Sunday, 17 September 2017

Enjoy THIS Moment

Image result for enjoy the moment quotesI was in a store a few days ago and noticed that Halloween costumes and candy filled the isles. Then, I also noticed that some stores also had Christmas supplies and decorations in their isles!

I personally love Christmas, so I was overjoyed at realizing that Christmas is just a few months away. If you've been following my blog for a while, you'll know that Christmas is my favourite holiday!

But something about this bothered me - it being September, and already seeing Christmas things in the store. Don't get me wrong - I love the Christmas spirit! But isn't it strange how we aren't taking the time to enjoy the current moment, and are already jumping three months ahead?

This got me thinking: we live in a world today that runs from one thing to the next. We finish one thing, only to cross it off our list and get to the other things. We anticipate holidays months in advance so much that we might not realize that another holiday - coming sooner - is just as important. We get up and go to work or school and are thinking about next week, before even meeting the events of the day.

Image result for enjoy the moment quotesI will be the first to admit that this is how I operate, too. Life has become a constant shuffle from one thing to the next. It is busy. It is rushed. It is full of obligations, events, responsibilities, etc. Technology has made us have access to things we never thought were possible. Products and services have evolved in incredible ways. And while all of this is fantastic and speaks to the advances we have made, I think it is really important to be more mindful of the current moment.

Being mindful in the current state means trying to enjoy where you are now. Waking up and trying to focus on the day and what you will do today - and not five months in advance. Taking some time to enjoy the beautiful weather today offers, the current powerful relationships you have in your life, the successes you have accomplished, and the goals you have set. Of course, this doesn't mean you shouldn't plan ahead and be organized or prioritize what you will do tomorrow or next week - it simply means not getting so absorbed in the next moment that you forget to enjoy the present.

Related imageIt is definitely not an easy task, given the world we live on and how busy we all become. One helpful tip that I have found works for me is to catch myself in my thoughts. When I start thinking of things months in advance that I need not worry about now, I remind myself of where I am. Today is xxx, and I am doing zzz. I need not think far in advance, because I will miss out on the blessings of today. If I can plan for something in advance, I can do this within reason - but not obsessively. And, by all means, I must not let my plans for tomorrow stop me from enjoying the beauty of today.

Friday, 11 August 2017

What is Resilience?

Related imageResilience. You may have heard of this word before. To many of us, resilience may mean something along the lines of 'being able to endure hardships and moving forward'. But for some of us, resilience might simply mean having the strength to carry on today and not even thinking about tomorrow. Resilience could mean coping with a negative experience and trying to manage our lives, despite the pain that it may have caused.

I think the easiest and most basic way of looking at resilience is this: we all deal with challenging experiences. Resilience implies some form of emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental coping with these situations that enables us to acknowledge our suffering, but to cope with it and attempt to adapt and adjust our lives accordingly.

Why do I put resilience this way? Because some individuals will try to say that resilience means experiencing something challenging, but then 'forgetting about it' and 'moving on' because the past is in the past, and you are stronger now. While it is true that experiences teach us lessons, it is not - in my opinion - acceptable or effective to tell someone to move on and forget about it. We are a sum of our experiences - positive and negative. It is quite another thing to tell the person that though the challenge was difficult and perhaps traumatizing, it may be helpful to be thankful that the experience is over. Or to reflect on one's ability to navigate through this tough time and to be alive today.

Image result for resilienceResilience, to me, means understanding that tough times can - do most certainly do - occur. When we go through something challenging, we are (of course!) challenged to make decisions: do we give in to the hopelessness and fatigue? Do we fight and try to find a way out? But what if we cannot control what is happening? What if we feel as though we are truly stuck? In those scenarios, resilience means acknowledging that, to be blunt, 'this sucks'. Then, it means looking for a way to cope with the situation. Can you do something - anything - to handle the issue? If you can, do it! If you cannot, how can you cope with the emotions, the pain, and the circumstances that you are now facing?

