Anchor Your Day ~ a mental health blog by Counselwise ~

Anchor Your Day

Thank you for visiting! The purpose of this blog is to provide short, daily counsel on a variety of topics and interesting facts about mental health. We all live busy lives which is why the focus of this blog is to have something relatively quick to read; it can act as an “anchor to your day” so to speak. If you would like to have this blog sent to your email directly on a daily basis, please follow the link below (you can unsubscribe at any time) and join me on the path to self-care. 

Caution: Sarcasm Ahead

Sarcasm is one of those tricky forms of humour. Using irony as a way to prove a point can be a skillful way of bringing some laughter to the moment; however most people will use sarcasm as a way to mask their hostility. Those on the receiving end of a sarcastic remark will feel the put down; you can say something but because it’s masked in “humour,” you will most likely be accused of not being able to take a joke.

Using sarcasm consistently as a way to get a message across to others is a form of anger and can lean into bullying behaviours. The intention of using sarcasm, then, becomes not to look for a solution, but rather to feel justified or right, to prove a point, or to “get back” at someone. No clear communication there.

So let’s move instead, to clever wit; being able to use humour when communicating can be very productive. People will know when you’re using humour because of your non-verbal signals; sarcasm almost always brings with it an underlying look of anger, being witty will have your face open and smiling. And if you are on the receiving end of a sarcastic remark? Call them out on it:

“Hmmm, that sounds a bit sarcastic. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to take that.”

“Geesh, can’t take a joke or what?” 

“Sure, I can take a joke when it’s funny.” 

Short and sweet; delivered calmly. It will carry more weight than trying to just ignore it or getting angry in retaliation.

Bottom line? Use caution when choosing sarcasm as a form of communication. Being witty is more effective and will not hurt those to which you’re teasing 🙂

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The Joy of Spring

I love this quote by Margaret Atwood:

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”  – Margaret Atwood, Bluebeard’s Egg

This time of year always reminds me of my childhood and the time spent outside in our rubber boots. Playing in the ditches, my sister and I would make little birch bark boats and we would follow them in the stream, we would walk to the pond at the back of the fields as it was always the biggest when waters made the earth swell; we came home muddy and wet. At school, we were excited to get out the marbles and sidewalk chalk to play hopscotch. And every spring, I would go to my friend Tara’s dairy farm to watch the cows being released from the barn for the first time after a cooped up winter; to say they were excited was an understatement. 🙂

With our continued lockdown state in Ontario, getting outside is that much more important. Work in our yards, preparing flower and vegetable gardens. Walking along the edges of streams and rivers; smelling the fresh air of spring. Finding our sacred spots where we can revere in the beauty of spring; a time of renewal and promise.

It is time to say goodbye to winter, thanking it for its coziness and time of rest and welcome spring, a time when the air is freshest and the wind smells like dirt.

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What Stands in the Way

I love this quote by Marcus Aurelius:

“What stands in the way becomes the way.” 

It reminds me of the famous words quoted in Dumbo, in which it was noted that “the very thing that kept you down is going to carry you up.” Let’s face it, we often get in our own way of growth. If we have low self-esteem for example, we will allow it to direct a big portion of our lives; leading us to missed opportunities and feeling victimized. If we numb ourselves with alcohol, over-eating or online shopping, we rob ourselves of the experience of nourishing our comfort system in a healthy way; leading us to feeling poorly about ourselves. If we are driven to participate in drama, we feed the chaos instead of the calm, leading us to move away from who we truly are or can be.

The first step is to become cognizant of what stands in the way; most of the time we know what most afflicts us, other times some exploration is necessary to get us to the place where awareness can lead to change. Either way, the ultimate goal is to clear the path so as to continue on our journey 🙂

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Let’s Talk About Walking

I often talk about the benefits of walking – not only from an exercise perspective, but also from one of movement – as well as the mindful and purposeful seeking of peace. This is what Sarah Ban Breathnach has to say about walking in her book “Simple Abundance;”

“My desire to walk increases a hundredfold by beautiful settings – particularly rural ones.”

She goes on to explain how she felt when moving from the charming English countryside to the Western landscape of New Mexico:

“I understood why pioneers pushed past everything to find their promised land. I also understood that the Great Creator wanted me to understand that there was a  landscape larger than the one I could see at the moment. I needed to trust and continue on in faith, one step at a time, until I arrived at wherever I was supposed to be.”

And reminds us that regardless of our landscape:

“There are different reasons for walking – to increase the heart rate and build strength, to solve a creative problem, to finish that argument with yourself or someone else, to saunter and wake up to the world around you, and to meditate……I suppose it doesn’t matter why we walk, just that we do.”

Thank you for the lovely reminder 🙂

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Grief and the Inheritance of Joy

When grieving, a feeling that can be common is that of guilt. In the midst of our sadness, when we struggle to process a loved one’s death and their physical absence from our life, we often experience guilt for feeling any amount of joy. Sometimes it can even catch us off guard and we immediately feel as though we have somehow failed our loved ones. From this, there can develop what we consider to be a homage of sorts; that while we still grace the earth with our presence, we will dampen our joy so as not to let anyone doubt the depth of our love for the one who has passed.

