Category: Mental Health

6 Tips on How to Find a Good Psychotherapist

How To Find a Good Psychotherapist - Introduction

Deciding to seek out therapy is a big decision. It can be difficult to know where to start, especially if you’ve never been to therapy before. In this 6-tip guide, we will walk you through the process of finding the right therapist for you. We’ll cover everything from how to know if you need therapy, to how to find qualified therapists in your area. So whether you’re just starting out on your search or you’re already feeling overwhelmed, read on for helpful tips and advice!

How to Find a Good Psychotherapist

Tip 1: Know Your Reasons for Seeking Therapy

The first step is to understand why you want to go to therapy. Are you struggling with anxiety, depression, or another mental health issue? Or are you dealing with a difficult life event, such as a divorce or the death of a loved one? Maybe you’re just feeling lost and not sure where to turn. No matter what your reasons are, it’s important to be clear about them before you start your search for a therapist. This will help you narrow down your options and find someone who is a good fit for you.

Tip 2: Look for Qualified Therapists

When you’re ready to start looking for therapists, the best place to start is with a trusted source. If you have health insurance, your insurance company may have a list of qualified providers in your area. You can also ask your doctor or another mental health professional for recommendations. Additionally, you can carry out a Google search to find your local options by simply typing “psychotherapist + your area”. For example if you are based in Mississauga this could look something like “Psychotherapist Mississauga“. All in all, once you’ve generated a list of potential therapists, it’s time to do some further research.

Tip 3: Make Sure the Therapist is a Good Fit

When you’ve found a few therapists that you think might be a good fit, the next step is to reach out and schedule an initial consultation. This is usually a brief meeting (about 15 minutes) where you can get to know the therapist and decide if they’re someone you feel comfortable working with. It’s also a time for the therapist to get to know you and your situation and to see if they think they can be of help.

Tip 4: Consider Your Budget

Therapy can be expensive, so it’s important to consider your budget when choosing a therapist. If you have health insurance, check to see if your provider covers mental health services. If not, you may be able to get financial assistance from the therapist or from a community mental health centre. 

Tip 5: Choose a Therapist You Can Trust

When choosing a therapist, it’s important to make sure they are qualified and licensed to practice in your area. You should also feel like you can trust them with your personal information. If you don’t feel comfortable with the therapist, it’s probably not a good match. At the end of the day, confidentiality is key between a psychotherapist and their client so it’s important to uphold this mutual respect and trust during therapy sessions.

Tip 6: Don’t be afraid to ask questions

If you’re unsure about anything, don’t hesitate to ask the therapist for more information. For example, you might want to ask about their experience treating clients with similar issues to yours. You might also want to ask about their treatment approach and how long they think it will take to see results. Every psychotherapist is different so it’s important to get very clear on their process as trusting the process is key for your overall success.

How To Find a Good Psychotherapist – The Final Verdict

All in all, by following these tips you’re sure to find a psychotherapist who is a good fit for you and your needs. And remember, if you ever feel like therapy isn’t working for you, don’t be afraid to reach out to another therapist for a second opinion. The most important thing is that you find someone who you can trust and who you feel comfortable with. With the right therapist, you’ll be on your way to a happier, healthier life. Do you have any tips for finding a good psychotherapist? Share them in the comments below! Additionally, if you are interested in working with us, feel free to request a consultation today and we would be more than happy to help you out!

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It’s finally Ramadan, but I’m feeling anxious. Is this normal?

As Muslims, we’re used to hearing words such as joy, contentment, peace, excitement, and gratitude paired with the month of Ramadan. While many people count down to this blessed month, awaiting with eagerness to spend time with family, share food, pray in the late hours of the night, and visit loved ones. The goal is to renew our connectedness to spirituality and ourselves. Others experience ambivalence for feeling unprepared, anxiety about fasting the long hours, dealing with demanding sleep schedules, and working during the day. It is common for some to be consumed by thoughts such as:

“What if I’m not good enough.”

“Will I be able to work and prepare meals for the family?”

“Will I be able to pray in the night?”

“What if my worship is not accepted?”

“So and so does so much, I can’t even keep up with the basics.”

However common these concerns are, they are not usually discussed in the open and certainly not validated, as doing so may seem to reflect one’s faith. This is a common misconception- that someone who has anxiety over Ramadan is due to their weakness in faith. Let’s make it clear!

People who express fear or have anxiety towards the month of Ramadan do not dispute the holiness or its significance. But instead, the pressures of performing with excellence become daunting, abrupt change in routines increases stress and living up to the expectations of others is intimidating. In a world where social media reminders are rampant, we have access to the lives of many who seem to show “effortless” decorating, meal prepping, prayer schedules, games for children, and faith-based classes. As a result, many fall prey to negative self-comparisons and ultimately feel overwhelmed and not good enough. Some individuals try to keep up with this collective experience; however, they drown in self-comparisons and feel low about their “lack of accomplishments .”Therefore, anxiety around Ramadan is not about a lack of faith or a problem with you as a person. It’s about the pressures we put on ourselves during this month. 

