New Roots Therapy Blog

Thoughts on Life, Love, & Wellness! New Posts Every Wednesday.


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Creating Motivation

Written by: Corinne Carter, Relationship Therapist

People often talk about “finding” motivation.  How often had you heard someone say something like the following:  “I’ll go to the gym, just as soon as I find my motivation”, or “I finally found the motivation to clean out the garage!”?  How often have you said similar things yourself?  People talk about motivation as if it were a stable entity that they’d misplaced, like a set of keys or an old receipt!  We’re all susceptible to thinking about motivation in this way, particularly as we lead such busy lives.  However, how would our lives be different if we stopped thinking about motivation as something out there waiting to be found, and instead thought of motivation as something that we could create in our lives every day?

Here are some ideas for transforming your relationship with motivation, from one that is passive (i.e., finding motivation) to one that is active (i.e, creating motivation):

1) Do one small thing differently every day:  When it’s “same old, same old” day in and day out, the last thing you’re likely to feel is motivated.  So, change it up by doing one small thing differently each day!  For example, today you could take a different route to work, tomorrow you could try a new place for lunch, and the next day you could wear the shirt in your closet that you’ve never worn before but have been meaning to.  Doing one small thing differently each day can help you feel more invigorated and excited about your life (keyword here: small) .  And when you create excitement, you can create motivation.

2) Do things that build your self-esteem regularly:   What makes you feel good?  If you don’t know the answer to this question, try using a simple mood diary to raise awareness around your moods, including when you feel at your best.  Do you feel good about yourself when you’re socializing with friends?  When you’re exercising regularly?  When you’re being creative?  When you’re reading about topics that interest you?  When we do things that contribute to our personal well-being, we create an atmosphere of motivation in our lives.  Pay attention to what makes you feel truly good about yourself, and make it a practice to do those things more often.

3) Connect with your community:
  When we feel connected to something bigger than ourselves – when we feel that we belong somewhere – we often feel a greater sense of motivation.  Try volunteering your time to an organization or cause that is meaningful to you.  Join a club or a group that interests you.  Talk to other people about their lives and experiences.  As you seek out opportunities for connection, you are also creating motivation.

4) Live in synch with your values:
  When we live in accordance with our values, we’re more likely to feel better about ourselves and more engaged in our own lives.  When we’re purposeful about this – that is, when we pay attention to how we’re living out our values in an intentional way – then we’re even more likely to create a sense of motivation in our lives.  Try this: write a list of your top 5 values.  These might include things like honesty, connection, determination, generosity, compassion, etc.  Then, each day, pick one value that you will demonstrate in your daily goings-on.  At the end of the day, write down whatever you did to demonstrate that value.  For example, if you choose to highlight “generosity” for the day, then during the day you might decide to buy coffee for the person in line behind you at the coffee shop, or you might decide to spend an extra 5-10 minutes chatting with a friend, or you might offer a kind word to someone who appears to need it.  We create motivation when we purposefully attend to our values and our corresponding behaviours.  Every day, there are countless opportunities for living in line with our values and creating motivation in our lives!

There will always be things in life that we don’t particularly want to do (cleaning the toilet, anyone?), but when we actively create an environment of motivation in our lives, it can be easier to do those things that feel like grunt work, and we can feel more engaged in our lives overall!

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The “Holiday Blues”: An Invitation to Practice Generosity…with Yourself!

Written by: Corinne Carter, Relationship Therapist

Ready or not, the holiday season is here again! Shopping malls are decked out in tinsel and lights, and radio stations have begun to play round-the-clock festive tunes.  There’s no denying it: the season of good tidings is officially upon us.

For many people, this truly is “the most wonderful time the year” – the holidays are a time of togetherness, celebration, and generosity of spirit.  It’s a time for reconnection and lightness of heart.  Yet, in the midst of all the holiday spectacle, many folks will find themselves experiencing a little less than “good cheer”.  In particular, research has shown that an increase in depressive symptoms is not uncommon around this time of year.  Often dubbed “the holiday blues”, such depressive symptoms may include (but are not limited to): increased feelings of sadness, loneliness, grief, fatigue, stress, and suicidal thoughts.  These symptoms may emerge as the result of any number of stressors.  For example, stressors can include:

  • Financial pressures related to gift buying
  • Expectations about the “perfect” family get-together
  • Increased family conflict and/or distressing dynamics amongst family members (or perhaps the absence of family members and loved ones, altogether)
  • The “hustle and bustle” of time constraints and a generally hectic pace (including traveling on a limited schedule, navigating crowded shopping malls, etc.)

