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Promoting diversity and inclusion in your home

I’ve been receiving many calls from parents feeling anxious, overwhelmed and helpless lately. We live in a beautifully diverse country with people from all different cultures and backgrounds. Many are concerned about their mental health and wellbeing, while many others are wondering how to best support their friends and loved ones given the current climate.

Here are some ways we can show up for our children right now:

  1. Becoming trauma informed. When people witness violence, injustice, are ignored, silenced or told that they are not valued, it is traumatic. This form of trauma is different from other forms in that it is relentless, persistent and present for many people from their earliest memories. Acknowledging this with an open heart and mind, and becoming aware of its impact is important.
  2. Make empathy and equity a habit. Have regular discussions with your children about bullying and what they should do when they themselves are bullied, witness bullying or become the bully. Have the uncomfortable conversations at home and make an action plan for when a situation might arise. What will your child do when they witness injustice against a friend?
  3. Becoming culturally competent parents and educators takes time and real effort. It takes a real look at our own values and biases (and each of us have them) and working on them whenever they show up. Ensuring our children are exposed to books, toys and media that have stories and heroes from different backgrounds is important. Have a look at the things you expose your children to.
  4. Research together as a family. With so much going on all around us, you can pick a topic together as a family to research and become better informed. This could mean watching a movie or a documentary about it, or simply doing research on the internet or from your local library (when open of course).
  5. Donate to the causes your family is discussing. Getting children involved even at a very early age can show them the value of action. Setting up a donation box at home and collecting change is a great way to encourage children to give. Lead by example. Just like learning good manners, children will learn to give and care for the world around them when they see that you do.

Educating ourselves and then passing on that information to our children is the first step, and the earlier we teach this to our younger generations, the better.

Kindness has to be our new normal.

If you are interested in exploring resources (lists of books, websites or causes to donate to) to continue to promote diversity and inclusion in your home, please feel free to reach out and I would be happy to provide you with a list of resources. And if your family is experiencing fear or anxiety, please reach out to your support network, therapist, or book an appointment with me.

We are all in the same storm, but not in the same boat

The following reflections were shared on social media a few days ago, with an unknown author. The writer portrays beautifully how different our journeys are, despite us all going through this difficult time together. There is nothing wrong with being in either boat, but the key is recognizing that we are not all equipped with the same coping skills, the same resources, supports or privileges.

Our day-to-day has changed and hopefully we will all be changed too when we come out of this storm. Hopefully we come out of it a little kinder, a little more empathetic, a little more human.

 

Social isolation got you eating?

 

Has Covid stress and social isolation got you eating more than you normally do? Do you find that cooking and baking are new favourite hobbies at home? I’ve heard the term “quarenten” being used to describe the ten pounds we might all gain by the time this period ends. So you’re not alone! Many of us are finding ourselves on food blogs and digging up old recipe books. But this might be more than just boredom or wanting to learn a new skill.

Studies suggest that social isolation causes craving responses in our brain similar to hunger. This means that people who are forced to be isolated crave social interactions the same way a hungry person craves food. So if you’re a highly social person, having to stay home right now will likely cause more cravings for you, as you’re trying to satisfy a completely different craving by feeding it. And the longer we are kept isolated, the stronger the craving sensation.

But here’s the good news. We live in a time when we can connect virtually with our loved ones in seconds! We can play online games together, have virtual coffee dates and dinner parties. Physical distancing doesn’t have to mean complete isolation. So the next time you’re emptying your pantry, ask yourself  “am I actually hungry or do I need to connect with someone”.  If you’re not truly hungry, try calling someone and see how you feel.

Stay well and stay safe everyone

Sana

 

Talking with children about Covid-19

Talking with children about Covid-19

We are in unprecedented times, with so much information being shared about the coronavirus daily. This is causing many families stress and anxiety, and some are unsure how to talk to their children about Covid-19.

Here are some times to get you started if you choose to share information with your children.

Manage your own anxiety first:  The first think I would suggest is to be aware of your own mental state before approaching this subject with your child. Do whatever you need to in order to be calm before speaking with them.