Someone struggling alone may fear rejection and judgment and may start to question themselves further. 

“How and why do I feel anxious about Ramadan”?

“Does this make me a bad Muslim”?

“Nobody else seems anxious, maybe something is wrong with me”?

With this comes a host of unwanted feelings such as increased anxiety, shame, and guilt. When we feel alone in something, we tend to blame ourselves. Knowing that other people may also be facing similar fears is a validating. Humans are social beings who crave healthy, positive connections rooted in validation and support.

It is essential to realize that even those that do not have a diagnosed mental health condition struggle with mood disruptions, difficulty concentrating, fatigue due to disruptions of a regular routine, inability to take medications on their regular schedule, dehydration, and sleep disturbances. These symptoms are exacerbated in many who struggle with a mental health condition, including those with anxiety and may increase the number or severity of symptoms. Consulting with a medical doctor or mental health professional is imperative to help decide whether one can fast or whether there needs to be an adjustment to their treatment plan. According to an article titled Mental Illness and Ramadan in Muslim Matters by Shaykh Yahya Ibrahim, “There is no shame or sin in not fasting due to medical prohibition.”

Tips provided by Cedarway female muslim therapists, Reena Vanza and Huma Saeedi.

  • Be kind to yourself and acknowledge your feelings
  • Normalize this experience, remembering you’re not alone
  • Minimize unhelpful social media platforms
  • Do something small instead of avoiding everything – anxiety is fueled by avoidance
  • Remind yourself of the bigger purpose of Ramadan- to connect with God
  • Remind yourself that God is merciful
  • Plan your day using SMART goals – some structure during this time can be helpful
  • Prioritize sleep and healthy food intake
  • You are rewarded by intentions – so make intentions throughout your day even if you have trouble completing them
  • Be kind to yourself- use non-judgmental words to calm that critical voice
  • Surround yourself with supporters
  • Ensure you have a self-care plan that is simple to follow

Take-home Messages

  • Talk to a professional and or your doctor if your symptoms worsen
  • Many people feel anxious during Ramadan- it’s not an indication of your faith
  • Reach out to supporting family and friends
  • Reach out to a supporting Imam that is aware of the anxiety- if you don’t know who, reach out to professionals who can guide you to Imams they have worked with. 
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What can I say or do? Supporting a loved one through their struggles.

What can I say or do? How to support a loved one through their struggle

One of the most rewarding feelings is when someone you care about feels comfortable enough to trust you about their struggles. While our intentions are pure, there are times when we are unsure of how to support our loved ones, or maybe what we categorize as support does the opposite and pushes them away. It’s not that we don’t want to help them; it’s just that we don’t know the how’s of approaching them. This can result in saying the wrong thing, undermining their experience, dismissing their feelings, changing focus to yourself and or avoiding them. Here are a few tips that I have learnt from my personal experience as a volunteer support worker and a counselling psychology student.

Tip 1: Active Listening

Sometimes your friend will come to you with a problem they are facing, and they may seem worried or

Stressed. This does not necessarily mean that they aren’t searching for solutions, but they might just be seeking a safe space to let out their emotions. Instead of being focused on how to “fix” the issue, focus on hearing what they are saying. Being a shoulder to lean on may seem small, but it is one of the best things you can do for someone you love.

Tip 2: Let them disclose as little or as much as they want

When we are trying to be helpers, we want to know as much as we can about the situation. Sometimes this curiosity can turn into pressure. Have the person lead the conversation and follow their pace. It takes a lot of courage for one to be vulnerable. You might be the first person they are talking to about this situation. Be patient and allow them to open up to you depending on their comfort level.

You can ask,

What would you like from me right now?

Is there anything I can do to help you? We can do it together.

Tip 3: Create a distraction-free environment

Show your loved ones that you truly value their courage to open up to you by making sure you are giving them quality time in a zone without any distractions. This could be as simple as putting your phone away when talking or taking them to a quiet room. Having no distractions plays into active listening which was mentioned in Tip 1. This will allow you two to connect more and for the person to feel safe.

Tip 4: Don’t try to diagnose or assume anything

I’m sure we have all Googled our symptoms for physical symptoms we were experiencing. While the internet is full of valuable resources, it is not a medical professional. Google can be amazing to learn more about mental health, but it should not be used as a diagnostic criterion. Although it is generous for you to support your loved one, stray away from coming to any conclusions about their situation. If you ever fear for the safety of your loved one, you can always find numbers to certain hotlines that can connect you with professionals.

Tip 5: It’s okay to not know what to do

Offering support is not always easy and that’s okay. Helping someone is rewarding but that doesn’t mean you should neglect how you’re feeling. It is important that you take care of yourself. Remember to take time to process anything that’s been said to you. Even counsellors need to take time for themselves to make sure that they see better able to help others. If you ever feel overwhelmed, you can offer support by connecting them to a professional or helping them find another strong support group.