There are a number of tips available online for coping with the holiday blues.  For example, the Mayo Clinic offers 10 suggestions for minimizing holiday stress, including:  making a budget in advance, acknowledging your feelings, setting boundaries, and reaching out for help as necessary.  You can read the rest of their tips here: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stress/MH00030

At New Roots Therapy, we hope to offer one simple message to those of you experiencing the holiday blues: in this season of generosity and kindness, don’t forget to be generous and kind to yourself as well!  A gift of permission to take it easy on yourself might be just the thing you need to reconnect with the joys of the holiday season.  “Taking it easy” might look differently for different people.  For example, it could mean limiting your spending, or deciding not to travel this year, or asking for extra help with food preparation.  Whatever it means to you, we’re hopeful that you’ll take the time to reflect upon your own needs during the holidays, and give yourself permission to practice generosity with yourself.

If you notice that your depressive symptoms are lasting longer than the holiday season (i.e., longer than two weeks), or you have concerns that you might be experiencing clinical depression, you may wish to consider speaking with your family doctor or mental health care provider.

If you wish to speak with one of our therapists, please contact our office at:

info@newrootstherapy.com

905-665-8150


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Back to Work After Baby: Coping with Separation Anxiety

Written by: Melissa Kroonenberg, Relationship Therapist

Going back to work can bring about a wide range of emotions for you and your child.  It’s normal and healthy for you and your baby to experience some anxiety in anticipation of, and during, this process.  Separation anxiety in a child can begin anywhere from 8-10 months and usually peaks at around 1 ½-2 years of age.  It typically coincides with the development of “object permanence”, which is when a baby learns that objects and people still exist even when they can’t see them.  Because young children have a limited concept of time, they become anxious when they see that you have gone because they have little understanding of when, or even if, you are coming back.

There are many things that you can do to help your child through separation anxiety:

  1. Leading up to your transition back to work, begin leaving your child with a trusted caregiver for brief periods of time.
  2. Always tell your child when you are leaving and when you will be coming back (even if you feel they are too young to understand you).
  3. Play games like peek-a-boo.
  4. Develop a goodbye ritual and be consistent in using it for every goodbye.
  5. If they will be going to a new caregiver/daycare when you go back to work, try spending some time with your child at the new daycare/caregiver before you have to leave them there.
  6. Go early to daycare so that you can spend some time helping your child acclimate to their surroundings.
  7. Let your child bring objects or things from home that they typically find soothing (e.g., a blanket or favourite toy).
  8. When you are introducing your child to a new caregiver, be sure to show them that you trust them.  Introduce the child to the caregiver and tell them that they are a friend.  Your orientation and energy towards a person can go a long way to help them trust.
  9. Try to keep your emotions light and positive (even if you are not feeling that way on the inside).  Your children will be looking to you for reassurance.  The more calm, confident, and positive you appear, the better it will be for your child.
  10. When you decide to leave, leave.  It may be difficult to keep walking out the door when you hear their protests, but it is better for them when you don’t prolong the process by going back- even if it is to console them.  Most times, the crying and protesting stops before you get out of the driveway.


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Dealing with Disappointment

Written by: Corinne Carter, Relationship Therapist

It’s inevitable that there will be times when you feel disappointed – plans won’t work out as you’d hoped, loved ones will let you down, you’ll miss the mark for achieving a goal you’d set out for yourself, etc.  Disappointment is a natural part of the human experience.  How does the famous Rolling Stones’ lyric go?  “You can’t always get what you want”.  Indeed!

So, how can we deal with disappointment when it shows up in our lives?  Below are some tips for moving through the experience of disappointment:

1. Feel it and accept it:  Allow yourself to feel your emotions, whatever they are.  What emotions do you notice alongside disappointment?  For example, do you feel any sadness, frustration, worry, discouragement, etc.?  Notice where the emotions sit inside your body – is there a sensation of tightness in your chest/back/shoulders?  Do you feel a tingling sensation in your limbs?  Are there butterflies in your stomach?  Does your head ache?  Are your eyes welling up?  Breathe into any areas of your body where you notice physical discomfort, and cry if you need to.  You might wish to try doing a “Body Scan” exercise:  a mindfulness practice focused on increasing your awareness of the physical sensations in your body and allowing yourself, with gentle acceptance, to simply experience what you feel without trying to change or adapt it in any way.  Check out the following Body Scan exercises from mindful.org – included in the link is a 10-, 5-, and 3-minute Body Scan, to suit your needs: http://www.mindful.org/mindfulness-practice/the-body-scan-practice.

