Self-Esteem

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:

Mom-Guilt: Where does it come from and what can you do about it?

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Something that comes up often with my clients in my Counselling Practice is "mom guilt" - a term and a feeling that I'm sure you are familiar with! Have you thought about where this comes from? The cause of this guilt is usually mixed - sometimes it's a lack of perfection, other times it's a result of being triggered and parenting in a way that doesn't align with your values.

A lot of women struggle with self-esteem and identity issues when they become mothers and for years afterwards. If we are continually acting in ways that don't align with our values, we will continue feeling guilt and shame and we will continue having self-esteem and identity issues.

So what's the answer here?!

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I always encourage my clients to assess what is causing the guilt or shame. Have you done something imperfect and do you need to practice more self-forgiveness and compassion? Or was it more than that - have you behaved in a way that doesn't align with you values?

If the latter is so, I encourage you to STILL practice self-forgiveness and compassion, but also look a little deeper. Explore what has triggered you into behaving this way, explore what you need to do to make amends and to fill yourself up more so that you can handle your triggers in a way that feels better for you.

You matter, you are important, and if you forget this, then you can't be everything you want to be for your family!

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.

I'm Not Good Enough

That inner critic - it shows up when we least expect it sometimes. Even when we feel like we've moved past something, it can have a way of sneaking in to remind us we have more work to do.  My inner critic's voice often tells me that I'm not good enough. This was triggered for me this past week somewhere that I did not expect it to - during my prep for a busy bag exchange.

Contrary to what people might think because of my passion for using art therapy in my counselling practice; crafty & artistic things do not come naturally to me. In fact, many times in the past I have said "I don't have a creative bone in my body!" I've worked really hard on noticing and embracing the creativity that is within me (we all have it!), and accepting myself as I am. 

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But then came along the Busy Bag Exchange.

There's nothing like being up late finishing off some crafts for a busy bag exchange that gets your anxiety going in overdrive, with shame & judgement kicking in! Or is that just me? 

I had big plans but couldn't find exactly what I had in mind. I kept procrastinating, trying to come up with something "better" and ended up doing the majority of it the night before the exchange, unhappy with what I had settled on doing, and thinking that it wasn't "good enough". The other moms have posted pics of theirs, and of course I thought that their's were are all amazing!! 

My inner critic was in overdrive, shouting: "YOU'RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH"!

I tried to think of ways to change my project, ways to get out of the exchange altogether, ways to make sure that nobody would find out which ones were mine.  

I reached out to a few friends and shared how ashamed I was about my busy bag activity. They gave me the support and the reality check I needed to climb out of my shame attack and breathe into a healthier awareness that what I had done was GOOD ENOUGH! (Just the act of sharing alone is de-shaming, by the way!) I'm now letting go of my disappointment in my busy bag creation, letting go of the thoughts that I'm not good enough. So what if it's not as pretty or crafty as some of the other ones? The point of this exchange is to get different activities for our kids to enjoy. Not to become the craftiest mom on the block. ;)  

I'm very curious about how this was triggered in what was supposed to be a fun, light hearted activity. 

This reminded me of why I love using Art Therapy with my clients. The arts are so powerful that they have this incredible ability to draw out what is hiding in our subconscious - even when we are engaging in creative activities that seem "lighthearted". 

Art therapy can stir so much up and bring many things to the surface that we either didn't know were there - or that we were trying to ignore.  

In this situation with the busy bags, I was able to let go of that perfectionism and find some acceptance in this experience; however, I know that the shame I felt stemmed from something deeper. It can be so easy to resolve the surface issues and move on - without looking into what brought it up in the first place - but that is not going to help in the long term. Fortunately, I will be getting an Art Therapy session myself this weekend, so I will have an opportunity to process my experience with this and the "I'm not good enough" voice a little bit further!

What do YOU do when you find yourself going down the slippery slope of comparisons that lead to the "I'm not good enough" voice? 

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.

Selfish or Self-Care? Know The Difference.

We all know that practicing self-care is important, but do you find yourself neglecting this because you think that you are being selfish?

As mothers, mistaking the two and thinking that we are being SELFISH when all we are needing is self-care can be debilitating. When we don’t make time for ourselves, but we continue to give to others, we put ourselves at risk for exhaustion, burn-out and can easily trigger or escalate anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.

Aside from childbirth, in the U.S. women are hospitalized for depression more than anything else (Karraa, Walker, 2014 – Author of “Transformed by Post-Partum Depression”). Assuming this isn’t too different in Canada, this is something important to consider. Post-Partum Depression is being spoken about more openly now, but the occurrence of it is not being reduced. Depression in mothers past the diagnosable post-partum period is so common but there is not enough support or advocacy for mothers experiencing this either.

How much of this would change if as women, we were better supported to take care of ourselves and to stand up for ourselves? Practicing self-care boosts confidence, self-esteem, and allows you to be more present for others, helping you to care for yourself and your family from a FULL cup instead of an empty one stewing in exhaustion and resentment!

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Self-care can be practiced in so many different ways, and the smallest changes and efforts often make the biggest difference. There are so many things that we’d LIKE to do but can’t do very often – like havingregular massages, a nice long soak in the bath (by yourself!), or for many of us, it can be difficult for find time for doing anything that we find peaceful or relaxing on a regular basis! Karraa (2014) discusses the following more subtle ways of practicing self-care:

“Going slow, listening to internal cues, and prioritizing ones needs and values”.

