Anchor Your Day ~ a mental health blog by Counselwise ~

When Friends Become Family

Over the Canada Day weekend we spent some time at a cottage with friends. Beautiful weather, views of Georgian Bay, waterskiing and tubing (not for me…but I enjoyed the boat!), time spent relaxing and catching up, meals shared squished around a table, laughter and connection high on the priority list.

Kim is a high school friend, which means we are going on 30 plus years of friendship. From high school on, we have been challenged by living 4 hours apart. During university, we kept in contact by writing letters, and we have always made a consistent effort to make sure we had plans in the queue to get together. Sometimes that includes girls weekends, other times it is couple or family time. We both have had challenging times in our lives in which we were there for each other; the stability and consistency of friendship has strengthened our bond.

If anyone were to observe our children together (5 in total), they would assume they were cousins. Immediate hugs, full consumption of time spent in activity, automatic affection and laughter and an affinity towards each other that is protective and familial. The best way to describe it is that it is simply a feeling; one of wholeness and unconditional connection – that is when friends become family.

Photo credit: Me! The view from the cottage of Georgian Bay

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A Little Quote About Faith

I came across this quote:

“When I finally let go of having to totally control everything around me and let my life unfold, I was stunned by the results. How could I have ever thought I could outsmart the universe?” – Geri Larkin

Sometimes our anxiety or fears can lead us to over control. If we can just get everything tickety-boo with no room for error, all will be fine. But not all of our paths are straight. Sometimes they are narrow and crooked, sometimes we have hills to climb, and the skies become stormy. In designing our own lives through the choices we make, we must also make room for some chance and fate. We can acknowledge that some of our successes and failures were supposed to happen that way and that we can weather life’s challenges with grace. We can have faith in the mysterious yet infinite energy of the universe.

Photo credit: http://Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

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Dancing: How It Can Help Our Brain

In an article entitled “Dancing can reverse the signs of aging in the brain” by Frontiers and featured on Medical Xpress, we read about a study out of Germany that looked at the benefits of exercise in the elderly to determine what type of effect it can have on the brain:

“Exercise has the beneficial effect of slowing down or even counteracting age-related decline in mental and physical capacity,” says Dr Kathrin Rehfeld, lead author of the study, based at the German center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Magdeburg, Germany. “In this study, we show that two different types of physical exercise (dancing and endurance training) both increase the area of the brain that declines with age. In comparison, it was only dancing that lead to noticeable behavioral changes in terms of improved balance.”

Rehfeld goes on to explain that by constantly changing the dance routines and introducing different genres of dance, the seniors in the study were constantly engaged in a learning process.

We know that music it itself can greatly affect our mood and can be an important element in our emotional health; just putting on music while I am cleaning the house always makes the task that much more enjoyable. Now I have a reason to put some swing in my step!

Bottom line? Find some time to dance 🙂

To read the full article:

Photo credit: http://Photo by Mitchell Orr on Unsplash

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Pain is in the Driver’s Seat

For anyone living with chronic pain, they are forever challenged by the fact that try as they might – taking medications on time, getting the right amount of sleep and exercise, eating healthy – if pain decides to take over on any given day, they get bumped out of the driver’s seat. The dissonance that gets created as a result, lies not in the fact that you are having a pain day, but rather that you had expectations for the day. If we can’t get done what we had planned, or get less done than we usually would have, we can be quite hard on ourselves; resulting in feelings of discouragement, and we open the door for the blues to set in.

We are much better served to understand that “when I am having a pain day, my tank is full.” Waking up uncomfortable and sore lets you know that your body and mind are allowed to focus on what needs to happen in order to best alleviate the pain. That might include cancelling plans, doing less than you would normally do, going about tasks at a slower pace, taking more breaks. It is acknowledging that you have woken up with a full tank, and its not going to take much to spark a tipping point. If we can give pain its space, we can begin to celebrate  the fact that “anything I get done today is a bonus.”

When we can begin to be kind to ourselves where our expectations are concerned, we begin to feel that we have some control in our pain day. We may have had to let pain take the driver’s seat, but we can darn sure still give it directions! 🙂

Photo credit: http://Photo by Ezra Comeau-Jeffrey on Unsplash

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The Shelter of Others

There is something about this photo, captured on one of my walks, that fascinates me.

In looking more closely, there are a couple of elements of interest to this picture. Firstly, you will notice that an evergreen tree has begun to grow out of an old stump; what is decayed and slowly returning to the earth is providing nutrients to what began as a fragile seedling. This new tree is now tied to the history of the stump; much like we are tied to the history of our ancestors.

This small evergreen tree is also living in the shade of a birch tree; it is being protected from the harshness of the elements, allowing the evergreen tree to capture the right amount of rain and sun for optimal growth. Although close, the evergreen tree remains separate. This reminds me of our own growth, whether it be from childhood or simply in the journey of our lives; that although there is an inherent need to strive for autonomy, we do so best in the shade of others.

This photo is a lovely reminder to me that we grow in the shelter of our loved ones.

Photo credit: Me!

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Achieving Grace

When I was going through an especially tough time in my life, I was given the lovely advice that “grace builds upon nature.” At first I was not entirely sure I knew what it meant, but I also knew that it was relevant to what I was going through at the time. Since then, I have reflected upon that advice many times; I have used it with clients, and I continue to say it to myself when I feel I need a gentle reminder.

