In an earlier post, I wrote about the symptoms, triggers and treatment of a panic attack — an intense and often sudden wave of distress that can include physical symptoms like heart racing and shortness of breath.
In addition, I explained that while panic attacks can be brought on by a trauma or phobia, they can also be caused by more subconscious influences that are a bit harder to nail down.
Above all, the most important thing I wanted you to remember about panic attacks is that they’re not inherently life-threatening and aren’t necessary indicative of a more widespread issue.
Which brings me to this post.
EXPLAINING PANIC DISORDER
Panic attacks become a greater cause for concern when they happen so frequently that they begin to affect a person’s everyday life and cause them to become fearful or make drastic behavioural changes (i.e. avoiding people, places or things) to avert another episode.
This escalation of factors is known as panic disorder and it affects approximately 3.7% of Canadians in their lifetimes, with women being more likely to suffer than men.
HOW CAN PANIC DISORDER BE TREATED?
As with panic attacks themselves, panic disorder is treatable.
A therapy professional can not only help identify triggers that lead to frequent attacks and the fear surrounding them, they can provide evidence-based solutions aimed at preventing future occurrences. Self-help techniques, like controlled-breathing and grounding exercises, along with joining a local support group can also be effective as part of a multifaceted treatment plan.
Panic Disorder does not have to define you!
MENTAL HEALTH CHECK-IN
With this being Mental Health Week across Canada, it’s a good reminder to check-in with your own mental health and that of your loved ones. Here is a great toolto get you started!
Remember, it’s never too late to get help and support is always available.
Among the most disconcerting sensations any of us can experience are the feelings of being in danger, trapped or out of control — especially when those feelings strike with no apparent warning.
Thankfully, our bodies have a built-in mechanism to help us handle threatening situations—a physiological reaction is known as the ‘flight-or-fight’ response that has been conditioned over time to help us defend against or escape imminent harm.
The tricky thing about the ‘flight-or-fight’ response is that doesn’t always discern between actual threats and imagined ones. This instinct to ‘flight-or-fight’ in the case of perceived danger or a non-life-threatening situation can, in some extreme case, turn into what’s known as a panic attack.
Symptoms and Triggers of a Panic Attack
Similar to the characteristics of a ‘flight-or-fight’ reaction, panic attacks generally come on quickly and peak within a few seconds, though some can take a few minutes to rev up.
Traits generally include feelings of extreme discomfort like being in danger, trapped or out of control and are often accompanied by marked physical symptoms including heart palpitations, extreme sweating and shortness of breath. In fact, the aforementioned characteristics are what often lead sufferers to believe they’re experiencing something gravely serious, like a heart attack.
Panic attacks can be prompted by a trauma, phobia or stressful life event; they can also be triggered by more subconscious factors that are harder to pinpoint or detect. It’s the somewhat random nature of panic attacks that makes them disorienting and scary for people going through them, especially if they’ve never experienced one before.
The important thing to remember is that while they may feel traumatic at the time, panic attacks are not life-threatening in and of themselves.
What to Do?
If you suffer from panic attacks, don’t despair. It’s a treatable disorder that can be managed with evidence-based techniques. Every case is unique so it’s best to have multiple strategies in your back pocket when a panic attack strikes, for example:
If you suffer from regular panic attacks, consider speaking with a therapy professional about how to manage and prevent future occurrences. An understanding of your mental health can better help you deal with it.
If you’ve reached a place in your relationship that has you contemplating couples therapy, one of the biggest hurdles can be figuring out how to broach this sensitive matter with your spouse.
It can feel risky and uncomfortable — particularly if the subject hasn’t come up before — but there are neutral and non-aggressive ways to bring up counselling that can help your partner understand where you’re coming from and why therapy might be a worthwhile idea.
The idea of broaching couples therapy with your partner can seem daunting, but if approached with care, it can be the first step in a productive and life-changing journey.
Whether you’ve welcomed a new baby into your home or have undergone a stressful career transition, chances are your relationship has weathered some ups and downs.
And you’re not alone.
Couples of all stripes face challenging headwinds from time to time; the important thing is finding ways to manage the storm or better yet, head it off entirely.
If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m talking about couples therapy.
What is Couples Therapy?
When it comes to defining couples therapy, I usually like to start with what it’s not. Couples therapy is not a sign of failure or the impending downfall of a relationship. Nor is therapy necessarily reserved for times of crisis or as a last resort before breaking-up.
Rather, couples therapy can be an essential aspect of maintaining a healthy relationship that may actually preempt problems down the line and help break the cycle of disconnection — an all-too-common pattern of fighting more, talking less and feeling increasingly isolated from your spouse.