I will admit: when faced with tough and troubling times, I start to freak out. I am frustrated by what is happening. I am tired of unpredictable and 'sucky' things happening. I get angry with how life is full of problems and trials....and then, I talk to someone I trust. I let out my emotions. I think about my own strengths inside of me - the passion, resilience, and perseverance that has kept me sighting my entire life. I think about the knowledge and skills I have that make me unique and talented. I think about my loyalty and love as a healthcare provider, student, friend, sister, daughter, and young woman. I remember the strength and power of my God, who is above all things and has never - or will ever - leave me. And then, I think about the situation. What can I do? Then I do it. Okay - now, how can I make myself relax a bit? Can I take a break? Can I simply acknowledge that I have done what I can, leave it to God and time, and hope for the best? YES. Because life will always be throwing things our way. And building resilience means dealing with the situation as it comes, letting it play out (assuming you have done what you needed or could do), and looking forward to the next minute of life. Having hope, faith, and trust that things will get better. Because they do. Taking care of myself in in ways that enable me to face challenges and life head-on. Knowing that I am enough.

Related imageThat, to me, is resilience. I am working on building resilience in life - we all have to. I don't think that one day, one will ever be able to say that they are 100% resilient in all situations. But, we can take small steps such as engaging in self-care, catching in negative thoughts, finding ways to remain motivated, etc. in order to build resilience to the hurdles and roller-coasters of life. And once you start doing this, you will realize that some problems in life really aren't that bad at all. Sure, it is unfortunate that they happen. But with the right tools and coping skills, you realize that you are ABLE to overcome this. You are ENOUGH. You are STRONG. You are, my dear reader, RESILIENT.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Published again! The Grass is Greener on the Other Side...?

Image result for after rain there is a rainbowI am blessed that my writing has been again featured on Fr. Anthony's website. Read it here! (And feel free to leave your comments/thoughts there).

We all face tough moments; sometimes, these can be extremely taxing and difficult to endure. We are often told to 'stick it through' because it will get better. "The grass is greener on the other side!", we are told.

But that does not always help. When we are experiencing challenging times, we need hope. And sometimes, thinking that things might get better soon (that the other side is greener) makes us more frustrated because we simply do not see a way out of our misery.

Instead, it might be helpful to realize that the situation we are experiencing now is tough. YES. Validate your feelings - your emotions are real. It is okay to be tired, angry, and distraught. But then...know that whatever you are going through has a purpose. You will learn something from this. You will grow somehow. Perhaps you will gain insight into a bad habit that you need to break, or maybe you will learn to appreciate the simple things in life. Maybe this hard time will open doors for you that you never considered before.

Image result for yea though i walkRegardless of the outcome, know this: God is working in your life at all times. You need not worry that things are 'random' in your life without a purpose. God often allows us to endure tough times because they are preparing us for something more, and because they remind us to depend on Him. 

Don't waste your time focusing on the grass on the other side. Your field of grass is just fine - it is simply in the process of renewal. Your obstacles are like the rain - difficult to endure now...but after the thunder, the grass is watered and alive again. It thrives. And you will, too.


Sunday, 18 June 2017

Summer!

Image result for weatherI LOVE summer weather! It just makes me so happy to see the sun shining outside, the beautiful trees and flowers, the birds singing...how lovely. Nature is truly amazing.

The weather has major impacts on our mood and even motivation. Think about a rainy day: how motivated do you feel to work? Study? Clean? Do ANYTHING? Probably not much.

Now think of a sunny day. All we want to do is go out and have fun, garden, see new places, enjoy new foods, spend time with family and friends, etc.

It is amazing how the sun can make me feel so much happier. I have noticed that when it is sunny outside, I feel happier. I even feel more motivated to study! But when it is cloudy, I feel gloomy. I look outside, and all I want to do is sleep!

Image result for when the sun goes down the stars come upThere is definitely a scientific correlation to this: several studies, such as this one have shown that serotonin, one of the neurotransmitters (or brain chemicals) that makes us feel happy, is stimulated by sunshine. So, more sun might mean that more serotonin is made and released, which makes us feel more relaxed and happy.

This is why a treatment modality for some types of depression can include light therapy, or going outside in the sunshine.

