Before the pandemic, many of us prioritized having work/life balance and perhaps took active steps to achieve it. In a pre-COVID world, this was as easy as leaving your work laptop at the office and heading off to a life outside of work. You may have been heading home to your family or a favourite TV show. Perhaps it was after-work drinks with friends before heading home.
For those of us who commuted to an office, there was a physical demarcation between life at work and life outside of work. By leaving the building, many of us were able to mentally unburden and leave work at the office. With the pandemic forcing us indoors, many of us are working from home for the first time. This is a huge transition and presents challenges as it relates to achieving work/life balance.
Work/Life Balance is Important for Your Mental Health
Rest and leisure are essential aspects of self-care. We are unable to perform our best work when we are burnt out, stressed or anxious. When we neglect one aspect of our lives, we tend to see the effects in other areas, too. We are unable to be whole and healthy human beings without balance.
Being able to separate work from the other aspects of life can be especially challenging when working from home. Here are some tips to help you achieve work/life balance as we continue to spend more time indoors.
1. Set physical boundaries for work/life balance
When working from home, it is important to have a designated location for working. This area should be separate from your resting or leisure areas. Even if you are in a compact space, you can achieve this by dedicating a small corner to work. It can be as simple as using a foldable desk, which can be stowed away with the rest of your work items.
It’s important to have a physical separation between “work” and “not work” within your home. This physical separation will also help to tell your brain when you are working and when you are not working.
Another physical barrier can be the clothing you wear. Though working from home allows for dressing however you like, you may benefit from designating specific work outfits. Be sure to dress comfortably, but still in a way that makes you feel confident and motivated to work.
2. Set time-based boundaries
Working from home does not mean that you are always on the clock. Set working hours for yourself and be sure to give yourself ample breaks throughout the day. Let’s say you have chosen 8:00am to 4:30pm as your working hours. When it’s 4:30, stop working! Close out all work-related windows, turn off the computer, and physically move away from the working area. There may be some days where you have to work additional hours to meet a deadline or complete a project. In general, make a habit of having defined working hours, just as you would in a traditional office setting.
3. Set mental and emotional boundaries
A key element of achieving work/life balance is setting mental and emotional boundaries. This simply means being able to mentally and emotionally “shut off” work at appropriate times. Remind yourself that there is a time for everything and that your work will be waiting for you when it’s work time.
Mindfulness is learning how to be present, without worrying about the future or past. When we are worrying about work during leisure time, it is helpful to practice mindfulness. This can be as simple as closing your eyes and focusing on your breathing to remind you to stay in the present moment. Take the time to notice the things around you and appreciate things just as they are.
Developing hobbies and interests is another way to set mental and emotional boundaries. When we take the time to enjoy our interests, it is a reminder that there is a life outside of work. When we are focusing on a passion project, we become so engrossed that we are able to unplug from work completely.
4. Set interpersonal boundaries for work/life balance
Finally, it is important to communicate our expectations to the people we work with. We can politely inform colleagues and clients of our working hours to manage expectations about response times. We can directly or indirectly make it clear that we are only able to answer phone calls or emails during certain hours.
When working from home, others may expect that you are “always on” or are able to handle requests at any time. It is important to be able to politely communicate these boundaries so we can maintain healthy working relationships.
It’s normal to face difficulty in achieving balance. The work we do is a fundamental part of who we are. Work-related stresses may affect your relationships, your home life, and your general mental health. The therapists at Flourish Psychology understand the impact of a fulfilling career on your overall wellbeing. We want to help you to do your best work so you can live your best life. Schedule a free consult today.
Self compassion is the deliberate practice of being kind, gentle and understanding with yourself. It entails being aware of your own suffering, challenges and shortcomings without judgment. It is often said that self compassion means affording yourself the same kindness that you would offer to a friend in a similar situation.
