Anchor Your Day ~ a mental health blog by Counselwise ~

Dumbo’s Advice

One of my favourite quotes that I use in therapy comes from the movie Dumbo, featuring the lovable, Disney character born with larger-than-life ears. Having been mercilessly teased for his big ears, he has learned to dislike his appearance and his growing lack of self-worth reinforces what becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; Dumbo begins to feel and act as a bumbling, useless elephant who can’t get anything right. Eventually separated from his mother, he befriends a mouse who helps him to accept himself as he is; advising Dumbo that “the very things that held you down are going to carry you up.”

The themes in this 1941 movie are still relevant to our own understanding of the often long-lasting negative effects of the dissenting experiences we may have had as a child. Ingrained as part of our inner self, we begin to feel certain

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Nature Unplugged

I am an early riser; as part of my own “anchor to my day”, I like to take a daily walk with my dog. This is often quite early in the morning, “dawn’s first light” type of early, and I am pretty good about ignoring the phone in my pocket. I have come to observe over the years that my walk is always where I do my best thinking and I notice things that I would not have paid attention to had I been plugged in. In the spring for example, the predominant noise in the air are the birds, vocalizing their praises to the warmer sun, and yet this time of year, all I can hear are the crickets. Curious as to why, I googled “what is the meaning of crickets chirping?” and I have now learned that it is only the males who chirp as a mating ritual. I guess they are expecting a long, hard winter. 🙂

There are times when my day seems overwhelming in front of me and so beyond my better judgement,  I pull that darn phone out of my pocket and fire off some texts or answer some emails. I can’t recall a time when I didn’t regret that decision as I come back from my walk much preoccupied and far from feeling peaceful. And so, I have pledged to myself to “be in nature unplugged,” to give myself the gift of contentedness, and reflective thought to begin my day. At the very minimum, I can at least give those crickets the audience they deserve.

Photo credit: http://Photo by Joseph Barrientos on Unsplash

Podcast: Other People’s Problems; Unhealthy Behaviours

In a recent podcast I listened to called “Other People’s Problems,” with therapist Hillary McBride, she was showcasing a session with “Maggie” and had this to say about the problematic behaviours we sometimes choose to help us cope with stress and hurt.

Looking at these [unhealthy] behaviours through the lens of emotional regulation, these are all things that [Maggie] is doing to manage her low mood or depression. There are all sorts of things that all of us do to manage a low mood, to boost us up a little bit. And the feeling of doing something indulgent actually gives us a sense of relief, again, maybe reward and excitement……… it’s not unusual for people to use behaviours that can become addictive like eating, using pornography, gambling, shopping; any behaviour that creates a dopamine rush in us. That those can be ways we can actually disengage in life and numb out as a way of avoiding pain, sadness, responsibility in life. So we want to make sure its not creating dysfunction.”

I resonated especially with this last sentence; when we

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The Help of Family

In a recent CAMH article entitled “Families are Vital to Patient Recovery,” written by a mother of a 21 year old suffering with mental illness, these passages were particularly striking to me: “I think the majority of families do understand and appreciate the similarities between mental illnesses like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia and physical illnesses. They absolutely are diseases just like diabetes, cancer and heart disease – but they can be far more difficult illnesses for families to cope with because they have had to deal with their loved one’s behavioural changes, personality changes and possibly bizarre, frightening and risky behaviours.”

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Depression Fact #1

Depression makes it hard to give. I often see clients who come into therapy because they live with a person who is struggling with depression and they are looking for ways to cope. One of the things that is quite common to hear is their perspective that their loved one “doesn’t contribute very much” which in turn places a greater weight on them to manage the household and family. And, as sympathetic as they attempt to be, resentment eventually plays a role in the dynamic between them.

The fact is, sometimes it is hard to think of other people when you’re wrapped in a prickly blanket of sadness, and yet being able to invest in others, to minister to not only your family but to the community as well (even in small ways), helps to lift that weighted blanket. In turn, it often takes only a little bit of give for the loved one to begin to move from their own growing feelings of exasperation and withdrawal to one of greater hope and reciprocity.

Follow the link for a great self-help guide for depression and anxiety:

Photo credit: http://Photo by Nicole Wilcox on Unsplash

“I Am Important and So Are You”

Is the healthiest position in the communication styles we have been looking at. Known as assertiveness, it is a way of communicating that validates your own needs without dismissing anyone else’s. Regardless of what communication style you have noticed yourself belonging to, we can always move towards this position to achieve feeling balanced. (As an aside, if you already move from the position of “I am important and so are you”, keep up the good work!)

When we want to honour our own importance, the first step is to be able to recognize our own needs. Sometimes we have to ask ourselves, “What is it I really want in this situation? How do I wanted to be treated?” Once we can identify

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Communication Styles: Post 3

Moving right along in our discovery about communication styles, today’s post is about “passive-aggressiveness.” True to its name, it is a combination of both the passive and aggressive positions. In this style of communication, you sacrifice your own needs, and although it feels willing enough, it also comes with some resentment attached to it. And as a result, usually somewhere along the line, you “get back at” the person who asked you to sacrifice your own needs in some way. The message that is sent to both yourself and others is “I am not important and neither are you.”

A good example of all three styles of communication takes place in a restaurant. Picture three types of people seated down in a steak house; all three have ordered their steak medium-well. When the orders come from the kitchen, it is discovered by each of these people that their steaks are a bit too rare. The passive person will say nothing; after all, they don’t want to upset anyone, hence they deny their importance. The aggressive person

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Communication Styles: Post 2

Yesterday we looked a how the “passive” style of communication can position ourselves into unimportance; today we will focus on what tends to be an “aggressive” form of communication. What characterizes this form of communication is the pull to have your own needs met first. Typically speaking, a person has learned that their needs trump others’ either because as a child their needs were not met (and they defaulted to elbowing their way to the front of the line) or they were taught, through direct or subtle messages, their greater importance in life. Either way, it has come to this person honestly and in order to feel safe, their wants and desires fight for primacy.  Sometimes aggressive communication includes

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Communication Styles: Post 1

We tend to adopt a certain style of communicating based on our temperament, learned behaviour and our experiences growing up. You will most likely see yourself, as well as others in your life, in one of four styles of communicating.

Today we will look at what it is like to communicate in a passive way. If you are apt to communicate in this style, you tend to sacrifice your own needs for others; and you do so willingly. This is an important distinction because it actually feels natural to sacrifice your own needs first. Often a passive communication style includes having difficulty saying no,

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The Energy Within

There is no doubt we live in an extroverted society; there tends to be a greater value placed on being social, outgoing and gregarious. I have noticed in my practice that often times when I mention to someone the possibility that they might be a tad more on the introverted end of the scale, there is almost a look of disfavour on their faces. But let’s set the record straight. The word introvert is not about being reclusive or hermit-like; it is not about “hating people.” The biggest difference between an introvert and an extrovert is where they get their energy. Introverts get it from within and extroverts get it from other people. This is why a person at a party

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