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“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.


Source: Click



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.


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.




To start off the New Year, I thought writing about finding self-compassion for oneself could be quite beneficial.  When creating resolutions we often think about health and perhaps setting a goal for going to the gym more or eating better.  I think in addition to this, learning to find self- compassion could create a huge positive impact on your life and well-being.

I am sure, just like me, there are times when you can be quite hard on yourself and judgmental.   I have often discussed with clients that it is not uncommon for us to speak negatively internally to ourselves and that we find our brain saying things that we would probably never even say to a perfect stranger or even someone we dislike.

So much inner turmoil can stem from criticizing ourselves.  As humans, we all go through difficult times and we can be easily hooked by re-hashing these events by questioning what we could have done or should have done or what we did wrong.

Finding self-compassion is about feeling loved, accepted and appreciated.  Learning that deep down we are okay and recognizing that no matter what is happening in our lives we deserve love, happiness and appreciation.  Through finding and building self-compassion we can also be working on creating a tool for ourselves to utilize when we are suffering or experiencing distress, and it can be that supportive voice that helps us find beauty and meaning.

A simple way to look at self-compassion is the opposite of being self-critical.  Practicing noticing this difference when life is going well, and when it is hard, is very important.  Self-compassion takes time to build, but awareness and practice of using a self-compassionate attitude can give you an internal source of emotional regulation and resilience.  It can help you to be more connected with the present and the beauty of life.


The following is a simple mindfulness practice you can start today to begin working on cultivating self-compassion:

Arrange yourself in a comfortable position, eyes opened or closed.  You might place your hands on your heart or lap.

You are going to start by thinking about different objects – it can be a person, animal or anything else – until you find one that brings up natural and uncomplicated feelings of warmth and love.

Now continue to concentrate on this object you feel love towards.  Let the image of it, in your mind, become clearer.  Do you notice any relaxation, tension, or lightness?  Just note that.

Now try saying the following phrases to the object you are picturing.  Feel free to change the phrases:

  • May you be happy
  • May you be healthy
  • May you be safe
  • May you be loved

Repeat these phrases a few times and allow the positive feelings in your body to be as strong as they want to be (continue for about 5 minutes).

Now picture that person saying the following phrases to you:

  • May you be happy
  • May you be healthy
  • May you be safe
  • May you be loved

Picture the person saying these phrases a few times and allow the positive feelings in your body be as strong as they want to be (continue this for about 5 minutes).


Sourced from The Self-Compassion Skills Workbook by Tim Desmond


Kerry Foster wrote an excellent blog, Best Practice: Is Your Injured Worker With A Psych Injury Too Sick To Work?’, summarizing two compelling articles: ‘Is your patient too sick to work?’ by Dr.’s Gregory Couser and Gabrielle Melin of the Department of Psychiatry and Psychology at the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine Rochester; and ‘If Work Makes People with Mental Illness Sick, What Do Unemployment, Poverty, and Social Isolation Cause?’ by Joe Marrone and Ed Golowka from the Institute for Community Inclusion in Portland.  Foster and the authors of these articles have, in our opinion, hit the mark on the topic of staying off work due to psychological illness or difficulties.  We have been working with a population of individuals who are off work due to chronic mental and/or somatic health difficulties for many years and the trends we see are directly in line with what these authors are speaking of.

First of all, when we meet with clients for our initial assessment and we ask them what led up to their leave from work, they start off by listing the stressful events and/or the limiting symptoms, and then go on to say that when they met with their doctor, their doctor suggested that they take some time off work to recover.  In many cases, through going off work, the client has now eliminated from their life a key part of their identity or role in this world.  They have deleted the human interaction that may have accompanied their job, they have opened the door to possible financial pressures and isolation, and they have closed the door to productivity, financial contribution to the family, and maybe even a sense of accomplishment and purpose that they may have once obtained from their job.  They have also now entered the mindset that the difficulties they are facing and their work cannot co-exist, and that they must wait until they feel better in order to do their job.  The problems here are that with chronic conditions, the individual may in fact never feel completely better with symptoms at times persisting regardless of treatment. It is the case that until these individuals resume working and actually immerse themselves into their work environment again, they will never be able to learn how to allow their difficulties and their work to exist simultaneously.    Whether it was a decision made independently, or one made by their doctor, it is often one that can hinder a client’s recovery rather than encourage it.

