Archive for the ‘Anxiety and Coping’ Category

What does it mean to be Mindful vs Mind Full?

Mindful is described as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally” (Kabat-Zinn)

One person describes their experience of being “mind full” as the following,

“Sometimes, my mind feels like an enormous noisy hall filled with thousands of busy bouncing balls.  Urgent tasks lurk inside each ball, and I ‘m worried about which ones need my attention first.

As I try to figure out which ball to grab first, parachutes descent upon me.  They’re packed with shameful memories of things I wish I’d done differently.  Surrounding me are angry friends, family members, and teachers, wagging fingers at me, criticizing me for not moving faster and more successfully in life.” (Other Wise – A DBT Access Group)

How many of us can relate to this description of being mind full?

What happens when our minds are full?  What symptoms or behaviours occur?  How does this impact our routine and relationships?

When we are “mind full” we are more likely to react in the following ways,

Unhelpful, Automatic, Habitual

The good news is that there are simple ways to become mindful and short exercises done daily can change mind full to mindful by “bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis” (Marlatt & Kristeller)

When we practice mindfulness we are more likely to be,

Composed, Engaged, Accepting

There are many good mindfulness exercises available on the internet and through Apps, start with a short one and try to do an exercise daily.

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A client I will call “Joy” came to see me and related that she had been excited about a new job but quickly found herself with increased responsibilities and a need to do training of other employees. The first time she met with the employees she was horrified when her heart started pounding, her mouth was dry, her hands shook and she had difficulty presenting the material. Joy related she had wanted to run from the room, felt “frightened” and like a “failure” and couldn’t understand her reaction to the situation – this had never happened to her before! Joy didn’t tell anyone what had happened and began to avoid situations where she might have to speak to groups of people which impacted her ability to do her job.

Joy thought avoiding the situation would be the “solution”.

Unfortunately Joy began to experience these “attacks” at different times and in different places. Once she was sitting in her living room watching a favourite television show when her heart began to beat erratically, she became short of breath and nauseated. After this experience Joy became concerned with her health and wondered if she was having a heart problems. A trip to her doctor confirmed she was physically healthy and counselling was suggested to deal with her “symptoms of anxiety”.

Through counselling Joy gained understanding of how her body was reacting to stress, learned breathing techniques, an awareness of how she “bottled things up” and her tendency to “want to be all things to all people”. Joy became more comfortable talking about herself, began to gain awareness of her thinking patterns that were making her vulnerable to anxiety and made a goal of a daily walk and a weekend restorative yoga class.

At the conclusion of her counselling sessions Joy related that although mild symptoms occur from time to time she now has better self-awareness and is able locate “pitfalls” to diminish her anxiety and functions in most settings “really well”.

do you find your heart is pounding even when you are sitting still or lying in bed?

do you feel nauseated even when you first wake up?

do you have feelings of fear and panic and don’t know why?

are you avoiding people, places or situations?

are you unable to make even simple decisions?

do you lack follow through?

do you or others think you level of worry is excessive?

Most of all do you have poor relationships with others due to being uncomfortable around people or places?

these are all signs of ANXIETY and can be treated through counselling.

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Recently during a “stay-cation” I started to mentally plan for an upcoming family gathering and noticed that my usual worry and anxiety did not kick in. I had an epiphany at that moment – “I am way more relaxed when I am relaxed!”

My ability to make decisions from a relaxed state caused me to be able to sort out what thinking was helpful and what was unhelpful and make “relaxed” decisions from that place.

– How I felt (relaxed and positive) was influencing how I was looking at what was going to happen next

– Worry wasn’t creating more worry

Sounds simple but often our thinking creates a greater spiral of worry and anxiety that impedes our ability to make decisions and affects our interactions with others.

What is helpful to promote thinking that does not promote greater stress? And what can we do to calm our thinking?

There are many therapeutic strategies that work (aside from vacations) that can be used in our daily lives that help to calm our thinking such as; relaxation and breathing techniques, physical exercise, creative expression, mindfulness, challenging thinking patterns, life balance, talking! etc…

For more information contact;

Barb Larkin, Counselling Services

Call or email for more information

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Do you believe the symptoms of anxiety are “real”. “I am nauseated – I must be sick!” “I have a thought I am going to get in an accident if I drive – this must mean I better not drive today” “I feel frightened – this must mean something bad is going to happen to me or someone else”

Are you avoiding activities, places, situations, people where you experience anxiety symptoms- avoidance will not cure your anxiety, symptoms will usually continue to surface elsewhere and mental health will worsen

Not taking stock of your level of stress and encorportating healthier lifestyle changes- What is going on in your life that you have control over vs what you need to let go of? How are your relationships and level of conflict? Are you able to be assertive and set comfortable boundaries in your life?