Tip 6: Don’t make it about you

It’s a common practice to shift the attention to your experience, instead of keeping the focus on your friend. We all have similar experiences and stories, but it’s important to realize that your loved one is asking you to hold their pain with them, not silence it and make it about you. While you may be trying to connect with them, it’s better to let them know that you understand and are with them through this time.

Take home message

It can be difficult seeing your loved ones struggle so giving them a sense of support goes a long way. This experience can be new for both individuals- the one sharing and the one offering support. There might be moments where you may feel like you’re not doing enough, but just remember that something as small as listening goes a long way. Be kind to yourself and remember even as a friend and a helper, you are not alone. Ultimately, its okay to ask for help and you should never be afraid to redirect help to a professional psychologist or psychotherapist if you need further assistance.

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Self Care Has No Restrictions

Self Care Has No Restrictions

The new year is typically the time when most people tend to set goals for themselves in hopes of a positive change. However, this year, many of us have been feeling overwhelmed and drained from the circumstances that have been taking place around us. Unfortunately, the pandemic has completely changed what we once knew as our normal daily lives. Goals were easier to make and reach without the impositions of lock-down rules. Having to constantly readjust to restrictions being placed or lifted can be quite taxing. We may finally start a goal then have to halt it. As such, it is important that we incorporate self-care as part of our regular routines that can withstand the ups and down of lockdown restrictions. Doing so will ultimately help us keep up with the taxing effects of the constant changes.

It is quite easy to make excuses and neglect ourselves. There are moments when we need a break, but we don’t allow ourselves to take that time off. One reason can be due to restrictions in place- we may struggle to find creative ways to give back to ourselves. Although it can be tough to work around the restrictions, there are many forms of self-care that can be woven into one’s daily life. 

It is important that we create boundaries so that we are able to take care of ourselves to prevent burnout out. The art of self-care truly is unique to the individual. Although there are a few things that aren’t possible given these restrictions, such as going to the gym or visiting a museum, there are plenty of other activities that are possible. 

One of the most underrated forms of self-care is walking. Taking a nice stroll around your neighbourhood or even through a park is a great way to get some low-impact exercise into your daily routine. Several research articles have shown that the benefits of walking include reducing one’s symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. Think of a walk as nature’s way of nurturing you. 

Another way to take part in self-care could be as simple as enjoying your favourite meal. Although restaurants are closed for dine-in or at limited capacity, that does not mean that you cannot enjoy a meal. Take a look at your favourite restaurants and plan a take-out to enjoy with your family or by yourself while you watch a movie.  Another option is to find a video and take on the role of chef.

Movie theatres may be closed but that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy a movie night with your loved ones! Take advantage of platforms such as NetflixParty which allows you and your friends to watch movies at the same time while in a video call. Other options could be using a platform that allows for screen sharing such as Zoom. 

For some of us who feel recharged by staying in, you could unwind by reading a book or having a spa night. Take the time to finally read that book you’ve been eyeing but have felt that you were too busy to read. Reading is a really nice way to unplug and take a small break away from the world. To elevate the experience, you can put on a nice face mask to help you unwind even more. 

Taking care of yourself does not have to be complicated! Many self-care activities can be done from the comfort of your home. Doing small activities, you love and making sure you are attentive to your needs is crucial, especially during uncertain times like the present.  It can be easy to spread yourself out too thin and it’s always harder to give yourself time to regroup. Treat yourself as you would treat your best friend. Take the time out of your day to truly pamper yourself. It could be 15 minutes or even an hour; make sure that it’s fully dedicated to you and your needs. 

Going forward, make it a goal to prioritize yourself and your needs. Block off some time for you to be able to take a break from your other commitments. There are plenty self-care activities that can be done from the comfort of your home if going out seems to not be a viable option. This doesn’t necessarily need to be something extravagant; it can be as simple as going out for a walk or reading a book before bed. Show up for yourself by doing an activity you love! If you want to know more tips on how to take care of yourself, check out our blog called “Self Compassion, the new Me” today!

Embrace the liberating concept that self-care knows no boundaries with Cedarway Therapy’s innovative services. We believe in tailoring self-care strategies to suit your unique needs, ensuring that you prioritize your well-being without limitations. If you’re looking for a Psychologist Hamilton, just give us a call! Experience the true freedom of self-care with Cedarway Therapy.

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To socialize or Not to socialize?

“In solitude the mind gains strength and learns to lean upon itself”. 