2. Address it (from a place of values):  When we feel disappointed and we don’t allow ourselves the space to experience our emotions, it’s much more likely that we’ll respond rashly to the situation – for example, we might address our disappointment by lashing out at the person who let us down, or withdrawing and acting “cold” towards the other person, or we might “beat ourselves up” for not meeting our own expectations.  However, by feeling our emotions and accepting the situation for what it is, as described in tip #1 above, it’s far more likely that we’ll be able to address the disappointment in ways that are in line with our values.  Do you strive to be someone who gives others the benefit of the doubt?  Do you value the ability to see multiple perspectives?  Do you value honesty and openness?  Are kindness and empathy important in your relationships with others?  How do you want to move through the world?  How do you want to be remembered?  When you identify what your values for living are, you can then address the feeling of disappointment from this place.  This could mean choosing to give yourself or another person the benefit of the doubt, choosing to stay open to another person even though disappointment invites you to withdraw, speaking up about how a situation impacted you in a way that is honest and non-confrontational, etc.   Once you’ve connected with your values, you can consciously choose to address the disappointment in ways that are revealing of them.

3. Make a plan to move forward:  Now that you’ve addressed the disappointment, you can create a plan for moving forward from here.  When we experience disappointment, it can actually be a perfect opportunity to re-examine our goals, priorities, and expectations.  Is there anything that you could do differently next time to result in a different outcome?  Are there any goals or priorities that need to shift?  Are there any expectations you’ve been holding onto that perhaps you could live without?   Whatever your answers are to these questions, writing them down will thicken your plan for moving forward and help it grow from a plan into action!

At times, disappointment can make you feel like wanting to throw in the towel – but don’t give up!   Try the strategies outlined above to help you move through the experience of disappointment; in doing so, you just might find yourself somewhere even greater than you had imagined – with a better opportunity, a better relationship, a better sense of self, etc.   After all, how does the rest of the lyric go?

“You can’t always get what you want…but if you try sometimes you just might find you get what you need”.


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Enhancing Connection in Your Couple Relationship

Written by: Corinne Carter, Relationship Therapist

In our counselling practice, we’ve worked with many couples who express feeling disconnected in their relationship and who long to feel more emotionally “in tune” with one another.  Disconnection in a relationship can result from many factors (e.g., lack of quality time with your partner; lack of emotional communication; life stressors, such as raising children, financial pressures, incompatible schedules, etc.) and the experience of being disconnected can produce many complex emotions (e.g., sadness, loneliness, resentment, anger, etc.) in both partners.  If you feel disconnected in your relationship, a therapist can help facilitate meaningful conversations about your experience in order to help you and your partner more fully understand how disconnection came to exist between you.  A therapist can also help you and your partner begin to move closer, towards feelings of greater connectedness, by learning to be vulnerable with one another.

There are also many things you can do on your own, outside the context of therapy conversations, to increase feelings of connection in your relationship:

1. Create rituals for connection:  Whether it’s eating breakfast together each morning before you start your days, always kissing each other “hello” and “goodbye”, going to the market together every Sunday morning, or spending 15 minutes each night talking to one another about your days/hopes for tomorrow, creating rituals for connection – special activities that you establish will occur regularly in your relationship – can help increase and maintain feelings of connectedness with your partner.

2. Make time for fun and friendship:  In the book, “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work”, authors John Gottman (Ph.D.) and Nan Silver write about the importance of friendship for increasing relationship satisfaction and providing a buffer against “negative sentiment override”, which occurs when events that take place in the context of the relationship are immediately perceived through a negative lens.  It’s important to make fun a priority in your romantic relationship.   What do you enjoy?  Are you foodies?  Try planning a progressive dinner, where you eat your appetizer, main course, and dessert all at different restaurants.  Are you art lovers?  Try checking out a local art exhibit, or create your own art by taking a painting workshop.  The options are truly endless!  Sometimes couples tell us that it’s not fun or romantic if they have to schedule time to be together – they’re under the impression that fun and romance only happen out of spontaneity, which just isn’t true!  Remember when you first started dating?  You were probably planning everything – when to see each other, what to wear, what to talk about, etc.  And it was fun, wasn’t it?  Spontaneity is great when it happens…but when you’re busy, spontaneous moments can be few and far between.  It’s much more likely that you will connect as a couple if you’ve planned to do so.

3. Allow yourself to be vulnerable:  Brené Brown (Ph.D., LMSW) is a professor and researcher of vulnerability.  In her book, “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are”, Brené writes:

“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection”.

Vulnerability is the key to connection.  By opening up to your partner emotionally, sharing your deepest hopes, dreams, and fears, you create an opportunity for profound connectedness.  Sometimes, partners struggle to open up to one another; they are unsure of how to communicate their feelings, or they’re unsure of how to respond to one another with gentleness when they do begin to open up.  This is an area where couple therapy can be helpful.