Use a calm and reassuring voice: Once you are calm yourself, ensure you are maintaining a reassuring tone of voice. This will help your child know that it is safe to voice their own concerns , thoughts and feelings about the situation with you.

Follow your child’s lead: Ensure that the information you are providing them is age appropriate. It’s best to follow their lead, and answer questions they are asking, without offering more details than what they are interested in. It may also help to find out what they already know, making sure they know the facts and not false information.

Focus on what you’re already doing: I’m sure your family is already doing many great things to keep you and your community safe. This could be washing hands frequently, maintaining social distance when going out for essential tasks, and staying home when you can. Explain to your children why this is very important and helps us all stay healthy.

Validate their feelings:  Your child may have a wide range of emotions right now, from anger to frustration, boredom or even sadness. Their entire life has been turned upside down, with daily routines changed, their favourite after school activities cancelled, and time with friends limited to virtual meetings. By modelling healthy coping yourself, you can help your child deal with their complex feelings. Share your own feelings with them, and show them what you do when you are also upset.

Be mindful of exposure to news: Try to limit exposure to what is essential in order to stay informed. It’s easy to binge watch the news and look up article after article related to the virus. However, this can have an effect on your mental health as well as your child’s. For older children, you may want to sit with them as they read or watch the news so that you can help them make sense of it and discuss with them what they’ve learned.

I know many of you are already doing a wonderful job in managing your stress at home, and as the weeks progress, you may need more supports.  Please reach out for professional supports if you need them.

Wishing you all health and safety in your homes <3

To homeschool or not…

To homeschool or not… 

Many schools across the nation have now closed indefinitely to prevent the spread of Covid-19. I’m hearing a lot of discussion around what to do with kids at home due to the school closures. There are many forwards, blogs and posts being sent with resources to help parents homeschool. There are also forwards encouraging the opposite… that you should avoid homeschooling to avoid adding stress. So what do we do?

The answer is..there’s no one size fits all. Just like parenting is different for every family, this unique situation will affect all of us in different ways. We all have different capacities to handle stress and anxiety, so recognizing your triggers and your capacity is key.

For homeschoolers

Some families thrive in structure and routine, and actually see a spike in depression and anxiety without structure. If you choose to homeschool, remember

  • Be FLEXIBLE
  • Be REALISTIC
  • Get SUPPORT

If homeschooling is your jam, don’t do it alone. There are so many resources out there to support you. And as the weeks progress you may find that you need to change your schedule, so be flexible and realistic. Also, a scheduled day doesn’t have to be worksheets and textbooks. Math can be measuring out ingredients for dinner, science can be mixing coloured water to make snow cones. There are many ways to do this.

So if you choose to homeschool, great! Do what works for you.

For those who choose not to homeschool

If the idea of a schedule is anxiety provoking for you, then just take this time to do what makes you and your kiddos happy. If that means lots of independent reading time, or screen time, or outdoor play time, or any unstructured activity, do what keeps your stress levels in check. 

Many are taking this time to just reconnect with one another and spend much needed quality time together. Learning new subjects and keeping up with curriculums is not a priority for many.

So if you choose not to homeschool, great! Do what works for you.

For everyone in between, you might be choosing to do a bit of both. Some scheduled activities , and some unstructured time.

So if you choose this option, great! Do what works for you.

Whatever your family chooses, I wish you health and mental wellness while you do it. Let me know what’s working for your family.

Childhood adversity and adult health

Several years ago, I came upon a talk online about childhood traumas and how they can affect our adult physical and mental health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a study in 1998 that included 17,000 participants, investigating the degree to which they were exposed to physical, emotional and sexual abuse or neglect before the age of eighteen and the impact it had on later-life health and wellbeing. The questionnaire consisted of ten questions categorized into abuse, neglect and household challenges. The results of the study show that nearly two thirds of the population were exposed to at least one adverse childhood event, or ACE. Those who were exposed to four or more ACE’s, had three times the risk of heart disease and lung cancer, and a twenty-year reduction in life expectancy (CDC, 2019). That’s an incredible impact that I just couldn’t ignore!