The next problem that arises is that as people continue to sit at home waiting to feel better enough to return to work, the time keeps passing, the challenges continue to exist or become even worse, and the idea that they are disabled from doing their job gets further and further reinforced.  Often times, when we see clients who have been off work for two years or more, we are automatically faced with additional challenges in helping them Portrait of an upset businessman at desk in office. Businessmanget back to work, primarily because this notion and conditioned belief that their symptoms and work cannot co-exist has been carved into their minds.  The earlier clients are referred to us, the better results we see.  If we see clients at the point that they go off work, or even when they are still working but are having challenges, we can work with them to learn how to manage and cope with their difficulties in such a way that they do not have to give up a pivotal part of their life.  We can provide strategies to manage their difficulties while AT WORK, and can teach them how to address and deal with issues as they arise.  Furthermore, we can help them identify the value that their work brings to their life.   Even if someone does not go into work every day thinking I LOVE MY JOB, we can often still help them identify what it is about working that is meaningful to them – whether it is financial security, status, sense of accomplishment, financial contribution within the family, setting an example for their children, the ability to live a comfortable lifestyle, or the means to keep their family healthy – there is rarely an empty response.  From there, the client may notice that in being off work, they are moving away from that value rather than towards it, which is causing additional suffering to their already quite full plate of difficulties.

Early intervention is important, but is not always granted.  There are a number of reasons for this, but one that I will discuss is the issue of individuals needing to feel that they CAN open up early on and that they will be heard.  In order for early intervention to be possible, it is essential that the individual suffering feels that they have someone they can open up to as soon as they start to notice their struggles so that they can be dealt with immediately rather than allowing them to persist and likely bring on additional suffering.  Workplaces need to create open and inviting environments that make employees feel comfortable to speak up about their difficulties and to receive the support needed, rather than having to go off work to deal with things in the privacy of their own home.

At OHS we offer intervention services to individuals at any stage, whether they are still working and are struggling or whether they have gone off work and are looking for help to get back on track.  If you, or someone you know could use some support and guidance towards getting back to where you want to be, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.  We are also able to provide educational programs to employers about mental health at work and about how to best support your employees if they approach you with challenges they are experiencing to lessen the risk of prolonged disability.

Kerry Foster’s full blog is available here: Best Practice: Is Your Injured Worker with a Psych Injury Too Sick to Work?



Crouser, Gregory, P. & Melin, Gabrielle, J. (2006). Is your patient too sick to work? Current Psychiatry 5(9):17-25.

Foster, Kerry. (2014, April). Best Practice: Is Your Injured Worker with a Psych Injury Too Sick to Work? Retrieved from

Marrone, Joe & Golowka, Ed. (2000). If Work Makes People with Mental Illness Sick, What Do Unemployment, Poverty, and Social Isolation Cause? Speaking Out (Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal) 23(2): 187-193.



I’m sure that just hearing those words, your mind took you to a particular incident that you’re not proud of.  Psychology Today explains that shame happens when you fall short of “societal moral standards”, whereas guilt is when you fall short of your own.

Many people who struggle with feelings of guilt and shame are often stuck in a cycle that they can’t seem to get out of.  The unfortunate part is that it is often paralyzing, and can lead to resentment and depression.  The torment that we feel limits us from fully engaging in what life has available for us, strains relationships, and can leave us questioning our self-worth.

The truth is that dwelling on the past hurts us more than it helps us.  Our minds have an unfortunate way of hooking us into unhelpful cycles by recalling memories that are hurtful and painful.  Constantly feeling guilty and ashamed can then cloud our judgement and stagnate our personal growth.  Whether what you’re guilty or ashamed of was something small or something that had huge consequences, ruminating over our thoughts to the point that we can’t see the good in ourselves and hope for the future doesn’t make things better.

Take these steps today to overcome the sting of guilt and shame, and move towards a more fulfilling life:

Accept Mistakes

A part of living life is making mistakes.  You’ve made many mistakes in your past, and will make many more in the future!  Accepting that no one’s perfect can be difficult, but understanding this can help to reduce your suffering.

Improve the Future

How can you take what you’ve learned from your experience to better yourself in the future?  We can’t change the past, but we have the ability to shape our future.  How can you apply the lessons you’ve learned towards future actions so that you can live a life that you’re proud of?  How can you inspire others to overcome their guilt and shame?

Exercise Self-Compassion

It can be difficult to feel good about ourselves when we’ve done something we’re not proud of, but self-compassion is vital to overcoming guilt and shame.  Forgiving yourself starts with acceptance and the commitment to be better.  Challenge negative thoughts about yourself and practice positive self-talk to encourage healing.


Source: Burton, N.  (2017, March 16).  What’s the Difference Between Guilt and Shame?  Retrieved from


I’m sure we have all experienced the anxious feeling that arises when there just doesn’t seem to be enough money in the pot to cover all our expenses, or the gut-wrenching feeling that arrives when we are hit with unexpected and un-planned for expenses, like car and home repairs, or vet bills.  Financial stressors are not uncommon and feeling overwhelmed by financial pressures is normal.  It is when the stress takes over due to ineffective money management that our long-term mental health may start to suffer.

A nation-wide survey conducted on behalf of Financial Planning Standards Council (FPSC) showed that 42% of Canadians ranked money as their leading cause of stress, significantly more than work, personal health and relationships (FPSC, 2014).  The survey also found that financial stress is contributing to poor sleep, reconsideration of past financial decisions, arguments with partners and dishonesty amongst family and friends about personal finances.  When we lack sleep and our meaningful relationships are strained, a number of other problems can arise, and we can become overwhelmed, and our ability to cope with it all can start to wither away.  When we are no longer able to effectively cope with these building stressors, and are stuck in a cycle of being stretched beyond our limits to try and make ends meet, we are at greater risk of experiencing long-term mental health difficulties.


It is often difficult for even the healthiest and wealthiest of individuals to effectively manage their money and the stress it may bring, but in individuals already suffering with mental health disorders or challenges, there is even more to consider.  Those with existing mental health disorders are at greater risk of being affected by financial pressures for a number of reasons: (1) they may have less drive, focus, and motivation to properly manage their finances; (2) they may use spending money on desired items as a means to relieve symptoms; (3) they may be unemployed or on a leave from work for mental health reasons; and (4) they may be more prone to impulsive spending due to weakened inhibitions.  In order to stay healthy, it is important for all individuals to develop a money management plan, and it is important for us to support one another in doing this because we will all fall victim to financial stressors of some kind.  Researchers from The University of South Hampton concluded that the likelihood of having a mental health problem is three times higher among people who have debt, and that depression, anxiety disorders and psychotic disorders were among the most common mental illnesses people in debt experienced (Psychology Today, 2015).

It is a difficult and multifaceted challenge in that we can’t always identify the cause and effect – whether the debt caused the mental health issues or whether the mental health issues caused the debt – but regardless, both problems must be addressed.  When you have an effective financial plan and are on top of things, it’s easier to improve your mental state – and when you are healthy, both mentally and physically, it is easier to take action on your debt.

So the answer isn’t simple, but it does exist.  We must become mindful of both our mental health as well as our financial situation and if either are not where we would like them to be, we need to develop a plan.  Seek counselling or reach out for social support if you notice that you are experiencing mental health difficulties, and seek financial advice if you are struggling to stay on top of things financially.  You don’t have to try and do it alone – we are all in this together.  According to a survey done by The American Psychological Association, 43% of those who say they have no emotional support report that their overall stress has increased in the past year, compared with 26% of those who say they have emotional support.

So here are some of our basic tips on tips on how stay mentally healthy.
(If you feel you need more support, in the form of coaching or counselling, we are here to help as well).

  • Practice mindfulness & be mindful of your mental health
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Develop and strengthen your social support network (and use them!)
  • Reach out for professional help when needed
  • Engage in activities and relationships that are meaningful to you
  • Set aside time for reflection to see whether you are truly living the life that you want to be living, and if not, make some changes

Because we are not financial experts, we reached out to a friend, Anton Tucker, who is a Certified Financial Planner and Portfolio Manager, and has many years of experience providing financial advice and support to people.  We interviewed Anton and here is what he had to say about how to stay financially healthy:

‘’Managing money effectively is difficult because we are all so consumption driven. After all, our entire lives have been influenced by media touting the latest gizmo or paradise vacation that will “change our lives”.  Most of us have also never been coached on how to properly ‘save the cents and in turn, grow the dollars’, so we are not to blame for not knowing how to do just that.  Saving money is no different from exercising to get fit and stay in shape to be healthy.  It requires a basic plan, discipline, patience and above all sacrifice.  I believe in order to effectively manage our money we all need to first select a saving number based on our ability, need and life stage.  The number is the percentage of your income that you will commit to save each and every paycheque.  It should typically be 10%, 15% or 20% of your net income.  In the simplest of terms, 10% will result in you being somewhat comfortable, 15% will deliver a good nest egg and 20% will provide a very solid financial base from which to fund an enjoyable lifestyle.  Take this at face value as you contemplate your number and set about thinking how you can do this starting from your very next paycheque.  You will be amazed at just how easy it becomes as you get used to setting this amount aside before you pay bills or think of spending again.’’

