Saturday, 25 April 2020

Coping during COVID

Right now more than ever, we need to be compassionate with ourselves. We need to understand that this is a great time of uncertainty, changes, and challenges. During this pandemic, we can get caught up in anxiety, stress, and frustration.
So as a gentle reminder, let us remember to be compassionate with ourselves. Remember that:
How to cope with stress during COVID-19 outbreak - Taian 1) No one is perfect

2) Struggles and challenges - and even mistakes - do not define us

3) We are not valuable or loved because of our appearances or accomplishments. While looking 'good' and being successful are important, we are worthy regardless of these

4) Being gentle and kind to ourselves means understanding that we are enough. But it also means that we can always grow and improve

As we practice compassion to ourselves, it is helpful to have some coping statements to keep us focused on our values, goals, and dreams. There are different coping statements you can repeat at various times in your life. You can even make your own!

Now, let's be real: sometimes you can say a statement to yourself - and it won't 'make anything better'. You might not even believe what you are telling yourself! If this happens, why should you use the phrases at all?
Well, the reality is that the more you repeat or tell yourself something, the more you will believe it. The brain is very adaptive. Your mind will learn what you tell it. So, if you repeat negative thoughts all day, you will begin to believe them. Similarly, if you repeat coping phrases, you'll internalize them as well!

I encourage you to either search for coping statements, or think of your own. Repeat them to yourself, and reflect on what you are actually saying. For example, one of my favourite statements is 'you can do hard things'. To me, this means that regardless of what challenges I may face, I will get through them. I will survive. I may have to work hard for it, and it might be painful, worrisome, uncomfortable, or even distressing and frustrating. But I CAN DO IT. 

During the COVID pandemic, please take care of yourselves. Follow the rules and recommendations around self-isolation, hand hygiene, and social distancing. 

COVID-19 (coronavirus): 6 Tips for Coping with the Stress ...And of course, practice self-compassion. Get up, get dressed, and do your work. Eat, sleep, exercise, play, work, and relax. Stay in contact with loved ones using virtual means. Pray to God. Use this time as a gift. Although it is stressful and different for all of us, we will get through this time. We can decide to use the pandemic as a reminder to come back to God, to break certain habits, to learn new things, and to remember what is truly important in our lives.
Let’s count our blessings. Let’s choose to make today worth living. Let’s be kind – to others, and to ourselves.
Please, stay safe. And pray for the world during COVID.
‘I can’t. But HE CAN’.

30 inspirational quotes to lift you up - Kids Help Phone

Friday, 27 March 2020

It's my birthday!

Today marks my 27th birthday...and what a year it has been!
Birthday Prayers for Myself | Thank God for Another Birthday
This year, I can honestly say that I am the healthiest and happiest I have ever been.

The past year has been FULL of challenges, changes, and growths in my life. I started my first year of Family Medicine Residency. I found a therapist who was absolutely the best fit for me. I allowed myself to feel all my emotions, and to accept them. I challenged so many ED rules. I started taking more care of myself, my body, my mind, my emotions, and my faith. I reached out to friends and family for support.

I cried. I yelled. I laughed. I smiled. And best of all...

I made it. Today is a gift. Looking back on this past year, I can see how every experience I encountered led to my growth. It was all for the good. There were many days this past year when I felt exhausted because of work. Fatigued from my therapy homework. Saddened by the events taking place in the world. Frustrated by my emotions.

And, yet, I am proud. Proud because I felt fearful, and stayed strong. Because I tolerated distress. Because I challenged myself to keep fighting. Because I was there for my patients. Because I was there for my students. I strove to be the best daughter, doctor, daughter, friend, coworker, sister, and individual I could be.

I let go of habits that, while felt familiar, no longer served me. I let go of rules that the eating disorder still held onto. I challenged my thoughts, forcing myself to go through the discomfort, in order to come out stronger on the other side.

morgan harper nichols | TumblrIt was ever so painful. And tough. And uncomfortable.

And it was ever so worth it. 

