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5 Tips For Healthy Self-Care

5 Tips For Healthy Self-Care

We’re often told to prioritize our own self-care, but what the heck does that even mean?  If you’ve ever wondered what self-care means beyond a day at the spa, believe me, you are not alone.  

Check out this quick list to help you make sense of what self-care actually is.

1. Self-care is making yourself a priority
There is a reason why they say if you’re on an airplane and something happens, you first have to make sure you put on your own oxygen mask before you can help someone; if you don’t take care of your needs first, you cannot effectively help others.  Making yourself Numero Uno and honouring your own needs first and foremost is one of the most important aspects of a healthy self-care practice!

2. Self-care means setting boundaries
Being able to set limits around your commitments and other people is important.  Sometimes this might mean saying “no” and that is perfectly ok. 

3. Self-care always feels nourishing
Self-care requires us to let go of feelings of guilt or the belief that we are not deserving.  A great way to determine whether something you are doing is a healthy self-care practice is to notice how you physically feel afterwards.  To help determine how nourishing something is, ask yourself, if your body feels depleted or more full and recharged afterwards.

4. Healthy self-care is proactive versus reactive
To prevent burn-out and running on empty, it’s really important to set time aside daily to engage in nourishing activities that make your needs a priority.  Note: this does not have to be time-consuming.  It can mean doing something as simple as taking a warm bath instead of a shower or starting off your day with a 3-minute meditation.

5. Self-care includes seeking therapy
If you find yourself reading this and wondering whether you struggle with self-care, perhaps because you feel guilty for making time for yourself or feel unsure about how to practice self-care, seeking out someone who specializes in mental health can be the very self-care practice you need!  Someone like a clinical therapist can help you learn more about yourself and understand the patterns of behaviours that might be getting in the way of making yourself a priority!

How to Nourish Intimacy in Your Life

How to Nourish Intimacy in Your Life

Intimacy is a key component to feeling connected to others. As human beings, we all have an innate desire to feel like we matter, to feel that we belong, and feel like we are really seen.

When’s the last time you really allowed yourself to feel seen?

There are 5 types of intimacy that are important to nurture in our lives, to help us thrive and feel whole and balanced.

1. Emotional Intimacy 

Emotional intimacy involves sharing your innermost thoughts and feelings with someone.  Your capacity to be vulnerable is key to establishing emotional intimacy.  You can nourish this type of intimacy by opening up to someone you care about and trust.  Sharing with another human being the last thing that made you laugh so hard that it hurt or the thing that caused you to cry last is a great way to start up an emotionally intimate conversation.

2. Physical Intimacy

This level of intimacy involves physical touch like hugging, cuddling, holding hands, and kissing.  This type of intimacy can include sexual intimacy but can also include platonic forms of touch.  It can be deepened by communicating to your friend or partner on the types of physical affection you find nourishes you.

3. Intellectual Intimacy

Intellectual intimacy involves sharing ideas and thoughts about the things that you care about and matter to you.  You can strengthen your intellectual intimacy with someone by sharing with them your favorite music, poem, or book.  Organizing or joining a book club is also a great way to deepen this level of intimacy!

4. Spiritual Intimacy

This type of intimacy involves sharing awe-inspired moments with someone else.  Examples of ways to enhance your spiritual intimacy include taking a walk in nature with someone, engaging in prayer with a loved one, or joining a yoga or meditation class.

5. Experiential Intimacy 

Being able to share experiences with others is a great way to deepen your connection with another person.  Some fun activities you can share with others include trying a new restaurant with a friend, going on a movie date, and even taking a solo trip and meeting new friends along the way!In order to feel balanced and whole, it is important to cultivate each type of intimacy with the people in our lives.  Not every relationship will allow for each type of intimacy to exist. In fact, it is unrealistic to expect that a relationship with one person will include all of them.

Each person needs different levels of each type of intimacy.  If you notice yourself feeling a lack of connection in your life, it may be helpful to examine which types of intimacy the people around you provide and what is missing.

Warning: Taking the time to reflect on this will likely result in more connection in your life!

How To Cope With Being Single When You Don’t Want To Be

How To Cope With Being Single When You Don’t Want To Be

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I decided to write something personal that might help those who are single and find this day difficult.

My name is Melissa and I’m a therapist in Toronto. I often support Real Campus students, in addition to a wider group of people from all walks of life that are struggling with self-worth.

Do you know that longing we all experience to love and feel loved by someone?