– Laurence Sterne

Many people assume that getting out of a slump requires you to be more social. In this hyperconnected society, this leads to people constantly looking for ways to cramp their schedule by meeting people, going to social events, and keeping up with social media outlets. However, after attempts to feel relaxed and improve mood, many find themselves feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and demotivated. There is no doubt that social connections are a necessary component for your mental and emotional wellbeing. In fact, we are social beings, created to connect and cultivate healthy relationships. Doing so gives us a sense of joy, belonging, confidence, and purpose. While the lack of these connections does the exact opposite, pushing us further into self-doubt, isolation and feeling low.

So, what is the correct answer to this dilemma, to socialize or not to socialize?

We propose finding the right dosage of social connecting that is healthy for your individual optimal wellbeing. It’s about knowing when to embrace solitude and when to come back to people.  If you are an extrovert and feel charged in the presence of people then this article can be a source or information to help out your more introverted friends and family. However, you may also like what you read and find that you also benefit from some solo time. Especially because you may encounter situations in life where people are not always present, and you’re forced to be solo. After all, the most important relationship you can ever have is the relationship you have with yourself.

Here are some benefits of why people embrace solitude:

  • You get to ask yourself what do I need?
  • You get to pick how you chose to recharge your energy
  • You get to express yourself authentically
  • You learn to like to be with yourself
  • You learn self-compassion
  • You learn to give yourself time
  • You get to follow yourself, rather than a crowd
  • You can become more self-aware by tending to your emotions
  • You rely on yourself when no one is around

If you struggle to cultivate healthy solitude, then try following the 5 suggestions below, which I enjoy on a regular basis. Whatever activities you chose, ensure that you are enjoying them and slowly you will learn to look forward to your own company.

  1. Go for a jog or walk: this is where you get to do things at your own pace. Think a problem out, or don’t think at all. You can brainstorm through something, or you can simply focus on the run. The choice is yours.
  2. Find a local farmer’s market or a festival: take a leisurely walk, buy yourself fresh flowers, honey or anything you fancy. Be curious about things people are selling, or the various sounds of music, laughter, animals, or voices.
  3. Experiment with a new recipe: find something that looks yummy to make and cook that for yourself. Paying attention to the fragrances, colours, textures and ultimately doing something special for yourself will bring you joy.
  4. Go on a short road trip: whether you can drive an hour away or take the bus somewhere, find a place you can explore. I usually go downtown Toronto, where it’s busy. I get lost in the sounds, people, lights, things from different cultures
  5. Do something creative: I recently signed up for a tube art class. At the end of 3 hours, I was very surprised to have created a beautiful piece of art. Whether you like to draw, paint, dance, play there are many options.

Remember, doing things solo does not require that you isolate yourself and disconnect from people and places. It simply means that you can be amongst people and yet enjoy being alone.  It means that when no one is around you can find joy in doing things for and with yourself. If you want to read more about other important ingredients to growth, just check out our blog page today!

Discover the perfect balance between socializing and self-care with Cedarway Therapy’s expert guidance. Our services provide you with the tools to navigate social situations confidently, empowering you to make the right choices for your well-being. Don’t ponder the question “To socialize or not to socialize?” alone – let Cedarway Therapy be your trusted partner in finding your unique path to fulfillment. if you’re looking for a professional Psychologist Oakville, just contact our team today! 

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The Four Horsemen of Apocalypse

A relationship is bound to have conflicts, and conflict can be a normal and healthy part of a relationship if handled properly. The problem arises when we mishandle conflict which can lead to communication issues. John Gottman, an internationally recognized relationship expert and best-selling author, advice to identify The Four Horsemen (communication styles in relationships that according to his research can forecast the end of a relationship). The goal is to replace these negative communication styles with healthy, productive communication patterns.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these and how you can combat them.

Criticism

Criticism refers to verbally attacking your partner’s personality or characters. In doing so, you are suggesting to your partner that there is something wrong with them. When criticizing, you may often use the phrase “You always” or “You never”. For example, “You’re so lazy, you never put your shoes away” or “You always leave the dishes in the sink”. As a result, your partner may feel under attack and respond defensively. It’s perfectly okay to express your feelings to your partner, it is a necessary part of a healthy relationship. What matters is how you do it.

The next time you are frustrated and need to express your feelings to your partner, try making a direct complaint that is not an all-encompassing attack on your partner’s character. For example, instead of saying “Your socks are always on the floor, you never pick them up” you can try “Your socks are on the floor. Please try to put them in the laundry basket.” This addresses the specific behaviour rather than criticizing the person. Another antidote recommended is using “I” statements. This focuses the conversation on your feelings rather than attacking your partner’s character. For example, If you want more help around the house, you can try telling your partner “I feel unappreciated when you don’t help out with the housework” instead of “You never help, you just expect me to clean up after you.” We recommend softening your approach and beginning tactfully. Make sure you are clear and avoid passing judgement while communicating your feelings and concerns.