Today, as I celebrate my 27th birthday, I am thankful for the strength that God gave - and continues to give - me. I am thankful for the wonderful, supportive people in my life who love me unconditionally - and who are always there for me. I am thankful for my patients, mentors, and students, who teach me new things each day. I am thankful for my therapist, who shows me compassion and challenges me at the same time.

I am thankful to MYSELF for refusing to give up. For knowing that recovery was possible and worth it. For pushing through the hardest times, hopeful that recovery and a life worth living would be attainable.

And it is. It truly is. 

'Life is tough, my darling, and so are you'.

Thank you, everyone, for being here for me. Know that whatever you are facing - it will pass. You can do hard things. You are not alone. Your future self will thank you for going through this tough time. Give yourself compassion. Take care of your body and mind - because you only have one life. Live according to your values. Be brave. Be bold. Be YOU.

Psalm 94:18-19 — Verse of the Day for 08/23/2018

Sunday, 23 February 2020

Values-Based Living (VBL) Part Two: Why are your Values Important to You?

Image result for values quotesIn part one of this series, we started by identifying our values - the things in life that are most important to us. In this post, we will dive deeper into exactly WHY we value the things we do.

This might seem obvious. For example, I value health because it helps me live my life and accomplish my goals. Stop for a second and reread that sentence - health allows me to achieve my dreams. Just writing this out helped me realize that whenever things get crazy in life (as they often do), I need to keep health a priority. Because if I am not healthy, I cannot do anything in life. Therefore, because I value health, it would make sense that my actions, thoughts, and behaviours should be in keeping with those that promote health. This includes adequate sleep, nutrition, exercise, social time, spiritual connection, humour, hobbies, etc.

Do you see what I mean? By reflecting on WHY our values are important to us - or why they are values in the first place (!), we can begin to consider how we can live a life that is in line with our values.

Image result for live to your valuesLet's try another example. One of your values may be family - spending time with those that you love. We all know that family time is essential for our well-being, but what do you do when work gets stressful, you have too many deadlines, life is hectic, etc? How do you balance this with spending time with family?

This is where outlining WHY this value is important to you can help. You may value your family because they understand you when no one else does. They support you. They encourage you to be the best you can be, and they respect you during your friendly and not-so-friendly moments. They are always there for me, even when life gets busy. Knowing this, you can take a step today that helps you get in touch with family. Perhaps you are too busy to spend an entire day with them. Can you call your parents to check on them? Can you stop by your siblings' home to say hello? Can you send a simple text message to say 'i love you' or 'thank you'?

Practicing this exercise allows us to not only realize why we value the things we do, but to also see that values are rarely - if ever - 'black or white'. What this means is that if you value something, there is not necessarily ONE WAY to fulfill this value in your life. If it is something that is important to you, you CAN and WILL find a way to allow this value to be encompassing in your life.

Image result for core values quoteOne of the nicest feelings is when we live according to our values. Even when life gets frustrating and tiring, acting and incorporating our values into our days makes things easier. If you value faith, simply lifting your heart to God can turn a depressing day into one that is slightly easier to handle. If you value solitude, treating yourself to a nice meal or warm bath can make all the difference. If you value honesty, apologizing and owning up to a mistake you made can be freeing.

I encouarge you to do this activity: after idenitfying your values, find out your 'whys'. WHY do you value what you do? Why is this important to you? In what ways can you act, think, feel, speak, behave, etc. in order to live according to these values?

When you know your 'whys', you cannot be shaken. You can stand firm, knowing that regardless of how difficult life gets, you owe it to yourself to live in accordance to what you cherish and value. 

Image result for you have made known

Thursday, 23 January 2020

Values-Based Living (VBL) - Part One: Identify Your Values

Image result for live according to your valuesWhat do you value? We often say that we value relationships, health, work, relaxation, etc. What does it mean to focus and live according to your values?

This is part one in a series about values-based living (VBL). This is going to be a good one, so stick around!

Values-based living focuses on the premise that we all hold things near to our hearts and souls - concepts or aspects of our lives that are highly important to us. This site has more information on what it means to live according to our values.

