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22/Mar/2018

price-of-admission

“Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.” – Susan David

Dr. Susan David is a Psychologist at Harvard Medical School and is a founder and co-director of the Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital of Harvard Medical School.  In her Ted Talk about emotional agility, which you can find here, she discusses the concept of emotional agility, how society has made a push towards positivity, and inadvertently, how this may have led to additional suffering.

There is a push in our media, in our society, and in our homes to be positive; think positive, look on the bright side, or simply, smile!  Dr. David posits that this push towards positivity often leads to denial of the truth and denial of our emotions.  We can end up feeling bad about ourselves for experiencing negative emotions and negative thoughts because we’re supposed to be happy and positive all of the time.

The truth is, life isn’t always happy and positive.  Certainly there are times in our lives when we are happy and things are going well and we feel good, but there are also times when things do not go our way and we just feel bad.  Dr. David suggests that instead of trying to be positive during these times, and pushing those negative thoughts away, we need to embrace them, to learn to deal with and cope with them rather than trying to run away from them.  Dr. David’s Ted Talk mirrors much of what is discussed in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and, in particular, the idea that we must accept, rather than try to push away, negative thoughts and feelings.  These things are a way of life and like a rollercoaster, sometimes we have to just wait it out.

I like to use grief as an example in my practice with clients.  Our society treats grief as something that is normal – we are expected to be sad or to cry when someone close to us passes away.  We also know that people we love may pass away, and as much as we do not like that thought, we have no choice but to accept it.  We treat grief with a lot of respect, in most cases, and allow it to come and go naturally.  I believe that we need to learn to treat the rest of our emotions with the same type of respect that we treat grief.  When we are feeling anxious or sad, rather than beating ourselves up for these feelings we should be accepting that this is how it is right now, and allowing those feelings to come and go.  Often, the more we try to control these feelings, the worse off we become.  Either we actually end up enhancing the feelings that we started with, or we add additional distress, such as shame or frustration when we do not succeed in getting rid of the feelings.

I would like to challenge you to you try accepting your negative thoughts and feelings, and treating them with the same respect that you would grief.  Listen to Dr. David’s Ted Talk, and reflect back on your own experiences of trying to get rid of your negativity.  Try something new, and see what happens.

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Source: Click


13/Feb/2018

hearts

With Valentine’s Day fast-approaching, and the holiday seasoning winding down, I found myself reflecting on the important people in my life, and how we choose to celebrate these people.  When we think of birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, and other important holidays, what do we think of?  For me, the first thing that pops into my mind is gifts.  Chocolates and flowers for Valentine’s Day and anniversaries, expensive presents, gift cards, and even money for other important occasions.  But is this how we really want to celebrate the most important people in our lives?

While gift-giving can be a great way to show a loved one that you’ve been thinking about them, spending quality time with loved ones is also extremely important.  A study outlined by NPR in a December article suggested that people felt most loved during times of interaction rather than when receiving gifts.  However, during busy holiday times, such as in December, people often feel additional stress at having to rush to spend time with people close to them.

During these times of high stress, such as Christmas, we often lose sight of being present.  We become consumed with worries about making it to every family gathering, getting the right gifts, and planning out every detail of our holidays that we may forget to stop and enjoy the moment.  Christmas may be over for this year, but we can still practice being more present with our loved ones.  Take some time to breathe and ground yourself before attending that birthday party or anniversary dinner – leave the stress from work and home where they belong, and practice being in the moment.

Instead of focusing on gifts for your upcoming anniversary or birthday, why not begin a tradition that involves spending time with one another, or going on an adventure every year?  Maybe you and you partner decide that every year on your anniversary you will try a new restaurant in a different city, or that every Christmas you will plan your annual trip together.  Try shifting your focus from giving and receiving material items, to making new memories and living a fulfilled life.

holding-hands

All in all, I think we sometimes lose sight of why we take time out of our busy lives to see the people who are important to us.  We want them to feel loved and appreciated, and know that they are important to us.  So maybe try something new – make some great memories that will last a lifetime with the people that are most important in your life.