Research into the practice of self-compassion has shown considerable benefits for overall wellbeing. People who are more self-compassionate tend to have better physical and mental health and are less prone to anxiety and depression. Interestingly enough, the “tough love” approach tends to break us down over time. On the other hand, being gentler with yourself actually helps you develop emotional strength and resilience.
How you can practice self compassion
Self compassion begins with the knowledge that you are a human being who is trying their best. Everyone makes mistakes and will experience failures and regrets. Remind yourself that you are not the only one who is feeling afraid or uncertain. This is all a part of the human experience and you are doing the best that you can under very challenging circumstances. Self compassion involves recognizing that your mistakes, perceived inadequacies and suffering do not negate your value and worth as a person.
One of the easiest ways to show yourself compassion is to pretend that you are a beloved friend who is going through a rough time. Even if your friend was somewhat at fault or genuinely messed up, wouldn’t you assure them that it’s okay? Wouldn’t you let them know that everyone makes mistakes sometimes and that this too will pass?
You certainly wouldn’t berate your friend by telling them that they deserve to suffer because of the mistake they made. You would never tell a friend that their life is forever ruined because of one wrong decision. So why do we do this to ourselves?
Being a good friend to yourself
Ashley just found out that she didn’t get a job that she was really banking on. She feels hurt and rejected and her mind spirals with all kinds of thoughts. She tells herself that she will never get hired because she just isn’t impressive enough. The hiring manager probably saw her application and laughed. She should just give up the job hunt now because she will never find a good job.
Now, imagine that Ashley calls her boyfriend and tells him that she didn’t get the job. He responds by saying that he isn’t surprised because she simply isn’t impressive. He tells her that the hiring manager probably took one look at her email and deleted it. He tells her she should just give up on job hunting because she’s never going to find a job.
Ashley should dump that boyfriend, right? How could he be so mean during a moment of vulnerability?
It’s so easy for us to treat ourselves in ways that we would never tolerate from the people in our lives. It’s so easy to say unkind things to ourselves that we would never dream of saying to the people we love. The next time you’re feeling low, ask yourself what you would want to hear from a close friend in that moment. Then say those things to yourself. It may feel strange at first, but soon it will become natural for you to treat yourself with gentleness and compassion.
Self criticism versus self compassion
Self criticism usually has good intentions. When we criticize ourselves, it’s often because we hold ourselves to very high standards. It’s easy to believe that self criticism helps to hold yourself accountable or keeps you in check when you mess up. But in the long run, self criticism can turn into a constant loop of self-loathing, leading to poor self esteem, depression and anxiety. You begin to fear your own brain’s mean comments, so you are constantly on guard and afraid to make mistakes or take risks.
Self compassion, on the other hand, provides a safe space where you feel empowered to try new things. You know that you can rely on yourself to be supportive during inevitable moments of failure and regret. This helps you to build emotional resilience over time. Self compassion is a source of inner strength that helps people to cope with the difficulties that life throws their way.
Self criticism cuts you down over time and can even make you cynical. Self compassion builds you up.
What self compassion is NOT
Self compassion is not the same as self pity. Self compassion comes from a place of empowerment, not victimhood. Self compassion does not mean that you do not accept responsibility for your actions or that you make excuses for bad behavior. Rather, self compassion gives you a safe space to be honest with yourself about your shortcomings without feeling ashamed of them. Self compassion reminds you that you messed up because you’re a flawed person who is doing their best. Self compassion gives you the strength to try again – and to do better next time.
Activities to promote self compassion
Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most effective ways to challenge critical self-talk and embrace a more compassionate state of mind. This form of therapy helps you to identify and challenge negative thoughts, emotions and behaviors, so you can deal with them in a healthy way. You will explore and identify where there is a block in your life. You will also look at the beliefs you hold about yourself and how they affect your well-being. The clinicians at Flourish Psychology are trained in this kind of therapy. Schedule a free consult to get matched with a therapist who best meets your needs.
Journaling is an especially useful tool for encouraging self compassion. Take the time to write about a situation that is causing you distress, guilt or shame. Then write a response from the perspective of a loving friend who can see the situation more objectively.