Contempt

The act of contempt implies putting yourself on a higher level than your partner in an effort to disrespect or psychologically abuse them by attacking their sense of self. This can be achieved by mocking your partner, calling them names, rolling your eyes, and using hostile humour and sarcasm. You may implement contempt by saying “You’re so annoying, are you going to cry now?”. Contempt is the most serious of all the horsemen. The negative method of communication can destroy the affection and admiration between partners.

Couples must work hard to establish a culture of appreciation in their relationship to fight contempt. This can be achieved by highlighting all of the qualities that you love and admire most about your partner. Make a list of these qualities in your phone, journal, or any place you can refer to when you need a reminder.

Defensiveness

When you use a counter complaint to defend yourself from an apparent attack, you are being defensive. It is an attempt to protect yourself, to defend your innocence or victimize yourself to avoid blame. In this situation, you might make excuses, complain, and use “yes’butting”. Defensiveness prevents partners from taking responsibility for their actions and escalates negative communication. If your partner is criticizing you, it is still not a good idea to be defensive because it will only exacerbate the situation.

Instead of reacting in a defensive manner, we recommend couples take the time to hear each other out and take responsibility for their negative behaviour. Also, a sincere apology is never a bad idea.

Stonewalling

Stonewalling takes place when you choose to tune out or withdraw from your partner rather than confront the issues. By remaining silent, giving monosyllabic answers or changing the subject, you can achieve this. A partner who stonewalls may physically walk away from the conversation or stop tracing it, appearing to stop caring and shutting down.

However, this is usually not the case. Usually, the individual is overwhelmed and attempting to calm themselves or the situation. However, your partner is very likely to assume that you don’t care enough about the problem to speak about it, and will find it very upsetting to be ignored. When you feel emotionally overwhelmed and need a break from the conflict discussion, let your partner know you need time to collect your thoughts and calm down so you can return to the discussion when you are both ready. This way, they will know you are not ignoring or rejecting them, but taking care of yourself.

With hard work, comes change!

 Do not feel guilty or ashamed if, while reading this, you realize that you have taken part in these negative communication styles. We have all been there before; you are not alone. The key is to learn from our mistakes and improve as we move forward. With this knowledge of the Four Horsemen and their antidotes, you now have the essential tools to manage conflict in a healthy manner. While it is not easy to break these patterns overnight, it is possible when both partners are motivated and committed to change. When couples put in the work, they get the results!

 We encourage you to consider couples therapy if you experience difficulty making these changes in your relationship. A therapist specializing in relationship conflicts may help with self-awareness and better communication. If you want to know more about how to communicate effectively in a relationship, just check out our blog page now!

Your relationship is more likely to be stable and happy if you are able to keep the Four Horsemen at bay.

Transform your relationship dynamics by exploring the fascinating world of communication styles with Cedarway Therapy. We offer couples counselling Oakville services and our experts will help you decode the nuances of effective communication, fostering deeper connections and understanding in your relationship. Take the first step toward a more harmonious and fulfilling partnership – embark on this journey of discovery with Cedarway Therapy today!

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Dealing with Procrastination

Do you ever put off doing something until the last minute and then find yourself in a state of panic because things pile up? Or maybe you start to become critical because you dropped the ball yet again? You’re not the only one who feels this way. You may be one of many people who struggle with Procrastination. You procrastinate when you delay or put off completing a task until the last minute, or past your deadline. It is very common and can affect all aspects of your life, including your work, school, and relationships. All which can result in a poor quality of life.

One common misconception about procrastinators is that they are unable to manage their time effectively. While this can be true, it’s not always the case and in fact, there are often more serious issues at hand. Individuals prone to chronic procrastination may benefit more from emotional regulation and stress management than time management skills training. That’s why before you pull out the self-criticism and self-doubt, it’s important to understand the why behind your procrastination. Doing so will help you understand yourself better, develop a plan to tackle the issue, create healthier habits and or seek professional support if you need to.

Why do we procrastinate?

From time to time, we all procrastinate. In a high-stress society, temporarily distracting oneself from stress and unpleasant tasks could even be a helpful coping mechanism. In other words, people engage in procrastination because it temporarily makes them feel good.

However, there is a downside that makes procrastination troublesome, it limits a person’s productivity and causes them to feel low about themselves. Some people procrastinate so much that they are unable to complete essential daily tasks. All of which can lead to poor life choices and eventually poor mental health outcomes.

Procrastination is not a mental health diagnosis in and of itself, although it can be a symptom of ADHD, depression, or anxiety. It can also add more stress to someone who already struggles with a mental health issue.

Other causes of procrastination included

  • Task is not aligned with our values
  • Feeling emotionally exhausted
  • Perfectionism
  • Fear of not performing well
  • Experiencing decision fatigue (brain becomes fatigued and ability to make decisions becomes worse after making many decisions)
  • The pressure to perform
  • Setting unrealistic expectations
How to overcome procrastination?

