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Sexy Friday: Menstruation, Sex Education and Therapy

 

This week’s Sexy Friday blog focuses on a number of important topics, including menstruation, strengthening relationships, and how chronic illnesses and disability affect self-love, relationships and sexuality. There is a lot of valuable information packed into this 30-minute episode of Sex Talk with Kelly, so we definitely recommend checking out the full episode! Kelly invited some wonderful guests to join her for this episode, including Kristen Schultz, a sex educator, activist and writer, Stacey Jacobs, a sexual health education manager at Sexual Health Options, Resources & Education – SHORE Centre, and Bliss Counselling’s very own Tammy Benwell.

Kristen addresses the ways in which our education system has failed us with its lack of representation, explaining that the education we receive reflects a society that is solely abled, cisgendered, and reproductive focussed. In addition to these major concerns, Kristen explains how things become even more complicated for individuals with disabilities, or those suffering from illnesses. Kristen emphasizes the importance of conversations, “Be open. Open hearted and have open conversation”. We are so thankful for Kristen’s wealth of information, and willingness to share her own personal experience with chronic illness and sex. This is an important conversation that you will definitely learn so much from! Thanks, Kristen!

Kelly is then joined by Stacey, who addresses the importance of talking about menstruation and how to talk to kids about sex. She explains that it is important for schools and families to provide appropriate information about menstruation, and the need to discuss it in a positive light so as not to scare or confuse young people. “It is important for people to feel empowered by their bodies, not annoyed or frustrated”.

Addressing sex education, she explains that children model adult behaviour, and that it is important to be mindful of this and to model consent for your children by asking before you touch them, and reminding them to ask before they touch you. Additionally, it is important to be honest with children in an age appropriate manner. Lastly, she explains that it’s crucial to ask your children questions as well, and not to wait for them to ask you, because they may not.

Finally, Kelly is joined by Bliss Counselling therapist, Tammy Benwell to talk about the strategies you and your partner can implement to strengthen your bond. Tammy explains that your relationship therapist is your supporter, lean on them to prevent the problems from getting worse. Tammy provides both individual and relationship therapy at Bliss Counselling.

To watch the full episode, follow the link HERE!

 

Guest Information:

Kristen Schultz

Twitter: @chronicsexchat

Instagram: @chronic_self_love

Stacey Jacobs

Instagram: @shorecentrewr

Tammy Benwell, Bliss therapist

 

 

Others Will Treat You The Way You Let Them —3 Keys To Boundary-Setting

You know those people, the ones that when you’re having a conversation with them, you find yourself taking a few steps back because they’re all up in your face? That’s a physical boundary that they just crossed.

Boundaries are physical and emotional. Think of emotional boundaries like your invisible bubble of how close (or far) you prefer people to hang out in. Our boundaries help define who we are, determine what we’ll put up with, and keep us safe from undesirable behaviour from others. Your job is to communicate your boundaries with others clearly. Your boundaries will vary from relationship to relationship, while you can’t change people, you can encourage them to change how they behave around and interact with you.

Halting undesirable behaviour

As an example, let’s say your new love interest has been late for your past three dates. You can’t control if they’re late for all their appointments, but you can make it clear that dates with you need to begin on time. The unwanted behaviour is about what’s not cool with you — “It’s not okay for me when people aren’t on time.”

Often, people react with their emotions first and respond with complaining, anger, or nagging. They’re often responding in one of three ways; passive, aggressive, or everyone’s favourite—passive-aggressive.

A passive response would be to let the unwanted behaviour continue, staying hush on the outside while a storm is raging inside of you. The boundary-breaker is none the wiser and you feel bent out of shape on the inside.

If you were responding with aggression, you might counter with blame, or attack them. Imagine lecturing your date with a tirade while you stomp your feet. You look like a fool and they might be completely bewildered.

In a passive-aggressive response, you’d be responding with aggression, but your body language would appear non-threatening. Think sarcasm, guilt-trips, and half-smiles. People often engage in passive-aggressive behaviour so that they can be subtle in their attack. It communicates their unhappiness but doesn’t share what they want and need.

 

Instead of reacting, choose to respond with confidence with kindness.