For a long time, it was an all-too-familiar feeling for me.  After all, regardless of identity, orientation, or relationship preferences, we all have a human need to be loved.

I recall calling up one of my friends one night in tears and sharing with her the frustration I felt with dating, my unsuccessful experience with dating apps, and the sadness I felt because I was single. 

I recall calling up one of my friends one night in tears and sharing with her the frustration I felt with dating, my unsuccessful experience with dating apps, and the sadness I felt because I was single. 

Her response to me still echos my mind: “Being single is hard”.

That response felt like a game changer to me.  I suddenly felt a softness in my body.  I realized this whole time I wasn’t accepting the fact that I was single. Hearing her validate my feelings was just what I needed to realize that being single doesn’t have to feel so shitty.  I began to wonder why I was measuring my self-worth on the fact that I wasn’t in a romantic relationship. 

And then it hit me. 

I wasn’t in a loving relationship with myself. I was looking for something (someone in this case) outside of myself to validate my self-worth.  At that moment I realized I would do whatever it took to stop giving my power away and made a vow to create a more loving relationship with myself.  Over time, I learned different strategies that really helped nurture the relationship I have with myself.

Here’s how I did it. I share this with the hope that some of this will be helpful if you ever have felt like I did.

1. Talk to yourself in the way you would want a partner to talk to you.
 I still do this to this day.  I find it most effective talking to myself in front of a mirror.  You can look in the mirror, stare deeply into your eyes and say out loud (or in your mind): “I love you, I really love you.  I am so proud of you. You are so beautiful.  You are perfect exactly as you are.  You are enough.”  Notice any resistance you might feel in your body as you say these words.  It might help to soften your statements with “I am willing to love you. I am willing to believe you are enough,” etc.

2. Take yourself on a date! 
Why wait to be in a relationship to go out to that fancy restaurant you’ve been eyeing or watch that new movie that just came out?  I found that making time to go out with myself (and only myself) helped me really connect with my inner being and get to know myself better.  You can start off by writing down all the things you want to do with a romantic partner and go out on your own instead!

3. Make time to be physically intimate with yourself. 
It’s really important to get in touch with your body and allow yourself to indulge in all of your senses. I’ve found setting time aside to be intimate with myself through the use of aromatherapy oils and massaging lotions really help me foster a loving relationship with myself.

4. Buy yourself something to symbolize your commitment to working on your relationship with yourself. 
A good friend of mine did this and gave me this amazing idea.  She bought a ring for herself and wore it every day as a reminder of her commitment to herself!  She said she made a vow that day to marry herself and make herself her top priority.

5. Call a friend and voice/share your feelings.
Hearing someone listen and validate how I was feeling was what I needed to remind myself that I wasn’t alone and that it was okay to feel how I was feeling.  Sometimes just knowing that you’re not alone on your journey can make you feel safe and build trust in yourself to move forward with an open heart!

How To Tame Your Inner Critic

How To Tame Your Inner Critic

As a therapist, I sometimes feel embarrassed to admit how negative my inner voice can be. Even though I practice and teach self-acceptance, self-love, and self-compassion when I notice myself feeling insecure and threatened, I can become judgmental and critical of myself.

What I have come to realize is that as human beings, we all carry an inner voice that can be critical of ourselves and others. I do believe we can tame this voice so that it does not lead to destructive behaviours. The key lies in what we do when the inner critic comes up and how much power we give it. I have come up with my own process for taming my inner critical voice that I continually use and would love to share with you!

1. Identify the inner critic’s voice
What is it saying? This first step is so important, and oftentimes we aren’t even aware of the commentary we have running through our heads throughout the day. I remember when I was first working on this process; I wasn’t even aware of the things my inner critic was telling me because of how much I was unconsciously accepting it as my reality. It’s important to take time to stop and notice what the voices actually are. They often show up as thoughts and statements we tell ourselves. Some examples of inner critical voices that might show up are I am not good enoughhe/she really doesn’t love me, or I am fat and ugly.

2. Once you have identified what the inner critical voice is, write it down in second person
For example, the critical voice of I am not enough would be written down as you are not enough. This process of re-writing the critical voice from “I” to “you” will help you to separate yourself from the critical voice and is a crucial step to help weaken your association with the particular statement (which will come in handy for step 3).