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Source: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/12/09/568834440/what-s-better-than-expensive-presents-the-gift-of-presence 


20/Oct/2017

meditate

To Begin I’d like you to watch THIS VIDEO.

What thoughts came up for you as you watched this video?  Were you able to relate to what the individuals were saying?  Did you understand why they answered the way they did?  I’d like you to take a moment to reflect on a time when you made a mistake, and some of the things that you said to yourself.  What sort of words did you use?  How did those words affect you?  Now think of the last time a loved one came to you and told you about a mistake.  How did those words differ from the ones you told yourself?  I’m willing to bet that there is a big difference in how you speak to yourself versus how you speak to others.

Why Self Compassion?

I’m sure you’ve heard the term self-compassion before.  Maybe you wondered why it was important, or why people even bother talking about it.  Maybe you thought you didn’t need to be self-compassionate, or that it simply wasn’t something that would impact your life.  Kristin Neff (2012) suggests that self-compassion is more than looking on the bright side or attempting to avoid negative feelings.  Self-compassionate people are able to recognize when they are suffering, but act kindly towards themselves.  Neff (2012) further explains that studies have indicated that individuals with higher levels of self-compassion experience less anxiety and self-consciousness when asked about their weaknesses, display more wisdom and emotional intelligence, and often experience higher levels of social connectedness and overall life satisfaction.

If we can learn to be kinder to ourselves, we can learn to let go of our mistakes and shortcomings, and move forward from them.  This doesn’t necessarily mean ignoring them, but rather not allowing them to hook us into a pattern of self-depreciation and dislike.  Instead, we can accept our mistakes/shortfalls/situations for what they are, learn from them, and move forward.

So how do I be Kinder to Myself?

Being compassionate towards oneself is similar to the way that we express compassion for others.  As in the video above, it is clear that many of us are better able to be compassionate towards our loved ones than we are to ourselves.  Learning how to be self-compassionate will not happen overnight; it may take time, practice, and trial and error.

Neff (2012) posits that there are three main components to having compassion for oneself:

  1. Self-kindness
  2. A sense of common humanity
  3. Mindfulness

compassion-components

In short, these three aspects of self-compassion involve being understanding towards ourselves and our downfalls; recognizing that we are not alone and that other people struggle as well; and practicing living in the moment and accepting some of our thoughts, feelings, and emotions.  What self-compassion is not, is self-pity, self-indulgence, or self-esteem (Neff, 2012).  To learn more about how you can be more self-compassionate, click here to read Kristin Neff’s chapter on The Science of Self-Compassion.

jenny-thomson

Source:  Neff, K. D. (2012). The science of self-compassion. In C. Germer & R. Siegel (Eds.), Compassion and Wisdom in Psychotherapy (pp. 79-92). New York: Guilford Press.


8/Sep/2017

dont-panic

Anxiety is a funny thing – we all experience it, and many have suggested that it has its roots in evolution.  Back in the hunting and gathering days, we had to be alert for any signs of predators lurking around, and our sense of anxiety would signal us to flee the area or prepare for a fight.

Today, as a human race we still experience anxiety on a daily basis, even in the absence of dangerous predators.  As humans, we have a tendency to want to protect ourselves from danger, but in some instances, that perception of danger can be a little bit off.  Anxiety typically leads to avoidance – the hunter doesn’t hunt north of the forest because he knows there’s a large family of lions that lives there.  Similarly, we often try to avoid situations that are dangerous to us.  However, at times, rather than avoiding dangerous situations, we simply end up avoiding unpleasant thoughts, feelings, and emotions.  But at what cost?  Think back to the last time that you avoided an uncomfortable situation, and what the consequences of that situation were.  Sure, you maybe got to avoid the unpleasant sensation of fear associated with getting on a roller coaster, but perhaps you missed out on a fun day with family and friends.  Sometimes the consequences are even more dire, such as when we avoid applying to our dream job because we’re anxious about the interview process.  What sort of long-term implications are there to something like that?  They could be huge.

roller-coaster

Edward A. Selby, Ph.D., wrote an interesting article for Psychology Today outlining the potential costs to our avoidance behaviours.  In it, Selby explains that sometimes these avoidance behaviours can lead to serious costs, such as missing out on important and fulfilling events.  He further suggests that facing some of our fears and anxiety can often enhance our quality of life and, over time, decrease our anxiety levels overall.  Click here to read more.