You still have emotions around the event and might be angry, and this is entirely okay. It’s your response that you can control, and when you communicate your boundaries effectively and kindly, others will be more likely to hear and respect them.

Your intention here is to build or grow a relationship in a way that avoids shaming or blaming your partner(s). It’s not about being right. It’s about the other person changing their actions around you.

The next time someone crosses your boundaries, here are some positive and constructive ways to respond:

  1. Make others aware of their actions.
    The offender may not even realize that they’ve offended you, so responding in this way helps make them aware. You could say with your late date, “When you’re late for our dinner dates, I feel slighted.”
  2. Ask for what you want.
    It’s all too easy to think people can read our minds (wouldn’t that be so much easier?) You can ask for what you want calmly and specifically. As an example, you could state, “I’d really love it if you’d arrive for dinner on time, or let me know in advance if you are running late.”
  3. Head for the door.
    If the other person is too emotional to handle a calm and adult conversation, your best bet may be to remove yourself from the situation. If you’ve stated your displeasure and asked for what you want and the response makes you uncomfortable, you have permission to leave.

 

Others treat you the way you let them.

This is fantastic news, because you have the power to ask for what you want. Showing others how to treat you and what behaviour you accept is essential to set up healthy boundaries. Don’t be alarmed if some people feel offended. Continue to hold your ground politely. The more you make boundary-setting a habit, the easier and more natural it will feel to you.

 

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

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Do you have any questions for us, or need some help setting up healthy boundaries? Maybe there is someone in your life who makes boundary-setting a challenge? 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

 

 

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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You Could Be Sleep Deprived: What It Does and What to Do About It

Sleep plays an indispensable role in overall health and wellness. When the body doesn’t get enough rest, the consequences can affect thinking ability, appetite, and your professional and personal relationships.

What Happens to Your Body During Sleep Deprivation

Even one bad night of sleep can change the mind and body, and prolonged sleep deprivation only causes these changes to worsen. While you sleep, the brain gets to work cleansing itself of toxins while pruning and strengthening connections made during the day. If you’re not getting enough rest or if you frequently wake throughout the night, your critical-thinking skills, decision-making abilities, and reaction times all slow down because the brain isn’t getting the time it needs for self-maintenance.

Your body also changes how it controls appetite when tired. The body releases more of the hunger hormone ghrelin and less of the satiety hormone leptin, leaving you hungrier and less full. Not only do you feel hungrier but the body craves high-fat snacks and sugary treats because the reward center of the brain gets a bigger “hit” from those foods when you’re tired. It becomes difficult to maintain your physical health without enough sleep.

Certain areas of the brain also begin to function differently when sleep deprived. The amygdala, which processes emotions, becomes more sensitive to negative thoughts while the prefrontal cortex, which applies higher reasoning to feelings becomes less active. Consequently, irritability, aggression, sadness, and anger can have more influence on your daily interactions. Maintaining both professional and personal relationships becomes harder due to the emotional changes that take place during sleep deprivation.

Make a Change for Better Sleep

While sleep may be a necessary biological function, that doesn’t mean that it’s always easy. There are many environmental factors as well as personal habits and behaviours that can be altered to affect your sleep positively.

The bedroom and everything in it should support healthy sleep. For example, a comfortable mattress with breathability and support eliminates physical discomforts and distractions. Blackout curtains and noise absorbing decor that keep light and sound to a minimum can help reduce wakefulness or waking too early.

You can also develop habits that support healthy sleep like:

  • Keeping a Consistent Sleep-Wake Schedule: The body loves a consistent schedule because it allows it to follow natural 24-hour cycles called circadian rhythms. When you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, you give your body a chance to adjust and strengthen its response to these cycles.

  • Developing a Regular Bedtime Routine: Routines help the brain know when to time the release of sleep hormones. A bedtime routine can also help relieve stress and calm the mind. Reading a book, meditation, and taking a warm bath are all bedtime routine favourites because of their relaxing effects.

  • Regularly Spaced and Timed Meals: Try to eat your meals at roughly the same time every day and keep them evenly spaced throughout the day.  Meal timing and spacing plays a role in the proper timing of the sleep-wake cycle.

  • Shut Off Your Screens: Televisions and other electronic devices can give off a blue light that suppresses sleep hormones. You can either shut them off two to three hours before bed or turn on the low blue light setting if the device has one.

