A healthy diet crucially promotes mental health by providing essential nutrients for optimal brain function. Nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids contribute to brain structure and synaptic plasticity, vital for mood and memory. A healthy diet regulates blood sugar, reducing mood swings associated with refined sugars. The gut-brain connection is nurtured through a healthy diet, influencing neurotransmitter production and mood. Anti-inflammatory foods in the diet, such as fruits and omega-3s, mitigate chronic inflammation linked to mental health conditions. Nutrient-dense foods sustain energy levels, enhancing alertness, while weight management through a balanced diet positively impacts mental well-being.
Overall, a good diet supports physiological processes that benefit mood and cognitive function.
The core notion of the harm reduction model is that substances or alcohol are always available; therefore, one must learn how to mitigate the adverse effects and utilize safety behaviours to curb misuse. Individual experiences with addiction are unique, and there is no singular treatment method that is applicable and effective for all. In some cases, such as alcohol use disorder (AUD) and substance use disorder (SUD), abstinence may be more attainable. In contrast, internet addiction (IA) can be challenging due to how much we rely on it daily. Depending on the circumstances, clinicians and clients should explore if harm reduction is a viable treatment option.
Dr. Anna Lembke has an interesting take on harm reduction. She suggests that going at least 30 days (withdrawal symptoms must pass) without the substance or problematic behaviour could give individuals an opportunity to reset - a fast. A brief summary of Dr. Lembke's thoughts on "Dopamine Fasting" approach for addiction recovery can be viewed here:
What emotions have you experienced lately?
For me, I have felt an overwhelming amount of empathy and grief.
It's okay to check in with yourself.
Spending time in nature has numerous mental health benefits. It reduces stress, enhances mood, and boosts cognitive function. Nature helps to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety and promotes physical activity, releasing mood-enhancing endorphins.
Being in nature can improve sleep quality as natural light helps to regulate circadian rhythms. This process also encourages social connections, mindfulness, and relaxation, reducing mental fatigue and enhancing focus. Nature fosters resilience by strengthening the connection to the natural world, which can be a source of strength during tough times.
Individual benefits may vary, and the frequency and duration of exposure influence outcomes. Incorporating nature into your life, such as through outdoor activities, is a valuable way to maintain and enhance mental well-being.
Attachment Theory and Clients with Diverse Cultural Identities
Applying attachment theory to clients with diverse cultural identities, such as Caribbean Canadians, requires a culturally sensitive and inclusive approach. It is crucial to address themes like intergenerational trauma, discrimination, and cultural strengths while promoting resilience. Recognizing and countering discriminatory practices is an ongoing effort vital for the future of psychotherapy.
Clinicians should be aware that attachment may manifest differently in various cultures, and they should avoid imposing Western norms. Nevertheless, the universal human need for connection remains constant. By using an anti-oppressive lens within an attachment-based framework, therapy can provide a safe space to explore topics like identity and intersectionality, ensuring clients feel supported, heard, and validated.
Common terms associated with therapy explained 3/3.
Yoga, Well-being, and Community Care
Mental well-being is defined as a state in which an individual is self-aware, capable of coping with typical stressors of day-to-day life, can work in a productive manner and contribute to their own community (World Health Organization, 2018). Mental distress is a public health dilemma that takes a toll on individuals all over the world. Although this is commonly studied in clinical settings, it is noteworthy to recognize the impact on individuals in academic or work environments. Almost 50% of individuals experience mental health issues and often associate it with poor health, decreased academic or work productivity and socioeconomic challenges. The demand for resources exceeds the supply of services in many communities.
Yoga, a mind-body practice, is known to have many psychological and physical benefits for health, illness prevention, memory, focus, self-esteem, and reduction in anxiety and stress, which can support academic or work performance and interpersonal behaviours. Creating inclusive and accessible programs for mental health support is vital. When individuals are faced with significant change (ex., Moving to a new country for school) or obstacles (ex., Experiencing loss), they need adaptive coping strategies. Adaptive coping strategies aim to alleviate stress when the “threat” ends, whereas maladaptive coping strategies (ex., Alcohol) intensify the stress response or potentially lead an individual to experience anxiety. In Psychology, Dohrenwend’s model defines stress as “a psychosocial process leading to the development of psychopathology in given populations” and emphasizes psychosocial stress in a way that allows psychologists to explore challenges beyond a clinical psychological diagnosis. Making resources like yoga available can act as a prevention and intervention community care tool.
Common terms associated with therapy explained 2/3.
Common terms associated with therapy explained 1/3.
Spring is often perceived as the season of change. Some of us change by letting go of resentments. Forgiveness is an emotional change that occurs within a person. Here are four layers of forgiveness. 🍂🕊
Uncovering: Improve your understanding of the injustice and the impact it has on your life.