Now, does this mean we cannot possibly be happy if it is not sunny outside? Absolutely not! For me, I have found that reminding myself of the beauty of nature in general makes me feel more productive. For example, rain means nourishment for grass and flowers. It means the flowers will grow. It even means that the roads get cleaner! It is a sign of the beautiful works of God.

Image result for this is the day the lord has made let us rejoice and be glad in itIt is really amazing how much pondering on the beauty of nature can help with mood changes or feelings of 'ickiness' when it is rainy or cold outside. Think of how wonderful nature is. Think of how each season and the weather changes brings changes in nature, animals, trees, plants, and so forth. Think of how every weather condition is a reminder of LIFE: whether that be your life, plants, animals, or flowers. And life is beautiful, in all seasons.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Watch my latest presentation!

Image result for primed conference logoI am very honoured and blessed to have been asked by the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine to give a presentation at PriMed 2017, the annual largest conference for healthcare professionals in Canada!

I was invited to speak about my own experience with anorexia nervosa, and to integrate research and guidelines about how clinicians can identify, treat, and manage patients with eating disorders. This was a great experience! I had the opportunity to share my story, but also use this to help doctors and nurses understand how they can effectively support their patients towards recovery from this illness. 

Image result for mental illness quotesEating disorders (EDs) are mental illnesses. There are documented brain changes that occur in patients with eating disorders, and these alterations in neurotransmitters (or brain 'chemicals') make recovery, eating, and weight gain extremely challenging. Recovery is a hard, painful process. The emotional and mental struggles that patients endure are difficult.

However, there is hope. I am proof of that. Recovery is always possible. Fighting ED takes time, dedication, strength, and bravery. Patients need to feel understood, supported, loved, and cared for. They are not to blame for their illness. They need to know that this will be a hard road. The only way out is to go through it. But they can do it.

Image result for hope quotesI hope you enjoy this video, and that you learn something about EDs and mental health. And remember - the principles of support, care, and empathy applies not only to EDs, but to all illnesses in general. Patients need to feel that they are not to blame. There is no guilt or shame in being ill. Patients need to also know that recovery is possible. And experiencing difficulty and pain (whether physical, mental, or emotional) is normal, and expected. But they can rise above these challenges. Often, getting better from an illnesses means that you have to do things that aren't particularly comfortable or fun. And going through this, you might feel tired, frustrated, and hopeless. You may even want to give up. But you can do it. You can get better, one step at a time. Never blame yourself for having moments when things feel too hard or overwhelming. Pick yourself up again and find a reason - anything - to carry on. It might be your dreams of a job, your love for your family, your desire for strength and freedom, your spiritual life, or more. Whatever is important to you - use that as motivation. Because you can do it. And you are not alone.

You are strong. You are worthy. You are enough. You deserve to be well. You deserve to be happy. You deserve to be healthy.
 Image result for count it all joy verse

Friday, 28 April 2017

STOP THAT THOUGHT!

Image result for your mind has the powerOur thoughts have a major impact on our feelings and actions. I know what you're thinking - this is something we all know already! But lately, I have truly felt this happen in my life. And I wanted to reflect with you all on this important topic.

It is no surprise that life can get crazy at times. Right now, I find myself being overwhelmed by many things to do. I have to study, volunteer, go to Church, spend time with friends and family, think about my future career and life goals, concentrate on my health, engage in self-care, and so forth.

And at times, I simply do not want to do anything at all. Nothing. Not sleep. Not work. Not eat. Not play. Not study. Not spend time with anyone. Not spend time with myself. NOTHING. I am bored, tired, and exhausted.

Life is pointless. There is too much to do and no time to do it.

I am bored and frustrated. I cannot do all of these things, and I feel that it is impossible.

Image result for what lies behind us and what lies before usI have no idea what the future will bring, and this makes me anxious.

I wish I was like XXX. I wish I could do ZZZ. I wish I was YYY. Then, everything would be better.

And the list in my head goes on and on. If I don't stop myself soon, things will get worse - I'll keep thinking these thoughts, I'll become more sad and angry, and I'll never do anything in my life. 

