Stressed. Worn. Tired. Strained. Overworked.
Anxious. Uncertain. Nervous. Panicky. Concerned.
Both sets of words are things we are hearing a lot from our clients, our friends, family, and most definitely experiencing ourselves. So why is it important to set them apart? Using the right words and vocabulary to label emotions is the first step to understanding what is going on. When we are able to grab hold of a word that describes how we are feeling, suddenly the picture seems less messy, and we are able to start building a road map to address the issue.
“Name it to Tame it”
We are going to take that strategy and look at how we can put it into practice for ourselves.
1. Notice what’s happening in your body.
When we are upset or agitated, we often jump right to the thought. Try pausing and first noticing what’s going on physically, really pay attention to where in your body you are experiencing it, and say it out loud to yourself. As Mitch Albott said “By labelling an emotion, we can create distance between ourselves and our experience that allows us to choose how to respond to challenges.”
For example: “My palms are sweaty, my hands are tight”
“ My stomach feels upset, I’m having a hard time catching my breath”
2. Identify the feeling→ get specific
For example: “I’m feeling angry and frustrated”
“I’m feeling nervous and overwhelmed”
Check out this emotion wheel to boost your vocabulary.
3. What is the emotion telling you? ( think about needs, values, etc.)
This is also a good time to check in with your physical needs. (Have you eaten, drank water, been outside, moved your body, stepped away from a screen, etc.)
For example: “I don’t want to be late for work”
“I don’t want to get in trouble”
4. Take action. Instead of reacting to the emotion or initial physical discomfort.
What is a more thoughtful or helpful action you can take? Does your reaction match the situation, or is it an assumed consequence you are reacting too? Often the act of avoidance makes the situation and our emotional response worse.
For example: “I’m worried about being late for work because I don’t want my boss to be upset. I don’t have control over this traffic or my boss’s reaction, but I can make a call to let them know what’s going on.”
“I’m scared to tell my friend I broke their tennis racquet, and I can’t afford a new one. I don’t have control over how they will react, but I can at least talk to them to see what our options might be.”
Slowing down to connect with our emotions is something that many of us weren’t taught growing up. We are seeing it more in the education system, and in mainstream media, but reading about it and putting it into practice are 2 different things.
Here are a few grounding strategies to try during any of these steps:
- Deep breathing- in through your nose, out through your mouth
- Flex and release different muscle groups as you deep breathe (your feet, then your legs, stomach, arms, and so on.)
- If you have access to it, hold ice cubes in your hands, or your mouth, place an ice pack on your chest or over your eyes.
Take a moment and reflect on the skills listed above. Are they something you are familiar with? Have you tried it? If not, what is the block for you? There are ample times throughout our day where we can practice this- you don’t have to wait for a crisis to hit, and it’s actually better to practice when we aren’t completely overwhelmed.
If you’d like to learn more, connect with one of the therapists on our team.
Feeling Overwhelmed? Anxious? Overthinking everything?
Here are a few strategies to help build quality into your study time and to be more effective in your space.
- Use the STOP skill.
When you notice you are getting caught in a cycle of overthinking, the first thing to do is to get out of the “spin cycle” and into the present moment. You will not be productive when stuck on the hamster wheel of “what if’s” and “should haves”.
S- Stop what you are doing.
T- Take a step back. Turn away from your device.
O- Observe. Look up and around. Release your shoulders.
P- Proceed mindfully in the present moment. Take a deep breath. Relaxing into the exhale.
Find one small thing you can do that will help you in this moment.
- Use the HALT-O skill.
Check in with yourself. Hand on heart, take 3 deep breaths and turn your foucus to your body. If you listen, your body can tell you what it needs.
H- Hungry? Try to fuel your body nutritiously when you can.
A- Angry? Anger often shows up when we are feeling other things too. Pause and explore/address this.
L- Lonely? Checking in with your friends and family is important.
T- Tired? Getting enough rest is key for your mental clarity.
O- Overwhelmed? Sometimes identifying this feeling can help to give it a place, create some distance and help to find a starting point,
Managing the above symptoms first will help setup your day.
- Get comfortable and creative during lectures.
Our home space can feel small and distracting when we are living and studying in the same area. If you notice you are not engaged during lectures, consider mixing up how you are learning.
Try one of the following:
- Find another table or desk to study from. (kitchen table, dining room table, patio table, etc.)
