Archive for the ‘Mental Health’ Category

In simple terms it is a way to look at how thoughts affect mood and behaviour.

CBT has been used to help people successfully with depression, anxiety, panic, sleep disorders and pain management.

We have hundreds of random thoughts every minute, some of our thoughts are “automatic” (core beliefs, assumptions)”I feel fat” or “People don’t like me” “I always fail”  which often trigger negative feelings and can cause mood to decline and behaviour to change.

An example would be;

I won’t go to the party because I don’t think anyone likes me (thought) I feel sad (emotion) I am going to stay inside all weekend (behaviour) – the isolating behaviour then reinforces the negative thinking and emotional distress.

CBT interventions promote awareness of thought distortions, improve emotional regulation and behavioural strategies for coping.

A therapist with training in CBT is a must.  A good workbook is “Mind Over Mood; Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think” Greenberger/Padesky

Contact Barb Larkin, 604-785-4359, for more information.

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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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Anger is “just” an emotion that is telling us that we are perceiving something in our outside world as a “wrong”

Anger can be positive if we use it to understand ourselves better and be constructive with it

Anger is not just a male emotion – females get angry too and that is normal

Anger can harmful if there is “too much”; it is affecting our relationships with others, too frequent, too intense, too long, leads to aggressive behaviour, disrupts work/ and relationships

Is your anger caused by external and/or internal causes? – everyone has stressors – do you have too much stress? it is often how we interpret and cope that will result in anger

There are lots of great things you can do to minimize anger and increase your wellbeing (which by association improves relationships).

Don’t bottle things up or continually blame others – own your emotions, a first step to positive change

If you are struggling with anger ask for help!  There is a lot of good information on the internet and a therapist can help to explore causes and provide strategies for change

Barb Larkin, MSW, RSW


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To sleep; perchance to dream (Shakespeare)

Sleep can be enjoyable, frightening (those darn scary dreams), elusive, too short, too long, done at different times, alone or with others; people, cats dogs, iguanas.

Sleep can be blissful or disrupted, wanted or unwanted.

One thing I know as a therapist is that quality sleep and tone of dreams is a window into the soul and general wellbeing.

Our “circadian rhythm is “a 24-hour internal clock that is running in the background of your brain and cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals.  It’s also known as your sleep/wake cycle.  (National Sleep Foundation, What is Circadian Rhythm? 2018).

When life and work intrudes on our circadian rhythm; when we don’t sleep when we are tired, when we lay awake with worry, when we work shifts and watch TV. or look at our smart phones all night our sleep/wake cycle becomes out of whack and this seriously undermines our mental and physical health.

When someone comes to see me part of my general assessment is around sleep habits and current patterns.  Often people are not aware that their sleep habits and patterns are contributing to their decline in mood or health concerns.

Sleep can be seen as the cause and symptom of mental health issues, the ‘chicken and the egg” so to speak; if you are upset about something sleep will become disrupted and without sleep our brains just don’t function well and we won’t be able to cope as well with what life gives us.

A CNN report on a recent sleep study stated exactly that.  If your sleep is poor your mood will be low. (CNN- Health 2018)

“Sleep hygiene” is a term used a lot these days and there is much written about what will help to improve sleep; being mindful of our circadian rhythm (tough if you work nights), less “screen time” at night, less or no caffeine, daylight activity, ensuring bedroom or area is conducive to sleep, journaling worries prior to bed, relaxation/mindfulness, bedtime yoga.

If you are noticing your mood and sleep patterns are both “out of whack” don’t be surprised.  Our brains need sleep to help us to concentrate, remember, make decisions, process what is underneath the business of the day through our dreams and allowing our body to honour our sleep cycle (check “sleep cycle” out on Wikipedia or other resources)

A therapist can help when your mood and sleep is “out of whack”, contact me if you would like to come for a session and explore this topic or others further.

Barb Larkin, MSW, RSW

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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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Enough already – all of us need to quit torturing ourselves about our weight!

  • Write a list of things you like about your physical self – eyes, hair, smile etc.
  • Write a list of non-physical traits you have that are positive – honest, kind, hardworking, funny etc
  • Keep the list on your fridge and read them every day
  • Look at nature – trees, leaves, rocks, flowers, mountains, clouds…and notice imperfections and differences – there is no perfection
  • Exercise
  • Wear clothes that compliment your figure – quit waiting to fit into those “skinny” clothes
  • Stay away from fashion magazines and/or remember how much air brushing goes into the pictures
  • Do nice things for your body – massage, manicure, bubble bath, lotions, dancing
  • Stop checking the scale all the time
  • Stop talking about your weight!
  • Stop comparing yourself to others
  • Be honest and identify what you can and can’t change with your body
  • Develop your mind
  • Strive to be “healthy” rather than being on the weight loss treadmill
  • Learn to use cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)to learn to stop negative thoughts about yourself
  • Have friends that have healthy relationships with food, weight and their bodies
  • Identify your important life values and work to achieve and enjoy them

These helpful tips paraphrased from “ 10/11”

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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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