So, what is one to do? The most helpful thing I have found is to think of something positive in my life. Anything. Yesterday, it was the fact that the sun was shining so nicely outside. The day before, it was that my family was alive and healthy, and that we were all together. Perhaps tomorrow, it will be the fact that I get to study medicine - my dream. Or that I am healthy and well. Or that my friends are there for me when I need to talk. You get the idea...thinking of something positive or something that we are thankful for can change our thoughts.

Image result for courage doesn't mean absence fear But, let's be real: does this eliminate the negative thoughts completely? No. Does this mean that my life is INSTANTLY ALL BETTER AND EVERYTHING IS GREAT AGAIN? No, of course not. But what it does do is force me to slow down. To take a nice, slow deep breath. And to silence all the negativity. To realize that despite the challenges and tough times, there is still some good in my life.

It also reminds me of my strength. I am a fighter. My head might be racing with a million thoughts about how busy and loaded I am. My heart may be beating and telling me that I'm on the run and that there is no time to relax. But this one positive thought stops this. This happy thought of thanks or appreciation or optimism reminds me that....

It is going to be okay. I will be okay. I will get through this. 

Because we always do. We face challenges. And we feel scared, anxious, tired, and angry. But then we muster our courage and strength, gather our resources, focus....and....before you know it, you've overcome the obstacle. You made it through.

Image result for happiness is an attitudeYour thoughts have a major impact on your emotions and thoughts. If you can think happy or positive thoughts, you can gain control over some hardships in your life. If you can change a bad thought into a good thought, you can remain calm and do what you need to do. If you can allow yourself to feel a difficult emotion, but then remind yourself of a strength you possess or a positive aspect in your life, you will persevere.

This is not easy. I have in no way mastered this ability - I still have to work on transforming negative thoughts into positive ones. I'm working on trying to stop a negative thought, think about it, challenge it, and then transform that thought into one that allows me to feel comforted, in control, strong, and thankful.

Image result for being thankful thoughtsThis is a goal that I have, and I challenge you to join me in changing our negative thoughts. I'm  starting to notice the difference this has brought upon in my health, my emotions, my productivity, my ability to concentrate, my strength, my happiness, and so on. Challenging negative thoughts is not easy, and it takes time. And just because it works today, this does not mean that I will not struggle tomorrow.

But it DOES mean that I am stronger. I have overturned an unhealthy thought today. And I will do this again tomorrow. And the day after that. Because practice makes perfect. And a healthy thought = healthy emotions = healthy body = healthy life. And that is worth fighting for.


Thursday, 23 March 2017

Keep Pushing Through

Image result for life is crazyLife. Is. Crazy.

Today has been one of those days when I am absolutely exhausted. There has been so much going on. My days at school have been long and full of lectures, studying, and so forth. I've been trying to catch up with my friends, and finding time to balance this with everything else is challenging.

Oh, yes. And all the while, I'm trying to make sure I stay healthy and sane!

At one point today, I just had this feeling of complete exasperation. WHAT IS THE POINT OF ALL THIS?! Why do we have to be so busy? Why is life so complex? Why do we have to feel stressed? Why did I choose such a hard and busy career path?

I began thinking about what I would be doing if I wasn't studying medicine, or taking care of my health. Or spending time with my friends and family.

Image result for the pain todayAnd to be honest, I couldn't think of what else I would rather be doing.

YES. Life can get stressful. Yes, studying and work is hard. Yes, time is limited. Yes, there will be days when you don't want to do anything but stay in bed all day and worry about nothing.

BUT....would you really have it any other way? You may find that work and studying is stressful, but if you enjoy it, you can cope with it. Balancing your time and finding moments to spend with loves ones is difficult, but these are the experiences that keep you grounded and happy. Facing problems and having to solve them is complicated, but these situations give you wisdom and strength.

I'm busy. I might be a little stressed. I may feel tired at the end of a long day. Time might feel limited. But I wouldn't trade this for anything else in the world. I am doing what I love. I am spending time with people I cherish. I am focusing on my health and well-being.

Image result for tomorrow will be a better dayAnd my happiness.

And that, dear readers, is worth every moment of worry, fatigue, and frustration. Because there is always a light at the end of every tunnel. Because tough times never last. Because you will get through this.