02 Mar

Mindful Reset: Do things backwards

Stop leading your life on auto-pilot. Do things backwards today.

Try doing a routine task, such as brushing your teeth, taking a shower, or getting dressed the “wrong way”. Instead of first putting on your socks, then your shirt, then your pants, mix it up and first put on your pants, then your shirt, then your socks.

Observe what feelings and emotions come up.

What effect does it have on your anxiety or mood?

22 Feb

Why avoidance does not work

Ahhh, avoidance. That little sneaky thing we do, hoping it will help us cope with anxiety, a low mood, anger or any other upsetting emotion. Barely helping us to relieve things temporarily, only to hit us in the face even harder when it returns.

Does that sound familiar to you?

We live in such a fast-paced world. Everything needed to be done yesterday, and we have no time to spare for today. Who has time to be anxious or depressed? On the one hand, avoidance makes sense. Do you know the story behind the ostrich digging a hole in the sand so it can wiggle it’s head in there? Or the famous quote “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil”. Avoidance is everywhere, and society seems to go along with this strange concept.

On the other hand, avoidance does not make any sense at all. Imagine for one second, that there is a plate next to you. And on that plate is the most delicious, just out-of-the-oven brownie you have ever smelled. Now add an imaginary scoop of vanilla ice cream. Can you seen the ice cream melting as it touches the brownie?

Do you have a clear picture of this mouth-watering brownie?

Now try to ignore it. Forget we ever had such a picture in mind.

Difficult, if not nearly impossible right?

That’s exactly why avoidance of emotions and feelings does not work. It’s like having a screaming child next to you, and pretending you don’t hear it. “Pretending” being the key word here.

The opposite of “avoidance” is “acknowledgement”. Next time you feel yourself getting upset, or anxious, or sad, tell yourself “I’m feeling [replace with upsetting emotion], and that’s ok”. Becoming aware of how emotions and feelings affect you, is the number one ingredient to learning to cope with upsetting feelings. After you have acknowledge what made you upset, refocus your mind using a mindful reset tool.

18 Feb

Why mindfulness can help relieve symptoms of PTSD

PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a very normal reaction to a very abnormal situation. It is a way for our brains to protect the body, while still retaining the ability to somewhat function in everyday life.

Under non-trauma circumstances, a person’s stress hormone levels will temporary rise in reaction to a threat. When the threat has passed, these levels will return back to normal. What a great machine our body is!

For people with PTSD, the system still works the way it is meant to. The person encounters a threatening situation, stress levels rise and… take much longer to return back to their baseline. In addition, because now the fight-or-flight response is continuously operating in the background, the stress hormone levels spike in response to even very mildly stressful situations.

These constant elevated levels of stress hormones contribute to an array of different factors: memory and attention problems, difficulty concentrating, feeling irritable and easily agitated digestive issues and trouble sleeping. If you think about why this is happening; when your body is in a constant state of stress, your brain is more preoccupied with keeping you alive than having you solve mathematical equations or finish reading a Harry Potter book. Makes sense right?

Another indicator that your system is still working the way it is supposed to. Except now, in the case of PTSD, you are on high alert.

Being traumatized means that you are, subconsciously, organizing your life as if the trauma is still happening. Sights and sounds in daily life trigger you to have flashbacks about the trauma, your emotions are hypervigilant and in constant alertness to any kind of danger, and your energy is focused on silencing the inner chaos.

And this is exactly why practicing mindfulness is so important!

I’m not talking about meditating for hours on end. Mindfulness is so much more than just that. In case you are not too familiar with mindfulness, it is the practice of being in the here-and-now, without judgement towards yourself or others, and having a curiosity towards the things around you.

Visualization is a form of mindfulness. This teaches your brain to calm down, relax, and acts as a reset button. Day dreaming is a form of visualization. Picture yourself on your favourite vacation, whether that is on the beach in Cayos Coco, or on a trail walking across Europe. Use visualization to envision what happiness feels like, or what your perfect day looks like, or even what you will be cooking for dinner.

Five minutes, that is all it takes.

Practice makes perfect, you won’t expect your child to be an Olympic swimmer in one day?


08 Feb

Conquer Indecisiveness

You are in the mood for a snack, but what snack to choose? Chocolate, chips, something healthy like an apple, so many choices… And what about choosing a shampoo or a washing detergent, there are so many different kinds and they all claim something else. Which one to choose? Or how about planning a trip to a warm destination, is it going to be the Bahama’s, Dominican Republic or maybe somewhere in the Mediterranean.

Indecisiveness is something common amongst us nowadays, and in order to better understand this phenomenon I will break it down for you. First of all, before any decision is made, you will have to make a choice. In other words, you will have to know what you want. Then, after becoming aware of what it is you want, you choose on a plan of action, also known as a decision.

Kate has been offered a job overseas. This potentially new job is very well paid and means she will have to move to Europe and live there for an x amount of years. However, this also means that she will have to leave behind all her friends and family and start a new life in a new country and a new city where she does not know anyone. What will she do?

Kate is indecisive about her decision. Indecisiveness results when someone is not committing to the course of action that is in line with their choice. She is worried that it will be difficult for her to make new friends, she is worried that she might be overlooking a fact, and she is worried that she might miss opportunities closer to home is she accepts this job offer. In other words, Kate knows what she wants but the actions she takes do not go along with this choice.

Keeping in mind that we cannot foretell the future, unless you are a psychic which I am certainly not, there are no wrong decisions to be made. Whatever course of action we choose, every action, and therefore every decision, will have consequences. To help Kate resolve her indecisiveness, she uses this 5 step model to decide on her actions.

Step 1
Without thinking about the opinions of others, about possible negative consequences, and about what others expect of you, what is it you want? Make a choice
Kate has always wanted to travel and likes new adventures. She therefore chooses to take the job offer in Europe.

Step 2
Make a list of possible actions (decisions).
Kate’s list looks like this

  • Moving to a different country
  • Taking on a new job
  • Put house in Ontario up for sale
  • Buy a car in Europe

Step 3
What action are you engaging in now? Doing something and doing nothing are both decisions. Add this to your list.
Kate adds the following to her list

  • Staying at home
  • Meeting friends for lunch
  • Not experiencing a new culture 

Step 4
Take a look at the list you just made. What actions are in line with your decision?
For Kate, this means that her actions in Step 2 and two out of three actions in Step 3 are in line with the choice she made in Step 1.

Step 5
Now that you have made a choice about what you want to do, and thought of different decisions you can make, think about possible consequences and outcomes.
Kate has thought of the following consequences for her decisions

  • Moving to a different country means:
    • Meeting new people
    • Learning a new language
    • Traveling
  • Taking a new job means:
    • Meeting new people
    • Learning new skills

Making a life changing decision is not without stress. Whenever you step out of your comfort zone, you will experience a little stress. But ask yourself: If I don’t make a change, is this what I want? Make the choice consciously and then decide on the next step to take.