al., 2013). We want to make sure we cut these out in our sleep preparation.
  • If you find you can’t “turn off your brain” at night and thinking has become a real sleep disruption, I recommend setting up a session with a trusted psychotherapist to discuss your worries and strategize effective stress management techniques.

I hope these tips have been encouraging for you and provide guidance on how to invest some effort into getting a good night’s rest!

*As with all health information and before you begin any new routine, you should always contact your doctor to make sure there are no underlying health concerns affecting your sleep and a contact a sleep specialist if the problem persists.

References:

National Sleep Foundation. (2015). Retrieved from: http://sleepfoundation.org/ask-the-expert/sleep-hygiene

Schardt, D. (2008). Caffeine: The Good, The Bad, and the Maybe. Retrieved from http://www.cspinet.org/nah/02_08/caffeine.pdf

Wood et al., (2013). Light level and duration of exposure determined the impact of self-luminous tablets on melatonin suppression. Applied Egronomics, 44 2), 237-240. doi:10.1016/j.apergo.2012.07.008

Fear-Driven Living

It is not uncommon in therapy to hear that people are living a fear-driven life. Our present culture perpetuates fear in the media through imagery, sensational headlines and terrifying news reports, in turn promoting a fear-driven society.

This fear tendency is actually very common and we can see it in ourselves almost every day. All our fears are rooted in the stories or social constructs that we choose to believe in. When we get stuck in negative stories, this tendency tends to perpetuate itself each time we allow it to manifest in us.

Most of our fear arises in the same way – subtle and unsuspecting. It starts with one fearful thought, which leads to another and another. Before you know it, it has taken on a life of its own. If we are not careful or have very poor self-awareness, this type of habit can literally create panic in us.

What is a fear-driven life?

It is a way of living where thoughts, decisions and actions are predominantly motivated by fear. This may be fear of death, fear of loneliness or abandonment, fear of poverty or fear of pain.

What is the impact of a fear-driven life?

The more fearful we are, the more we feel a need to gain control over life. This may present itself through trying to control our environment, the people in it and nature itself so as to avoid death, loneliness, poverty, uncomfortable feelings and pain of all kinds.

What do we know about fear?

The emotional and psychological response of fear can paralyze us into inaction. It can numb our emotions and thoughts, resulting in poor decisions and judgments. It impairs our insights. Any decision that is made out of fear tends to lead to more fear and isolation.

What can we do about fear-driven living?

The good news is that we can change this tendency simply by increasing our self-awareness through mindfulness. The sooner we note this tendency as it arises in us, the easier it is to stop it or replace it with a more positive and holistic approach to living. When we do this repeatedly, we eventually loosen the power that fear has over us.

Suggestions On How To Release Fear

“Remember, we see the world not as it is but as we are.”

Acknowledge your fears.

We tend to spend a lot of time and effort distracting ourselves from our fears. Practice mindfulness and become self-aware. Allowing yourself to be in the present and taking note when fear arises makes it easier to stop it or replace it with something more positive and wholesome.

Confront your fear.

Get to know the depth of what needs to be healed and recognize where your fear is coming from. Next time you are making a fear-driven decision or taking a fear-driven action, take a few deep breaths and confront your fear by asking yourself: “what is it that is coming up for me? “what am I afraid of?” “why am I afraid of this?” This will help you to start breaking down unhelpful stories or beliefs. Confronting our fear is perhaps one of the most difficult things to do, even when we know it is good for us.

Move away from control.

Make an effort to move away from control and manipulation and move towards strengthening the sense of knowing and trusting your inner truth.

Replace your fear.

When you recognize the presence of your fear, chose to replace it with a calming mantra or affirmation, such as: “I chose to fill myself with love” or “I chose to feel peace.” Stay committed to creating a new narrative for yourself.

Feed positive thoughts.

Remember that the thoughts that you feed are the ones that will remain with you. Next time you are grappling with a fear based thought and a positive and/or more truthful one remember to feed the thought you would like to believe.

Make falling in love with yourself a priority!