Deciding: Understand what forgiveness is VS isn't, choose or refuse to forgive.
Working: Understand the offender differently, and practice compassion toward them and yourself.
Deepening: Reduce negative emotions, find new meaning in the experience, and acknowledge the growth you've made.
Mindfulness teaches us to be present and non-judgmental. Here are 3 mindful habits you can try daily!
As helping professionals, we may not recognize that sometimes we justify our negative behaviours because of all the positive things we do. For example, lashing out at a loved one after a long day at work or saying "I deserve this" as we pour ourselves a drink following a heavy session. It is important that we are aware of our internal and external self while finding healthier ways to process. As Amy Cunningham so eloquently says, take 10-minutes for yourself - every day.
Amy Cunningham's TedTalk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZsaorjIo1Yc
'Tis the season of giving! 🎄
Not every young person is provided with accessible opportunities to take care of their mental, emotional and physical health. That’s where New Leaf Foundation comes in.
They launched a monthly giving campaign #bettertogether. Now, more than ever, anyone can be a part of our community of changemakers. Your monthly donation can help us to:
• Provide youth with accessible opportunities to take care of their to mental, emotional and physical health
• Continue offering programming that fosters a sense of agency and empowerment
• Create systemic change through trauma-informed and mindfulness-based education in spaces like schools and jails
• Invest in resources that support young people beyond our frontline programs
For more information, reach out to me or check out: https://newleaffoundation.com/ ❤️🌿
Transitioning into college life as an adolescent may come with a lot of uncertainty and overwhelming decisions. Some may be leaving their homes for the first time and do not know how to cope with day-to-day stressors or new environments. Anxiety, depression, chronic stress and poor sleep patterns can be symptoms of these experiences. Yoga, a mind-body practice, is known to have many psychological and physical benefits for health, illness prevention, memory, focus, self-esteem, reduction in anxiety and stress - which can support academic performance and classroom behaviour.
• Stick to a schedule ⏰ – Set a consistent bed time and wake time. Do not sleep in for more than 1-hour, even on your days off! Sleep is critical for the immune system, memory consolidation, neuronal development/connectivity.
• Ditch Naps 💤 – Napping during the day makes it harder to achieve quality and quantity sleep at night. This may lead to not getting enough of Rapid Eye Movement ("REM" sleep). REM sleep typically begins 90-minutes into the sleep cycle. REM sleep leads to cognitive and brain maturation. Loss of REM sleep tends to be made up in the next night, which leads the sleep cycle to move quickly - leading to irritability, lack of concentration and greater nightmares.
• Use your bed for sleeping 🛌 – The body learns to associate your bed with sleep. When individuals use their bed for waking purposes (i.e. work, school, TV), their bed can have the opposite effect...feeling alert not relaxed, making it difficult to fall asleep. Sleep deprivation can lead to depression, slow reaction time, hallucinations, weight gain, and adverse health issues (i.e. heart, blood pressure, diabetes).
• Don't force yourself ✋ – If you haven't fallen asleep after a while, do something calming like listening to relaxing music or journaling. Avoid TV, phone screens or anything stimulating that could lead you to be more awake.
• Avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine ☕️ – Consumption can affect your quality of sleep. Caffeine can stay in your body for up to 12-hours! Even decaf has some caffeine.
Try it out! Insomnia and other sleep issues are common all over the world. Especially, among those with mental health issues and their correction can be a key part of recovery.
Reimagining "productivity" through mindful eating/drinking involves consciously focusing on our food or drink, moment by moment, without judgment. This practice encourages us to cultivate a sensory awareness of what we consume, irrespective of calorie counts or nutritional elements. By being fully present, we can deepen our appreciation for the nourishment before us.
I occasionally grapple with the notions of "doing nothing" or "relaxing," recognizing that perception plays a pivotal role. The definition of "productivity" varies from person to person. Shifting our perspective on productivity allows us to confront any associated feelings of guilt.
It's crucial to acknowledge that your worth is not tethered to your level of productivity; you are continually engaged in meaningful activities. Embracing the idea that productivity manifests differently for each individual empowers us to celebrate small victories, reinforcing the understanding that even the seemingly minor accomplishments hold significance.