 

Everyone will have a sleepless night now and then. However, if the problem becomes chronic, you can take steps to improve your chances of getting a full night’s rest.


About the Author: Amy Highland is a sleep expert at SleepHelp.org. Her preferred research topics are health and wellness, so Amy’s a regular reader of Scientific American and Nature. She loves taking naps during thunderstorms and cuddling up with a blanket, book, and cats.

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.

12 Reasons It Might Be A Good Idea To See a Therapist

You’re having a hard time lately. And it’s even the little things that never used to bother you. You know you have a lot to be grateful for, and maybe like you should just “get over it,” but it’s not that easy.

For most people, it’s tricky to know whether coming to therapy makes sense. So often people have so many positive things going on in their lives that signing up for therapy might feel like you’re admitting defeat or that you’re making a big deal out of nothing.

Therapy is a place for ALL feelings.

Consider a reframe. Instead of looking at therapy like either/or, try looking at it with a both/and outlook. The happiness, highlights, and milestones—as well as the difficult, painful and uncomfortable ones too. Therapy isn’t a place where you check all your good baggage at the door; it’s all welcome here to sit beside any negative thoughts that might have you feeling down.

Therapy can be helpful in the aftermath of trauma or crisis, and even during a tough transition. It can also be a place if you’re feeling “meh” or stuck and aren’t sure where to go next in your personal life or with your career.

Just like the classroom might not give us all the tools we need to thrive in the world today, our past and present relationships might also not be offering us everything we need to succeed. You can learn new ways of thinking and new life and relationship strategies in therapy too.

Here are some reasons why therapy could be a good fit for you or someone you care about:

  1. Your friends or family express concern. While it can be uncomfortable to hear from people we love, sometimes the people close to us notice when we’ve changed or if something is off. If people close to you are asking you questions like, “Are you okay?” or “What’s going on with you lately?” It could be a sign that it’s time to chat with a professional.
  2. Your motivation is MIA. If your energy is waning, and you’re finding yourself feeling irritable, sad, hopeless, or even having thoughts of hurting yourself or others, or you’re just no longer enjoying the stuff you used to enjoy, you could benefit from talking with a professional.
  3. Worry keeps you up at night. If you’re feeling like excessive worry is taking over your ability to do everyday activities, it’s literally keeping you awake at night, or you’re constantly running through stressful thoughts in your head, therapy might be beneficial.
  4. Abuse or trauma. If you’ve experienced any traumatic event or have been in an abusive relationship, it can feel difficult taking the step to talk to someone about it. Leaving trauma and abuse untouched could lead to lifelong scars that could continue to affect your future relationships and ability to feel joy. We often think these feelings of loss or grief will go away on their own, and this isn’t always the case. Even if you find yourself over-engaging with friends or family to help you deal with trauma or loss, this could also be helpful to seek professional support.
  5. Relationship problems. If any of your relationships have become tense or unfulfilling or maybe you feel like one of you is walking on eggshells, and your partner(s) feel the same, relationship counselling could help give you new communication tools and strategies to get your relationship back on track.
  6. A big life transition. We’re always changing, and sometimes that change isn’t easy. Maybe it’s a big move, the end of a relationship, losing someone we love, or even a job change. Whatever the transition, when difficulties arise, and you’re having trouble working through it on your own, talking with a therapist can help you process your feelings and work through the change.
  7. Addictions. If you find yourself drinking or using recreational or prescription drugs more often, or in larger doses, these could be signs that you’re trying to numb feelings. It doesn’t even need to be drugs or alcohol; it could be food, sex, spending money, or exercise in excess as well.
  8. Obsessive behaviour. If you’re finding yourself compulsively washing your hands or checking to make sure you’ve turned off the stove, obsessively avoiding germs, or feel trapped by looping thoughts, therapy could help you break this cycle.
  9. Feelings are extra strong. Maybe your feelings are feeling particularly intense lately and you’re feeling angry more often than you used to. Or, you could be automatically assuming the worst case scenario to even the smallest perceived setback. These feelings could be challenging and even lead to panic attacks.
  10. You had a poor review at work. Since we spend most of our adult life at work, this is often the first place changes are seen by others. Changes in work performance are common with people struggling with an emotional or psychological issue. Even if you used to enjoy your job and suddenly you’re resenting it, there could be a deeper cause.
  11. You’re physically ill. If you’ve developed sudden recurring migraines, have an upset stomach or a weak immune system leaving you vulnerable to more colds and flu, this could be a sign that emotional pain is showing up in your body and the stress of carrying this is manifesting into physical symptoms.
  12. You want to take your life, relationship or pleasure to the next level. Are you sick of mediocrity in one or all of these areas? Do you feel on fire in your work life but your relationship or sex life is lackluster? Taking things to the next level requires a willingness to step outside of your comfort zone, stretch into new and unfamiliar territory, upleveling in every way possible. Therapy is a great way to create the changes you crave. A life that is in alignment with your values, your dreams, your best self possible.