- Use a makeshift standing desk. Try a bookshelf or high counter to elevate your computer.
- Cast your lecture to the tv.
- If possible, workout or go for a walk while listening to your lecture.
Sitting at a desk isn’t conducive to everyone’s learning style all of the time, and sometimes we process more information by changing up the norm.
- Set reasonable expectations.
If you are hitting a roadblock, change your goals. Expecting yourself to study hard for 6 hours straight isn’t realistic nor effective for most people.
- Try setting a timer for more productive and shorter chunks of time. 20 minutes of actual studying is better than an hour of distracted social media time with your lecture slides in the background.
- Take breaks. Get up, move, eat, drink water.
- For some, a ratio of 1:1 can work. Each minute of studying equals a minute of break. Find what works for you.
Remember: motivation fuels motivation, so set the bar at something attainable and watch your willingness to work increase.
- Set a study plan.
- Make a master list of everything you need to do. Include dates, colour code it, whatever helps to gain that sense of control. Then set it aside. This is not the list to refer too frequently if you are feeling overwhelmed.
- From the master list, decide on 3-5 things you need to accomplish every day. If you achieve more than that in a day – great! If not, you will have at least accomplished the “must do’s”.
- Breaking down the work into bite-size steps will help to unfreeze the overwhelming moments, and to help you move forward.
- Try a schedule.
The freedom of working from home can be too much. Set a start time for yourself, and set an alarm for an hour before that to get yourself fed, dressed and set up. Good hygiene and proper nutrition can work wonders.
This is new for everyone. You are doing school work during a pandemic utilizing new skills and technology while learning new information. Be gentle with yourself. Keep a balanced perspective. No one is getting this right completely – and that is ok. If you need help, ask.Learn More
You’ve made it home with your new babe. You’re adjusting to the lifestyle changes and working through the hormones and the new everyday intensity that come along with postpartum life. You’ve possibly heard of “Postpartum Depression”, “Baby Blues” and “Postpartum Anxiety”. The trouble is, none of these searches online or discussions with your friends and loved ones fit the bill of what you are experiencing.
Maybe you’re feeling tired, a little sad, and worried about your new baby. You are told over and over this is the “average postpartum” experience, but you know there is something more happening for you. You are struggling to feel understood, wrestling with feelings of guilt and are worried about what all of this means for you and your baby.
So What the Heck is Normal Then?
If you are being honest with yourself, the hardest feelings to acknowledge are the intense feelings of frustration, anger and even rage. Sometimes toward your partner. Sometimes toward your family. And sometimes the frustration is toward yourself or little one. Your patience may be shorter. You’re not parenting your other kids like you know you can, or want to. There is a part of you that wants to ask for help, but there is a louder part that feels like no one can look after your baby like you can. You are feeling confused, angry, conflicted and overwhelmed.
You may be feeling hopeless and angry that no one is helping you as you need. Overwhelmed by the dozens of decisions you have to make, and defensive, because you are expected to be an “expert” at something that doesn’t feel second nature to you. You may feel scared to tell someone about this. Intrusive thoughts like, “I shouldn’t feel this way” or “this isn’t normal” fuel guilt and send us into a shame cycle that only furthers our silence. This internal dialogue is eating you up. Not to mention the worry about what others would think of you if they knew the truth.
Research has shown over and over again that the sooner we can support mom, the better we can protect and nurture the well-being of baby and the family. Experiencing a shift in your ability to manage your emotions, care for yourself, or recognize a change in your motivation or interests is scary. You are not alone in this, and you are not to blame.
Anger is an emotion just like any other emotion. It is inherently neither good or bad, it just is. It is important to abandon traditional notions of labelling our emotions either positive or negative. This will help you lean into the emotion and really feel it, free of the judgement that comes with labels. How we experience, process and communicate the emotion is where the skill comes in. The key here is in recognizing when the anger is more intense and less controllable than how you would normally experience anger.
Try this quick Anger Self Check to better understand what you are feeling right now.
Anger Self Check:
How often did you feel anger 6 months ago?
How often do you experience it now?
How did you manage your anger 6 months ago?
How do you manage it now?
How would you describe your anger? (ie. explosive, always boiling just under the surface, surprising, etc.)
Do you feel like you are constantly angered by things that might have only annoyed you before?
If there has been a shift in your level of anger from 6 months ago to now, you could most likely benefit from connecting with someone whom you trust for support.