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Selby, E.  (2010, May 4).  Avoidance of Anxiety as Self-Sabotage: How Running Away Can Bite You in the Behind.  Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/overcoming-self-sabotage/201005/avoidance-anxiety-self-sabotage-how-running-away-can-bite-you 


27/Jul/2017

eating

I’m willing to bet that you’re here reading this because you are, or have at some time, tried to lose weight.  I’m also willing to bet that you’re well aware of information about which foods are “healthy”, that you should probably exercise more, and that you may need to eat less.  Weight loss, diets, and information on how to be “healthy” are all around us, but with so much information out there, what are we to believe?  We have all of this information flooding our computer screens and cell phones constantly, so why can’t we lose weight?  According to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), the answer to this question lies in our behaviour as well as the way that we think about food and our emotions.

podcast-logo

Dr. JoAnne Dahl, Ph.D., hosts an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) podcast, ACT: Taking Hurt to Hope, in which she delves into many different topics and difficulties that individuals face in their lives, and talks about how we can understand these difficulties from an ACT perspective.  In particular, Dr. Dahl explores the mechanisms underlying why we do what we do, and attempts to help us understand how we can alter our behaviour and our thinking in order to change that.

Dr. Dahl has four podcast episodes that cover the topic of eating behaviour and weight loss:

  1. Hope for weight strugglers: In this episode, Dr. Dahl speaks with Dr. Jason Lillis, a psychologist at Brown University, about the role of self-compassion in your journey to lose weight.
  2. Struggling with Emotional Eating: Feeding [or starving] your Feelings: Dahl teams up with Dr. Emmett Bishop from an eating disorder clinic in Colorado to discuss the mechanisms behind why we eat ‘junk’ food even when we know it will cause us to gain weight, and why people who suffer from eating disorders have such a difficult time changing their behaviour.
  3. Struggling with Choices: Eating Problems: Dahl, along with Dr. Joseph Ciarrochi of the University of Western Sydney in Australia, discuss the effects of unhealthy weight control behaviours, advertising, and more on the obesity rates of today’s children.
  4. New ACT book The Diet Trap: Dahl speaks about her book, The Diet Trap, and why this book is different from most books related to dieting and weight loss. The Diet Trap focuses on the emotional aspects of eating and why we turn to food for comfort, as well as how to change this.

To listen to any of the above episodes, simply click on the episode title and listen for FREE.  I would also strongly recommend listening to other episodes of the podcast, as the concepts in ACT that are introduced in the context of eating and weight issues can also be applied to other aspects of our lives.  Click here to access the main page and browse Dr. Dahl’s many podcast episodes.

jenny-thomson


16/Jun/2017

pride-flag

I wanted to take the time, on behalf of everyone at J Marlin and Associates Inc., to wish everyone in the LGBTQ+ community a Happy Pride Month!  This is a time for celebration, activism, recognition, and pride for everyone in the community, and as an ally, I feel privileged to be able to be a part of it.

I have had both personal and professional experience interacting with the LGBTQ+ community, and I’m hoping today to share a little bit of what I’ve learned over the years.  Professionally, I have always been interested in being able to help individuals who identify as LGBTQ+.  Although we have come a long way as a society in recognizing and accepting LGBTQ+ individuals, resources for this group are scarce, and I’ve always had a desire to help change that.

