Category: Self Care

Growth, Really?

“Sometimes the bad things that happen in our lives put us directly on the path to the most wonderful things that will ever happen to us”

Nicole Reed

The last couple of weeks were obscured by talks of uncertainty, which resulted in thoughts such as “what’s going to happen?” “How will we get through this?” These were subsequently followed by feelings of fear and anxiety, fluctuating throughout the day. As a result, I recall my heart felt heavy at times, my body not motivated to move, as if paralysis took over me. After a week or so I didn’t know what to think, feel, or do; I simply went through the motions and got my day to day done.  However, as we approach the fourth week of social distancing in the COVID-19 Pandemic which has come with immense changes in the way I work, my home and school life, the way I carry out my relationships and connectedness; I am starting to realizing a subtle sense of still starting to emanate within me.

How does this chaos in our minds dissipate? How does the body not automatically turn into a frenzy at news reports, fear fueling statistics, and those funny memes embedded with subtle messages?  How do I carry myself through the day with motivation and purpose? I learned the answers to these questions years ago as I worked with individuals escaping violence. Anyone who has been through a traumatic or painful experience can tell you that eventually, after chaos comes a calm. And after this calm, begins a period of growth, a time where we rise from our learnings and move forward stronger, with more value, meaning and purpose.

If you’re reading this and you still feel uncertain, fearful and apprehensive about your present new normal, It’s okay! Recovery and its subsequent follower growth happen at different rates for different people. The key is to allow the process to happen naturally, don’t judge it, don’t time it, don’t push it.

Research now shows that not only do we bounce back from adversity due to something called resilience, but we can also create better, more positive and meaningful lives aftermath. An expert in the field of post-traumatic growth Dr. Tedeschi identifies five main areas where we can experience growth as an outcome of our adversities: an appreciation of life, relationship with others, new possibilities in life, personal strength, spirituality.  What better time than now to exercise these and learn ways to increase our resilience so that we can grow out of this experience in a better direction.

I will provide you with ideas that you can implement in your lives, pick all, pick one the key is doing it intentionally and consistently.

  1. Appreciation of life

In addition to showing gratitude for the little things in life, it’s essential that you start noticing the little things you let pass you by in the past. There are many things, events, people, places that we didn’t pay much attention to. For instance, do you notice the beauty in the sky, the colors of the sunset, your child’s smile or appreciate the food on your table?

Look at the different creation and forms of life, those apart from humanity. If you pay attention, you’ll hear the birds chirping, the squirrels dancing back and forth, the bugs building homes and carrying food. You’ll see the sun rising and setting exploding with breathtaking colors.

Focus on little things, gratitude, presence, intentions and hope.

  1. Relationship with others

The key is to connect with those that give you hope. Search out those that make you smile, that appreciate you, that make you feel warm when you speak to them. Take your connections to a deeper, more meaningful level. Put down your phone when you’re having dinner with your family, really listen to the laughter of a child, call up a loved one just to ask how they are instead of pouring your day on them, wave to a neighbour.

Ask yourself How am I fueling hope in people’s lives?

Focus on intention, being present and authenticity.

  1. New possibilities in life

If there is one thing COVID-19 has brought about in many people’s lives, including my own, is the opportunity to evaluate my priorities. Ask yourselves what now seems important that was on the back burner in the past. Who now seems important? What promised activities have you not embarked on due to a “lack of time”.

During this time, what opportunities are you drawn towards? How can you apply yourself? What can you do to honor yourself? Is there a book you wanted to embark on, a course you were interested in (online of course), is there someone you wanted to connect with? Have you always had fitness goals?

Before COVID-19 I was one to shy away from social media. And to be honest, while I haven’t yet embraced it with open arms (And I don’t know that I ever will) I am slowly learning to connect to people, put myself out there to help others. It is no doubt a vulnerable feeling, but one I know will bring positive outcomes.

Ask yourself, what are your values? What brings you meaning?

  1. Personal strength

What about you gets you through your days at home presently? What strengths have brought you this far in life? Think back to a past hardship, how did you get through it? Find these strengths and bring them to life in your day to day so that you can continue to enhance your experience.

Are you creative, kind, curious, brave, have a love of learning, spiritual? The list of character strengths is vast. I urge you to take some time and find out your strengths. Then make a plan to carry out these goals. Draw, paint, color, create, pray, connect, read…

  1. Spiritual change

Wherever you are on the spectrum of spiritual connection, search for ways to increase your sense of purpose and meaning. Ask yourself, how do I live out that meaning on a day to day basis? How do I connect to this purpose? What can I do to increase this connection?

I’ve carved out times in my day when I connect to my spirituality. Apart from mandatory connections, I have started to look at the signs in nature as reminders of a higher being. Something is taking care of this Universe and beyond. This connection gives me a sense of peace, serenity, elevation and control as I know in my heart that I cared for.

Take home message!