Why not come up with a self-compassion mantra that you can repeat to yourself whenever you need to? Examples include “I am going through a hard time and I will be kind to myself.” Try to use your mantra to counter any intrusive or unkind thoughts. Be mindful of when you are being harsh or critical towards yourself. Sometimes these thoughts are so frequent and common that we don’t even notice. Stop and ask yourself whether you’re really being fair and whether you would be speaking to a friend in this critical manner.
Self compassion is a deliberate practice that becomes easier over time. It may be difficult at first, but it’s sure to have long-lasting effects for your mental health and wellbeing.
Everyone should be taking care of their mental health right now. With all the stressors of 2020, we believe that everyone can benefit from working with a therapist in 2021. If you want to start therapy for the first time, or if you want to return after a hiatus, there’s no better time than the present. If you’re fearful about taking this step, check out our last post on overcoming a fear of therapy.
At Flourish Psychology, we work with patients through depression, anxiety, grief, relationship issues and so much more. No matter your situation, you likely have a lot to process right now. You may be experiencing anxiety because of the uncertainty of the future, the continuing pandemic or the political climate. Maybe you’re grieving the loss of a loved one or a job. There are so many things impacting your mental health at any given moment. Here are just a few reasons you may want to consider seeing a therapist this year.
1. To process stress and anxiety caused by the pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has rocked the entire globe, so it’s no surprise that it’s number 1 on our list. The pandemic has been life-altering for everyone in many ways. How have you been affected? Maybe you’re experiencing anxiety related to constant news cycle or maybe you’ve been affected economically. We believe that after surviving such a difficult year, we could all benefit from a few sessions with a therapist.
Seeing a therapist is an ideal way to process any COVID-related stress and anxiety. Our sessions are now online, so you can start therapy from the safety and comfort of your home.
2. Help with feelings of loneliness
With the pandemic came lockdowns, quarantine and isolation. Many of us have lost our usual sources of socialization and are feeling the effects of loneliness. Loneliness can be devastating, especially for those who are single or who live alone. When you start therapy, you will be better able to process feelings of loneliness and find coping strategies.
3. Help with feelings of hopelessness
It’s completely understandable to be feeling somewhat hopeless or nihilistic right now. With so much fear and uncertainty in the world, it’s easy to start feeling hopeless about the world the future. These feelings of hopelessness may be happening within ourselves about our own lives and futures. This can easily lead to depression or even suicidal ideation. Working with a therapist can help you to become more resilient in the present and hopeful for a better future.
4. Heal after the loss of a romantic relationship
The pandemic has affected our relationships in many ways. For some, they may have started spending more time with their partner as they quarantined together. Others may have been separated from their partners. Many people have made the difficult decision to end a relationship and may now be experiencing difficult emotions. Seeing a therapist after a breakup is one of the healthiest way to process your feelings. Your work with a therapist can help you to move forward from a place of healing and self-love.
5. Get support while you are grieving
The pandemic has taken many lives and many people have faced devastating losses. The death of a loved one is one of the most difficult things that we can face. Losing a loved one can leave you confused and angry, even while you are grieving. Grief can affect your work, your ability to take care of yourself, and your outlook on life. We can guide you to develop healthy mechanisms to cope with your loss and manage your grief.
6. Deal with work-related stress and anxiety
The pandemic has affected our work lives. Some have lost jobs, changed jobs or have had other significant changes to their working lives. With many of us working from home, there is a huge adjustment to be made in the way that we work. How have you been feeling about work? Are you overwhelmed by your workload or doubting your abilities? Are you finding it hard to separate your home and work life while working from home?
The work we do is a fundamental part of who we are. Work-related stresses do not stop at the office and may affect your relationships, your home life, and your general mental health. The therapists at Flourish Psychology understand the impact of a fulfilling career on your overall wellbeing. We want to help you to do your best work so you can live your best life.
