Self-Awareness

What’s So Great About Workshops?

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Why do I love facilitating workshops? I was asked this recently in an interview I did with Jessica from Birth Takes a Village on post-partum rage (video being posted soon!)

What I love about facilitating workshops is: bringing people together with what might be an otherwise unknown commonality, and creating a space for safe and empowering discussion and self-exploration.

I am always so excited when I create workshops to be able to share information about topics I am passionate about, and helping others to foster self-awareness and take steps towards their goals.

Workshops are a perfect place to start exploring a topic or area that you are interested in. It can be a gateway to starting therapy or an addition or any work you are already doing on yourself (with or without a professional).

Check out my website for more info on my upcoming workshops: www.theessenceofyou.ca/events

^ Private workshops and Individual Counselling sessions are also available by appointment if you’d rather explore these topics 1-1.

JEN IS A COUNSELLOR AND PSYCHOTHERAPIST IN CALGARY, ALBERTA. JEN OFFERS WORKSHOPS AS WELL AS INDIVIDUAL COUNSELLING ONLINE & IN PERSON IN CALGARY, ALBERTA. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN BOOKING A SESSION WITH HER OR ATTENDING ONE OF HER GROUPS OR WORKSHOPS, VISIT THE ESSENCE OF YOU WEBSITE OR CONTACT JEN DIRECTLY.

Book into Jen’s Workshops below:

Post-Partum RAGE

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Do you ever feel so angry that you just can't control it?

What do you think is underneath your anger, frustration or rage? What is it trying to tell you? 

If you are reading this, you have probably felt rage, intense anger or frustration since becoming a mother.  Post-partum rage can be unexpected, out of context, uncharacteristic and uncontrollable (Robin Farr, Post-Partum Progress). While anger and rage are both symptoms of post-partum depression and post-partum anxiety, it is also a common experience for women who don't relate to the other symptoms of PPD/A. Feeling rage is a common, but rarely spoken about experience of women in the post-partum period; and it often leaves women feeling afraid and ashamed of their experience. 

What's this about? In my counselling practice, I frequently hear mothers share that they feel shame for any unpleasant or negative feelings/reactions that they have - and this shame stops these women from speaking up and getting the connection and support that they need. Is this you? 

Women go through so many changes in the days, weeks, months, and YEARS after they birth their babies! It can be easy to get lost in this and find yourself feeling angry and rage-y and not understanding why. 

"Anger is an emotion of self-protection. It may involve an effort to prevent injury or specify a boundary. It is a common response to having been threatened, hurt, or scared... Anger can escalate to rage when the threat is extreme..." - Babette Rothschild on unresolved trauma in her book The Body Remembers.

Getting to know your anger/rage, spending time with it and figuring out the root of it is a necessary step towards moving towards making positive, long term changes. When your primary goal is to push the anger away and make it stop, it will just keep coming back again and again. Anger is a SECONDARY EMOTION. What does this mean? It means that there is always another emotion lurking beneath the anger. Getting to these underlying emotions is an essential part of the process if you want to see shifts in how you experience anger.

"When we embrace anger and take good care of
our anger, we obtain relief. We can look deeply into
it and gain many insights." - Thich Nhat Hanh

There are many strategies you can use to help you manage your triggers and become less reactive, and I encourage all of my clients to do this part! And although it might seem scary and maybe even counter-intuitive, I also encourage deeper exploration of the anger itself, and the most important part - allowing it to be there without resistance. 

JEN IS A COUNSELLOR AND PSYCHOTHERAPIST IN CALGARY, ALBERTA. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN BOOKING A SESSION WITH HER OR ATTENDING ONE OF HER GROUPS OR WORKSHOPS, VISIT THE ESSENCE OF YOU WEBSITE OR CONTACT JEN DIRECTLY.

 

My 3 Favourite Strategies for Managing Anxiety:

ANXIETY

I work with the majority of my clients to manage their [varying degrees of] anxiety. I thought I'd share some of my favourite anxiety management strategies that I have learned over the past seven years in my career as a counsellor.

Some common presenting symptoms of anxiety are: short of breath, racing heart, shaking/trembling hands, sweating, difficulty concentrating or focusing, feeling lightheaded, feeling restless or on edge, difficulty sleeping, worrying and racing thoughts. Do any of these sound familiar? READ ON!

The below strategies can be applied for something small like feeling a little nervous to something bigger like a panic attack.

1) Literally GROUND yourself. Plant both of your feet flat on the ground, push them gently and allow yourself to feel the weight of your body resting on your feet. Not enough? Try alternating your weight from one foot to the other, or from your toes to your feet, and back again to both feet firmly on the ground.