While usually initiated by one half of the couple, successful therapy depends on equal participation from both partners. Sessions generally last around an hour and some, but not all, therapists will assign ‘homework’ for the couple to work on between appointments.
Reasons for Couples Therapy
As much as I wish therapy was standard practice in relationships, realistically I know most couples will only seek counselling when something ‘big’ forces the issue. Here are just some of the reasons a couple may embark on professional counselling:
The decision to embark on couples therapy is a landmark choice in any relationship and like any big step, requires effort and commitment. Thankfully, it can also provide much-needed clarity in the context of a safe and neutral environment that may yield the answers you’ve been looking for.
In this two-part series: I explore the meaning of job satisfaction, the consequences of low job satisfaction and ways to improve job satisfaction in your own life.
Picking up where we left off, it’s time to recognize the downsides of low job satisfaction and how to conquer it.
Remember in the last post when I told you that most of the world’s population spends one-third of their lives at work? Being discontent in an activity that occupies such a major chunk of your time can have significant ripple effects on your life both inside and outside the office.
Some of these consequences include (but are not limited to):
HOW TO IMPROVE JOB SATISFACTION
Strategies for improving job satisfaction are subjective and vary in each situation. Less extreme cases could be improved with a few simple tweaks while more extreme cases may require a drastic change.
Here are some of my go-to tips for improving job satisfaction:
With work playing such a significant part in our lives, it’s important to feel satisfied on the job. Consider the above strategies if you’re struggling in this area and reach out to a therapy professional if you need additional support.
In this two-part series: I explore the meaning of job satisfaction, the consequences of low job satisfaction and ways to improve job satisfaction in your own life.
While the start of a new year is generally seen as a time of optimism and change, for many it’s a time of introspection and self-examination, particularly when it comes to work.
And it’s easy to see why.
According to the World Health Organization, a majority of the world’s population spends one-third of their livesin the office so it stands to reason that people want their careers to offer a certain degree of fulfillment.
Unfortunately, career satisfaction isn’t universal and low job satisfaction can have serious consequences for people both inside and outside the workplace.
WHAT IS JOB SATISFACTION?
Job satisfaction is a term that gets thrown around a lot, but what does it really mean in the practical sense? And what are some real-world indicators of workplace fulfillment?
In my observation, job satisfaction is dependent on a host of factors, including (but not limited to):
Someone who is professionally satisfied is usually content to go to work and doesn’t dread the thought of Monday morning. They generally feel a sense of contribution and perceive that their day-to-day tasks fall in line with their professional goals. A common thread among satisfied employees is knowing their work is respected and valued.
Canada’s former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Brian Dickson, hit the nail on the head in describing the importance of workplace conditionsto an individual’s overall wellbeing:
“A person’s employment is an essential component of his or her sense
of identity, self-worth and emotional well-being. Accordingly, the
conditions in which a person works are highly significant in shaping the whole
compendium of psychological, emotional and physical elements of
a person’s dignity and self-respect.”
Now that we’ve established the meaning and significance of job satisfaction, we can delve into the consequences of low job satisfaction and strategies for overcoming it.
Stay tuned for part 2.
It seems counterintuitive that a city as massive as Toronto could ever feel lonely, but it definitely can — especially around the holidays when it seem like everyone else’s social calendar fills to the brim with friendly gatherings and family functions.
Social media can often compound these feelings with 24/7 timelines of winter vacations, kids opening presents and happy couples in their Pinterest-worthy pajamas.
If you find yourself far from loved ones, dealing with a break-up or simply struggling with loneliness during these winter months, take comfort in knowing you’re not alone. In fact, the phenomenon of seasonal sadness has become so prevalent that it’s spawned a new term: the holiday blues.
Understanding that feelings of isolation are common during these end-of-year months, here are some strategies that may help you cope:
1. Get Busy: The holidays arrive at the same time each year so you have plenty of time
to formulate a game-plan that will make you feel more plugged-in and less on your
own. For example:
2. Focus on the Positive: Rather than dwell on what’s missing right now, try and focus
on the many positives in your life and the world around you. You can jot entries in a
diary or simply say them out loud; either way, you will gradually notice how much
there is to be thankful for.
3. Embrace Solitude: Sure, the holidays may scream ‘togetherness’ but on the flip-side,
everything non-holiday generally slows down and provides an opportunity for some
rare ‘me time.’ Maybe you’ve shelved an old hobby or have neglected treating
yourself to a day at the spa. Guess what? Now’s the ideal time to buck the crowds
and focus on you!