Whatever your reason for wanting to start therapy, you should feel proud of yourself for taking this step. We want to make sure you are paired with the best therapist to meet your needs. By scheduling a free consultation, you’re well on your way to making positive changes in your life.
Starting therapy is one of the biggest decisions you can make. It takes courage and self-awareness to come to the realization that you can benefit from therapy. Above all, actually making and going to your first therapy appointment may feel scary for several reasons. It’s important to realize that these feelings are completely normal and that you are capable of calming these fears and getting the help you need. People fear therapy for a variety of reasons. As a result, they may put off seeking help.
Here are a few common fears that people have about therapy with tips on how you can address them.
Fear #1: I’m afraid of opening up to a complete stranger about my innermost thoughts
Notably, this is perhaps the most common fear that prevents people from going to therapy. It’s 100% reasonable to have these feelings. Sometimes, we are not even able to speak to loved ones, partners and close friends about our problems. There may be things that you have never mentioned to anyone before because you are afraid of judgment or how you will be perceived. Opening up to a complete stranger can feel downright terrifying.
With this fear, the most important thing to remember is that you are in control of what you decide to open up about. You don’t have to dive into your deepest, innermost thoughts until you are ready. You can take your time to become more comfortable in a therapy setting and explore different topics at your own pace. Your therapist will not rush you to open up before you’re ready.
Some people are comforted by the knowledge that their therapist “ceases to exist” after the session is over. Because your interactions with your therapist are limited to your sessions, you won’t have to worry about these interactions affecting any other aspect of your life. The relationship you form with a therapist is like a blank slate. They are not emotionally involved with you and are largely unaffected by the decisions you make. For example, you may be afraid to discuss something with a partner or coworker because of how it may affect your relationship or your work going forward. Your therapist can exist in a vacuum and your conversations with her will not directly affect the other areas of your life. This can make it easier to open up in your sessions, when you’re ready to do so.
As time progresses, and if your therapist is an ideal match for you, you may gradually feel encouraged to start opening up with more complex or difficult issues. This will allow you to make significant progress on your mental health journey. Think about it this way: we often open up to physical health professionals (such as dermatologists, gynecologists and urologists) in ways that initially feel uncomfortable, but ultimately help us to lead healthier, happier lives. It may help to take a similar approach with mental health professionals, too.
FEAR #2: I’M AFRAID THAT I’LL BE JUDGED (BY MY THERAPIST OR BY OTHERS)
Fear of judgment is another common factor that prevents people from seeking therapy. We are either afraid that we’ll be judged by our therapist, or that other people in our lives will be judgmental when they learn that we are in therapy.
Remind yourself that a good therapist will never judge you. Therapists undergo specific training to create a safe therapeutic environment. They are professionals who are well versed in the broad spectrum of mental health issues and the human condition. They are able to take an objective and clinical perspective, which allows them to guide you towards solutions. Your therapist is there to help, not judge. Remind yourself that your therapist has spent a lot of time studying and being exposed to a wide variety of problems, fears, thoughts and behaviours. It’s unlikely that your therapist will be shocked or taken aback by the thoughts and behaviors that you share with them.
On the other hand, if you’re concerned about other people judging you for going to therapy, here are two things to remember. The first is that this is a personal choice and you don’t have to let anyone know that you’re in therapy. The second thing to remember is that those who love and care for you will be happy that you’re seeking help and trying to become a healthier person. Anyone who judges you for going to therapy is probably uneducated about the benefits of it, or may be projecting their own fears onto you.
Learning how to be confident in your decisions without caring too much what people think is one thing that can be accomplished through therapy.
Fear #3: I’m afraid That therapy won’t work
Sometimes, people are afraid that they will invest time, energy and money into therapy and it won’t work. You may even be afraid that your problems are unfixable. Remind yourself that millions of people have had successful experiences in therapy and that the techniques used by therapists have been researched and refined for decades. Generally speaking, most people see tremendous benefits from attending therapy. Trust that it can work for you, too.
It’s important to remember that therapy requires a lot of effort on your part in order for it to work. You may have to do a bit of trial and error to figure out which clinician and which techniques are most helpful for you. It may take a few tries to get it right. This does not mean that it won’t work. When you find the treatment plan that works for you, it can be life-changing. Putting effort into therapy will reap major rewards for your overall wellbeing.
FEAR #4 I’M AFRAID OF RELIVING DIFFICULT OR TRAUMATIC EXPERIENCESk
If you have experienced a traumatic experience, it’s normal to repress or avoid thoughts about the experience. Many people are fearful that therapy will force them to relive their traumatic situations. Remember that your therapist will move at your pace and you don’t have to dive into anything before you’re ready.
More importantly, remind yourself that facing your difficult emotions is the only way to truly manage them. In order to heal from a traumatic experience, we cannot avoid it. These thoughts and memories will not go away by ignoring them indefinitely.Therapy provides a safe space for you to explore these memories and thoughts with the support of a trained professional. As you become more comfortable with therapy, you will find it easier to cope with these difficult thoughts and emotions.
Feel the fear and do it anyway
Notwithstanding the fears and reservations you may have around therapy, you can still take this step on your journey to better mental health. You can even share your fears with your therapist during your first session. In the same way that you push through fears in other areas of your life, you can begin therapy. When you’re ready, you can start by scheduling a free consultation to get matched with a therapist who best meets your needs.
It’s the time of year when many of us are considering our goals and resolutions for the year ahead. We may also be reflecting on the year gone by and feeling several emotions in the process. This year, your reflections and resolutions may look a little different. It’s no surprise that many people consider 2020 to be the most challenging year of their lives, due to the pandemic and everything that came with it. The year also brought civil, political and racial unrest.
Because of COVID-19, many people were unable to fulfill goals and resolutions that they had set for themselves. The pandemic affected everything from travel to job security to the economy. Maybe you had financial goals that you were not able to achieve because you lost your job. Maybe you planned to get married this year, but the stress of quarantine led to the end of a relationship instead. Maybe 2020 was the year you finally took that trip, but it had to be canceled.
When everything is so uncertain, it can be demotivating to set goals and resolutions for ourselves. The disappointments you faced in 2020 may cause you to be reluctant to set resolutions for 2021. Yet, this is when we need goals the most. Goals give us a reason to look forward to the future. They provide a source of inspiration and motivation and give us something worthwhile to spend our time and energy on.
The solution is to take a different approach to your goals and resolutions this time around. Here are a few things to consider when setting your goals for the new year.
Take the time to process your loss
What did you lose in 2020? Some losses are life-changing, like the loss of a loved one. Some losses may seem smaller, but can still affect you if left unaddressed. Take the time to grieve whatever you may have lost in 2020 – opportunities, friendships, or even just the ability to sit in your favorite coffeeshop. If you are dealing with serious grief or loss, you may consider speaking to a therapist or counselor who can help you to process these difficult emotions in a healthy way.
take the time to be grateful
Despite its challenges and setbacks, can you find reasons to be grateful for 2020? Maybe you picked up a new hobby or interest to help pass the time. Were you able to reconnect with old friends via technology? Maybe you are simply grateful to have survived a year that took so many lives. Were you able to keep your job and work from home? That’s something to be thankful for. Did you see any remarkable displays of kindness or compassion during these difficult times? If you look hard enough, there were many things to be grateful for this past year.
SET SIMPLE, ATTAINABLE GOALS
If it’s one thing that 2020 taught us, it’s to slow down and embrace a simpler lifestyle. Consider taking a similar approach with your resolutions. Changing tiny things about your daily habits is more likely to yield success than setting huge, lofty goals. Here are some examples of simple, attainable goals:
- Set a reading goal. How many books would you like to read next year? Break that down into monthly or weekly goals. Start slow. If you are not a regular reader, try reading one book per month or every two months. If you are a regular reader, try increasing your goal from last year.