Core values are things we cannot compromise in our lives. When we don't live or act (or make decisions) according to our values, we feel stuck, uncomfortable, irritable, hopeless, and...not 'right'. Let's look at this by using an example. Sarah really values her time with her family and friends. But recently, she took on extra hours at work - which she enjoys, because she enjoys it. She also needs the extra money, too. But, after a few weeks, she no longer is excited about going to work. She is irritable, not sleeping well, and is tired. Her muscles ache, and her appetite is sporadic. She misses her time with her loved ones, and feels that she needs more of her human connections. You see, Sarah values work, but she also values health and relationships. And though she 'stuck' to her value of working hard and enjoying it, it came at the expense of sacrificing her other core values. Is the solution to simply quit work? No! Sarah simply needs to step back and re-examine her life and values. Then, she can look at how she can try to integrate her core values across the different areas of her life.

Image result for values listStep one is to identify your values. There are many resources out there that list values - you can easily pick 10, 20, or even 50 of them! I have found it helpful to pick my top 5 values at first, and to focus on those. The picture in this post has some examples of values - take a look at them and list 5 of them that speak out to you.

I'll start. (This is HARD!). My top five values, at this moment are (in alphabetical order):
1) Compassion
2) Faith
3) Health
4) Relationships
5) Work

Actually, I can think of a lot more that are equally as important to me! I also highly value acceptance, courage, wisdom, reading, integrity, professionalism, strength, gratitude...oh my!

This is an extremely helpful activity. By outlining some of the things that I value in life, I instantly became more in-tune to my life. I thought about what is important to me, what I cherish, and what things I cannot compromise in my life.

I encourage you to start with this - identify some of your core values. In the next post of this series, we will see how we can take steps to align our lives with our values.

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Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Lessons as 2019 closes, and welcoming in 2020!!!

Related imageCHRISTMAS! You know that this is my favourite time of the year. The music, the colours, the lights, the treats, the is such a magical time.

This year has been a VERY different Christmas for me. Let me explain: I used to put up my decorations in early December...and then do nothing else until Christmas arrived. Then, we would open gifts, celebrate with the family...and Christmas would be over.

As I have come along my journey towards practicing more self-compassion and self-care (more on that in upcoming posts in 2020 - keep your eyes open for it and subscribe to the blog for updates!), I realized that Christmas need not be a 'day' event. What do I mean by this?

We spend so much time decorating, shopping, etc...leading up to Christmas. Then, the day arrives, we celebrate, and then - just like that - it is over. I think oftentimes, this leaves us with 'post-holiday blues'. And then all we can do is wait until the next holiday, hoping for another magical time upon us.

Image result for christmas all year quotesSo, what did I do differently this year? I decided that this year, Christmas would truly be a SEASON in my life. Not a 'one day and done' event. As I prepared the way for Christ's precious birth, I chose to make Christmas truly special...

To begin with, I still put my decorations up. But I also made a conscious effort to get CREATIVE this year. For example, who says that my tree needs to be topped with the same star we used every year? This year, we bought a new tree topper and used that instead. Or, why do the stairs always need to have the same garlands on them? Why not use lights? We even bought some supplies and sewed/crafted together our own ornaments! (With Christmas music playing the background, of course!). You may be wondering...what's the point of THAT? Well, dear readers, this is a big deal for me. Normally, I wouldn't put in any effort to 'changing things up' with decorations, let alone make my own! But this year, I wanted to embrace the spirit of Christmas. The spirit that is open to things being new, unknown, and surprising. The spirit that welcomes Christmas as being a time of preparation, of putting our skills and hearts to good use.

Related imageWhat else did I do? I thought more about OTHERS. I thought about which food banks or toy drives needed donations, and I contributed to them. I thought about my friends and family members who I knew would be lonely at this time, and I texted/emailed/called them. I wished each person I met at work - and even in stores - a Merry Christmas. I also thought more about MYSELF. I thought about the things that truly bring me joy and are aligned with my values (sneak peak! more about this in 2020 as well!) - and noted which habits were serving me, and which were not. I got honest with myself about what I was proud of, and what I wanted to begin doing more or less of. I thought about how I could be a pleasant, loving, compassionate, and supportive daughter/sister/friend/professional in the world.