2) Belly breathing. When you are anxious, you are usually taking short, shallow breaths. Belly breathing brings your energy down, deep into your body, which can help alleviate your anxiety - when you are anxious, almost all of your energy is way up in your head. First, notice your breath. Is it shallow? With your next breath, bring it deeper into your body, and your next breath deeper again, until you are breathing all the way into your belly or lower back. Continue until you notice your symptoms of anxiety easing up.

3) Connect to all 5 senses. Name 5 things that you can see, 4 things that you can physically feel (eg: your clothes against your body, your breath moving in and out of your nose/mouth), 3 things that you can hear, 2 things that you can smell, 1 thing that you can taste.

All of these can be used together! Start with grounding your feet on the ground, move into belly breathing, and then connect to all 5 senses. What I like about these strategies is that they bring your focus and energy into your body and they connect you to the here-and-now. Anxiety is often linked to fear of something that has happened in the past or fear of something in the future, so doing anything to bring your focus and awareness into the present moment can be helpful.

Another strategy to consider: get a reality check around what you are feeling anxious about, or check in with yourself if you need to be thinking about whatever is causing the anxiety in that moment. Give yourself permission to come back to it when you are adequately supported to deal with what came up.

If you tried these, I'd love to hear how they worked for you! Please leave a comment below. :)

Something to keep in mind: these are not one-size-fits-all. Every person responds differently to their triggers and to their grounding strategies. I recommend testing a few out and finding the ones that work best for YOU. For long-term management of anxiety, I recommend seeking support from a professional to help you address the underlying issues of your anxiety.

Jen is a counsellor and psychotherapist in Calgary, Alberta. If you are interested in booking a session with her or attending one of her groups or workshops, visit The Essence of You website or Contact Jen directly.

 

Authenticity & The Essence of You

"No matter how much you change, the essence of you is always the same."

- A friend once said this to me as I was going through a lot of personal changes and struggling with experiencing the ways that my relationships with others were changing. At this time I was questioning myself a lot, and wondering if how I used to be (codependent, people pleaser) was better, and if I should go back to how I was before.

My friend assured me that no matter how I changed behaviourally – that the essence of who I am was still the same, that I would always be myself no matter what.

The changes that I was making in my life were in light of a new awareness of how self-destructive my codependent behaviour was. As I gained self-awareness and worked through the root causes of my codependent tendencies, I began to live more authentically. I started standing up for myself, assertively sharing my opinion and expressing my feelings; while making decisions that suited my own best interests (after struggling through fear of being SELFISH) and I started setting and maintaining strong boundaries.

Although it was a difficult journey, and still is some days - my realisation that I am still the same person - that the essence of who I am was still the same, continually empowers me to be my authentic self. I was always who I am now, I was just hiding parts of myself before! What I needed was the opportunity to grow into myself, which I am still doing, and will always be continuing to do.

It was at this time that I began to realize that my relationships changing around me as I grew into myself was not actually a reflection of who I was; but instead a reflection of the quality of those relationships or maybe where the other person was at in their own journey. 

This realization made me become more comfortable being my true self, despite any relational consequences this might have (being disliked, judged, etc.) and since then I have been able to foster more meaningful relationships with others that are formed from an honest, respectful and nurturing base, whilst honouring my true self and living an empowering authentic life. Even though it can still be challenging and painful to allow the vulnerability that enables this authenticity, there's no turning back for me now, and I don't have any regrets.

Any guesses where my business name came from? It is one of my goals in my practice to support others to connect to their true selves to be able to live more confidently & authentically.



Jen is a counsellor and psychotherapist in Calgary, Alberta. If you are interested in booking a session with her or attending one of her groups or workshops, visit The Essence of You website or Contact Jen directly.

New Year - Time to Discover You!

When the new year rolls around, many people are always saying "New Year, New You!" What about instead of finding a "new" you, give yourself the opportunity to really get to know and become yourself? Dedicate this year to discovering the you that is already here.

These last few days, I have continually seen this quote circulating in my Instagram and Facebook newsfeeds:

"What if you simply devoted this year to loving yourself more?"

I think this is a great idea. Instead of having resolutions for how to change or do things "better" or differently, what if we just focused on loving ourselves, accepting ourselves and discovering ourselves? Find the essence of you! My own journey with this process is where my motivation for my work comes from and keeps me going when I think I can't.

When you put energy into yourself, amazing things start to happen. Increased self-care and self-awareness inevitably leads to better mental health, physical health, and stronger relationships with everyone around you. As a mother it can be challenging to meet our own needs and take care of ourselves, but finding time to nurture ourselves is so important. We can't pour from an empty cup!