4. Spend time apart:  It might seem counter-intuitive, but spending time away from your romantic partner for individual activities, or to spend time with friends without your partner, can help to increase feelings of connectedness in your relationship, so long as there is time for being a couple too!  By nurturing your sense of individuality and making time for activities away from your partner to do the things that you enjoy and that fulfill you, you can then use the energy that you gain from these individual activities to enhance your couple relationship and keep it more interesting – it will give you more topics to discuss when you’re together!  It’s important to find the right balance for your unique relationship between time spent as a couple, and time spent individually, as this will look differently for everyone.


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Coping Skills for Stress

Written by: Corinne Carter, Relationship Therapist

When we first meet with clients, we always ask the question: “what are your goals for counselling?”  One of the most frequent answers that we hear from clients is that, through counselling, they want to develop “better coping skills” for dealing with times of stress.

Everyone experiences stress in different ways, and there are countless unique and creative coping strategies available for you to try when you’re up against a stressful situation.  Stress, in and of itself, is not a negative thing; in fact, it’s a necessary part of life!  Rather, it’s the way that we respond to stress and think about stress that can be problematic.  The next time you’re experiencing a difficult/painful/stressful situation, consider trying one (or all!) of the following coping strategies:

1. Focus on what you can control; accept what you can’t:  There are many things in life that we can’t control, such as the behaviour of other people.  Instead of worrying about the reactions of others, focus on how you can respond differently in stressful situations.  Ask yourself, “what is changeable in this situation?”  By highlighting what is changeable, you can then create an action plan to deal with those particular aspects of your circumstance.  Accept that there are some things you cannot change.  Acceptance doesn’t mean that you’re giving up or that you don’t care.  Rather, it means acknowledging that certain things are outside of your control.  By accepting what is outside of your control, you will have more capacity for making changes to those areas where you do have an influence.

2. Take care of yourself:  Self-care is important for lessening the impact of stress on our bodies, hearts, and minds.  Making sure that your physical self is taken care of is critical; if your physical needs are neglected, then it will be even more difficult to face emotional and mental stressors.  Getting enough rest, feeding and nourishing your body, burning off excess energy through exercise, etc. are all important elements in caring for ourselves.  Connecting with others – accessing the support of loved ones – is another vital element of self-care.  Self-care doesn’t need to be complicated, expensive, or time-consuming – taking 10 minutes to do something good for yourself is better than nothing!

3. Remember your resilience:  In times of stress, it’s easy to lose sight of the challenges you’ve already overcome.  When we feel overwhelmed, we often forget just what we’re capable of!  By remembering past challenges and the ways you’ve worked through them, you can access “lost” coping skills (i.e., coping skills that you already have, but have forgotten over time).  Perhaps the coping skills you’ve used in the past are no longer strategies that you consider helpful.  Recalling those coping skills can still be useful for more closely examining how you’d like to respond to stress differently now.

If you’d like to speak with one of our therapists to develop coping skills, or preferred ways of responding to stress, please feel free to contact our office at:

info@newrootstherapy.com
905-665-8150


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Mindfulness and Anxiety

Written by: Corinne Carter, Relationship Therapist

It is well known that feelings of anxiety are connected to future-focused thoughts.  That is, when we feel anxious, our thoughts are quite likely focused on something that could go wrong in the future, rather than on what is actually happening to us right now.

As such, developing strategies for connecting to the present moment by moving our thoughts out of the future and into the “now” can be helpful in lessening our experience of anxiety.  This act of redirecting our focus into the present moment is often called, “Mindfulness”.

There are a number of ways to practice mindfulness and, thus, reconnect to the present.  Below are some examples of mindfulness activities that you might wish to try:

1) Eating: The next time you’re eating a snack or a meal, try eating mindfully with your first two or three bites by paying close attention to the physical sensations of the food – notice the touch/texture, taste, smell, appearance.

2) Breathing: Take 5 minutes to practice deep breathing, inhaling through your nostrils and into your diaphragm, and exhaling through your mouth.  Notice how your belly rises and falls; notice how the air feels on your nostrils.  Notice any sensations in your body – aches, pains, comfort, etc. – as you breathe in and out.

3) Play “I Spy” with yourself: Take a look around you.  Pick one object and closely examine it.  Take note of its shape, colour, size, etc.

There are countless ways to practice mindfulness in your daily life.  At Mindful.org, you can subscribe to receive “Mindful Interrupters”, which are essentially short suggestions for connecting to your present experience.

If you’re feeling anxious, try one of the practices suggested above – or create your own!  How does being present impact your emotional state?