I also thought more about GOD. I thanked Him - everyday - for things that I was so incredibly blessed to have. Opening myself up to gratitude (AGAIN - more in 2020 on this topic!) made me realize just how fortunate I am. I began to notice and be more mindful of the 'little things' I often took for granted, like being ABLE to celebrate Christmas with loved ones, having a house to sleep in during harsh winter nights, having the luxury of eating and drinking warm meals, being able to wear comfortable clothes, and more. I thanked God for my struggles, because even in those, I was able to see and have faith that these were a greater purpose (you guessed it! More on this in the new year!).

Image result for true meaning of christmasThis past year, I have grown in so many ways that I never imagined. I have been brought down to my knees, worrying and pushing through challenges. But I have also experienced true happiness, connection, health, and peace. The spirit of Christmas made me realize, as the song days, 'everyday can be Christmas day'. What does this mean?

To me, it means carrying on the beautiful joys of Christmas throughout the year. It means being kind to others and myself. It means getting out of my comfort zone, embracing change, opening up to creativity, and learning new things. It means spreading hope, love, support, and courage to others. It means allowing myself to be vulnerable, to accept challenges, and show myself and others grace. It means thanking Christ for all He has given me - even when I cannot fully grasp how certain events can work together for my good.

Christmas is a time of preparation for Christ. It is an opportunity to be with others, to look carefully at our lives, and decide that just as we get ready for Jesus, so we too can get ready for new things in our lives. We can grow and change. We can spread love and peace. We can use the joys of Christmas to motivate us into the new year, 2020, to know that blessings are all around us.

And on that note, moving forward into 2020, we are going to explore my 'lessons learned'. We are going to dig deep into topics such as:

Image result for happy new year quotes gratitude-self-care
-radical acceptance
-joyful living
-values-based living
-connections and relationships
-facing fears

....and more! It's going to be one heck of a year at Health is Wealth - so subscribe now to keep up with these posts, and check back often for new additions!

And from my heart to yours - Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Thank you for all the readers who have been with me along this journey, watching this blog unfold from the the start of my journey in the hospital to where I am now. And to those who are new - welcome. I hope this blog continues to be a source of inspiration, curiosity, and support to you all. Thank you for your dedication, love, and care. I am so incredibly fortunate to have this space, to have all of you. I wish you all a wonderful Holiday season - and don't forget to sparkle and shine, making the most of every moment each day brings.  

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Sunday, 17 November 2019

CBT - Part One: What is CBT?

Image result for cbtI'm sure you've heard of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) before. Actually, I think I have mentioned it a couple of times as well. Simply put, CBT aims at changing your thoughts from distorted to more realistic. It takes a lot of time, as you may imagine, to actually do this. However, CBT is promising, as results from numerous studies show that it can be very helpful to people who suffer from various mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, or even a difficult time in life.

This link has a great mini-guide on what CBT is.

CBT is about the connection between our thoughts, actions, and feelings. They are related and impact one another. Consider this: you FEEL anxious because you have a work deadline coming up. Then, you THINK 'oh, no. I'll never get this done! I'll be yelled at by my boss. I am a failure!'. You may find that instead of being productive and doing your work, you isolate yourself, cry, feelexhausted...or even use a coping skill that is not effective (ex. smoke, over or under eat, alcohol, etc.).

Related imageTo change this, we need to reflect on the 'steps' that connected our thoughts, actions, and behaviours. Did the thought, action, or feeling trigger the others? Why and how? Often, it is our perception of events that trigger certain thoughts, which lead to emotions. We'll go into more detail about some of these thought patterns in another post, but for now, I want you to think of a moment where you felt horrible. Angry, sad, tired, worried, etc. because of an event or experience in your life. Now, consider:

1) What are my thoughts about myself or about this tough situation?2) What makes me feel this way? What evidence do I have that this is true?
3) What evidence tells me that this thought is not true?
4) What would anyone else in this position feel like? What would they do?
5) How is this affecting my life? How do I wish I could feel right now?
6) What can I do to make myself realize that what I feel is not the best for me? Who can help me? What actions can make me feel in control/relaxed/happy?