Your feelings of happiness and self-worth must come from within. You are only setting yourself up for upset and hurt if your self-worth and self-esteem are dependent on another person’s actions, thoughts and/or feelings.

Creating new stories and new beliefs take time and energy. So be patient and recognize that self-awareness is the first step towards releasing fear.

Live YOUR life!

Kelly

Here Is A SMART Formula for Goal Setting!

By Bliss Specialist Kelly

Goals give you long term and short term motivation. If you add more structure and focus to your life, you will begin to live life more deliberately, on your own terms rather than simply reacting to life.

The quality of your life is ultimately shaped by the quality of your choices and decisions. Goals that range from the books you choose to read, the time that you wake up every morning and the thoughts you think during the hours of your days.

Here is the SMART formula for goal setting!

S = Is my goal Specific?

For example, you might say, “I want to be healthier.” However, that is a very general statement. Whereas, “I want to exercise for 20 minutes, 3 times per week” is much more specific.

Tip: It’s important to frame your goal in a positive tone!

M = Can I Measure my goal?

It would be pretty hard to measure “wanting to be healthier,” but it is simple to measure 20-minute workouts, 3 times per week. The more measurable a goal is, the easier it is to track. Similarly, if you track your progress towards achieving a goal, the more likely you are to achieve it.

Tip: if your goal is a large one, breaking it down into measurable elements is helpful.

What about goals that involve inner-work, such as: self-acceptance, personal fulfillment, improved relationships or internal happiness? Knowing what something looks like, feels like, thinks like or behaves like is the ultimate measurement for deep change. Ask yourself, “How will my life be different once this goal is met?” “What will I do, be and have, that I don’t right now?” We need to allocate equal attention to our being needs in the same way that our actions meet our doing requirements.

A = Attainable: Is your goal within reason?

Your goal does not have to be easy, but if you stretch yourself is it something you could achieve? You do not want to set yourself up for failure and ultimately let yourself down. Alternatively, you will want to consider, is this truly as high as you can aim or could you possibly challenge yourself a little further?

R = Is your goal Relevant to your desires and life?

Is your goal something you actually want to achieve and that you are able to work toward? It is worth remembering that your goals should be relevant to YOUR life, not anyone else’s. Is your goal in every way, shape and form related or relevant to YOUR vision? Is this something that will truly bring you closer to your ideal future?

T = Does your goal have a good Time frame?

Thinking them is not enough. “Goals once in writing are merely our dreams with deadlines.” It is important to reflect and set a reasonable deadline.

Remember… fulfilled people do not spend their time doing what is most convenient and comfortable. Start making choices that you know are the right ones, rather than the easy ones! As Brain Tracy so beautifully says, “our goals allow us to control the direction of change in our favor.”

Tips for Living a Happier More Mindful Life

By Bliss Specialist Kelly

Happiness is an inside job and a choice you must take FULL responsibility for.

Rekindle your spirit

Take the time to indulge in self-care and reconnect with the things you love and that bring you happiness. Whether it’s reading, listening to music, watching a funny movie or spending more time with your friends. If you are strapped for time, wake up earlier! Waking up earlier allows you to cultivate a morning ritual that will allow you to prioritize and set the tone for your day.

Embrace your mistakes as opportunities for growth

We learn the most from our most difficult experiences so embrace your mistakes as valuable lessons that will help you grow and improve. “Resolve to transform your stumbling blocks into stepping stones and vow to turn your wounds into wisdom” – Robin Sharma

Practice forgiveness

Forgiveness is a great act of spirit and personal courage. Forgiveness does not mean that what happened was okay, it just means you no longer want to carry the hurt. Every moment you devote to thinking about someone who has wronged you is a minute you have stolen from a much worthier pursuit, like attracting those people who will help and support you.

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that crushed it.”
– Mark Twain

Unplug from the negative

Be more selective of what you decide to watch and what you choose to read. Read some positive articles online and do not watch as many news stories for a while. Don’t underestimate how your mind and mood can be influenced by the input all around you.