- Resolve to attain a healthy sleep schedule. Get disciplined about having a regular bedtime and waking up at around the same time every day. Getting sufficient sleep is the foundation for many other things in our lives.
- If you didn’t exercise as much as you wanted to last year, can you move your body a bit more in 2021? Consider free or cheap ways to get (socially distant) exercise. This can be as simple as resolving to take a ten-minute walk every day and increasing to fifteen and twenty-minute walks. You can listen to music, audiobooks, or podcasts on your walk. How about going jogging or starting an at-home yoga practice?
- If you are not already journaling, 2021 is a great time to start! There are so many benefits to journaling and so many things to journal about.
Resolve to take care of your mental health in 2021
Think of how you can take care of your mental health in 2021. Resolve to pay more attention to self-care and learning how to become more mentally resilient. We can’t predict what will happen next year, but we can ensure that we are able to cope with whatever 2021 brings. Techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy can teach you how to manage life’s inevitable challenges.
If you have been thinking about going to therapy, 2021 is the perfect time to start. Scheduling an appointment is easier than ever and you can attend sessions from the safety and comfort of your home, via video chat. Consider setting the resolution to contact us for a free consultation to get matched with a therapist who best meets your needs.
2021 may or may not be easier than 2020. The pandemic has changed many aspects of our lives. There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding when or even if we will ever be able to see some semblance of pre-pandemic life. Go into 2021 with the mindset that you have become strong enough to handle whatever it throws your way.
What is Art Therapy?
Art Therapy is a special type of therapy that incorporates creative techniques such as drawing, coloring, painting and sculpting to assist in treating mental illnesses, processing grief or trauma and developing a more resilient mental state. Art therapy is also particularly useful for self- expression and self-exploration when it comes to topics that are challenging to discuss verbally.
Art therapists are licensed mental health professionals who have done additional studies to specialize in this unique area of practice. We are proud to offer art therapy here at Flourish Psychology thanks to the expertise of our clinician, Faith Bowen, LCAT.
Faith is a board-certified therapist with a specialization in Creative Arts Therapy. She uses traditional therapeutic modalities to treat conditions such as anxiety and depression. Faith’s work helps patients to reach their goals and improve their self-esteem. For those interested in a more creative approach to mental healthcare, Faith incorporates the use of artistic methods in her treatment plan. You will see reduced stress and improved self-confidence through your work with Faith. This modality can help you process your feelings and understand your needs leading to better insight and self-growth.
History of Art Therapy
Art is as old as humanity itself. As humans, we have always expressed ourselves as creative beings. Though we have always been aware of the benefits of making and consuming art, art therapy is a relatively new therapeutic modality. It was formally recognized in the 1940s and became more popular in the United States in the 1960s. Since then, the field has undergone significant refinement and accreditation.
WHO CAN BENEFIT?
Art Therapy is for everyone! Research has proven that this method of therapy is beneficial for patients regardless of age, gender, or creative ability. You do not have to be an artist or artistically inclined in order to experience the benefits of this modality
It is especially beneficial for stress management in adults. Using art as a creative outlet to vent is a much healthier coping mechanism than, say, turning to drugs or alcohol. Art is a healthy method of expressing challenging emotions such as anger, sadness, regret or guilt. Since art is an effective method of processing difficult events, art therapy is used to treat post- traumatic stress disorder in adults and children alike
This kind of therapy is helpful for adults and children experiencing social or behavioral problems, as well as learning disabilities. It may also be used to help improve communication and emotional regulation for adults and children on the autism spectrum.
Finally, it is has proven to be effective in treating anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses. Flourish Psychology offers this option to clients seeking a unique method of managing stress and treating mental illness. This method may be used in conjunction with other techniques such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy.
Though art therapy is particularly helpful for children and creative professionals, everyone can benefit from this form of therapy, regardless of age or artistic experience. Schedule a free consult with us to see if art therapy meets your needs.
Written by Francine Derby.