Postpartum anger or rage can be a symptom of depression or anxiety, as well as OCD and trauma (PTSD). For some women, heightened symptoms of anger may be different enough from their norm to be considered a red flag. For others, the experience of postpartum rage can feel abnormal and frightening.
What is Postpartum Rage?
– Reacting quickly and passionately over small things (like a spilled drink)
– Heart races and blood pressure rises when you start to get upset
– You cannot stop thinking bad thoughts about someone who wronged you
– Feeling violent urges or imagining doing something violent to yourself or someone else
– Screaming or swearing
– Punching or throwing things
– Unable to “snap out of it” and needing someone else to intervene
– Inability to remember everything that happened during the outburst of rage
– Immediately feeling regret or a flood of emotions afterwards (Rapisarda, 2018)
Postpartum anger or rage is an emotional reaction that is often overlooked. Culturally, it is easier for women to discuss feeling sad than to talk about anger, which is why few women report it, and why there is limited research on it (Ou, 2018). Normalizing the conversation about postpartum mental health is a step in the right direction. Taking the risk to be vulnerable with those who are close to you will help you put words to these feelings and to receive support. It does get easier, the more you share and simply unload.
A study by Ou (2018), found 3 common themes for women experiencing postnatal depression:
(i) anger accompanying depression,
(ii) powerlessness as a component of depression and anger, and
(iii) anger occurring as a result of expectations being violated.
In other words, postpartum anger can happen when we experience postpartum depression or anxiety, or, it can happen independently. Postpartum anger can have negative effects on our relationships, our ability to parent, and our ability to take care of ourselves. Considering this, it is no wonder that postpartum anger can leave you feeling constantly overwhelmed.
In addition to our own internal dialogue around mothering and the guilt we may feel as a result of our anger, we may also be dealing with outside sources of information that may cause us to feel guilty, judged or alone. The societal pressure to be the idyllic self-sacrificing mother is harmful and not helpful, further isolating and silencing women. We receive these messages through the media, social media and even our family and friends. Challenging these messages is especially difficult when you are not feeling yourself.
Here are some tips for managing anger that you can apply today.
Tips for Managing Anger in the Moment:
1. Walk away. If you are feeling the anger start to rise and are in a position you can safely move yourself to another room, try to do so.
2. Take a deep breath, count to 10 and back down to 1 before responding
3. Ground yourself. Find a square and with your eyes, follow along the top of the square for 4 seconds as you inhale, down the side for 4 seconds as you hold, along the bottom for 4 seconds as you exhale, and repeat.
4. Communicate. It can feel scary to be vulnerable. Find a safe person you can talk too about what’s going on.
It can feel scary or daunting to ask for help. But remind yourself as big a risk as being vulnerable and opening up about feelings appears to be, the payoff is equally big. Sharing and receiving unconditional support is a gamechanger. If this is something you or someone you know has struggled with, talk to your doctor and connect with someone who can walk with you, nonjudgmentally, as you navigate this chapter. Therapists are the perfect fit for mothers who need support. A supportive, non-judgemental environment that focuses on you and your emotions is what you need to feel the support, understanding and tools to manage. You don’t have to do this alone.
Ou, C. H., & Hall, W. A. (2018). Anger in the context of postnatal depression: An integrative review. Birth, 45(4), 336–346. doi: 10.1111/birt.12356
Rapisarda, V. (2018, May 28). A Mother’s Guide to Postpartum Rage. Retrieved from http://runningintriangles.com/postpartum-rage/Learn More
Ambiguous Loss- and what to do about it.
Rebekah Laferriere MSW, RSW
This pandemic sucks.
It’s taking a toll on all of us mentally and emotionally. I’m missing my family. I’m missing tea with my mom. Missing normal playdates for my kids. The hard days feel like they roll into other hard days in hopes that we will all get through the other side. We will, but that’s not the point. We are all experiencing something called ambiguous loss and it is a struggle we don’t often name but have been suffering from.
Ambiguous loss can be described as “any loss that is unclear and lacks a resolution.” (See here for more: https://www.ambiguousloss.com/about/faq/)
This article, “Your ‘Surge Capacity’ Is Depleted — It’s Why You Feel Awful” written by Tara Haelle, and featured on Brené Brown’s podcast, talks a lot about what we have been feeling. One quote that sticks with me is a very simple summary of the state of things, “these were all things we were attached to and fond of, and they’re gone right now, so the loss is ambiguous. It’s not a death, but it’s a major, major loss. What we used to have has been taken away from us.” The pressure on us grows if we don’t process this loss.