Staying on top of your mental health and your financial health simultaneously will go a long way in helping you stay mentally healthy and in not letting financial pressures threaten to take that away from you.  Whether you are already struggling with mental health or financial stressors or are not yet, but still feel there is room for improvement, try some of the tips we have shared with you or reach out for more personalized support whenever needed.


APA. (2015, February). American Psychological Association Survey Shows Money Stress Weighing on Americans’ Health Nationwide. Retrieved from

FCSP. (2014, November). Canadians Cite Money Worries as Greatest Source of Stress. Retrieved from

Georgopoulos, M. (2017, June). End the Stigma: Impact of finances on mental health (or the impact of mental health on finances…). Retrieved from

Morin, A. (2015, June). What Your Financial Health Says About Your Mental Health. Retrieved from

Richardson TElliott PRoberts R. (2013, December). The relationship between personal unsecured debt and mental and physical health: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Retrieved from 


Let’s face it, many of us fall victim to spending a lot of time on our phones or tablets.  We use them to stay connected through social media, pay our bills, or talk to someone on the other side of the world, but have you ever considered how all of this technology can help you to stay healthy?  It’s true, there are lots of apps out there that can help nudge or coach you to be physically healthy, but have you ever considered what apps can help with your mental and emotional health?

As the prevalence of mental health difficulties continues to grow, more and more apps are being developed to help keep you healthy in mind, body, and soul.  Below are some of OHS’s favourites to help you check into your mental health on the go.


Calm offers gentle sounds to help block out external distraction and allow your mindfulness practice to take you to your happy place.  The app and website use different themes from which the user can choose and then offers a variety of free meditations to help reduce anxiety, improve your sleep, and focus on your breath, to name a few.  This app is sure to help you de-stress.  Check out their website or download the app (compatible for both Apple and Android).

headspace-logoHead Space:

It’s like a gym for your mind.  Headspace was one of the first wellness apps to target mental health.  It is another great app for those new to the art of mindfulness and meditation.  The app offers a 10 level ‘course’ where the user is encouraged to practice the 10 minute classes daily to get into the habit of a daily practice.  Visit the site, or download the app (compatible for both Apple and Android)


stop-breath-think-logoStop Breath Think:

This all-encompassing lifestyle app is the perfect blend of mindfulness, meditation, and compassion building that is both user friendly and fun to use.  Use it to de-stress and manage anxiety symptoms or just check-in with yourself.  Explore the recommended meditations based on your current thoughts and emotions and track how your mood changes and see if you can find yourself in a more grounded state.  Check them out online, or try out their app, compatible for Android and Apple products.



If you are looking to start out with mindfulness, but find meditative practices to be a challenge, Happier might be the app you are looking for. This app will assist you to become present and positive through your day.  Receive inspiring quotes, take a meditative break, or share some positive moments in your day with the Happier community.  Happier can also double as a gratitude journal, allowing you to record some positive moments from your day and become more resilient to negative thinking. Find it online:, or try the app and celebrate the good around you (compatible for both Apple and Android).




This app acts as a portable stress management tool that offers instruction for diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing.  This breathing technique can help to decrease the ‘fight-or-flight’ response in the body as well as stabilize mood.  The user can monitor their stress levels using touch screen technology.  Download the app on your Apple or Android device, and learn how to manage your stress with your breath.



This app is a great compliment to your in-office counselling, as it helps you to be mindful of your emotions and chart your moods.  The app assists you in detecting patterns in mood and helps you to identify triggers that allow you to create a customizable wellness plan to improve coping strategies. The only downfall is that this app is only compatible with Apple products.


act-coach-logoACT Coach:

ACT Coach is best used in conjunction with you face-to-face therapy.  The app offers tools to identify personal values and to assist the user to take actions to move towards them.  Log coping strategies or practice mindfulness, this free app will compliment your work with your therapist and help you live a values driven life.  This app is compatible for both Android and Apple products.


Whether you check out one, or all of the above apps, it is important to remember not every app will appeal to everyone.  There are lots more on-the-go resources out there that might be a better fit for you.  If you find one you love, be sure to let us know.