 

There could be any number of reasons leading you to feel like you aren’t quite yourself lately. Even if you can’t put a finger on the feeling or lack thereof, talking to a therapist in an open and nonjudgmental space can help lessen the burden, and help you get back to your life and feel good about things again.

Curious is therapy could be a good fit for you? Get in touch!

By: Bliss Therapist, Kelly. Learn more about Kelly and get her secret “tips from the couch” here.

Get Into Ginger

OK. OK. I’ve already lost some of you with the word ‘ginger’ — I know. I find ginger to be a lot like cilantro, either you love it or you really, really hate it. But I’m here to tell you that you should LOVE it, and IT will love you back!

Ginger has been used in ancient Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines for over 4,000 years to cure and treat a variety of conditions. Gingerol – the active oils found in ginger root, are clinically proven to be extremely powerful anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti fungal in nature. Here are some of the scientifically supported health benefits of ginger root:

  • Heart Health: this delicious root has anti-blood clothing properties and can aid in preventing strokes
  • Nausea: helps to calm smooth muscle tissue which includes your stomach and intestine, having a settling effect on the stomach
  • Boosts Immunity: known to help cleanse the lymphatic system (our bodies garbage can) ginger helps to remove toxins from the system, allowing the immune system to have better function
  • Antibacterial & Anti-Viral: oils contain powerful antimicrobial properties, which can be ingested for bacterial/viral/fungal infections — or can be used topically to treat inflammation, hyper pigmentation and redness.

 

There are a number of different ways that you can look to get more ginger in your diet! Essential oils are great to be used in diffusers, for inhalation, or to be mixed into a little water to be ingested. If you really hate the taste, I recommend mixing 10 drops in 3oz of water, and taking it back quickly. For the faint of heart, you can also take it in supplement form. If your on the ginger train, mince or grate or juice that stuff and put it in everything! Get creative and try some new recipes for:

  • salad dressings
  • tinctures
  • smoothies
  • soups
  • teas
  • And my personal favourite, The Chimes Ginger Mango chews

 

Try this simple tea for an easy, delicious way to get more ginger!

EASY PEASY LEMON GINGER TEA

Ginger tea with lemon on table close-up

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp of peeled and grated ginger root
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp fresh orange juice
  • 1 tsp honey
  • optional add in benefits: a sprinkle of cinnamon, tumeric or mint

 

Directions: Put all ingredients in your mug, cover with hot water, steep for 5 minutes and enjoy!


AMBER MCKENNAamber

REGISTERED HOLISTIC NUTRITIONIST R.H.N

519.497.8815

Amber is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist who graduated from the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. Since graduating, Amber has sought extensive training in homeopathics, botanicals, supplementation and a wide variety of holistic modalities. Using science-based nutrition and symptomatology, she is able to help clients to better understand their individual needs, identify their goals and in turn, live their most balanced, vibrant lives. Her foundation is to educate clients and to help them create and maintain long-term, healthy lifestyle choices. Amber has propelled her interest in the concept of living well into a passion for education, cooking, and exploring the holistic side of life.