"Change occurs when one becomes what he is, not when he tries to become what he is not." - Albert Bessler

Getting to know yourself creates a deeper awareness and understanding which leads to an ability to live your life more authentically. When you accept and embrace yourself as you are and let go of how you WANT things to be is ironically when change usually starts to happen.

In my opinion, nobody needs a NEW version of themselves, we all just need to tap into what's already there and let our inner selves shine through. You are enough!

Who's ready to make 2017 a year to become the year for YOU?

I am running a Motherhood Workshop on January 14th that is all about reclaiming your identity. For details on this and my other upcoming groups and workshops, click here. Individual Sessions also available.

5 Reasons You Shouldn't Comment on a Woman's "Pregnant" Body

We've all been there. You see an old friend, a colleague, an acquaintance, or maybe a total stranger and notice that they are pregnant...or so you think.

Depending on your boundaries on that given day, you might hesitate, double check, wonder if it is appropriate or not to comment. Or you might just blurt it out without any consideration. Boundaries tend to disappear when we are busy, tired, distracted or overwhelmed.

Regardless of how you have handled this in the past, don't you think that as women, we deserve better? Our bodies are under constant scrutiny throughout our lives from so many sources - the media, friends, family, (strangers!). When women are pregnant or have just given birth this seems to escalate - many people seem to believe they get a free ticket to comment on or even freely touch women's bodies when they are in this sensitive and vulnerable stage of their lives. When if you really think about it, this is a time to stand back with more respect than ever; instead of a time to move in for the kill releasing all of your burning thoughts on how this "pregnant" woman's body looks.

It is so common for women to have body image issues, anywhere from the occasional negative thought to having a diagnosable eating disorder. When women are questioning and criticising how they look on a regular basis they do not need someone else commenting on their bodies - pregnant or not!

Here are a few reasons why you should never comment on a woman's body regardless of whether you *think* or KNOW that she is pregnant.

  1. She might be pregnant but isn't ready to tell people or talk about it yet for reasons that are none of your business (or else she would have told you already!)
  2. She might be pregnant but is worried about the pregnancy for more reasons that are none of your business (again, or else she likely would have told you.)
  3. She might be pregnant but doesn't want to talk about how you think her body looks.
  4. She may have an eating disorder and commenting on her body could be extremely triggering - pregnant or not.
  5. She might NOT be pregnant! Maybe she never was, maybe she is unable to get pregnant despite trying, maybe she just had a miscarriage or stillbirth, she might have just given her baby up for adoption, had her baby taken away from her, maybe she was a surrogate. No matter what the scenario is, nobody wants to be caught commenting on a woman's pregnancy when she is not pregnant, am I right?

And then there are exceptions to this. Some women will love it when people are commenting on their pregnant bellies and get excited when their bellies get noticed. Or maybe they have had something bad happen, but welcome the conversations and get support this way. Or maybe they just won't be impacted by your comments regardless of whether they are pregnant, in the post-partum period or have never been pregnant - but these women deserve better too.

Not every woman is the same, but every woman deserves to be treated with respect. Of course pregnancy can be a very exciting time and many people want to talk about it and celebrate it by commenting on your body - which likely comes from such a kind a loving place.

What I'm really suggesting that the next time you see a woman who *looks* pregnant, please consider all of these above scenarios. And if you DO choose to comment after careful consideration, please comment with grace, love and as much respect as all women deserve!

*The inspiration from this post came from an interaction I had recently. I am very passionate about respecting women's bodies, and a way that I practice this is by refraining from commenting on how women's bodies look. I take great pride in this. However, recently I met a woman and I thought she was pregnant. I exclaimed "You're pregnant!" without a glimpse of consideration. She very gracefully told me that no, she is not pregnant. She seemed to be completely confident within herself and not even a little bit rattled by my tactless comment and she accepted my apologies without hesitation. 
Despite her calm and admirable reaction, I was mortified and disappointed in myself. This made me reflect on my own boundaries. Do I give "pregnant" women the same body-respect that I aim to give all other women? Or do my boundaries fade in these circumstances like so many other people? I will be very mindful of this going forward, and I'll be sure to not repeat this same mistake again. I am very fortunate that this being my first (and last!) time in a situation like this was with a woman who did not get offended or take it personally. I have learned something from her and for that I am grateful. And in this moment I am going to accept myself as a flawed human being and forgive myself - while also giving compassion to all of the other people out there who have made mistakes and learned from them! But let's do better!