 The results tell us that cumulative adversity also has an impact on our well-being. The more ACE’s one is exposed to, the greater the health risk. It is interesting to note that the study factored out smoking, over eating and high-risk behaviour, which only accounted for approximately half of the risk.

After researching the impact of ACE’s, I discovered that roughly 2/3 of our population is exposed to an ACE or some form of trauma and we know that early interventions and screening are key to preventing some of these later-life health declines. By providing someone with a high ACE score proper tools and coping strategies, we can start to see reversal of some of these effects, and help them stop the cycle and prevent them from affecting their next generations.

I am very passionate about working with people from all backgrounds and varying degrees of exposure to trauma, as I know how deeply childhood adversity can affect them. By offering coping strategies and de-escalation tools, we can start working on breaking the cycle of trauma and its harmful effect.

Disappointment getting you down?

Disappointment is a feeling we are all bound to experience at some point, whether due to relationship issues, work or school, or just falling short of our own expectations. But how we express this feeling can sometimes snowball into more disappointment and tension.   It can be a much more positive experience if we learn to express that uncomfortable feeling in a healthy way.

Learning to navigate that healthy expression in a less critical way is part of our healing. To be truly seen and heard, first we must practice our disappointment in an object way, staring a dialogue in a way that does not jeopardize the other person’s feeling of safety.

Being conscious of the words and tone of voice we use is important.

Here are some great ways to express your healthy disappointment by Dr. Nicole LePera (Registered Psychologist).

  1. I love you and I’m hurt about what happened
  2. I understand why you did that, and I hope you can understand why I feel uncomfortable
  3. I see why that situation was difficult for you, and I feel (Enter emotion) because of how it affected me
  4. I understand why you didn’t think this would be a big deal, but I need you to understand it feels that way for me in this moment
  5. This was not intentional, I get that, and it brings up a lot from my past

Mindfulness and CBT

Meditation and mindfulness have recently become quite popular, with several smartphone apps claiming to provide many benefits. Mindfulness based cognitive therapy (MBCT) helps you let go of anything that is not the present moment (both future and past), without judgement.  Mindfulness is bringing attention with intention to the here and now  and decreases rumination.

 MBCT helps you to see thoughts and feelings as simply mental happenings, and not facts. Our minds are tricky, and can have thoughts pop up without warning. These thoughts can often be anxiety causing or depressive in nature. Mindfulness is noticing those thoughts, and training our mind to let go of a thought and instead bring ourselves back to the present. This technique teaches not paying attention to the content of the thought but rather to the thought process.

Mindfulness can be used for stress reduction, chronic pain, eating disorders, relieving anxiety, depression, addictions and personality disorders. A study done a year after starting the therapy in chronically depressed individuals found that patients were twice as likely to stay free of depression if they had MBCT treatments.

If you’re interested in trying out mindfulness techniques in session, book an appointment or contact me for further details.

How our world view impacts how we feel

Our assumptions and beliefs shape not only who we are but also how we see the world, impacting our mental health. Here are some tips to help you catch that pattern.

Our world view is shaped by those around us, by various beliefs and assumptions we hold of the world and of others in it.  We base our predictions on our world views, forming our hopes and dreams around these views. Each and every one of us has a world view.

How do we get these views? By our life experiences and social interactions. Our social interactions give us cues as to when we should behave the “same” or when it is ok to be different.

We get into trouble when we

  1. Make assumptions of others
  2. Force others to take on our assumptions

Falling into the above pattern can often affect our mental health. Making assumptions of others can often cause issues when our perception and reality don’t match. This can cause dissonance, relationship issues, tension and anxiety. If you catch yourself making assumptions, stop and ask, “where did the assumptions come from”, and more importantly, “are they based on any fact”?

How can you avoid falling into a pattern of assumptions?

First, be aware of your own world view, and consciously think about how and why you hold these views. Second, genuinely try to think in terms of world views, attempting to understand and connect with others. Lastly, live a life of inquiry and take an interest in others, invite dialogue and allow others to speak from their heart.

Here’s a great Ted Talk by Jerry Nagel, co-founder of the Meadowlark institute, about how we shape our world view and how to appreciate the views of those around us.