I believe our true nature to be good. I also believe that when we are being true to ourselves, there is a sense of calm, an underlying confidence, and a feeling of being whole. It is the part of ourselves that is compassionate, both to others and to ourselves. If we are able to access that part of who we are, even when struggling, we can find grace. Grace is about courteous goodwill, it is about choosing to take the high road, it is about holding your head high and keeping your chin up. Grace is about opening up the space, even when its hard to, to recognize your blessings and through that process you will recognize your strength. Grace is the honourable process of knowing you may never get the answers you are seeking, and yet choose to forgive; becoming wrapped in faith that you can heal.

Grace builds upon nature; what a lovely little piece of advice 🙂

Photo credit: http://Photo by Javardh on Unsplash

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A Lovely Quote About Light and Dark

I love this quote by Og Mandino:

“I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars.” – Og Mandino

I often remind clients that we learn just as much about ourselves from what hurts us as from what loves us. This quote by Mandino can remind us that although we strive to feel light, to make our choices and goals line up for movement and growth, to design our lives with a focus on meaning and purpose, we can also not deny the dark.

We cannot get through life without challenge, without pain, without being hurt, without struggle. In accepting the dark, we make way for the stars; those pinpricks of light that allows us to remember that without the dark, we would also not feel the infinite possibility of light. 🙂

Photo credit: http://Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

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The Effect of Intergenerational Trauma

I have just completed both a podcast and a book that feature what I would consider to be examples of intergenerational trauma.

The first was a podcast called “Finding Cleo;” featuring Connie Walker, a journalist for CBC Radio, who explores cold cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women. Although the podcast is primarily about trying to find answers, and therefore closure, to Cleo’s family, it also themes the damaging effects of both residential schools and the 60’s Scoop; times in Canadian history in which the government attempted to strip Indigenous people of their culture in an attempt to assimilate them.

The second was a book entitled “We Were the Lucky Ones” by Georgia Hunter. Based on her own family’s story, Hunter brings us to a devastating time in Poland’s history where during the Second World War Jewish families were persecuted for their culture. Hunter writes about her ancestors, the Kurc family, and what they were forced to endure due to the atrocities of the darkest war in our world’s history.

Intergenerational trauma is what happens when the effects of trauma in one generation affects the next one (and sometimes the ones after that.) Unresolved trauma can often lead to self-destructive behaviours, depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress symptoms, addiction, and a decreased ability to securely attach. What happens intergenerationally isn’t the actual traumatic experience itself, but rather the effects that accompanies it.

Understanding intergenerational trauma is important when considering the effects of persecution to a people or a culture; especially in examples we continue to see in our present society. Compassion, kindness and empathy can help support those who are navigating through the quite often rough waters of intergenerational trauma.

To check out “We Were the Lucky Ones” by Georgia Hunter:

To check out “Finding Cleo” at CBC Radio:

Photo credit:

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Get a Little Green

In an article entitled “Kids surrounded by greenery may grow up to be happier adults” by Katherine Schwab and featured on Fast Company, Schwab writes about a new study coming out of Denmark that shows that “children under 10 who had greater access to green space had 55% less risk of mental health disorders in adulthood.”

55%. That is quite a high number considering they came to that conclusion after having controlled for such factors such as urbanization, family history, socioeconomic status/factors and parent’s age. 55% less risk of mental disorders in adulthood.

Although the article features how these types of studies can affect urban planning, it would seem the message we can take from it is much simpler. Let’s get outside.

In many ways, we have lost the comfort of “just sending our kids out to play.” Gone are the days of our childhood where we donned our sneakers and play clothes, left the house to explore the back fields and forests – without cell phones – and returned when we instinctively knew a meal was close to being on set on the table. But perhaps we can still create enough space for our kids to get the green space they need with less of a focus on piling up their weeks with activities, and more of an emphasis on taking walks after school or supper, grabbing a soccer ball and heading to the park, fishing at the dock or setting up a tent in the backyard.

55%. That’s enough of a reason to get green 😊

To read the full article:

Photo credit: http://Photo by Luke Brugger on Unsplash

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Friendship Goes a Long Way

We have just come back from a lovely long weekend visiting friends in Upper Economy, Nova Scotia. It was time to reconnect and relax; enjoy the beautiful views of the Bay of Fundy, while taking in the local sights and sounds of typical Nova Scotia life.

The friends we visited are imports to Upper Economy and it has been two years since we have seen them last; they decided to move to the Bay of Fundy from our area when an opportunity presented itself to uproot and replant. It always amazes me how time moves so quickly; how moments move into days and days into months; and before you know it, years have begun passing. And so it was time – a seat sale later, we were booked to visit our good friends.

And as it usually happens, upon seeing them, it was like no time had passed. Hugs were squishy, smiles were plentiful and conversation flowed easily. Our walks along the Bay of Fundy were perhaps the highlight of our trip; just seeing the ocean feeds the comfort system. The time spent together truly was priceless; and the laughter – always the ultimate sign of deep and lasting friendship. Not to mention the tears at the airport, as once again, time passed too quickly and we were once again ready to board the plane to return home.

The moral of this little story? Get the seat sale; book the trip. Feed your soul 😊

Photo credit: Me, from the shores of the Bay of Fundy

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