When this occurs and it is brought to our attention, a common question gets asked of us; “Would – your loved one – want you to be this sad? Would they ask that you contain your joy for the rest of your life?” And the answer is always “No, of course not.” I have never heard a client or otherwise answer that question with a “Yes, I think that is what they would want of me.”

The reason that this question resonates is because of the inheritance of joy. It is in the energy of the universe. Just as we want the very best for our loved ones in our life, so, I believe we would want that in our death. That by grieving our loved one’s passing and by honouring the special relationship that we had with them, we also move towards the renewal of a life of contentedness and peace. The inheritance of joy – a lovely way to think of the parting gift of our loved ones.

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Five Facts about Sunlight

I love the quote by Hans Christian Anderson that states, “Just living is not enough….one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower.” It speaks to some core elements in feeling content. Here are five facts about how sunshine is linked to our increased emotional health:

  • Sunlight increases serotonin, a hormone responsible for helping us feel calm, centered and relaxed.
  • Exposure to the sun prompts our skin to create Vitamin D, known to help lower blood pressure, decrease inflammation and improve brain function (all great factors for our mental health too!)
  • Sunlight has been shown to increase oxygen in the blood; bringing much needed oxygen to the tissues, including our brain!
  • Sunshine may prevent us from eating too much. The part of the brain that is responsible for mood is also responsible for appetite; boosting your mood can lead to making better choices when it comes to eating.
  • Exposure to sunlight can help re-adjust our circadian rhythm, allowing us to get a good night’s sleep.

Moral of the story? Get outside and put your face to the sun. Drink up its warmth and feel the healing affects of its light 🙂

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The Meaning of Success

Following yesterday’s post in which we were reminded that the ordinary often brings us joy, today we can reflect on the meaning of success. In our current world of uncertainty, sometimes it is difficult to feel achieved. Depending on our circumstances, we can continue to feel overwhelmed; lockdowns and managing households can feel very weighted.  When we are just barely keeping ahead of our tasks, or the struggle to get out of bed in the morning is our hill to climb, success can seem elusive and hard to measure. It is in those times that I like to reflect on a quote that tends to put things into perspective for me:

“Put your heart, mind and soul into even your smallest acts.

This is the secret of success.”   – Swami Sivananda

Success comes from movement, from conscious choice. It is the stepping stones of your day that will lead you to feel accomplished when you are heading to bed; the way you made someone feel, the dinner you made, getting through some of your to-do list, spending 20 minutes in a relaxing bath. Line up your tasks with your goals; focus simply on movement forward and you have achieved success. 🙂

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Resilience Through Covid-19

I came across this passage that reminded me that we can continue to remain committed to our goal of staying the course. To remain committed to keeping our connections meaningful, to finding joy in the simplicity of routine, to search out and appreciate our blessings.

This might be the year where 

instead of grand resolutions, we learn to

love our stories.

The moments together.

The showing up when tired.

The gift of the present.

The bravery in the ordinary.

The soul building of kindness.

The spark of hope.

Sometimes the simplest goals can 

lead to the most magnificent results. 

-Rachel Marie Martin

We can remain committed to the feeling that we are in this together.

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5 Facts About Music and Mental Health

When it comes to music, we have all experienced emotional moments when listening to a song triggers a memory, experience or feeling. I can hear “Dancing Queen” by Abba and instantly think of my mom, hear any Randy Travis song and be reminded of road trips with my girls (yes, I forced them to listen to it and they know all the words!) and when I hear “I Want to Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston, I am reminded of high school dances with my friends. Music is uplifting and feeds our comfort system, making an important impact on our mental health:

  • music engages areas of the brain responsible for memory and increasing the efficiency of brain processing.
  • music elevates mood and aids in relaxation.
  • music has the ability to transform a good experience to an unforgettable one.
  • music can aid in motivation – throw on some good tunes when you have to clean the house!
  • all forms of music have been shown to have therapeutic effects.

Incorporating music in our self-care routine is one that is so simple and yet so beneficial. So turn on the tunes; it will do you good!

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The Classic Dynamic of Pursue and Withdraw

One of the classic partnering-up that occurs in an opposite-attracts type way is a dynamic known as “Pursue and Withdraw.” In an attachment framework, one person is typically Pre-occupied and the other is Avoidant-dismissive. In layman’s terms, one partner tends to be more emotional with a need for connection, looks to their partner for reassurance and will fear being alone. The other partner tends to have less emotional capacity, will “shut down” when pressed for deeper connection and tends to struggle with closeness in relationships.

Initially, this couple will provide the yin to their yang; their peanut butter to their jam. But over time with increased stressors, and in times of conflict, the differences between how the two communicate will widen the gap. When one pursues, it creates an increased need for the other to withdraw, and withdrawing creates panic in the pursuer, who reacts by increasing the pursuit; creating a vicious cycle.

It becomes important to begin by recognizing the dynamic and then seeking help in lessening the gap. It is never the differences that lead to a break down of relationship, but rather an avoidance of self-reflection within ourselves and within the relationship. Learning how to correct some of these behaviours is the first step in understanding that when two people each have a healthy ability to regulate their emotions, they have confidence in their capacity to be an independent partner while still navigating as a team.

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