A couple of weeks ago I went on vacation with my fiancé and his mom. We travelled to Alberta where we spent 5 days with my fiancé’s brother. The five days were exhausting, packed with multiple events throughout the days and went by so quickly, that I did not even realize it was time to come back home. The week before leaving for vacation, I got a call from a company that needed to bring in counsellors as a tragedy occurred on site. For 3 days, over a span of 18-20 hours, I spoke with employees about what they heard, saw and how they were impacted after the tragedy occurred. Some were directly involved with the incident, while others saw the aftermath or stayed away from the accident site altogether and just heard about the events that transpired. Emotional fatigue and secondary trauma kicked in. I had never worked with so many people in such a short period of time. I am still considered a rookie in the counselling world and burnout is high in this population. I remember coming home, and my mother in law began sharing stories of freak accidents that she remembers seeing or hearing about as a child, and I had to ask her to stop. She couldn’t understand why. I explained to her that I was mentally drained and after hearing so many stories about the freak accident that took place in this company, I had ‘checked out’ mentally and just needed some quiet time. This was one of the first burnout symptoms I recognized. The vacation to Alberta- although planned before getting the phone call from this company was perfectly timed! Just removing myself from the place altogether (in this case provinces) was a great way to completely disconnect myself from the trauma that occurred in the company. The trip kept me so busy and focused on what was happening in that moment that I did not have the time nor the energy to think about the prior week’s sessions. Not only was the temporary distraction beneficial, but being mindful throughout the trip was also effective. If I was not mindful (informally), I would have missed out on the beautiful mountains of Jasper and the seal show at the West Edmonton Mall. Although, it is a great excuse to go back to Alberta! If you find that you’re getting exhausted more so than your ‘normal’, take a vacation. It does not have to be one of leaving the province or country, but something local too. Go to the local sights, be mindful in the time you spend at the site, and I am sure that it will allow for your mind to clear its’ thoughts as well as provide a refreshing and rejuvenating experience. I hope that by taking some time for yourself, you are able to come back to your ‘normal’ as well; remember that you may also utilize supervision to help process remaining distress.
By Bhavna Verma
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA
When we know we’re on our “A” game, we totally feel awesome! When a client has their ‘lightbulb’ moment, due to our reframing- we feel awesome! When we advocate on a client’s behalf and they are granted their much deserved rights- we feel awesome! The list continues. But, the question is; what defines awesomeness? Jeff Boss wrote ’14 Signs You’re On The Path To Awesomeness’ for Forbes. I will focus on the areas that resonated with me, however, the link will be provided as well for you to review. The first one that I really gravitated towards was ‘When life curveballs are thrown at you, you take a swing’. For me, this indicates that you are not concerned with how you may be perceived in the eyes of others; you will take that swing no matter what! Which, in our field of work, this means trying new therapeutic approaches and becoming creative in style. The client may comment that the idea is silly, but without trying, you would never know if it worked! Another sign that I felt was important was ‘Top performers are willing to be wrong’. There is no weakness in accepting that you are wrong, so long as you are willing to learn and find out the correct answer. We’re not perfect, and we won’t have all the answers. So why not just let our clients know that we don’t know? Again, so long as we express that we will find out! The third and final sign of awesomeness that struck me was, ‘Top performers love uncertainty’. Why this particular sign resonated with me was because I am not a fortune teller. I can’t possibly know what concern or state of mind a client will walk into my office with. Therefore, why have a plan? By accepting that there are uncertainties, we are better therapists. Why? Because, again, no situation is perfect! And, personally, I enjoy the unknown. It keeps me on my toes and I welcome the challenge. There are 11 other signs of awesomeness that Jeff has on his list. Have a look, and see which resonates with you. These signs are great reminders for when we are feeling burnt out, tired, and fatigued. They remind us that we have the tools to not only support our clients, but also maintain our own self-care. If we have mini pep talks before each session, with a simple, “You are awesome”, the session will go extremely well.