Types of therapy that don't focus on talking:
Animal-assisted Therapy - uses animals to support people with recovery or cope better
Aromatherapy - uses plant extracts to improve well-being of mind, body and spirit
Art Therapy - uses creative expression
Dance Therapy - movement without words
Music Therapy - listen, sing, play, write and/or compose music and/or poems
Online Therapy - many providers offer sessions via online chat or texting
Somatic Experiencing - focuses on body before the mind, the goal is to release stress from the body and foster connection between the body and internal experiences
Re: the Power of Self-Compassion and the Problem of Self-Criticism
The power of self-compassion is not just an idea – it’s very real and actually manifests in our bodies. When we soothe our own pain we are tapping into the mammalian care-giving system. And one important way the care-giving system works is by triggering the release of oxytocin. Research indicates that increased levels of oxytocin strongly increase feelings of trust, calm, safety, generosity, and connectedness, and facilitates the ability to feel warmth and compassion for ourselves. Oxytocin is released in a variety of social situations, including when a mother breastfeeds her child, when parents interact with their young children, or when someone gives or receives a soft, tender caress. Because thoughts and emotions have the same effect on our bodies whether they’re directed to ourselves or to others, this research suggests that self-compassion may be a powerful trigger for the release of oxytocin.
Self-criticism appears to have a very different effect on our body. The amygdala is the oldest part of the brain, and is designed to quickly detect threats in the environment. When we experience a threatening situation, the fight-or-flight response is triggered: The amygdala sends signals that increases blood pressure, adrenaline, and the hormone cortisol, mobilizing the strength and energy needed to confront or avoid a threat. Although this system was designed by evolution to deal with physical attacks, it is activated just as readily by emotional attacks by ourselves or others.
Grounding techniques help control anxiety or uncomfortable symptoms by turning attention away from thoughts, memories, or worries, and refocusing on the present moment.
Sharing a grounding exercise with you on this beautiful day. Pause, take a few breaths and bring your attention to the following:
Thank you HardFeelingsTo for these goodies! I can't wait to use them with clients. 🤍
You are worthy of slowing down to take care of yourself and you do not always have to use your downtime decisively.
One of life's most profound teachers is death. No individual or circumstance can impart as profound a lesson as death does. While someone might articulate the concept that you are not defined by your physical form, death vividly demonstrates this truth. While others might emphasize the transience of the attachments you hold onto, death strips them all away. Some may intellectually convey that death equalizes us all, but it is in death's embrace that this equality is starkly evident. In the pages of my cherished book, "The Untethered Soul," readers are encouraged to embrace gratitude for death, appreciating it as the force that grants us each new day, every experience, and underscores the preciousness of life through its inherent scarcity.
It was a dream visiting Terre Blue Lavender Farm! Beyond its beautiful blooms and divine scent, lavender offers many benefits such as: decrease stress and anxiety, aid sleep/sleep quality, as well as act as a natural antibacterial and antiseptic.
Working through grief and loss of clients during COVID-19:
You have a client you have been seeing for some time. It was an appointment or two on a weekly basis, then they felt ready to see you bi-weekly. The therapeutic relationship was beautiful. It felt exciting to see your client grow and overcome so much; becoming the person they wanted to be. Then they don’t show up to their virtual appointment and it seems odd. It is not like them. You email, call, and leave a voicemail. No response. You watch the case and death counts on the news rise but you are cautiously optimistic. Then you learn a former client dies and you start to worry. Before you have a minute to process this loss, you are informed that another client has passed. You start to stay up at night thinking about different scenarios - suicide risk, relapse, COVID...then your phone rings. The voice on the other end is trying to keep it together as they inform you that your client is no longer alive.
It could have been an overdose, completed suicide, an accident, cancer, or even COVID. What matters is that you have feelings and may not know where to put them. As therapists, we have faced so much loss over the past year and a half. We give so much love and effort towards our clients, we need to normalize doing the same for ourselves.
• If there is a virtual service or celebration, and you feel comfortable, attend. If not, think about how you would like to honour the memory of your client.
• Take some time off or schedule a few hours to process your thoughts and feelings. Don’t you dare forget that you deserve to take up space in this world too.
• Journaling may be a way for you to receive revelations as you write. We encourage our clients to do it all the time! Some suggestions taken out of an article by Jill Johnson-Young “When your client dies: What do you do? Our new world of COVID” -- What was left that is unfinished? Were there things you wish you could have said to your client? Were their goals or aspirations they had or you wished for them that are now never going to happen? Are you experiencing a response to how they died? Is it bringing up old stuff for you? Fears about death? Losses you never processed in your life?
• Be true to yourself. Everyone has been touched by COVID some way. Find a support group or therapist. Yes, even helping professionals need help! Authors read books by other authors.
• Carve out time for self-care. How are you taking care of yourself mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually on this day?
This beautiful piece of art was made by a former late-client of mine. If you and/or a loved one are in need of support, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. There are so many resources available.
Stay safe. Love, Ameena.
Here are a few tips to honour the "me" in "merry" this holiday season!