 Is there hope? Yes, there are many things one can do to tackle procrastination and here are a few tips that you can start to implement by yourself of with the support of someone:

  • Address what is causing the procrastination

  • Ask someone to help you stay on track with important tasks. Regular check-in on the progress of tasks will help you stay motivated.

  • Start with a small and easy step.

  • Eliminate any distractions

  • Reward yourself after completing small steps within the task

  • Rephrase your internal dialogue

The five takeaways about procrastination are:
  • Laziness is not the cause of procrastination.
  • It is the result of our inability to manage negative feelings about the task.
  • It is not a time-management issue but rather an emotional issue.
  • It can be a result of low self-esteem, self-doubt, or anxiety.
  • Forgive yourself for past procrastination and be gentler with the language and thoughts you use about yourself when it comes to completing the task.

Take home message: If you are one of many people who procrastinate before you criticize yourself and submit to a lifelong journey of blame and shame, try taking a more proactive approach. Use the above-mentioned tips to understand your why’s and create a plan of action, and or speak to someone that can help you. 

At Cedarway Therapy we specialize in providing psychologist oakville based services as well as psychotherapy services in Mississauga and all across the GTA. If you are interested in working with us or need to speak to a professional, feel free to contact us today!

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Two Important Ingredients to Growth: Self Awareness & Acceptance

“Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.”
― Lao Tzu

I will be first to admit that just a couple of years ago, my definition of self-awareness was incorrect. Like many, I also falsely believed that being consumed with self-awareness had something to do with being selfish, self-absorbed, overconfident and even narcissistic. Over the years in my journey of personal growth and learning ways to support others healing from trauma, depression, anxiety, low self-worth and other issues, I have realized that being self-aware is a necessary ingredient to happiness. The practice of self-awareness allows us to recognize our strengths and limitations, our needs, set boundaries, choose healthy relationships, give the best of ourselves. The second ingredient is like the cherry on top-Acceptance gives us permission to be okay!

To be self-aware and accepting in my practice means to:

  1. Accept ourselves. Many of us work tirelessly to achieve perfection—an illusion created by childhood experiences that push unrealistic ideologies. The struggle continues for years, making us feel exhausted physically, emotionally and mentally. In this uphill battle to ‘perfection,’ we tend to miss the beautiful self that we are Now. The authentic self in the present that can feel good, contribute to society, attain goals and feel accepted and content with life. This does not mean we don’t create goals for change and growth, it just means we create realistic attainable goals that are good for us and not dictated by false ideologies and expectations.
  2. Take care of our needs. We tend to wait for another to fulfill our inner desires, assuming they should magically know-how “I feel and what I want.” This distortion results in feelings of frustration, regret, resent and remorse. I’ve learned to buy myself flowers, jewelry, go for walks, and even have a talk with myself need be. I find this practice increases my sense of security and reliance on myself-it’s merely learning what our body, mind & soul needs at a specific moment, and being able to rely on our self to fulfill the need.
  3. Realize that we are human and, by default, have limitations. I often find that many people equate limitations to low self-worth, lack of confidence or ability. It’s quite the contrary. Having knowledge of our limitations allows us to embrace our humanness. I’m not holding myself to standards of perfection. Instead, I have learned to create realistic goals, ask for help when needed and make decisions that are good for me. Through this process, we learn to forgive ourselves and lend compassion.

Self Awareness can help you break destructive cycles

Whatever destructive cycle that you have adopted due to past learning experiences can be undone through self-awareness and acceptance.

Take, for instance, the obsession with physical looks that is perpetuated in our society. Many of us have struggled with our looks for years, being called all sorts of names at school, taunted by the family to stop eating so much or so little, ridiculing ourselves from comparisons on social media. The apparent outcome is self-hate, which stagnates us and perpetuates the cycle of weight obsession and thus feelings of hopelessness and low self-worth.

We feel attractive, loved and coveted when we look ‘good’; however, the second we compare ourselves again and feel inadequate, we spiral quickly into feeling worthless, unloved, unwanted and excluded.

Do not get me wrong. Self-awareness and acceptance do not dismiss opportunities for growth. In fact, they’re exactly about growth, but with kindness and compassion.

Let’s try this. I invite you to think about an ingrained habit or thought that holds you back from feeling your best? Is it self-judgment, self-criticism, weight issues…?

Reflect: take some time to become self-aware of the impact it’s having on your life

What is it taking away from you? How would you be if you did not have it? How would you feel, think and behave?

“Am I okay with feeling like this? What do I need right now to feel my best? Do I want to change to fit an illusion, or do I want to change in order to feel good in my own skin? What can I do right now to help myself? Who can I turn to?

Ask yourselves wouldn’t any personal goal fueled by love, be a more pleasurable journey then one fueled by hate?

Remember

Hatred is demotivating. Love is blossoming. Self-hate brews guilt, shame and anger. Self-awareness and acceptance encourage forgiveness and compassion.

Self-awareness & acceptance is about:

Creating specific and realistic goals that are authentic to you!

