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.
Have you just had a baby? Are you noticing that something just doesn’t feel right? You have read in magazines about all these celebrities who have just had their babies and instantly fall head over heels in love. But, that hasn’t been your experience at all. Everyone said that you’d be exhausted and emotional during those first weeks after your baby’s arrival but you are starting to panic that having a baby was a big mistake. You are afraid that people will see you as a failure. You feel guilty that your baby has been given you as its mother. You believe that they deserve someone better, more confident and more maternal. You wonder if this is a phase and just the so-called baby blues or something more?
Baby blues is actually quite common. Up to 80% of women will experience the baby blues after the arrival of their baby. Some symptoms may include weepiness or crying for no apparent reason, emotional ups and downs, irritability, fatigue, anxiety and poor concentration. When my son was born, I distinctly remember driving home from his doctor’s appointment when he was about 4 days old and bursting into tears. I had no idea why I was crying but I just couldn’t control it. The baby blues, although unpleasant, tend to go away after 2-3 weeks after birth and are typically caused by hormonal changes and the recovery from the birth process, exhaustion and coming to terms with this huge life transition. All these feelings are incredibly normal.
But, what if these symptoms last longer than 2-3 weeks? How do you know whether you are actually dealing with something more like postpartum depression or anxiety? The two things you need to consider are the duration and the severity of your symptoms. Again, if your symptoms last more than 2-3 weeks and even up to 12 months postpartum then this should be an indicator that you may be experiencing something more serious. If your symptoms begin to impact your daily functioning, your ability to bond with your baby as well as causing you to isolate yourself then this may be an indication that what you are experiencing is not baby blues.
So what do I do now? If you feel that you may be at risk for postpartum depression or anxiety, you are not alone. Both are more common than you think and affect approximately 15% of the population. Please let your healthcare providers (OB, family physician, midwife, social worker) know that you are struggling. They can help find you the supports that you need.
The life transition of having a new baby can bring up a multitude of feelings. Whether it’s your first or third child or whether you've become a new parent through adoption or surrogacy, having a new baby brings new change to you, your relationships and routines. If you find that you are struggling and having a difficult time, please ask for help.
As a mom, have you ever had the experience of looking in the mirror and thought; “wow, I look tired!” And not, “I just spent a night out with friends drinking and dancing” kind of tired but more like “I don’t recognize myself anymore” tired. It’s a kind of exhaustion that you can feel in your bones. You try to figure out when it all caught up to you. You are officially a burnt out mommy!
Being a parent is hard work but it doesn’t have to make you feel defeated.
Here are 5 Things to Consider When Trying To Manage Mommy Burn Out:
1. Maintain Your Social Connections
When you are busy raising your kids, your social relationships (outside play groups and play dates) tend to take a back seat. It is so important to keep our social connections active sans children. Friends provide us with the support, fun and escape that we all need to recharge our batteries. Whether it's a grabbing a drink, dinner or even a chat on the phone, friends can help throw us a life preserver when we feel like we are drowning.
2. What Have You Done For Yourself This Week?
It is a concept that is often repeated time and time again but for important reason. How can we best take care of our children, be a committed partner and maintain our sanity without first taking care of ourselves. Choose something that you actually enjoy and try to do it at least once a week. Some people find working out to be an unbelievable stress reliever. Others feel that going to the gym is more of a chore. Think about what provides you with an outlet and a break from your everyday stresses. Secure childcare and just do it. You and your family will be happy you did!
3. Practice Self-Compassion
We are our own biggest critic. Constantly judging ourselves and our parenting can take a huge toll on our confidence and self-esteem. As humans, we all make mistakes. Sometimes we have no idea what we are doing or sometimes things don’t always go as planned. Maybe you turned your back on your toddler for one second and they fell and hurt themself. Or, after a stressful day your children have pushed you too far and you lose your temper. Try to be kind to yourself and give yourself a break. You are doing the best you can and that's okay.
4. Reclaim Your Self-Identity
What are you passionate about? What provides you with drive and happiness? For some people this is an easy answer but for others it can be more difficult. Take that time to figure out who you are and who you want to be separate from your identity as “mommy”. It is not uncommon that during maternity leave a lot of mothers start to question their current career choices. Take some time to ponder what brings you happiness, devise a plan and take action. Nothing is more exciting!
5. Recognize The Signs Of When You Are Heading Towards Burnt Out
It is not uncommon for people to not even notice when they are starting to stretch themselves too thin. We are all guilty of this. You are going through the motions of your daily routines while trying to keep your head above water. Many women end up in my office when they start to notice that the stress is now taking a toll on their emotional and physical health. They are more unhappy and irritable, feeling tension and strain in their marriage and relationships and feel that their life is spinning out of control. What are some warning signs that you are heading towards burnout?
It’s so important to try and recognize these warning signs. When you notice that you are starting to head down the road to burn out, try and regroup and reflect on your priorities. You deserve a break!
I have decided to get a bit personal for this week's blog post. Very unlike me but reflective of the task I set out for myself over the past few days.
This past week I have been working on crafting and editing my About page to add a more personal touch. When people come to my website for the first time they typically want to know:
I want potential clients to get a sense of who I am. I want my values and philosophies to resonate with them. When they come to my website, I want potential clients to 'meet' me for the first time without actually meeting me in person and feel similar to how they would feel if they were actually sitting in front of me in my office.
In order to get started, I had to determine my "message" (what I stand for) in both how I live my life, run my practice and approach my work with my clients. After some reflection, my message became quite clear.
I believe that we all deserve to pursue the things in life that make us happy.
So, how do I practice what I preach?
Well, here are 5 things that I have pursued in my life that have made me happy:
1) Pursued my Masters of Social Work in New York City.
(It was always a dream of mine to live in New York. I love everything about the city. The vibe, the theatre and of course the food!. For such a small island, there is so much culture and life).
2) Travelling to warm and sunny or historical and cultured destinations.
(I have been fortunate to have been able to visit places like Hawaii, Aruba, Italy and France. What's next on my list? Only time will tell!).
3) Starting a family.
(Every day I look at my beautiful children and I feel grateful).
4) Making it a priority to take time for myself every week.
(I am someone who needs to stop, breathe and reflect. My favourite thing to do is to go to a local coffee shop and read a good book or magazine).
5) Starting my own business.
(Starting my own private practice has always been my professional dream since the first day I decided to become a social worker. Every day I wake up looking forward to meeting new people, hearing their stories, following on their journey and being inspired).
May I help you pursue the things that make you happy? Click here to learn more.
Lindsay Ross, MSW RSW, is a clinical social worker in private practice in Toronto, Ontario.