Holistic or holism is defined as: the theory that parts of a whole are in intimate connection, such that they cannot exist independently of the whole or cannot be understood without reference to the whole, which is thus regarded as greater than the sum of its parts. Holism is often applied to mental states, language, and ecology

5 Energy Boosting Moves To Do Every Morning

Waking up early in the morning and getting your workout on may feel like a hard chore. These workouts can boost your mental and physical energy as well as promote a healthy frame of mind for the entire day. Waking up to morning workouts will help kick-start your metabolism, allowing you to burn tons of calories hours after your workout. Here are five energy boosting moves you should do every morning:

Jumping Jacks

Jumping jacks are a classic full-body, calorie-burning exercise. 10 minutes of jumping jacks every morning is incredibly good for your body. This workout is ideal for starting your workout sessions as it increases your body temperatures and prepares your body and mind for the workout session. It does this by triggering your heart to pump out fresh, oxygenated blood to your muscles. It also makes your lungs work harder to deliver the much-needed oxygen.

Directions:

  • Start this exercise in the standing position with your feet and arms pointing outwards
  • Jump your feet apart to hip distance simultaneously raising your arms stretched up until your fingertips touch above your head
  • Jump your feet back to the starting point at the same time lowering your arms to your sides
  • Repeat these jumping motions for 5 to 10 minutes straight
  • Make sure to maintain proper abdominal tension to work out your core muscles

 

Walking Plank 

After the Jumping jacks, get your abs, and the whole body warmed up by getting into the plank position.

Directions:

  • Get into the push-up position by planting your palms on the floor directly below your shoulders
  • Plant your toes on the floor and then squeeze your glutes to steady your body
  • Slowly move your right leg up and outside your right hand on the same side
  • Still in the same position, stretch up your right arm toward the ceiling and bring it down slowly
  • Repeat this pose several times alternating on both legs and arms

 

Hip Opener 

The hip opener is great for opening the hips and stretching the back, which tends to get knotted up from sleeping and sitting down all day. This exercise also helps to strengthen your arms, legs, shoulders, and back.

Directions:

  • Move into the downward dog position (a great energy-boosting pose) by placing your palms on the floor and lifting your hips towards the ceiling and the crown of your head pointing downward
  • Raise one leg behind you
  • Raise it as far up as you can and then bend the raised leg and draw it toward the bum
  • Keep your shoulders aligned with the front of the mat
  • Hold this position for at least 30 seconds and repeat with the other leg

 

Quad Stretch

Like most people, you probably wake up with tight quads. Taking a few minutes every morning to stretch can energize your body by loosening up your muscles. There are plenty of ways to stretch these muscles including;

Lying Side Quad Stretch Directions:

  • Lie down on one side and prop your head up with your hand
  • Pull the foot on the upper side towards your butt and hold for 30 seconds
  • If you have trouble staying steady, you can bend the bottom knee to provide support

Easy Quad Stretch Directions:

  • Stand on one leg with both knees touching (you can hold on to a chair or wall for support)
  • Now grab on to the raised foot and pull it toward your butt
  • Try your best to maintain an upright posture with your chest upright to give your quad a good stretch
  • Hold for 20 to 30 seconds before stretching the other leg

 

Kneeling Quad Stretch Directions: (This stretch helps to loosen the muscles above your knee particularly well)

  • Start off in the downward dog position
  • Slowly drop your right knee to the ground
  • With your right hand, reach back for your right foot toes
  • Hold this position for 30 seconds and slowly release
  • Get back into the downward dog position
  • Switch sides to perform the same move on your left quad

 

Good Morning Bend 

This exercise provides one of the best ways to build leg, hip and back strength.

Directions:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width and place your hands behind your head
  • Slightly bend your knees and torso straight
  • Bend your back forward until it is parallel to the ground
  • Make sure to keep your weight on your heels and hips
  • Hold for a few seconds and then return to standing

 

Always keep in mind that for these workouts to be highly effective, you need to combine them with a healthy eating habit. The Whole30 diet is highly recommended as it helps to push the reset button with your eating habits and health. This is done by cutting out foods that may be negatively impacting on your health and making you feel tired all day long.


Lydia Mattern, NASM Certified Personal Trainer

Lydia Mattern 1Lydia is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer at fitnessgoals, with a passion for writing and a love for chocolate. She enjoys long walks with a breeze and finding ways to make dessert healthy.

 

Meditation Has Changed My Life and the Very Sense of Who I Am

​​To imagine that one can ​survive horrible hospital stays, car accidents, ​multiple ​death​s​ of a loved ones, traumatic​ life​ situations and, yes, even insomnia by simply practicing meditation is a radical thought.

We know that meditation has been around for thousands of years and practiced by people from all walks of life and on all parts of the globe , but there is one common myth about meditation, however, that often leads to a sense of failure and why people give up on the practice.

This is the Myth: That meditation is supposed to work to calm and quiet the mind.

I know this to be false. Do not get me wrong, a feeling of calm and a quiet in one’s mind is sometimes a result of meditation, and a lovely one at that, but the purpose of meditation is not to calm the mind or the self. You have not failed if your mind does not become like a still pool reflecting the moons image, as a result of this practice. It is the nature of the mind to keep generating thoughts, endlessly, whether meditating or not. Some 70-80 thousand of them a day. Some people who have meditated for decades continue to house a wild animal, (affectionately known as monkey mind) inside their heads. The purpose of meditation is not to change the nature of the wild animal/monkey, not to turn it into a docile rabbit. Rather, the purpose is simply to observe the monkey — to SEE what is happening within your own mind and your own self. That’s it! Nothing fancy.

Noticing the mind jumping about — doing its monkey thing — is meditating. If the mind quiets, as a result of being observed, (which it often does) that’s wonderful, but whether it does or not is of no consequence. What changes as a result of meditation is not necessarily the speed and frequency of the thoughts that appear, but rather our relationship with those thoughts.

Through the practice of meditation, we become less identified with the story lines that runs through our head, less convinced that our thoughts hold some inherent truth or importance, and less committed to solving each problem/​trauma/ experience​​ about which our thoughts remind us. You could say that we lose a degree of interest in the monkey mind’s song (or screech). Sometimes the mind quiets as a result of our lack of interest — of our paying it less mind — and sometimes it just screeches louder. Again, neither outcome is a testament to the success or failure of meditation, just something else to notice.

So what is the big deal, then? Why all this talk about meditation when (possibly) nothing about the mind changes as a result of it. What is startling is that everything can change as a result of not trying to change anything. It’s​ counter-intuitive. Really. We do not set out with the purpose of changing who we are (or if we do, we simply notice that too), and yet who we are changes once we are simply allowed to be.

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” — Carl Rogers.

What happens as a result of witnessing our own mind (without judgment or commentary) is that, over time, we realize that we are actually not that mind, nor the thoughts, beliefs, ideas, and all else that it spews out. We realize that the mind will happen on its own, generating content, with or without our participation. We realize that who we are, our very identity, is the one who is witnessing all that ​goes on. All that monkeying about. ​In meditation, we become the silent witness. The purpose of meditation is not to change our mind, but to awaken the self that is aware of it!

You are successfully meditating IF you meditate. If you take one moment to see what is occurring inside your own mind — without getting involved in its contents, without engaging in the dialogue, the story line, just looking, with curiosity — you are doing it right. ​For 45+ years I have been practicing to ‘be the witness’. To not buy into the stories. To just be with what is. To practice a radical act of love. And I am still ‘practicing’. ​

“It is indeed a radical act of love just to sit down and be quiet for a time with yourself.” — Jon Kabat-Zinn


PATTI MOSESpatti-green-top-lattice

MSW, RSW, CERTIFIED MEDITATION INSTRUCTOR

Patti started her own meditation practice in her teens and maintains a daily practice into her 60’s. She has spent countless hours, days and months in silent retreats and created a beginners Meditation class over 10 years ago. Patti then went on to expand her teachings to include Advanced courses, Book Study Groups and 1/2 Day Silent retreats. Never satisfied with the status quo, Patti then channelled her creative juices into the “Mindful Living” Line which includes Mindful Cushions (zafus), Mindful Mats (zabutons), Yoga Eye Pillows, Scented Sachets and all things Mindful. Patti is also local therapist who uses Mindfulness and Meditation in her Private Practice and finds it especially effective for clients with depression and anxiety. Patti can be reached at pattimoses@gmail.com or by texting or calling 519-503-0400

Avoidance versus Self-Care?

 

You’re at home watching your favourite TV show, when Netflix asks you the judgmental question: “Are you still watching?” (Yes, Netflix, This is Us brings me to tears every time and I need to know what happens next.) You realize that one episode turned into several, and more than a few hours have gone by. But, hey, what’s wrong with a little relaxation and enjoyment during your time off?