This article shares some really good ways to manage and function during a pandemic. I’ve tried to synthesize a few key points below.
- Accept that life is different right now- this does not mean giving up, but applying your energy elsewhere
- Expect less from yourself- what do you need right now? What feels helpful?
- Recognize the different aspects of grief- stages of grief do not occur linearly. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance as all pieces of loss. (Check out this article for more on that- https://hbr.org/2020/03/that-discomfort-youre-feeling-is-grief)
- Experiment with “both/and thinking” as an alternative to binary thinking. “I am feeling frustrated with this pandemic and grateful for the extra time with my family.” Humans are complicated creatures. We are able and allowed to hold many emotions (even contradictory ones) at the same time. It can be freeing to accept this.
- Look for activities, new and old, that continue to fulfill you.
- Focus on maintaining and strengthening important relationships- One of our most important protective factors is staying connected to people and our social supports. How are you able to do this in a safe way? I know texting and screens can exhaust us. Are you able to schedule a phone call or a socially distant porch chat with a friend?
- Begin slowly building your resilience bank account- taking small steps will help to add up and build momentum. Every day is a new opportunity to try again. I recommend the “3 Task” strategy. Wherever you are on the motivation spectrum, give yourself 3 tasks to complete each day. Every day will look different, and if making your bed and taking care of your hygiene are on the list, that’s great.
- Make a list of activities you enjoy or consider as “play.” Reflect on how often you have engaged in these activities over the past 2 weeks and see how often you can make time for these activities in the next 2 weeks. Cross-reference this list of play with your friends and family and see how often you can engage in those activities safely together. This is what’s going to help fill your cup and replenish your energy levels.
What small step are you going to take today?
We at Maratos Counselling and Consulting Services hope you have had a safe holiday season. As we move into the New Year, you may be thinking it is time to seek out professional support.
Here are a few tips and strategies to get you started on your search.
Consider what type of support is feasible for you:
- We have many community resources that offer free counselling services. Those can be found here:
- BounceBack® is a free skill-building program managed by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).
- Call or search 211 Ontario. 211 connects people to the right information and services, strengthens Canada’s health and human services, and helps Canadians become more engaged with their communities.
Extended Health Coverage:
- If you have Extended Health Coverage as part of your benefits package, call and ask your provider if therapy provided by an RSW (Registered Social Worker) or RP (Registered Psychotherapist) is covered. This is often lumped together with other services, so be sure to ask for the maximum amount you have to work with. Please also consider discussing this with your therapist to plan out your sessions within your budget.
NIHB: The Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) program provides eligible First Nations
and Inuit clients with coverage for a range of health benefits that are not covered through other programs.
Finding a therapist:
- Psychology Today is a good place to start to get an idea of who is in your area and what they might specialize in. There are several different search fields you can use to narrow your search including issues, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, etc. Be sure to spend some time reviewing the person’s profile, website, and other professional information they might have listed.
- Window shop. Most therapists offer some sort of free consultation call. This will give you an opportunity to hear the person’s voice, ask any questions you might have, and have a chat to see if there is a connection before committing to an appointment. Therapy is an investment. It is important to shop around and make sure there is a good fit. We understand this, so don’t worry about hurting our feelings, or continuing the search.
During your Consultation Call:
Questions you might ask during a consultation call:
- What does an average session look like?
- How active are you as a therapist? Am I expected to do most of the talking?
- What is your training?
- Asking personal details. You are welcome to ask whatever question of your therapist, and your therapist is welcome to only answer what they want to. Remember, we are trained professionals and if there is something we don’t want to answer, we most likely will tell you why. Having an open dialogue and boundaries is part of building a secure therapeutic relationship.
- Have you ever worked with… feel free to ask about a particular issue or topic you are wanting to focus on. Be open to their answer. Even if they may not have worked directly with a specific issue, the rapport between the two of you is the most important piece, and there still could be value in your work together.
- Logistical questions- What is your fee? Do you offer sliding scale fees? What is your cancellation policy? How do you accept payment? Am I able to contact you between sessions?
Questions the therapist might ask you. And don’t worry, if you don’t have an answer, that’s ok too. It can be all part of the journey:
- Have you ever been to therapy before? If so, how was your experience? Anything you liked or didn’t like?