Changing how you approach yourself and, as a result, how you approach your goals!

Rejecting standards of perfection!

Dismissing illusions created for you!

Creating your own narrative!

Reena Vanza

Reena is a Registered Psychotherapist who treats individuals, couples, and groups for various issues including anxiety, depression, trauma, grief, relationship, and parenting issues. Her approach to therapy is holistic, integrative, and trauma-informed. 

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Supporting a loved one with a Mental Health Illness. Part 2: Practical Tips

“Caregiving often calls us to lean into love we didn’t know possible”

Tia Walker

Disclaimer:  Part two of this blog is created based on my personal experience. Over the years, I have learned the art of being present in my loved one’s life who suffers from schizophrenia. My sincere advice for others who are in similar life circumstances is that you create a plan that suits you and your loved one. Always remember safety comes first (yours and theirs), figure out what works for you based on your supports, your loved one’s mental state, and your ability. The main take away from this blog is that abandonment does not have to be the only option.  Part one can be found here.

Ten Practical Tips

  1. Just be there. One of the most impactful gifts you can give to one struggling with mental illness is to be present in their life at some capacity. Many individuals with mental illness suffer alone as family members are fearful, uninformed or unaware of how to connect to them anymore. I, for one, understand that supporting one with mental illness can be scary and extremely tiresome. Figure out safe ways that work for both of you. It can be through texting or calling them to check-in. Maybe a monthly visit to the local coffee shop. Drop off a home-cooked meal. Visit on a holiday to simply check-in. If you want to learn more about understanding supporting vs enabling, just visit our blog page today!
  2. Do not undermine their efforts. Abstain from telling them they are not working hard enough. We often think that if one was to get a job, then the paranoia or psychosis will dissipate, and by some miracle, they would be healed. Remember, mental illness is not a choice. Also, bear in mind that our systems are not created to support those with mental illness. They have likely tried hard, but the systems have failed them. Praise their efforts, however small they may be.
  3. Support and advocate. If your loved one is part of a case management team, try and meet them. If they are not connected to one, then advocate for them to be part of a team that can provide extensive support. The team and you can drive home similar messages: supporting them to volunteer, join a support group, make lifestyle changes and take their medications on time.
  4. Remember the good old days—a journey through memories of laughter, joy and happiness. Have open wholehearted conversations that make them feel good. Do not always focus on the havoc the illness has brought to their lives.
  5. Refrain from advising. Listen to their stories, join them, validate them, without giving into the need to respond. Sometimes the stories may not make sense, or maybe of a distant past, that’s okay; you’re not there to correct them, you’re just there to listen.
  6. Get to know them. You may have once known them well, but it’s not time to get to know them again. What do they value now? How do they spend their time? What would they like to be part of? What are their likes and dislikes?
  7. Share a cause. This tip follows # 6. Do something together that they value. For instance, we give charity together. Many people often assume that just because someone has a mental illness, they are not capable of valuing things or caring for others. Quite the contrary, find out what causes they value and help them be a part of it even through a penny or helping them volunteer in some way.
  8. Self-care. If you want to meaningfully contribute to your loved one’s life, self-care is mandatory. Being part of someone’s life who has a mental illness can be exhausting and can lead to compassion fatigue and eventually burnout. Create a self-care plan for yourselves that includes a healthy lifestyle for your body, mind & soul.
  9. Pray. Mental illness is not something we can control for someone. Do not go into their circle of care with a superhero mind frame. There will be many times when you feel helpless, heavy, fearful, broken, frustrated, helpless, hopeless or sad. In my experience, despite the presence of others, there are times when nothing anyone does help. During these times, I turn to prayer. I pray for my loved one, but I also pray for me. There is something settling about the conviction that a higher power holds me during times when things are seemingly falling apart.
  10. Acceptance. Accept the diagnosis! Learn about it! Do not be scared! You would learn about cancer if your loved one was inflicted. What makes mental illness any different? Increase your knowledge and become informed so that you can decrease stigma and also support their care. There are websites such as CAMH that can help you learn the basics.

It took me many years to learn these ways of being present in my loved one’s life. Even know, I feel as though I fall short. Forgiveness has become a common practice in my life.  To love someone and to be present in a meaningful way, you will need to show yourself compassion and kindness. This journey is uphill, and feelings such as shame and guilt will often knock on your door, leaving you hopeless and unmotivated. Always be mindful that the fuel from self-compassion, love and kindness is far greater than that from shame or guilt!

Empower yourself with practical tips and expert guidance from Cedarway Therapy in supporting your loved one with a mental health illness. This blog offers invaluable insights and strategies to enhance your caregiving journey. If you’re suffering from Insomnia, burnout, etc.; take the next step towards providing the best possible care – join Cedarway Therapy and make a meaningful impact on your loved one’s well-being today!