The answer is “nothing” if what you’re doing is practicing self-care. However, what we categorize as personal care can actually be its cleverly disguised twin – avoidance. Both can involve enjoyable activities and time spent on oneself, but they are actually quite different.

THE PURPOSE OF AVOIDANCE AND SELF-CARE

Avoidance and self-care serve distinct purposes, but because the means of expression are similar, we can easily fool ourselves into believing one is the other. Here are the primary differences between the two:

The purpose of avoidance: To numb out, ignore, or escape from a task, problem, or difficult emotion.

The purpose of self-care: To respond to your physical, mental, and emotional needs in order to care for your overall well-being.

HOW TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE

Both of these strategies are forms of coping; however, only one of them provides a long-term solution. (I’ll explain that more in the section “Why it matters.”)

First, ask yourself what the intention is behind the behaviour or activity. For example, let’s say you cancel an outing with a friend. If you cancelled because you had a long day and need to rest, then that’s self-care. However, if you cancelled because you feel anxious about meeting new people, then that’s avoidance.

Next, check in with your ability to manage whatever you are trying to avoid. This is known as your distress tolerance. Part of healthy emotional management is knowing when you cannot deal with something in the present moment. For example, if you are dealing with a family crisis but also have to be at an important business meeting, it makes sense to intentionally put your personal matters aside during the work day. However, what differentiates this from avoidance is the awareness and the follow-up. With healthy coping skills, you will be able to revisit and address the issue when you have the time and space to do so.

It can be hard to distinguish between self-care and avoidance, but being aware of your emotional state can help you better identify your needs and act intentionally on them. It also requires some honesty with yourself. Is it that you can’t deal with a particular emotion or situation, or is it that you don’t want to?

Using our earlier example, perhaps you realize that meeting new people makes you anxious, but realize that you have developed some tools to help you manage those feelings and you could challenge yourself to keep the commitment.

However, sometimes the answer to “Can I manage this?” is “No, not today.” Great! Knowing your limits and meeting your needs falls under self-care. If the idea of meeting new people is overwhelming today, perhaps you reschedule for another evening and prepare accordingly.

WHY IT MATTERS

Avoidance feels like it protects us from the things that scare or overwhelm us, but in reality it just sustains them. In other words, we feel better in the moment, but are worse off in the long run. For example, imagine that you have an assignment to complete but that you feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, so you end up on Buzzfeed instead. You now have to pull an all-nighter and are not sure if you will make the deadline in time. While procrastination (aka avoidance) decreased the stress temporarily, it ultimately created more anxiety and panic. This, in turn, can lead to further avoidance of those difficult emotions, with the subsequent sensation of “spiralling out.”

Instead of ignoring those overwhelming feelings, let’s imagine instead that you dealt with them directly and in the moment. Perhaps you don’t even start the task immediately because you think a 10 minute meditation might be helpful to ground you. Even though this is delaying the activity, it isn’t avoidance. If you look back to the purpose of self-care, you can see that you’re addressing an emotional need instead of ignoring the emotion altogether. By doing so, you manage the anxiety and proceed with the assignment.

Acknowledging your emotions and taking care of your needs allows you to get through a difficult situation, which brings me to my next point.

LIVING FULLY

Whether it’s drinking to forget a traumatic memory, exercising to quell the feelings of loss, or scrolling through Instagram to drown out negative thoughts, these strategies prevent us from ever truly addressing the underlying causes of our pain. Try as we might, there is no way to cut out the bad without simultaneously cutting out the good. Therefore, these avoidant strategies deny us the opportunity to find joy, contentment, release, and forgiveness.

If we put aside the avoidance and acknowledge the hurts, then we have a real chance at living the lives for which we long.

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

Being with Stressful Moments Rather Than Avoiding Them

Whole-Hearted Living: Experiential Avoidance

(This article was originally published on Stephanie’s Blog).


 

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Stephanie Huls is a Registered Social Worker and private therapist at Reflection Counselling Services in Waterloo. She offers counselling services to adults and teens on a variety of issues and is passionate about helping people find the path to the lives they wish to lead. She prides herself on being open about her own experiences in counselling and has a personal understanding of how bumpy that path can be.

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