If you think about a situation with these few questions in mind, you will start to realize where your feelings or thoughts (or both!) went 'off the charts' and what you can do to 'counteract' these. I know it is easier said than done. Sometimes, it can be helpful to identify the type of thought pattern you are experiencing, as this can help you determine 'why' it is not true or helpful - more on the in another post in this CBT series!
Image result for what frightens and dismays

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Acceptance does not mean approval!

Image result for accept does not mean approvalWe have discussed what it means to accept something - to accept something means to acknowledge that it 'is what it is'. It does not necessarily involve LIKING what is happening...and I think this is where many of us struggle.

For example, imagine a tough day: you are late for work, you got into an argument with a friend or loved one, you spilled coffee on your shirt...oh, man. What a day! To top it all of, you are stuck in traffic on your way home, and you remember that you have an assignment due tomorrow. Or an overdue bill. And burst. This. is. too. much.

You feel tired, angry, frustrated, and 'up to your limit'. You feel the tension and fatigue in your muscles, the strain in your neck and back, and the ache in your heart. You have every feeling to just scream. Or cry. Or both. Actually - you don't even know WHAT you need. You just feel...awful.

The hardest thing to do in these times is to just...accept. Yup, you heard me. Accept that it is what it is. You might not be able to change what is happening in your life now. You might not be able to control the circumstances, people, events, etc. What CAN you control? You can control how you deal with the situation. You might not APPROVE of what is happening. But you can ACCEPT it. You can accept that what is happening now, to be blunt, sucks. And you can notice, observe, and accept that you feel terrible, irritated, sad, lonely, etc.

Image result for common humanity self compassionDoes that mean you are happy with what is going on? Does it mean that feeling this way is easy and that it will pass immediately? Definitely NOT! The difficult moments, emotions, and thoughts may very well continue for a while. And this is something you cannot necessarily change. So, instead of fighting it, instead of asking 'why', instead of blaming yourself for your emotions - just accept them. 

You will start to notice that the less you judge yourself for having tough/sad/frustrated feelings and thoughts, the faster they pass. This is because you allow yourself to be HUMAN - to feel things. To go through the waves of ups and downs in life - which we all experience. This is the principle of 'common humanity' - see this site for more information on this (by the way, Kristen Neff's work on self-compassion is WONDERFUL! We will talk about this in future posts).

Image result for common humanity self compassion
What is the take-away? Emotions and thoughts - even when they are very uncomfortable, terrifying, and hurtful - will pass. In these times, don't try to push them away. Don't judge yourself. Don't think too much about it. Instead, let things be. You don't have to approve of how you feel. You don't have to approve (or believe) your thoughts at the time, especially if they are of despair, hopelessness, etc. But you CAN accept them. You can let them play their role, and pass, like a train on a track. A cloud in the sky. Are these metaphors overused? Possibly. But it is only when you TRULY practice these principles of acceptance that you can grasp just how powerful this is.

The more you practice non-judgmental acceptance of what you are going through, the easier it will be for you to recuperate, to overcome the challenges in life, and to make a plan to face whatever it is you are dealing with.

Image result for acceptance quotesRepeat to yourself: I might not like what is happening. I might hate the fact that I cannot control this, and that I feel awful, uncomfortable, worried, scared....etc. But it is what it is. Rather than trying to deny my emotions, to resist my emotions, or to struggle with them, I will let them be. I will honor that I am having a tough moment now, but I also know that it will pass. Everyone experiences moments like this - I am not alone in this. It will pass - I have 100% record of all my previous days and moments passing.

This, too, shall pass. I may not approve or like what is happening, but I can accept it.