During my time as a private practice therapist, I attended Oxford County Pride and catered to the LGBTQ+ community in my practice.  I’ve been to the 519 in Toronto to attend their Creating Authentic Spaces workshop, and I have used many resources from Rainbow Health Ontario to try and increase my knowledge in the hopes that I can be the best ally possible.  More recently, I attended a training session held by Rainbow Health Ontario designed for mental health care providers to help individuals who identify as transgender.  This seminar covered not only how to help these individuals understand the process of physically transitioning, but also understanding that transitioning means something different to everyone.  And that’s what I’ve found to be the underlying theme of both training and information for the LGBTQ+ community, as well as for people in general – everyone is unique and everyone’s journey is their own.

I don’t want to pretend that I have all the answers or that I can truly understand and appreciate what being a member of the LGBTQ+ community means, because I don’t.  I do, however, feel as though I’ve gained some valuable insight, not only into the struggles that this group feels, but also the amazing, beautiful people that create it.  So I thought I would share some of what I’ve learned so far in my journey, in the hopes that others may learn something too, and we can all be better allies and better humans.

So, if you’re an ally trying to do your best to foster an accepting and open environment, following some of these tips may help:

  1. Don’t Assume

This applies to many different things, including gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, etc.  Also, don’t assume that just because someone identifies in a certain way that their journey has to look a certain way as well.  For example, not all people who identify as transgender have the desire to physically transition to their identified sex.

Also, never assume that someone has come out to everyone.  If someone has trusted you with this information, take that as a compliment.  It is not your job or your right to tell other people about an individual’s sexual or gender identity.  This leads perfectly into my next tip:

  1. If you’re not sure – ASK!

If you’re not sure how to refer to someone, simply ask them which pronouns they would like you to use – they would much prefer you to ask the question than to misgender them, for example.

  1. Don’t Question

While this may seem counterintuitive to number two, it’s really not.  Here we’re talking about more than just asking someone about their desired pronouns.  Just like you don’t want to be asked questions about your sexual history or desires (probably), neither do people in the LGBTQ+ community.  It’s not appropriate to ask if someone has physically transitioned if they identify as transgender, to ask about someone’s sexual history, or to grill someone about their experience.  If they want to divulge this information, then they will do it on their own.

For more tips on how to me a more effective ally, click here.

The next thing I would like to provide to you is a short list of terms commonly used in the LGBTQ+ community, and what they mean.  This list is by no means an exhaustive one, and I’ve included common terms that only some LGBTQ+ individuals often identify with.  For a more extensive list, including information on discrimination and other terms, please click here.

Common Terms and What they Mean:

Ally:  “A person who works to end a form of oppression that gives them privilege(s).  Allies listen to, and are guided by, communities and individuals affected by oppression” (The 519).

Asexual:  “A sexual orientation where a person experiences little or no sexual attraction” (The 519).

Bisexual:  “A person who is emotionally, physically, spiritually, and/or sexually attracted to people of more than one gender, though not necessarily at the same time” (The 519).

Cis/Cisgender:  “Cisgender is used to explain the phenomena where a person’s gender identity is in line with or ‘matches’ the sex they were assigned at birth” (The 519).

Gay:  “A person whose enduring physical, romantic, spiritual, emotional, and/or sexual attractions are to people of the same gender.  The word can refer to men or women” (The 519).

Intersex:  “A term used to describe a person born with reproductive systems, chromosomes and/or hormones that are not easily characterized as male or female… Some intersex people identify with their assigned sex, while others do not, and some choose to identify as intersex” (The 519).

Lesbian:  “A woman who is emotionally, physically, spiritually, and/or sexually attracted to women” (The 519).

Pansexual:  “A person who has the potential for romantic and sexual attraction to people of any gender or sex” (The 519).

Queer:  “Formerly derogatory slang term used to identify LGBT people.  Some members of the LGBT community have embraced and reinvented this term as a positive and proud political identifier when speaking among and about themselves” (The 519).