Surround yourself with supportive people

Surround yourself with people who are happy themselves and who support you to be happy. If you are around people who are happy their emotional state will be infectious. Being around people who are chronically unhappy and refuse to see the positives will make it much more difficult for you to cultivate your own happiness. It is important to support your friends in times of need but be mindful of energy vampires.

Maintain an optimistic attitude and revise your mental conversation

Beautiful things happen when you distance yourself from negative thinking. If you can slowly make the shift, it can make a dramatic difference in your life. More people fill their heads with negative thoughts and criticisms than positive thoughts. Start by paying attention to your thoughts more and dismiss what you do not want to think about.

Have an attitude of gratitude

Train yourself to notice all the awesome stuff about your life by creating a daily gratitude list. Writing things down is a powerful practice to clear the clutter in your mind.

Learn to say ‘NO’

The stress that results from feeling overwhelmed can severely dampen one’s happiness and wellbeing. Before you commit to anything or anyone, ask yourself, does this serve my highest good? If the answers is no, then get comfortable with saying ‘NO’.

Get outside your comfort zone

Trying something new requires courage, it opens up the possibility for you to enjoy something new, it keeps you from becoming bored, and perhaps most importantly, it forces you to grow.

Be solution focused

Life is filled with ups and downs, next time something goes wrong, spend your time reflecting on solutions that will help get you closer to your goals and dreams instead of wasting time focusing on what is going wrong.

Practice self-love

Self-esteem is intrinsically connected to happiness, so it is important to build self-esteem through practicing self-love and self-acceptance.

Be kind to your body

Make sure you drink enough water, eat nutrient packed foods and do some form of exercise a few times per week. Try something simple like going for a walk, stretching or body-weight workouts.

Enjoy your journey

You need to be present enough to enjoy your journey. Happiness never comes to those who don’t appreciate what they have. You must be willing to loosen your grip on the life you have planned so you can enjoy the life that is waiting for you in this moment. Develop present moment awareness and you will begin to feel much calmer in your life.

Much happiness <3

Ten Strategies to Manage Stress

By Bliss Specialist Kelly

If you are like most people, stress will be something you encounter on a daily basis. We seem to go from day to day with enormous levels of stress bearing down on our shoulders, triggered by an array of scenarios — some logical, others not. Learning to manage this powerful emotional and physiological response to adverse or demanding circumstances is paramount in living a well-balanced, healthy and HAPPY life!