3. Ask yourself, who is this voice coming from?
What many people might not realize is that the inner critical voice is actually not you and didn’t even originate from you. The voices are often learned from the experiences we have had with the significant people in our childhood such as our parents, other family members, teachers, friends, and other societal influences that we have come to internalize and identify with. When I first started this process, I began to recall specific memories from my childhood where I first started to identify with particular critical voices. They were based on interpretations of how I believed my parents felt about me as a child and even things my peers verbally voiced to me. Recognizing that the critical things I was telling myself were not actually coming from me (and naming who it actually came from) really helped the voices lose their power.

4. Forgive yourself and the person whose voice you’ve internalized
This process is not easy. I still struggle with this at times. What has helped me in this process of forgiveness is remembering that each of us is always doing the best we can from what we know. Having compassion for ourselves and others helps us remember that most of the time, people do not purposely do or say things to hurt us.

5. Send the inner critical voice loving-kindness (and even gratitude)
When I become aware of a statement or judgment my inner critical voice is saying to me, I thank it for bringing itself to my attention to help remind me of the love and kindness I need to give myself more of. Because the inner critical voices are aspects of ourselves from childhood that did not get the love and attention they needed, I find talking to the voices as if they were a child to be very healing and effective. I speak to the voice and ask it what it needs, and then provide it (myself) those needs. In addition to this, I also make a conscious effort to reframe the voice into a truth, reminding myself of the untruth the voice represents. For example, if the voice of I am not enough pops up into my mind, I reframe the statement to I am enough and then engage in loving actions towards myself like doing a self-care activity.

I believe many people do not realize how much of our past we carry into our present. Our inner critical voices are aspects from our childhood that are desperately seeking our attention to be acknowledged, processed, and healed. By following these steps, you will notice that over time, you will grow stronger while the inner critic grows weaker!

If you feel you can use extra support in combating your inner critic, remember you are never alone on this journey. Don’t ever hesitate to reach out to a friend or loved one for support.

Plus, with your Real Campus benefits, we’re always here here as well.

Melissa Di Fonzo is a therapist based in Toronto that supports Real Campus students. Learn more about her here

How To Consider If You Have An Eating Disorder

How To Consider If You Have An Eating Disorder

Eating disorders are complex mental illnesses that can reveal themselves in not-so-obvious ways. We have created a list of some of the things to look out for to see if you might be struggling with an eating disorder.

You’re obsessed with counting calories

You look at the fat and calorie content of everything and you might even have nutritional information memorized because you’ve been doing this for so long. You set a calorie limit for yourself and won’t allow yourself to go over that amount. You might not even eat something unless you know the exact amount of calories the food has, and you like to keep track of how many calories and fat you’re consuming by recording it.

You eat in secret and avoid social situations that involve food

You are embarrassed to eat in front of others because you think they are judging you for what and how much you’re eating. You may avoid social activities altogether because you either don’t want to let on that you aren’t eating enough, or you’re afraid you’ll lose control over the amount of food you’ll end up eating. Buffets especially can be a nightmare.

You eat a lot all at once

You feel out of control because you can’t stop yourself from eating too much food all in one sitting, even when you’re not hungry. You notice you’re not even enjoying the food you’re eating because you are eating it quickly. You have intense feelings of regret, shame, and guilt after eating so much and might even try to compensate for the excessive food intake by skipping meals, exercising, or throwing up.

You weigh yourself constantly

You weigh yourself multiple times a day and base what your next meal will be on how much you weigh. You find the number you see on the scale can really affect your mood and how much you will allow yourself to eat that day.

You cook elaborate meals (for others, not yourself)

You obsess over cookbooks and cooking recipes. You enjoy cooking elaborate meals for others but do not eat them yourself and get great satisfaction watching others eat the food you make, almost living vicariously through them.

You freak out if you can’t exercise

Exercising becomes an obsessive ritual. You plan your day around exercising, set exercising goals (i.e., hours you spend at the gym, kilometres you have to run), and become anxious when you miss a day of exercise or aren’t able to reach the exercising goal you had set out to do. To compensate for the missed exercise, you might begin to limit your food intake to account for the fact that you didn’t burn off as many calories as you would have liked that day.

You engage in negative self-talk about your body

You constantly call yourself “fat” and can spend hours in front of a mirror, sizing up every detail about your body and perceived flaw. You have become overly critical of yourself and engage in regular body shaming episodes. This negative self-talk might also be affecting your mood and desire to go out with friends. You isolate yourself and this can intensify the above behaviours!

If you or someone you know might be struggling with an eating disorder, you are not alone and there is help available.