I invite you to contemplate these five points of growth and make a plan for yourself. Remember, with every hardship there is ease, with every storm comes a calm. The question I pose to you is, how do you want to come out of this Pandemic?

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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Self Compassion, the new Me!

Nowadays the term self-care is thrown around all the time, making most of us feel guilty of not being able to pursue something that others find so easy. This very term “self-care” perplexed me for a while as I wondered why it is so easy for some people to carve out time for themselves and yet others like me to truggle with the very thought. For a very long time, I could not seem to enjoy“me time” without it being wrapped in guilt. Over the years, as I worked with survivors of trauma I journeyed into concepts such as mindfulness, self-compassion and kindness. Concepts that not only transformed my clinical work but also changed my life into one that is more meaningful and valued. Today I’m going to share with you my thoughts on self-compassion; both from a professional and personal perspective. Whether you struggle with depression, anxiety, trauma, stress or self-worth or are someone just looking for something new to add in your life, incorporating a self-compassion practice will only benefit you.

To understand Self Compassion, I would highly recommend looking into the work of Kristen Kneff, a psychology professor who coined the movement. In her words “self-compassion means treating yourself with the same kind of kindness, care, compassion, as you would treat those you care about—your good friends, your loved ones”. Her work is not only supported by therapists such as me but also by research which shows similar effectivity of self-compassion interventions in the regulation of health behaviours to other popular behaviour change techniques.

“Remember, you have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”

Louise L. Hay

In practice, some clients easily embrace therapy sessions, do their homework, apply strategies and reach their goals, while others continue to struggle despite the relentless effort. Of course, there are many factors that dictate the therapy outcome and one I feel is at the core is self-compassion.   My experience has taught me that the more self-compassionate one is, the better they connect to themselves and in consequence want the best for themselves.

Now please don’t confuse self-esteem with self-compassion. The former is important but it’s not akin to the latter. Self-compassion requires you to become self-aware, to acknowledge your suffering, instead of pushing it or avoiding it. You will need to practice statements such as: what do I need right now, what am I feeling right now, I am not alone, I am trying my best, it’s okay I am enough. This may sound a little fluffy to many, and it did to me when I first ventured into this journey. But I invite you to think about how you respond to those you care for. For you to fully support them, to hold them through difficulty, to make sure they don’t give up you have to be able to connect to them in a meaningful way. The more you care the more you end up doing.  Why do we not apply the same principles to our selves? How do you expect to feel better, stronger, worth, valued, if you don’t tend to your own emotions and needs? The reality is that the more you connect to yourself, the better equipped you are to respond to yourself and take care of your needs.

Why does self-compassion help? The easy answer is the more you fill your cup (attend to your needs) the more you’re able to attend to the needs of others. After all, isn’t that why most of us want to function optimally. To be a better mom, wife, daughter, friend, neighbour, worker…..

The other answer which many find harder to accept is so that you can increase your sense of self-worth, enjoy yourself, be proud of yourself, accept yourself, give yourself a break, and realize that you are trying your best.

How has Self Compassion changed me!
  • I am more aware of my needs
  • I know when I need to pause and take a break
  • I know when I have had enough and set boundaries
  • I am able to do things with more meaning
  • I value time, people, places
  • I am more grateful for the little things about myself
  • I am realizing “I am enough”
  • I am happier with me
A Take Home Message!

Acknowledge your emotions, tend to your needs. The more you validate yourself the better able you are to be empathetic to others. You are worthy. Forgive yourself. Be grateful to yourself for trying. Accept yourself you are trying; you are not perfect no one is.

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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Self Care To GO

“There is nothing in nature that blooms all year long, so don’t expect yourself to do so either.” 


It took me many years to realize simple rules 1. If you’re sleepy, sleep 2. If you’re feeling tired, then rest 3. If you’re feeling sad then talk to someone 4. If you’re angry then take a break 5. If you’re hurting, then ask yourself what do need right now!

I always made excuses, but I’m a mom, I’m a wife, I’m studying, working, volunteering, cooking, cleaning the list keeps going. I understand for many like myself we can’t simply drop things and stop the many roles we occupy. However, one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned, well second to boundary setting, is that self care doesn’t have to come only when we vacation.

Those with the best self care routines have mastered the art of using their time effectively. I like to think of self care in terms of small pockets of time for myself every single day.

I’ve made a list of things that give me a sense of pleasure.

  • Cup of warm coffee
  • Reading a book
  • Talking a walk
  • Eating a small treat
  • Mindfulness
  • Alone time
  • Coloring or painting

So I’ve come to terms with the fact that I don’t have 4 hours a day to chill out or to self care. But I can take each one of those items mentioned above an ensure I schedule them in my day.

So make your list of small meaningful things you love or add meaning to your life and start to schedule the in one by one.  I didn’t really understand the quote “it’s the littlest things that matter the most”, until I started to practice it on myself.

And sometimes, I just need to find a way to do more for my own well-being, whether that means cancelling a commitment or asking someone for help.

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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