Reena Vanza

Reena is a Registered Psychotherapist who treats individuals, couples, and groups for various issues including anxiety, depression, trauma, grief, relationship, and parenting issues. Her approach to therapy is holistic, integrative, and trauma-informed. 

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Stop trying to fix the outside, work on the inside: Real, long-lasting, meaningful growth.

“Your soul needs time for solitude and selfreflection. To love, lead, heal and create, you must nourish yourself first.”

Linda Joy

There is the part of you that is visible to the world, and the other part is almost invisible—only showing itself to those that are chosen by you. It’s the intimate, vulnerable, sacred part of you that you keep away from the world. It’s also the part that feels, chooses and directs you. Despite its essential role, many people spend a lot of time on the visible part of themselves- spending a lot of time on their outward self dieting, grooming, exercising, clothing, buying, covering “flaws.” However, despite the immense efforts to present this outer self as flawless and powered, many individuals find themselves struggling to keep up, catch up or let go, in fact, no effort ever seems enough. There is always more to do.  This struggle can encompass one’s life as they become blinded to their inner world, which, if cultivated, can be the road to freedom and living a meaningful life.

I find many people living as if on a battleground, as they consistently look for ways to fine-tune themselves for the outer world, without realizing that real change comes from within. This is akin to trying to change a fruit once it’s grown onto a branch. To grow good fruit, we must first tend to the root of the tree, its soil composition and what we put into it daily.

Disclaimer: Don’t get me wrong, I am a proponent of self-care body, mind and soul. This means I also value my outer self; exercising to stay fit, grooming myself and dressing up to please the eye. The issues arise when and if our outer part becomes the sole focus, whereby taking care of it does not bring us inner joy.  In fact, taking care of our outwards self becomes a chore or a way to fit into circles or look like others. These problems usually take the form of low self-esteem, low self-worth, and self-criticism, all of which can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. This is because keeping up with social media trends can be consuming and in fact unattainable. Most of it requires us to able to keep up with the latest trends, defy genetics and or fight ageing.

Instead, a shift to your inner world can be transforming and in fact turn the very things you do for your outer world, into meaningful acts that allow you to live a fulfilled life.  When you start to look at the needs of your inner world, your decision making will also start to change You may make wiser decision on who to follow on social media, seeing others glory won’t bring you down, follow people that are good for you, have realistic and attainable goals for yourself, become kinder to yourself, rejoice in your accomplishments and start wanting good for yourself

5 Tips to tend to your inner world.

  1. Self-compassion: remember that struggling is part of being human. You are not alone; you are connected to others who also have struggles and trials, similar to yours. By connecting to others, we learn of solutions to problems instead of feeling stuck alone. Self-compassion also allows us to do things for ourselves out of love instead of beating yourself up and being critical. For instance, exercising because your body deserves to feel good, not because you need to look a certain way.
  2. Mindfullness: take some time in the day to connect with your present moment. Remember that our mind thinks-its job is to generate thoughts. The mind does not really care whether it is thinking about the past or the future, reality, or if it is dreaming. By bringing your mind to the present moment, you train it to stay with you instead of going into thoughts about times where you had no control or have no control. In your now, you can choose which path to take. Mindfulness allows you to slow down, to reflect, to connect and to be at peace with this very moment.
  3. Journal: make a list of things you do, people you are connected with, and things that you own. Now ask yourself what good do they bring to me? or what good do I bring to them? How can I connect again? What do I need to remove from my life? Who do I need to take a break from? What and who do I follow on social media that brings me no value?
  4. Strengths: define the things that you are good at, for example, are you a compassionate person? What are the things, people, events that you care about? What can you do to get involved or make a difference? What causes speak to you? Are you creative? What can you do to foster that talent?
  5. Self-reflection: make a regular practice to sit with yourself and ask yourself the questions above. Add to the list, what thoughts have been running through my mind lately? How am I feeling lately? What am I doing to stay there? What have I stopped doing? What can I add to my life that is easy to do right now? Who do I need to turn to? What do I already know that I can implement now? This practice allows you to get into a habit of processing your thoughts and feelings and getting the support you need. Without self-reflection, you continue to move in the world on automatic, just repeating the same actions and behaviours that may not bring you joy.

“I have set inner peace as my highest goal, and I organize everything in my life around that.”

Clyde Lee Dennis

Experience a profound transformation by shifting your focus from fixing the outside to nurturing the inside with Cedarway Therapy’s holistic services. Our experts are always ready to help you with issues such as insomnia, burnout, grief, and many more. Discover the path to real, lasting, and meaningful growth within yourself. Embrace a journey of self-discovery and inner fulfillment – start today with Cedarway Therapy and unlock your true potential!

Reena Vanza

Reena is a Registered Psychotherapist who treats individuals, couples, and groups for various issues including anxiety, depression, trauma, grief, relationship, and parenting issues. Her approach to therapy is holistic, integrative, and trauma-informed. 

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