It’s that time of year again when the popular Bell Let’s Talk campaign takes place to encourage people to become more vocal about mental health.  On January 25th (TODAY), Bell will donate 5 cents towards mental health initiatives every time you talk, text, or join in on social media – so get talking, texting, and typing!  Here are six ways you can take part in the Bell Let’s Talk campaign on January 25th:

  1. Text (iPhone users, turn off iMessage);
  2. Make phone calls (local or long distance);
  3. Tweet using #BellLetsTalk;
  4. Post on Instagram using #BellLetsTalk;
  5. Watch the Bell Let’s Talk video posted on their Facebook page; and
  6. Post on SnapChat using the Bell Let’s Talk geofilter.

Our blog this week is inspired by the Bell Let’s Talk campaign, in the hope of joining and expanding on their efforts to end the stigma around mental illness and to get people to start talking about the things that matter!


Mental health is not often an openly discussed topic. People often TALK with friends, family or colleagues about topics such as nutrition, exercise, acute or chronic somatic illness or injury – physical health – yet, when it comes to depression, trauma, counselling therapy, suicidal thoughts, self-harming behaviours, avoidance of meaningful activities due to anxiety or fear – mental health – the silence is profound.  Why is physical fitness an accepted and popular conversation piece in today’s society, yet mental fitness is an eluded one?  Has evolution taught us that inner struggles, the struggles we cannot see or touch, are to be kept within?

When an individual is suffering from mental illness, it may become difficult or effortful to act in ‘’socially acceptable’’ ways, which may be why many choose to hide away or withdraw themselves completely.  We have been taught that crying in public makes us “weak”, that not being able to perform at work makes us “inadequate”, that shying away from social situations makes us a ‘’loner’’, and that talking to a psychologist, counsellor, or therapist makes us ‘’crazy’’.  So, if these common characteristics or symptoms of mental illness have been labelled with such terms, then does it not seem that the most logical ways of coping would be to just disappear, or to keep everything on the inside so that no one ever sees that which is not meant to be seen?  Little do many know, that although they may be alone in their hiding spot, they are not alone in the struggle with mental illness, and the only way they will ever come to know that is if people start TALKING to one another.

So how can we put an end to this bitter silence around our struggles with mental health?  We can make noise; we can raise awareness; we can write; and we can TALK.  But where do we begin?  How do we start TALKING about mental health, when it is a topic that has been avoided or ignored for years and is replaced with more popular topics, such as the weather or our plans for the weekend?  In no way am I suggesting that we start talking about our thoughts, feelings, and emotions instead of the party we attended over the weekend, but I am saying that discussing the contents of our inner world is just as important and should be considered just as ‘’normal’’ of a topic.  We have all attended a weekend party, just as we all have unwanted and difficult inner content.

talk-to-someoneIf we do not TALK to one another and open up, we are left to rely only on our observations or our assumptions of those around us, rather than truly knowing them.  For example, we may assume that if we do not observe any physical limitations or restrictions, then an individual does not have a disability; we may assume that if an individual dresses, sounds and appears of male gender, that he/she is truly of the male gender; that if an individual is always smiling and laughing, that they are truly happy; or that if an individual is always surrounded by people and has a big family, that they have a strong social support network.  The problem here is that these are all assumptions and they can often be wrong.  That person that is always smiling may be hiding their suffering behind a smile, or that person surrounded by family may feel completely alone in the world.  This is why we need to TALK.

Even if you, yourself, are not struggling with mental illness, someone close to you may be, and you may never know it, so TALK.  TALK to your sibling who you are angry at, TALK to your friend who you have lost touch with, TALK to someone that doesn’t know how often you think of them. If you are struggling with mental illness or you think you might be, TALK to a professional, TALK to your friends, your family, or someone you can count on.  You will be surprised at how far TALKING can take you.  Let’s put an end to the silence surrounding mental illness, let’s discuss our inner content, good or bad, and let’s not make assumptions – let’s TALK.

Check out more information about the Bell Let’s Talk campaign on their website:

If you are looking for someone to talk to, we have a number of qualified counsellors that are available to talk, and more importantly, to listen.  Please do not hesitate to contact us if you are interested in setting up a free consultation.


For me, it all starts with packing away the Christmas decorations.  As I pack the decorations into their corresponding boxes, a small sense of sadness creeps in, and thoughts that there isn’t much to look forward to, come out.  Days are shorter, with darkness beginning early and the neighbourhood quieter as people stay inside.  It suddenly becomes more difficult to do things that are usually simple, like making dinner, socializing, going to the gym, or even getting out of bed in the morning.