1. Become Self-Aware
  • All too often people become accustomed to living in a constant state of stress. Self-awareness is the process of become aware and paying attention to how often in a day you find yourself having stressful reactions or thoughts. Once you are able to identify your stress triggers you can start to make changes to minimize stressful situations.
  • It is important to note that stress can impact different people in different ways. Stress can manifest itself in a variety of physical, psychological or emotional responses. These responses include: headaches, digestive issues, restlessness, fatigue, negative thoughts or feelings, anxiety, etc. Pay attention to what your mind, body and spirit are telling you.
2. Wake-up Earlier
  • If you can set your alarm 15-20 minutes earlier in the morning then you can start your day with a sense of calm. A peaceful beginning to the day will assist you in setting the tone for the remainder of the day.
  • Spend those few extra minutes either relaxing or prioritizing and organizing your day. If you are running out the door forgetting your lunch, keys or child’s backpack you are more likely to feel stress throughout the day. Make more time for peace.
3. Find the Right Pace for YOUR Family
  • Parenting, in general, can be stressful. Take some time to set the expectations and baseline pace for your family. It is normal for this pace to ebb and flow, but it is up to you to plan and create stability that everyone can take comfort in.
  • If you want to slow down, make one small change that will have an impact on enhancing quality family time. Whether it’s walking your child to school, having family dinners or arranging a family game night.
4. Make Your Health a Priority!
  • Self-care is crucial! A healthy diet with plenty of water, a good night’s sleep and regular exercise will help your body to better-handle stress.
  • Avoid junk food and processed sugar. Sugars only provide the body with a temporary spike in energy and remember to drink more water.
  • If you are not sleeping well your body will naturally go into stress mode. So next time you consider staying up late to get everything done, think again, because it will only increase your problems. Sleep is truly an amazing medicine!
  • Move it or Lose it! Try to exercise for thirty minutes 3-5 times per week. Take the dog for a walk, go for a quick run or swim, take a short yoga class, hit the gym or DANCE.
  • And if you need some support in exploring lifestyle solutions, book an appointment at Urban Wellness
5. Practice Relaxation Exercises
  • Whether you are sitting at a desk all day or running around after your kids remember to release tension with frequent breaks to stretch your neck, shoulders, back and hips.
  • Take time throughout the day to breathe deeply! This will assist you in getting oxygen into your blood which will keep you energized.
  • If you find you are dealing with racing thoughts, try a three-minute meditation to help you re-focus. A headstand or handstand can also help to ground your-self and assist you in finding balance (literally).
6. Learn to Say ‘No’
  • It is natural to want to say yes and help out wherever and whenever possible. When we over-commit and take on too much we increase our risk of stress reactions and burnout. If you have a lot on your plate get comfortable and confident with graciously saying “NO”
  • By saying ‘NO’ you are practicing self-love and self-care, which will give you more energy, control and self-confidence.
7. Quick Wins
  • The never ending “To-Do” list can become overwhelming and contribute to feelings of anxiousness and hopelessness. Next time you find yourself in a state of over-thinking stop and pick one thing that you can do right now to take control of your situation.
  • Take action by focusing on ‘quick wins’ to build momentum.
8. Process Your feelings
    • More often then not, we tend to sweep our true feelings under the rug instead of processing and dealing with them. We tend to judge ourselves or make someone else responsible for the situation we may find our self in, contributing to feelings of stress.
    • Slow down and consider what your feelings are telling you. Try to look at every situation as an opportunity for growth and learning.
    • Therapy is also wonderful to do this as well! Therapy is not only reserved for those in crisis or struggling with problems in their lives. Yes, we see clients in tough times and times of heartbreak however we also see people in times of peace and in times of love and growth. While some individuals may see a therapist out of necessity it is something that everyone can benefit from, like going to the gym, we don’t necessarily need it, but it has the potential to optimize our lives. I believe therapy is a gift people can give to themselves, their life and to the people they love <3
9. Practice Gratitude
      • Spend time reflecting on what you are grateful for! This will reduce the amount of time you spend comparing yourself to others or thinking about what you may be lacking.
10. Have FUN!
      • It is important to treat yourself, experience pleasure and even indulge once in a while. After all what are we working so hard for if not to enjoy our lives outside of work?
      • It is paramount to nurture your inner child and create time for play, silliness and fun.
      • Remember to not take yourself too seriously. Along with sleep, LAUGHTER is AMAZING medicine!

Be kind to yourself!

Top 10 Tips for University Students

By Bliss Specialist Jenna

1. Get Organized.

Set yourself up for success. Get a planner. Get a calendar. Highlighters. Pens. Notebooks. Do you know where your classes are? A little time spent preparing yourself will make that first month a little less stressful.

2. Settle Into Your Living Situation.

Have roommates? Discuss boundaries/expectations. For example: What can I do to make living together more comfortable for you? Make your space your own. If you are living at home still, maybe this is the time to add a study space and create an area where you can focus.

3. Find The Resources.

Look into all the services that are available to you on campus and utilize them. Meet the TA’s, figure out how the library works, join a study group. Universities have an abundance of support – but they won’t find you, you need to be proactive and reach out to them.

4. Make School Your 1st Priority.

It is your choice to be here. It is a big financial decision and it will be your life for the next 4 years. University is your full-time job, so balance your social decisions with your primary goal. In considering balance, although school is priority number one, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun. Be present in the experience and really make it a goal to enjoy this time in your life. The late night studying, the cafeteria food, those special prof’s – will all be wonderful memories one day.

5. Get a Part-Time Job, Join a Social Club or Volunteer.

This is a great way to meet people and have a little fun but make sure to set limits on the time spent on these social activities. Having a weekly commitment will help you stay organized, bolster your resume and enhance your connection with your community.