Get help if you think you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety. For more information contact;
Barb Larkin, Counselling Services

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As the baby boomers get older and their parents get even older the generation that had it all is now looking after it all!  Often still parenting they are now faced with caregiving aging parents; making financial, medical, household and a myriad of other decisions while dealing with a rollercoaster of emotions concerning their changing relationship and managing a glimpse or two of their own mortality – an exhausting bittersweet time of life.

I recently was quoted in a MORE magazine article (October 2012) on the topic of how the spouse/partner/ or others can be helpful to a caregiver and there are one or two key pieces that I’d like to share from my own perspective and experiences.

Caregiver stress can affect a person physically and emotionally.  Stress/overload will often show up in a persons thinking and behaviour (they may be not wanting to do things they used to enjoy, be irritable, be worrying excessively, have poor sleep and/or eating habits etc.).  A partner, friend or professional support person can often observe symptoms of overload before the caregiver is able to recognize what is happening.

Some tips;

Be supportive in chores/tasks and perhaps encourage outside support/resources to fill the gaps

Help with decision making, have the “clearer head” when needed

Encourage healthy coping strategies; taking time for self, exercise, diet, self care, enjoyable activities, laughter

Support outlet for emotions; let the caregiver have a cry, encourage joining a support group or seeking professional help if needed

Give frequent hugs, gestures of caring, “you are doing a great job”

Realize this is putting stress on you and your relationship as well

For more information or to book a counselling session contact me, Barb Larkin at 604-785-4359, or email

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When, where and with whom do you experience Anxiety Symptoms* or Panic Attacks?

What type of physical activity is helpful to decrease your anxiety symptoms?  What have you tried?  What can you try in the future?

What can you do to minimize distractions in your environment (s); be more organized? simplify daily routines?

What can you do to improve the interpersonal relationships you have with others?  How are your boundaries?  Are you always saying Yes? or No?

What changes can you make to food and substance choices that will help to decrease symptoms of anxiety? Caffeine intake? Alcohol? Nicotine? Sugar?

How can you ensure you have people in your life to share your concerns?

How are you incorporating time for spiritual contemplation?

*Symptoms of anxiety may include; shortness of breath, heart pounding, sweating, shaking, lightheadedness, feeling of unreality, fear- wanting to get away etc.

There are many methods that are helpful in decreasing symptoms of anxiety and managing panic. Contact me via email at or phone 604-785-4359 for more information if you think you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety and would like to set up a private counselling appointment

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Partners and significant others of a new mother should expect some level of emotional challenges after birth of baby– approximately 80% of new mothers experience baby blues or postpartum depression (PPD)

Baby Blues occur within a week or two of birth and last 3 weeks or so

A new mother may be sad and weepy and this is largely due to her birth experience, new demands, little sleep,  and concern about (often spouses) support or lack of

Baby blues can be considered normal and  in most cases won’t last more than a few weeks

Postpartum Depression affects 15% of new moms and has been described as “baby blues on steroids”

Persistent sad mood, irritable, short-tempered, may feel hopeless, sleeping too much or too little, finds chores and routine difficult to manage

Worried and anxious about harm coming to baby and/or not coping with new demands of motherhood

Often begins to feel detachment from the baby – “Things were so much better before…”

Partners, Family, Friends can help

Seek help: help her find a physician, psychiatrist and therapist that understands and can treat postpartum depression, locate community based resources

Understand that medication may be very helpful, even for women who are pregnant and/or breastfeeding

Let her express feelings of anxiety and fear freely

Encourage her to exercise and take time for self

Encourage her to attend a support group

Help her develop a schedule that simplifies her daily routine

Praise her when she makes an effort – no matter how small

Help to manage family/friend help/support

(Try) not to take her irritability personally

Practical suggestions

Let her sleep at night!  Cook a meal, take her out

Take the baby, other children, out for a short time at least once a week

Run her a bath, tell her to have some down-time

Help her to get the children ready when you are all going out

Share the chores more.  Notice all the extra tasks she does

Buy flowers or a surprise

Tell her that you appreciate her and for what

Things to keep in mind….

You (or the baby) did not cause her illness and cannot take it away it is a bio-chemical disorder

Get the support you need so you can be there for her

Lower your expectations – household, appearance etc

Many women will “pretend” they feel better before they are not so ask her how she is feeling, communicate, listen

Couples need alone time to connect emotionally, physically

Things will get back to “normal”  but will take time

*Contact me via email at or phone 604-785-4359 for more information if you think you or your partner is experiencing postpartum depression or symptoms of anxiety and would like to set up a private counselling appointment

(Information contained in this blog has been gleaned from information offered through B.C. Women’s Hospital, Postpartum Dads and through other sources gathered through my work with women experiencing postpartum depression)

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