- Is there something you’re hoping to focus on?
Check-in with yourself:
Listen to your gut. Based on a 15-minute phone call, what you are really looking for is:
- If you felt heard
- Do you feel there is potential for a deeper trust
- Are you curious about your future work together?
As you continue your work with your therapist, you will start to feel more confident in your fit. Remember you are also never “trapped” with that person. You are always welcome to make a change.
Booking your first appointment:
Your first session will most likely be an assessment, giving your therapist an opportunity to collect information and get a snapshot as to what is happening for you. Try to be patient and remember like any relationship, the therapeutic alliance will take time to grow.
The goal of therapy is not to “fix” you immediately, and healing takes time. This can feel uncomfortable, and it is recommended you give yourself 6 months to reflect and see if you notice any changes, realizations or growth in your thinking, behaviour, hopes or fears. If you feel that your work together isn’t where you’d like it, consider discussing this with your therapist or finding someone new with a different modality or style of therapy.
Our team can be viewed on our website or call us at 519-752-3653.
Written by Rebekah Laferriere, MSW, RSW
Maratos Counselling and Consulting Services
This has been a hard time for each of us as we collectively grieve. COVID-19 has created an undercurrent of anticipatory grief of what’s to come, while we all adjust to our new “normal”, continue to experience the up’s and down’s of being human, and attempt to hold on to hope that we can cobble together a normal we recognize after all of this.
We have passed the first wave of crisis. For many of us, the anxiety, denial or other initial reaction (thanks to our adrenaline) is starting to subside and we are realizing we can’t keep up the pace of white knuckling through this. We are now settling into accepting our situation for what it is today, and as such, we are being forced to get creative, and find new ways of managing our emotions, and our lives.
Five Ways to Create Your New Covid Normal
Adjust Your Achievement Mindset: Try to remember to “Keep it simple and small”. Set small goals or tasks each day to accomplish. We usually recommend starting with 3, and that includes hygiene, chores and nourishment!
Move It: David Kessler has noted “emotions need motion”. This is figurative and literal. Consider going for a walk, jumping jacks, lifting your canned goods or having a living room dance party. The energy we experience connected to our feelings needs to be released.
Feel the Feels: Connecting with your emotions – identify and describe where the emotions live in your body and what they look like. This will help to give you a sense of control separating the emotion from defining you, and identifying it as an experience you are having.
Journal! If this is new for you, start with making a list or picture of what makes your heart feel happy. It is an amazing place to park your thoughts.
Practice daily gratitude at the end of the day. (If you are struggling with this start simple and small. Ex. I’m grateful for my pillow)
Social Connection: Get social – call, text, email, video chat. Set time aside to connect. Attempt to cultivate social connections that you had in your pre-covid life. It may take some creativity, but you can do it!
Get offline. Try to keep an eye on how much time you are spending online. It can be an overload of information and it is important to be intentional about grounding in your present. Refer back to “Feel the Feels”. Be mindful of how you feel and how your body responds to watching or reading the news. If it feels bad (sore head, butterflies in your stomach, feeling anxious or teary), turn it off! No amount of watching news or scrolling through social media is going to change this!
Channel Your Creativity: Do something, anything creative!
Think of your five senses:
- Look: Read a book or poetry. Something light and fun!
- Listen: Listen to music or podcasts to match or improve your mood.
- Taste: Cooking or baking helps calm the nerves and nurtures and nourishes you and your family.
- Touch: Tactile activities such as colouring and crafts are a good way to channel creativity and calm your mind, distracting you from what is going on.
- Smell: Use a favourite soap in the shower, diffuse an oil, or burn or a candle. Scents can take us to a happier, calmer place.
Coping with this situation isn’t a matter of “silver lining” your life, but working to find meaning in your day. Remember, it’s ok to not be ok, and there are people who want to help. Build your support system with friends, family or a professional. So ask for help. We are all in this together. Most of us welcome a chance to hear a friend’s problems and feelings, even when we have our own “stuff” going on. Helping each other makes us feel useful! And if that doesn’t work, remember that many therapists are offering online and video sessions. Get creative as to where your session can be held (on the phone while you walk, in your car, front porch, basement, etc.). Professional help remains covered under your employer’s benefit plans, and some is being offered for free right now. Google it!
Some information sourced from HBR article “That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief” by Scott BerinatoLearn More