Although it may feel like you are stuck until the days become brighter and warmer, and it’s true that you cannot force yourself to be in a better mood, there are things you can do to help alleviate your suffering during this time!

Here are some tips to help keep you on track and manage the winter blues:

  1. Exercise regularly: I cannot stress this one enough.  Often exercising is the last thing we feel like doing when we feel blue, but the research suggests substantial evidence for the positive benefits of exercise on mood.  When you exercise, your brain releases endorphins, which work in a similar way to antidepressants.  Exercising also has an energizing effect, which can help with the fatigue that often accompanies the winter blues.  If you are finding troubles motivating yourself to exercise, try to find an exercise buddy, set an alarm on your phone to remind you to exercise, or mark the days you exercised on a calendar to help keep you accountable.
  2. Continue to do the things you love: In the wintertime, it is easy to talk ourselves out of going to things that are important to us.  I notice myself having more trouble getting to the gym or yoga class – both things I enjoy – simply because they seem like a lot more work during this time.  Make a list for yourself of activities that are meaningful to you, and make a commitment of how many days a week you would like to do this activity.  Then when your mind throws up barriers…
  3. Don’t always listen to your mind: If you are feeling low, you are likely having more negative thoughts than normal.  I find that during the winter months, I have more negative thoughts about myself, my relationships, and life in general.  It is important that we are mindful of these thoughts, and notice them without becoming attached.  One of the easiest ways to do this is by labeling the thought.  For example, “I notice I am having the thought that I am not good enough” is very different than “I am not good enough”, as it helps us recognize that it is a thought that we are having instead of an ultimate truth.  You can also try a more formal exercise, such as leaves on a stream (found here)
  4. Talk to someone: Unfortunately, when we are feeling blue, one of our common coping mechanisms is to avoid social interaction.  Sometimes we do not even realize we are doing it until a relative or friend points it out.  During this time of year it is important to reach out to those we care about, despite the fact that it may not always be easy.  As we will discuss in next week’s blog (and on Bell Let’s Talk Day on January 25th!), talking is incredibly important for connection and emotional well-being.  If you do not feel comfortable talking to a friend, partner, or family member, consider taking advantage of our free consultation and speak to myself or another one of our counsellors to find out more about how we can help.

I hope these strategies help you as much as they have helped me in managing the winter blues.  Even though they do not make the negative feelings disappear completely, they are effective in helping you suffer less by engaging in the things that are meaningful to you even with difficult thoughts or feelings present.





In the last few years, more and more research has been published about the many health benefits of physical activity – especially for mental health.  When our bodies are healthy, our minds are too.  Physical activity, like walking, can play an important role in the management of anxiety, depression, and even chronic pain.  It doesn’t take much – as little as 30-minutes of daily physical activity can have can similar effects to meditation and relaxation[i].

circle-picThe trouble is that when we are facing depressive or anxious thoughts, going for a walk is not the first thing that comes to mind.  For most people who suffer with mental health, it is quite the opposite: you may feel like doing less and avoid doing the things that are of value to you.  The problem is, when you do less, you feel the impact of the symptoms even more and continue to miss out on living a meaningful life.  This is a common cycle for most people, but it can be broken.  Behaviour Activation (BA) can help disrupt the above stuck loops by introducing positive behaviours.  Walking is an ideal behaviour to introduce as it has so many benefits for mental well-being.  Improvements in mood and energy can be noticed almost immediately.  Over time, many other benefits can be noticed, including:

  • Reduced stress
  • Improved memory & concentration
  • Weight management
  • Reduced risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes
  • Improved self confidence
  • Better circulation

Consider walking like a prescription;

Complete daily for health benefits – regardless of the symptoms.

How to Get Started

Getting started is quite easy; below is a good check list to consult before beginning a walking program.

Medical Clearance: it is always important to contact your health care providers to ensure it is safe for you to become active.

Footwear: make sure you have comfortable walking shoes that fit well and still have good treads.

Walking Routes: map out a variety of routes to prevent boredom.

Schedule it: pick a consistent time of day that will be most effective for you.

 Start Small: start by going for a walk for a length of time with which you are comfortable.  Record this time on a calendar or chart like the one below.  Increase this time by 1 minute every day until you reach your end goal of 30-60 minutes.

Example: Baseline walk (how long you were comfortable with the first time): 15 minutes


For help on getting started with a walking program, Behavioural Activation, or assistance with Anxiety & Depression, book your FREE consultation today!




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