4. Be Kind to Yourself: Even with the above strategies, being alone on the holidays can
be tough. It’s important to acknowledge your feelings as valid and normal and
recognize that this too shall pass.
The holidays are a unique and often challenging time to be on your own. If you’re feeling isolated or disconnected during this time of year, consider the above suggestions and reach out to a therapy professional if you need additional strategies or support.
Wishing you a peaceful and fulfilling holiday season.
With its emphasis on family and tradition, the holiday season can be particularly challenging for those who are grieving and the pressure to be merry can only make things worse as festivities and social gatherings flood the calendar from November through New Years.
As a therapist, the one rule I’ve learned about grief is that it doesn’t conform to any rules. It’s confusing, random and untidy. It can be understated and subtle or jarring and brash. It doesn’t come with an instruction manual or an ‘off’ switch. There is no right way or time or place to mourn a loss.
Understanding its complexities, the challenge with grief is finding effective ways to cope with it — particularly during this time of year when the calendar makes life tougher than normal.
Below are some strategies you may find helpful if you are struggling to navigate the holidays without a loved one:
Wishing you peace and comfort this holiday season.
It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of year but for many, the holiday season is anything but joyful.
And it’s not hard to see why.
From the monetary pressures of gift-buying and travel to the unwelcome scrooge of family drama, this time of year can feel less like a celebration and more like a test of survival.
If you’re one of the many whose mood isn’t quite merry around the holidays, you’re not alone. A 2015 U.S. study showed 62% of respondents reported feeling at least some degree of seasonal stress with nearly half of people surveyed citing “finances” as the main source of their anxiety.
Knowing these less-than-cheerful feelings are perfectly common, the question is how to cope with them. Here are just some of my go-to tips for managing holiday stress:
1. Acknowledge Your Feelings: This may sound simple but recognizing your feelings as valid and legitimate is proactive to making it through the holidays with a healthy attitude. Hold yourself with compassion in the face of difficult emotions and remember that it’s okay to feel exactly as you’re feeling right now.
2. Set Boundaries: This can apply to everything from finances to family and will help you approach the holidays in a way that’s comfortable for you. Some examples include:
3. Delegate, Delegate, Delegate: Taking on all the shopping, decorating, cooking and hosting is a recipe for stress. Offload some responsibility, ask for help and try not to worry if things aren’t done perfectly. Remember, it’s your holiday too!
4. Get Grounded: It’s easy to get caught-up in the holiday madness. Reconnect to what matters by participating in activities that feel grounding, healthy and/or personally rewarding, for example: exercising, reading, volunteering or simply spending time with close friends. Let serenity be the gift you give yourself this year.
The festive season can be a time of extreme highs and lows. If you’re someone who feels particularly anxious at this time of year, consider the above strategies to help ease your stress and reach out to a professional if you need additional support.
Wishing you peace and fulfillment this holiday season.
Looking around, it’s hard to believe that at any given time 10.4% of Canadians are struggling with a mental illness (MDSC) such as depression. People often seem like they’ve got it all together. They are raising families, becoming educated or busy in their careers. How could it be that such a high number of mental illness can even exist?
The truth of the matter is that those who are suffering have become pros at hiding their pain. They wear a mask that conceals their struggles from the world. From the outside they may look happy and well adjusted but behind that mask there could be a lonely, exhausted and pained individual.
Why do people feel it necessary to hide their depression from the world? Often, people feel a lot of shame and embarrassment with the fact that they are struggling with any form of mental illness. They don’t want to be a burden to their family, employers or friends.
Because of the lack of knowledge or resistance to change, society still does not put mental illness at the same cause for concern as other physical illness. We should be able to take a couple of days off, pull ourselves together and get right back to the grind of everyday life. But that’s not how depression or mental health works. Unfortunately, because of these unrealistic expectations, people feel like they have no choice but to hide behind their masks.
If you are finding that you live each day hiding your feelings from the rest of the world know that you're not alone. Ask yourself, are there people in my life that I can trust to confide in about my pain and hurt? Even one person in your life who you can be open and honest with about how you are truly feeling can help lift that feeling of isolation and loneliness. Staying silent with your secret can only perpetuate or worsen your symptoms.
Find a professional (social worker, psychologist, psychotherapist) who can help you navigate through your thoughts and feelings to help free you from your sadness. It’s not until you start peeling away your mask and letting help in that you can begin to feel better.
Lindsay Ross, MSW RSW, is a clinical social worker in private practice in Toronto, Ontario.