Trans/Transgender:  “Umbrella terms that describe people with diverse gender identities and gender expressions that do not conform to stereotypical ideas about what it means to be a girl/woman or boy/man in society.  ‘Trans’ can mean transcending beyond, existing between, or crossing over the gender spectrum.  It includes but is not limited to people who identify as transgender, transsexual, cross-dressers or gender non-conforming (gender variant or gender-queer).  Trans identities include people whose gender identity is different from the gender associated with their birth-assigned sex.  Trans people may or may not undergo medically sup­portive treatments, such as hormone therapy and a range of surgical procedures, to align their bodies with their internally felt gender identity” (The 519).

Again, this list is by no means an exhaustive one, but is rather a list to help you clarify what some of these terms mean, if you are not familiar already.

pride-world

jenny-thomson

References

The 519. (n.d.). The 519 Glossary of Terms. Retrieved from The 519: http://www.the519.org/education-training/glossary

 


11/May/2017

closet

It’s that time of the year again – the weather is warming up, the days are getting longer, flowers are beginning to bloom – and we’re beginning to notice all of the clutter in our homes.  I don’t know about you, but I know that when my home, garage, shed, or car is cluttered, I feel like my mind is cluttered!  I find myself becoming distracted much more easily and can’t concentrate when the house is a mess.

Spring is a great time to clean out your home and garage in order to prepare for summer barbeques, get-togethers, and longer days spent outdoors.  But it can be a daunting task, especially if it’s a while since the last time you cleaned.  In order to help get the process done as quickly and painlessly as possible, you can follow some of the following tips:

1. Make a List

Not sure where to start?  Try going room to room, and making a list of everything that needs to be done.  Alternatively, create categories and organize your tasks that way.  For example, you could have a list of different things you have to organize versus things you have to clean.  It may also be helpful to include the estimated amount of time it may take to complete each task.  See the example below for ideas:

table

2. Break it Down

Large tasks can seem really intimidating and you may find yourself thinking “I’ll never get that finished”.  Try breaking down a large task, such as organizing the garage, into smaller steps.  This way, instead of worrying about the long-term, daunting task of having a beautifully organized garage, you can instead focus on small tasks one at a time.  For example, you may want to start with one corner of the garage, or begin by organizing your tools and then move onto storage boxes, and from there clean up the kids’ toys.

3. Schedule Your Time

Scheduling in time to do any sort of unpleasant task helps to ensure that we complete the task – we are much more likely, for example, to go to the gym if we schedule it in our calendars than if we do not[1].  Spring cleaning is no different!  Take your list of tasks that you want to complete, and schedule them into your calendar around work, leisure, and family activities in order to help keep yourself accountable and to have a plan.

garage

4. Be Mindful

Spring cleaning can be frustrating, exhausting, and an overall unpleasant experience.  It’s important that we keep in mind all of the reasons you may have to be doing spring cleaning in the first place.  In order to help keep our values at the forefront of our minds, practicing mindfulness can be really helpful.  Mindfulness helps ground you in the present so that you can get back in touch with your values and remind yourself why you’re doing all of this.  Click here for some quick mindfulness practices you can teach yourself.

5. Do What Works for You

All of the above tips can be really helpful for ensuring that your spring cleaning goes smoothly and efficiently.  However, everyone is different, and some of these items may not work well for you.  It is important to plan your spring cleaning in a way that is going to be most beneficial for you.  For example, you may like to get things done all at once, so scheduling your cleaning for a weekend and completing it in two days may be the best way to get it done.  For others, it may make more sense to do a little bit each day, and that’s okay!  Set yourself up for success!

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[1] See: Coffman, S.J. et al. (2007) Extreme Non-Response in Cognitive Therapy:  Can Behavioural Activation Succeed where Cognitive Therapy Fails?  Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Volume 75, No. 4, Pages 531-541 and Dobson, K.S. et al. (2008) Randomized Trial of Behavioural Activation, Cognitive Therapy, and Antidepressant Medicine in the Prevention of Relapse and Recurrence in Major Depression, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Volume 76, No. 3, Pages 468-477.


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J Marlin and Associates Inc. offers Cognitive Behavioural Therapy services to help individuals increase their sense of vitality, well-being, and fulfillment.

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