6. Watch The Partying.

Be mindful of the dangers of binge-drinking. Safety should always be a priority. Be sure to do a check-in with yourself after a late night. Did you really feel more confident and social while drinking? Is being tired and hung-over worth it? Plan activities where alcohol isn’t the main focus. Check out this Wiki-How for great tips on preventing binge-drinking.

7. Make Healthy Choices.

Sleeping, Healthy Eating and Exercise are the foundations of feeling well. Use your gym membership, work on making a few health food choices throughout the day and get a sleep routine in order. Taking care of your self will make writing papers and taking tests a little less draining.

8. Know Your Program.

Do the research on what your program will look like in 2nd, 3rd and 4th year. Are you inspired and excited? First year is typically an introduction period and specialized courses come in the final years. You should be looking ahead and understand what that will look like for you. Meet with your Academic Advisor to clarify what your journey will be like. If it’s your major – be excited about it or for the opportunities it will create for you.

9. Reflect on Your Expectations.

A self-directed learning environment takes a bit to get use to. It will not be easy in the beginning, but you will find your way. A great way to gauge your success is not based on your high-school grades but on the class average of that course. If you don’t understand, you need to ask questions. The best advice: attend lectures, take notes. Read the assigned chapters, take notes. Take notes of your notes. You’re preparing for the exam the whole way through, not just the week before.

10. If Your Struggling, Overwhelmed or Unsure – Get Help.

University is a stressful time, full of changes and challenges. Don’t struggle in silence. Reach out and ask for help – there are so many caring and supportive people on and off campus – ready and willing to help you. Depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide are common on campus – don’t let the stigma of mental health challenges be a barrier, once you are connected to the appropriate resources, these stressors can become manageable.

Here are two Helpful Links:

This Blog brought to you by Bliss Specialist Jenna
Bliss Individual and Relationship Counselling offer a Student Discount (services may be covered under your extended or school benefits plan). Call us at 226-247-4123 or email us at info@bliss-therapy.org to set up an appointment or complimentary consultation.

Getting the Most out of Summer while Looking After You

Summer brings longer days, warm nights, barbeques and backyard get-togethers, outdoor markets, and blooming gardens. Some people have the benefit of vacation time during the summer months or a more relaxed work environment. However, for many, summer can be just as busy and demanding of time and energy as the rest of the calendar year. Though your responsibilities may not lessen with the coming of warmer weather it might be beneficial to take ten minutes to think with purpose and intention about how you allot your time, attention, and energy this summer. Your goals need not be overly complicated, and in fact, the summer might be the ideal time to focus upon attainable goals. For example:

If you are in school this summer you might focus upon thinking thoroughly about how you will approach a major assignment as soon as it is assigned. Commit to genuinely exploring and thinking critically about the topic as opposed to completing it as quickly as possible (at the last minute!) just to get it done.

If you have children you might focus on playing outside with them more or working outside while they play nearby. You might also consider fostering an interest in the natural environment by picking one topic to explore together (even for thirty minutes) and conduct research on—e.g. ant colonies, the influence of different weather systems upon regional weather, invasive plant species.

If you are attempting to respond to multiple demands and handle multiple projects at work, you might consider carving out an hour or two to tackle a piece of work that facilitates all of the others—e.g. Making a skeletal outline of your responsibilities, prioritizing them, and then skimming through and sorting emails according to your deadlines.

If you are grappling with issues in your personal life that seem to be taking over your thoughts, you might consider giving yourself permission to take a daily ‘vacation’ from the issue. This vacation is merely an amount of time where you focus your thoughts upon something else in your life—e.g. exercising for half an hour and tuning into how your body feels with each of your movements, or look up You Tube videos of a favourite comedian, or for an hour, listen to music closely and try to focus upon hearing all of the lyrics or all of the instruments involved.

Whether your summer will be filled with relaxation and leisure pursuits, hustling to fulfill multiple roles and meet various expectations—or a combination of both—the summer of 2014 might provide you with a wonderful chance to approach your life with a new sense of intentionality, and hopefully, Bliss!

By Bliss Specialist Heather

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