This includes being honest with yourself, communicating more honestly and authentically with others, taking time to breathe.

I've always told my clients in therapy with me who have had this selfish/self-care question: If you are making your choices by prioritizing yourself with consideration of yourself and others around you, this is self-care. It is when you hastily make a decision without any care of consideration of others that you might consider this selfish. The latter is only likely to happen if you are in survival mode, extremely burnt out and don’t have any capacity for considering anyone or anything except for your immediate needs in that moment. And in that case, you need to do whatever you can to fill yourself up and restore yourself to normalcy to be able to take care of yourself before you can consider others.

But what about when you know that your “self-care” choice is going to negatively impact another person? Does this mean that your supposed self-care choice is actually you being selfish?

If you consciously make your self-care choice and consider the other people involved, you COULD end up deciding that putting yourself first is the best option; whilst knowing that the other person will/might be negatively impacted. This is just the reality of living our lives authentically. Sometimes it works well for others and sometimes it doesn’t. But the most important thing is that we are taking care of OURSELVES! I love this quote by Fritz Perls:

“I do my thing and you do your thing. I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you are not in this world to live up to mine. You are you, and I am I, and if by chance we find each other, it's beautiful. If not, it can't be helped.”

If you are worried about being selfish, or about negatively impacting another person, or being viewed negatively by another person, ask yourself this:

Will you be comprising yourself or your values by doing something on account of another person? If you carefully consider the impact of practicing self-care – whatever it may look like – and choose to put yourself first, then be proud of this. Allow yourself to enjoy the time you have given yourself and soak up this moment of divine authenticity!!

If every time we faced this dilemma we chose to put others needs/wants ahead of our own, it would be very easy to build a lot of resentment and fall into passive codependent behaviours. Don’t let yourself fall into this codependant trap, it is a breeding ground for depression and anxiety.

“When stress is so severe and she [a mother] is forced to find a solution in order to maintain control of her emotions, the depression becomes an interim state of protection” (Kleiman, Karen 2014 – Author of “Therapy and the Post-Partum Woman”).

Neglecting yourself, your emotions and your needs is never worth it in the end. It is SO imperative to put yourself first to get your needs met, yes, even as a busy mother! If you are worried about letting people down around you, then taking care of yourself is the biggest gift that you can give them. When you do find yourself putting your needs or wants aside to put others first, make sure that you are able to do this without sacrificing yourself, and that you are still finding other ways to take care of yourself and get your most important needs met.

Make time for listening to your body, checking your reality & expectations, being authentic, and for feeling your feelings! This is the kind of self-care that is going to make the most noticeable and long term impact on you and your mental health!

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.

Feeling Good in Your Body

Last week I had an opportunity to give a presentation on Feeling Good in Your Body at a Self-Care Event put on by Calgary Goddess Groups. The evening was full of inspiration with what I experienced as women looking for deeper ways to connect and care for ourselves. Isn’t this what we all need?

I think this concept of connecting and caring for ourselves in a deeper way can apply to so many areas - including the topic of body image. I've been working with women struggling with body image issues since the beginning of my career when I started working at a trauma/addiction treatment centre in Australia, and I am very passionate about this subject. So many of us are disconnected from our bodies - it's no wonder there are so many women with body image issues. After all, how can you feel good in your body if you aren't in tune with it? I believe that we must respect, love and nurture our inner-selves to be able to respect, love and nurture our outer-selves (our bodies) – and vice versa!

There is so much emphasis in our society on body image, especially for women. This can lead to obsession with appearance, weight, food, exercising & dieting with a goal of body satisfaction & higher self-confidence. However, research shows that what this obsessive and unhealthy behaviour leads to is less confidence, lower self-esteem, less satisfaction with your body & appearance. Why?? Because when you are only treating external issues, you can’t fix the internal issues – which are the real cause of the external issues in the first place. I’m not saying don’t exercise and make mindful food choices – I’m saying have a look at what’s going on and if what you are doing is a part of a healthy lifestyle or if it has become and unhealthy way of trying to change or to fix something.

Having a deeper look at your self-esteem & connecting to your emotions are essential aspects of feeling good in your body. If you don’t feel good about yourself from within, you will never feel good in your body. Some things that I have seen impacting self-esteem in my work with clients experiencing body image issues: Shame, perfectionism, control issues, boundary issues (more blog posts to come on these topics!). Does any of this sound familiar? So what’s the answer? How can you reach a place where you feel good about yourself from within, and start feeling good in your body?

Becoming aware of your emotions is the first step, and the next step is giving yourself time to actually feel, process, and share your feelings. Stop holding it all in, stop stuffing, distracting, and suppressing . This is SO much harder than it sounds.

To become aware of your emotions you must first start re-connecting to your body. So many of us are disconnected from our bodies because our world is full of distraction and disconnection.  But our emotions are stored inside of our bodies and so we need to re-connect and re-establish our awareness of our bodies to be able to really access our emotions.

You’ll probably find that when you start taking the time to do this that a lot of memories will be jogged that are painful and difficult to manage – so make sure that you take your time and get lots of support so you don’t have to do this alone. Becoming aware of your body and getting in touch with your emotions isn’t the ONLY thing that you need to do to feel good in your body, but it’s a really good place to start.

What do you think of this perspective on Body Image? What do you do to connect, care for & feel good in your body?

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.