Reference: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffboss/2014/07/26/14-signs-youre-on-the-path-to-awesomeness/ *The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA
I recently went to India for a much needed vacation! It was one heck of a trip; multiple time zone changes, grueling flights, and extreme weather changes as well. But, totally worth it! The trip was a combination of meeting family, as well as shopping for my upcoming wedding. It was both chaotic as well as relaxing. Chaotic because New Delhi is a city that never stops! It doesn’t matter what time of the day it is, or season, there will always be constant movement; and relaxed, because I got sick halfway through the trip which forced me to stay indoors. Being sick turned out to be the best thing ever! I was able to spend time with family that I had never had a chance to before. It allowed us to not only learn about each other but create a newfound bond. Throughout my past few posts, I had mentioned that there were many resenting situations and stressors in my life. Taking this much needed time out was a perfect way to not only accept the past unpleasant experiences, but also let them go and forge forward. In a way, it allowed me to come back to my world renewed and energized (once the jet lag wore off that is). I have mentioned before that time outs are crucial to having a long healthy relationship with others, as well as maintaining self-care. These time outs do not have to be short and brief, but can definitely be longer ones if required. I do not want to send the message that the vacation was a way of running away from my stressors; rather, it allowed me remove myself from the environment altogether, block them out so that I could fully enjoy my time in India. It also taught me how to recharge my life battery so that I could tackle new stressors. I feel much better now that I am back. I feel like anticipated wedding stress will be a smooth and exciting process because I will not be so bogged down by past experiences. I encourage such time outs. You do not have to take a week-long trip halfway across the world, you can take the time out by even going to a local retreat or spending the weekend away with a loved one! Embrace the time outs, allow for regeneration and utilize the time to breathe, be more mindful and allow yourself to accept and let go of your own personal stressors. *The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA
I’m breaking out. Pimples galore- small ones, big ones, very angry red ones, shy white head ones, and everything else in between. I’m not happy! Something’s going on internally for my face to break out like this. There’s no winning. It’s a constant battle. I pop one, another appears. The one that I thought I popped and cleaned out completely then comes back with a vengeance. And so the weeks continue in this order; feel a pimple from under the skin, begin face wash routine, it comes to the surface, eventually pops, and then another arises. The strategy that I’ve taken on is one that is managing the pimples as they come up, and not a proactive one to ensure they don’t come up at all. One day, after pointing to a pimple that I thought I had popped, but really came back bigger and angrier, my boyfriend finally said, “These are stress pimples”. He was right, I wasn’t denying that. He was referring to both my work and home life stress. As supportive as he is, he understands that there are only so many ways he can be helpful and the rest is on me. Work and personal life stress were accumulating and both began to bleed into each other. I was struggling with the boundaries. Became very emotional, struggled to get through the day without breaking down into tears, started getting very snippy with those I loved and the pimples were showing no signs of retreat! I needed a new strategy! I began by breaking down the causes of distress into a pie chart; the bigger the slice, the more priority. Then I decided on which slice I would like to metaphorically eat first. I started with the smaller slices. Some slices required more processing than others, but as the weeks went on, I began to notice the pie was no longer whole, but had a couple of slices left. These slices have now become common every day struggles, you know, like what to have for dinner, or what outfit will I wear? When I began to dismiss some of the stressors as unimportant and took away its power to ally with my enemy, the pimples, the pimple army also seemed to diffuse. Now, I’m left with battle scars on my face. At the end, I’m the one that is still standing and smiling, wearing my scars proudly. By working to solve a problem only as it is happening can be progressive for a short period of time. We need to be proactive in order to ensure that the problem doesn’t come back at all, and if it does, nip it in the bud before it becomes an army of pimples.
By Bhavna Verma *The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA
It’s so easy to put aside the ‘to do’ list when you’re not in the right state of mind. For example, these blogs need to be submitted bi-weekly; and I, admittedly have not been submitting the blogs on time. I’m sure there are others out there like me which makes me feel validated and normal. But the blogs are not intensive; they are literally between 350-500 words which don’t take too long to produce. So, why has it taken me so long to complete and submit them? Because, my mind, heart and soul just weren’t in it. Recently, there have been a multitude of stressors in my life that have forced me to push aside projects to the back burner. And eventually, insight hit! Suddenly, it occurred to me that I was no longer in the mood to work on the blogs or other projects. I knew that the submission date was coming up, but had no inkling to work on it. We all know that lack of excitement or the pleasure feeling from activities we enjoy is a symptom of burnout. But it is up to us to become aware of the feeling and decide how long this feeling will continue for. At some point, I had to force myself to get my act together, and jump back on the wagon. I’ve committed myself to projects, and I need to follow through with them. Once I labeled my emotion towards the pending projects, it became easier to tackle them. Another variable which I feel is important is that once you have labeled the stage of burnout, you need to inform others too, such as your boss or co-workers; or even Stephanie Ross, who diligently uploads the blogs. Support from family and friends are a must in order to come out of burnout, as it is so easy to get lost in the process. This may just make you feel even worse and perpetuate the symptoms. Express to your family and friends what support you feel you need from them, as it could be different for each person. By specifying what you need, you alleviate doubt and wonder that they may be having as they may not be sure how to help you, and unintentionally end up doing more damage than good. To me, this is also a sign of insight and awareness, as you are able to recognize what helps and what doesn’t. *The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA
Recently, I attended a 4 week workshop on Mindfulness Self Compassion. MSC to me is a combination of essential mindfulness skills- here and now but the predominant focus is on self compassion. There were many meditations throughout the 4 weeks- it almost felt like all we did was meditate. But as the weeks progressed, I began to notice something. Perhaps it was the timing of the workshop which coincided with personal struggles. Or perhaps it was an internal need to begin processing the personal struggles, and the universe was sending me a message to take the workshop. Regardless of how I got there, the point is, I got there; and I began understanding how powerful MSC can really be! I teach clients mindfulness based skills yet, never really practiced any formal exercises in my own life. Once I began implementing the skills taught in the workshop in my daily practices, self compassion became a tad bit easier. Initially, I found it difficult to show myself compassion, almost as if I did not deserve it, BUT others did. I questioned this double standard thought process and finally came to terms with the ideology that if I cannot show and give myself compassion, the compassion reserve for others will only run out. When you think about it, it makes sense. A direct proportional relationship. In order to give out compassion, you must give yourself the same amount so that the reserve is always in balance. When this finally registered, the personal struggles I was working through at the time became easier. The challenging meditations also became less challenging. And although I was in the right place at the right time, I was not ready mentally and emotionally to allow myself to open that chest locked deep away in the pits of my heart. But I was able to observe it. Scan it. And even entertain the thought that perhaps, one day, maybe someday I will open it. This is what mindfulness self-compassion has done for me, what can it do for you? *The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA
Recently, I have begun to notice how important it is to network and meet professionals within the field who are practicing in different areas. My expertise- rather, the area that I feel most comfortable working in is individuals experiencing anxiety. Recently, I got a case where the individual was going through multiple mental health concerns; emotional, anxiety, eating disorders, potential bariatric surgery, interrelationships, mood swings and all the internalizing that comes with this gamut. It was notably overwhelming for the patient and very quickly became overwhelming for me. Normally, I prefer to break the concerns down, focus on one area and as the patient begins learning new strategies to cope and manage, this will allow for a transfer of skills to the other areas that require attention. My hope was that as one area was worked on, it would also alleviate some concerns in other areas. However, with this particular case, I quickly realized that I would need to refer this patient to another professional to target areas of concern that were out of my competence. The patient expressed having great difficulty with change, and did not want to entertain the thought of meeting another professional. I felt that referring her out could do more harm than good. The patient, however, refused all ideas of being referred to another professional, even after explaining the purpose behind it. I knew I had to do something so that this patient could get the best care. I discussed with the patient, her doctor and my executive director. Everyone agreed that it would be best to bring in the professional onsite instead. This was not only outside the box thinking, but a first for our clinic. Essentially, we’re still following typical protocol of referring a patient to a professional, but we’re meeting the needs of the patient and where she is at right now. She was vocal in saying she will not be able to go to the other professional. In order to meet all the criteria, I discussed with the referring professional, and he agreed to come to the clinic and work with the patient. What does this mean? This means that the patient will be able to get her services in a place that she has deemed safe for her. It means that I will be able to focus my energy on her anxiety and areas that I am competent in working with. By spreading the blanket of services I am also alleviating stress which in turn means better self-care. It allows for an alliance to be built between two organizations as well. The most important factor that I feel this idea allows for is the intention behind it; well- being of a patient. This was only able to happen because professionals of different disciplines were able to come together and agree that a new approach would be needed in order to support this patient. At the end of it all, isn’t that the sole point of such services? *The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA
I have recently begun my own private practice, and it’s not been easy. I joined with a friend who had already taken care of most of the initial requirements for a start-up business. So the hard part was already over- so I thought. The process of getting my name out as an associate of the practice began to make me feel as if I am putting myself out there like in online dating. You know; have a catchy tag line about myself, briefly describe myself and the services I provide, my history of practice experience along with education, etc. It was quite uncomfortable initially. I hesitated telling people that I had started a new venture. I felt self-conscious and wondered if I was capable of doing the job I had set out to do. I wondered if I would get any ‘interests’, as it is referred to in the online dating world. Just as people browse through your profile online, so too did people ask about the practice. But getting that ‘like’ or ‘expressed interest’ was not easy. The more time that went by, the more I began to question the decision. Finally, a referral came through, and I had my first client. I had to be on my “A Game”, because this person could potentially give out good or bad reviews. It could either become a long term relationship, or one short lived- and we would both go our separate ways. At this point, a light bulb came on- I realized that in order to present the best part of me, I just had to be confident and real. I am not perfect, and I don’t know everything, but I needed to show that I was capable of providing the service. Scratch that, I KNOW I am capable. Just like meeting someone from the online world for a coffee or dinner, we put our best foot forward, so too would I need to in the private practice realm. And, if the rapport is there, a clinical relationship can be built. If the fit isn’t right, understanding that it’s okay and others will come. It’s just a matter of time. People will peruse through credentials and professional experience, and if they feel they can relate or click, they’ll connect. If not, they’ll continue to the next profile. *The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA
Sleep- why do we need it? I mean other than the fact that it means you won’t have to witness a very cranky Bhavna when I’ve not had much sleep. There’s got to be more to it than a happy functioning individual. There have been multiple studies on the purpose of sleep and with multiple studies, comes multiple theories. So, let’s explore some of the proposed theories! 1. Inactivity Theoryà also known as adaptive or evolutionary theory, a survival of the fittest tactic allowing animals to stay awake at night so that they would not be killed by predators. 2. Energy Conservation Theoryà reduce the amount of energy reserve so that it is available during necessary times. 3. Restorative Theoryà to replenish during sleep what was used while awake. Sleep allows for the body to rejuvenate itself. Deprived sleep will result in loss of immune function and even death in a matter of weeks. This is because the body is unable to restore major muscle groups, protein synthesis and release growth hormones which occur during sleep. Restorative theory also finds that rejuvenation allows for cognitive functioning; adenosine produced as a by-product of cells’ activities determines the body’s want for sleep. 4. Brain Plasticity Theoryà not entirely understood but critical for brain development amongst infants and young children. The restorative theory is one which I can relate to. As I mentioned, when I am sleep deprived I am easily irritable and can be very cranky. Lack of sleep impedes in my ability to remain in the moment with my clients and also proves to be a challenge when I am trying to find the words to explain a concept or express myself. Other factors such as sleep quality and amount of sleep one gets in a night are also important to sleep. Without exploring these in much detail, the essential point I would like to drive home is that sleep is critical for self-care amongst all, but particularly for counsellors. Our role requires us to be vigilant, present in the moment, alert, and mentally focused while in session. Our response- verbal and nonverbal may be the difference between life and death for some clients. Therefore, it is imperative that we begin to create a sleep regimen and give importance to our sleep not only so that we can stay alert and away from potential threat and give our minds and bodies the break it needs to be able to prepare for the next day; but also to be able to provide the best service possible to our clients.
By Bhavna Verma *The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA
With the recent changes in weather it is crucial to keep healthy and do anything possible to protect yourself from the flu. The general rule of thumb is to drink lots of fluids, get a lot of sleep and maintain a well balanced diet. With all else being equal, what about the counsellor that follows the aforementioned rules but also has a lot of stress; be it from a stressful environment, challenging clients or unsupportive peers. Even though this person is keeping healthy with a well balanced diet, getting a lot of rest and drinking a lot of fluids, they are more likely to get the flu if they have added stress compared to their peers who do not have stress. This is because the body releases cortisol, which prepares the body to either fight or flee from a stressful event. As the body is prepared for a potential threat, heart rate and blood flow increases which temporarily suppresses parts of the immune system. The more a person feels stressed, the weaker their immune system gets. If you’re an individual who experiences regular stress, here are some tips to help reduce it!
1. Get your vitamin D levels checked by your doctor. Depleted vitamin D coupled with chronic stress can result in more colds.
2. Reduce the stress in your life or eliminate it altogether. There are multitude ways you can do this: recognize what you can and cannot control, use diaphragmatic breathing to change the oxygen and carbon dioxide ratio in your body, if you’re able to figure out the triggers and cause of your stress, come up with a plan of action to address it. Set aside a time to participate in an activity you enjoy, since the FIFA games are on right now, perhaps watch a soccer match and root for your favourite team!
3. Eat a lot of raw foods.
4. Exercise regularly- if you can’t meet the recommended amount of exercising; 3 times a week for 30 minutes, try to get at least 10 minutes of vigorous exercise in daily to improve circulation of immune cells in your blood.
5. Wash your hands often.
Following all or some of the tips mentioned above will help you from catching the flu and becoming resistant to it. If you have more tips, please comment.
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/04/25/stress-and-vitamin-d-deficiency-cause-cold.aspx *The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA